Howard County Maryland Genealogy

Howard County



I am Rebecca Maloney, Webmistress and Coordinator for this Howard County, MD site. I hope you enjoy your visit. Please email me if you have any suggestions or contributions you would like to make.

My husband's family settled in Howard County when the immigrated from Ireland.  You will find lots of information about this family lineage in these pages.  Feel free to contact me to add your family genealogy


County Was Established


Howard County officially became the 21st of Maryland’s 23 counties in 1851. It was originally part of Anne Arundel County and was designated the Howard District in 1839, in honor of John Eager Howard, statesman, soldier, and fifth governor of Maryland.

Howard County was mainly the farming and hunting grounds of Native Americans until 1608 when Captain John Smith of Jamestown sailed up the Patapsco River. However, the first colonial settler, a Puritan named Adam Shipley, came much later, in 1687, when Lord Baltimore granted him a home on the Patapsco River. It is also at this time when Howard County’s tradition of farming started.

In the 1700s, the family of Charles Carroll, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, acquired nearly 13,000 acres of farmland and forests. On this property, Carroll built an elaborate masonry home in grand plantation style, located several miles west of Ellicott City. It was named Doughoregan Manor. Today, descendants of the Carroll family still live on the property, of which only 3,000 acres remain. This is a private residence, not open to the public.

On Howard County’s eastern edge, a great port was established in the late 1700s. The Great Falls of the Patapsco River terminated the navigable route upstream, just northwest of what is today called Elkridge. It was a natural location for the establishment of Elk Ridge Landing as a transfer point for goods. Ships coming from England and points farther east brought furniture, spices and other finished goods to trade. “Hogs heads” of tobacco and iron from the nearby furnace were shipped back to England. Elk Ridge Landing became the largest colonial seaport north of Annapolis.

In 1772, the Quaker brothers, John, Andrew and Joseph Ellicott of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, chose the picturesque wilderness upstream from Elk Ridge Landing to establish a flour mill. The brothers helped revolutionize farming in this area by persuading farmers to plant wheat instead of tobacco, and by introducing fertilizer to revitalize the depleted soil. Charles Carroll was one of the first and the most influential converts from tobacco to wheat. It was to Carroll’s estate that the Ellicott brothers built the first part of a road that was later to become the National Road, America’s first interstate highway.

The Ellicotts made significant contributions to the area and the era. They helped create Ellicott’s Mills, one of the greatest milling and manufacturing towns in the east at that time. They built roads, bridges and a wharf in Baltimore, introduced the wagon brake and plaster as a fertilizer, erected iron works, a furnace, rolling mills, schools, a meeting house, shops and beautiful granite houses.

In 1791, Andrew Ellicott was commissioned to survey the boundaries for the nation’s new capital, Washington, D. C. Benjamin Banneker, an African American scientist and friend of the family, joined him in his work. Banneker maintained notes for Ellicott, made calculations as required and used astronomical instruments to establish base survey points.

On the southern corner of the county, along the Little Patuxent River, Savage Mill began operation in 1822. One of the county’s longest-operating companies, Savage Mill functioned as a textile mill from 1822 until 1947and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1830, the railroad came to Howard County. The Baltimore & Ohio’s first 13 miles of track connected Baltimore with the thriving community of Ellicott’s Mills. America’s first railroad terminal was built there in 1831. The Ellicott City B & O Railroad Station Museum is a National Historic Landmark.

The first curved stone-arch bridge in America carried the B&O rail line over the Patapsco River near Elkridge. The Thomas Viaduct, built in 1835, is a 700-foot long structure of eight elliptical arches. Despite the opinions of skeptics, not only did it support the first trains, it has remained in service for more than 150 years. Another significant railroad bridge on the early B&O line is the Bollman Truss Bridge. This wrought and cast-iron, semi-suspension bridge was brought to Savage in 1860 when the B&O Railroad serviced the Mill. One of the last remaining examples of this design, the Bollman Truss Bridge is a National Historic Landmark. It now carries pedestrians across the Little Patuxent River behind Historic Savage Mill.

The Patapsco Female Institute was one of the first schools in the country to educate women academically. Built in 1837, the school (now an historic park) was constructed on land in Ellicott’s Mills donated, in part, by the Ellicott brothers.

In 1839, the area was designated Howard District of Anne Arundel County. The small, granite building at the top of Main Street in Ellicott City served as an interim courthouse from 1840 to 1843. Howard County became an independent jurisdiction in 1851.

The small town of Lisbon in western Howard County developed as a farming community before the Civil War. It was also a supply depot and waystation on the Old Frederick Turnpike. In the mid-1800s, Lisbon was a summer resort for city dwellers escaping the heat. At the corner of Rt. 108 & 32, you’ll find Clarksville, a prosperous little town in the late 1800s with its post office, grocer, four blacksmiths & wheelwrights, five stores, three carpenters and three doctors.

When the Civil War broke out, the county was divided, much like the rest of the nation was. The railroad and its bridges became prime targets of the Confederate Army. Cooksville, in western Howard County, played a part in the outcome of the Gettysburg campaign. Heading north to assist Gen. Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg, JEB Stuart was delayed here in a skirmish with opposing forces bent on stopping him. He captured the enemy troops, but was late getting to Pennsylvania. By that time, the tide was already turned against the Confederates.

The county was predominately agricultural in character until 1966, when construction began on the new town of Columbia. Columbia was planned and developed by The Rouse Company, led by its founder James Rouse. Beginning with an idea and the purchase of more than 14,000 acres in the mid-1960s, it has reached its original population projection and in almost every other way has met the goals put forth in its original proposal and advertising.

The county’s population has grown approximately 500 percent since then, and it is now one of the wealthiest in the nation. Under a home rule charter since 1968, Howard County is governed by an elected County Executive and five member County Counsel

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"The Chosen"

We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again. To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, "You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.". How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say. It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who I am, and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying - I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before."

by Della M. Cummings Wright; Rewritten by her granddaughter Dell Jo Ann McGinnis Johnson; Edited and Reworded by Tom Dunn, 1943."



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Contact Us

If you have questions, contributions, or problems with this site, email:

Coordinator - Rebecca Maloney

State Coordinator: Shari Handley

Asst. State Coordinator: Rebecca Maloney

Questions or Comments?

If you have questions or problems with this site, email the County Coordinator. Please to not ask for specfic research on your family. I am unable to do your personal research. I do not live in Maryland and do not have access to additional records.


Howard County Maryland Genealogy