Genealogist V. L. Skinner, Jr., resumes his transcriptions of 17th-century Maryland probate records with the fourth 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 fro 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 period 1675-1677 and 1703-1704, and is based on Libers 7, 8A, 8B, and 9A (1-371). Mr. Skinner’s newest volume in the series abstracts testamentary proceedings for the years 1677-1682, as well as 1702-1704.
The Prerogative Court was the focal point for probate in colonial Maryland. 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 casesâ€”resolution of disputes over the settlement and distribution of an estate.
Volume IV in this series consists of abstracts of Prerogative Court of Maryland records for the period 1677 to 1682, as well as some inventories for 1702 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.