“St. Mary’s County is where it all began,” writes Thomas Spalding in the introduction to this book. “There was established the first Catholic parish, the first Catholic school, the first community of religious men in English-speaking America.” Moreover, St. Mary’s residents played a key role in the development of the Catholic Church throughout the whole of America, providing the spearhead of the westward expansion of Catholicism. In 1785, for example, the first of many Catholic families from St. Mary’s crossed the mountains to find land in Kentucky, while a few years later, driven by economic necessity, others migrated to Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. So great was the number of St. Mary’s Catholics who moved to Kentucky, in fact, that a diocese was created for them in 1808.
These early families left a mighty progeny, and those of us today who seek ancestral connections will welcome the appearance of this book, for here are collected many of the earliest surviving records of the Catholic families of St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The most significant portion of the work contains the marriages and baptisms from the Jesuit parishes of St. Francis Xavier and St. Inigoes, which, in the case of baptisms (1767-1794), give the names of children, parents, and godparents, and the date of baptism; and in the case of marriages (1767-1784), the names of the married partners and the date of marriage. Other records include congregation lists (1768-1769), rent rolls (various dates), births (various dates), subscribers to the Oath of Allegiance (1778), militia lists (1794), and voters’ lists (1789-1790). Taken together, these records comprise an indispensable reference source and represent the most complete collection of such materials in print.