This is the eighth volume in V. L. Skinner, Jr.’s popular series of transcriptions of 17th-century Maryland probate records. Volume VIII of Abstracts of the Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1697-1700, closes out the 17th-century holdings of the Prerogative Court.
The Prerogative Court was the focal point for probate in 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. (Beginning in 1674, inventories and accounts were recorded in a separate series.)
Volume VIII consists of abstracts of the records for the period 1697 to 1700. Mr. Skinner has combed through administration, bond, will, inventory, administration account, and final balance entries to produce this collection. The abstracts are arranged chronologically by court session. For the most part, the transcriptions state the names of the principals (testators, heirs, witnesses, administrators, and so forth) as well as details of bequests, names of slaves, appraisers, and more. Mr. Skinner notes that with the contents of Volume VIII, the Prerogative Court no longer assigned appraisers for the assessment of individuals’ property. In all, this volume refers to between 6,000 and 7,000 inhabitants of the Province of Maryland at the end of the 17th century.