Finding Freedom Project

A NHPRC Documenting Democracy Access to Historical Records Grant: The Maryland State Archives holds two essential types of records documenting freedom within its collections. The first are Manumissions, legal documents that frees an enslaved person from slavery on behalf of the slave holder. The second are Certificates of Freedom, documents that resulted from a 1805 General Assembly law that sought to identify Maryland’s free African American population and to control the availability of freedom papers. This legislation required those who were born free, or those who received their freedom from a slave owner, to record proof of their status in the county court.

These documents, found in 111 record series at the Maryland State Archives arranged by the county of issuance, contain vital information about those who were enslaved. Everything from the names, age, physical description, location of the recipient’s birth and rearing, and names of the slave holder or witness who confirmed the person’s free status is usually included. These records have been uploaded and made available through the Legacy of Slavery searchable database.

View the full listing of the records consulted during this project

bar

Manumissions by County

Allegany Anne Arundel Baltimore Baltimore City Calvert
Caroline Carroll Cecil Charles Dorchester
Frederick Garrett Harford Howard Kent
Montgomery Prince George's Queen Anne's Saint Mary's Somerset
Talbot Washington Wicomico Worcester  


Certificates of Freedom by County

Allegany Anne Arundel Baltimore Baltimore City Calvert
Caroline Carroll Cecil Charles Dorchester
Frederick Garrett Harford Howard Kent
Montgomery Prince George's Queen Anne's Saint Mary's Somerset
Talbot Washington Wicomico Worcester