Genealogist V. L. Skinner, Jr., resumes his transcriptions of 17th-century Maryland probate records with the third volume of his series, Abstracts of the Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court of Maryland. The first volume in the series, released in 2004 and covering the period 1658 to 1674, was transcribed from Libers 1A-1F, 2, 3, and 4A=4C at the Maryland State Archives. Volume II, covering 1670 to 1674 and based on Libers 5 and 6, overlaps chronologically with the previous book. Volume III covers the periods 1675 to 1677 and 1703 to 1704 and is based on Libers 7, 8A, 8B, and 9A (1=371).
The Prerogative Court was the focal point for probate for colonial Maryland. A judge and various clerks staffed the court. All matters of probate went directly to the Prerogative Court, which was located in Annapolis, Maryland’s colonial capital. Eventually, administration of probate was delegated to the several county courts; however, many documents related to probate continued to be filed at the Prerogative Court and not in the corresponding county. It should be noted that the Prerogative Court was also the colony’s court for equity cases (resolution of disputes over the settlement and distribution of an estate).
Volume III contains abstracts of records of the Prerogative Court of Maryland for the period 1675 to 1677 as well as some inventories for 1703 to 1704. (Beginning in 1674, inventories and accounts were recorded in a separate series.) Mr. Skinner has combed through administration, bond, will, inventory, administration account, and final balance entries to produce this collection. The abstracts are arranged in chronological order by court session. In every instance, they give the names of the principals (testators, heirs, witnesses, administrators, and so forth). In many cases we also learn the details of bequests, names of slaves, appraisers, and more. In all, what we have here are probate references to over 6,500 17th-century Marylanders whose existence and activities would otherwise remain hidden in some rich but very obscure records.