MDGenWeb About the Feudal Estate That Was Early Maryland

Bob O'Neal shares with us a glimpse of life in early Maryland by paraphrasing the historical works he is using in his research.


The Calverts ruled with the force of kings as Lords Baltimore (there were six). From 1637, when the English King granted Cecilius Calvert dominion over Maryland (which early on included some of VA and all of DE) until 1775, all the land was owned by the Calverts and 'granted', which meant in effect leased, by their authority as owners to,

  1. individual (lesser) proprietors in blocks of 1,000 acres or more to form 'manors' or feudal estates, in return for rent paid to the Proprietor (Calvert), or
  2. from the Proprietor's great manors (there were 62) himself directly to individual 'freeholders' or immigrants in smaller acreage also in return for rent or
  3. to friends, relatives etc. with various arrangements.

One reference said that one of the Calverts' manors in Western Maryland (Allegany/Garrett Co?) was 10,000 acres and upon being forfeit to the United States after the Revolution, was parceled out to the War veterans as bounty land in payment for their service. The Calverts were (rightly) deposed by the Revolution.

These 'manors' were then parceled out by these lesser proprietors (wealthy nobles) to 'tenants' or small farmers (landless immigrants) in return for rents paid by them to the 'lord of the manor' . The 'demesne' or main mansion and grounds remained under the direct control of the Calverts.

This is why all the early land 'grants' contained the name of Cecelius Calvert as the proprietor (owner). Inheritance of these lands was permitted, but a fine, usually of one year's rent, had to be paid BEFORE the land could be 'conveyed' to an heir. The definition of 'heirs' changed from time to time, sometimes the eldest male, never a female, or wife, sometimes the youngest male. The rents were continually raised on the lands, to the consternation of the tenants. These rents were estimated at the time of the Revolution to be in excess of 30,000 pounds sterling per year!! [Thomas, p.97].

These manors were subdivided into 'hundreds', the old unit in England, being the amount of land that would roughly support a company of men for defense of the land, or 100 men.


Bob O'Neal has just started the project outlined below.

My approach is to try to match my ancestors' (Peter LeMAIRE and Joseph O'NEAL) tracts of land (i.e., "Hispaniola" and "Crackbone") to a place on the map (between Indian Creek and Trent Hall Creeks? near today's "Golden Beach"?), to identify a manor (was it "DeLaBrooke"?, "Fenwick's"?, "Cremona"?, "Trent Hall"?) and a Hundred ("Resurrection Hundred"?) that matched the property owner. These were in All Faiths [Anglican] Parish after 1694.

Then try to find the existence of manorial records, once private property of the 'lord', which would list the 'tenements', 'tenants', in "rent rolls", and perhaps some genealogical information, and perhaps their origin as immigrants. And, to determine their neighbors on the land, with whom they likely migrated to Montgomery/Frederick Co between 1747 and 1776.


Suggest reading: "Chronicles of Colonial Maryland", by James W. Thomas, Cumberland MD 1900, reprinted by GPC, Baltimore 1995.




HOME County Selection Table County Selection Map Getting Started Data Archives Mailing Lists
Unknown County Queries Libraries Vital Records Maps and Gazetteers Genealogical Societies Family History Centers

© 1996 - 2012 Shari Handley, The MDGenWeb Project