Exploring the Indexes

As the newest member of the Maryland State Archives research team, I have learned an incredible amount in my first few weeks here.  If you missed the post where I introduced myself and talked a little bit about my work, you can access it here.  

At the Archives, we use several different types of resources for our research.  Today I would like to tell you a little bit about a method which is one of my personal favorites – the card indexes that are housed on site in our State Archives Search room!

horizontal long index

For “Finding the Maryland 400”, there are a few main indexes that we use.  The first of these is Index 48, which gives us an overview of Revolutionary War Pensions.  This Index can even be searched from home by using this link! We use the card catalog to alphabetically search for the person we are researching, or in some cases to look for a widow who may have applied for a pension on behalf of the veteran.  Some veterans or widows never applied for pensions, so their names will not be in this record.  If the person we’re looking for is listed, we know someone received a pension under their name and we can then do further research to identify who, why, where, and how much.  This is a great place to start when looking for pension information, and can also be used to verify data found in other sources.

index 48

The second index that we often use is Index 49, which helps us to find certain documents in the Revolutionary War Papers (an example is shown below) which are housed in the stacks here at the Archives.  These papers give us information on pay abstracts, muster rolls, returns, bounty lists, accounts, auditor’s reports, payrolls, depreciation pay lists, ships manifests, and Association of Freemen signers.  There is no guarantee that all or most of this information is available for the person we are researching, but what we do find can give us clues on what to search for next (like a detective!).

revolutionary war papers

The third index that we often use is Index 50 to the Revolutionary War Records (which is different than the Papers).  Here we can find information on financial records, such as army accounts and depreciation pay, and admiralty court records.  This can tell us how much someone was paid and when, which can help us determine how long they were active in the service or possibly their rank, if not specified elsewhere.  

devaun recordlamb record

There are lots of other indexes that can be used which record marriages, births and deaths, and emancipation of enslaved people, among others.  A complete list of the Archives’ card indexes can be found here. Searching through these cards can be easier than doing an online search because we can often see family members and variations of name spellings in one place, even if we didn’t know they existed, because the catalogs are in alphabetical order. When searching online, it is likely that these may be missed because the results reflect the exact words that were searched for.  

It’s quite interesting to learn tidbits of information from different sources and piece them all together to recreate a long-lost life story of some of Maryland’s first war heroes!  

Thanks for reading,

~Natalie, 2017

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2 Responses to Exploring the Indexes

  1. Great information about the online indexes. We truly appreciate this type of article.


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