Somerset County was opened for settlement in 1661 for the purpose of, in the words of the Proprietor, securing the "better . . . remembrance of the bounds between Virginia and Maryland". The new frontier area encompassed some two thousand square miles of land which today are divided among the Maryland counties of Somerset, Worcester, and Wicomico; the southern part of Sussex County Delaware; and a small northern strip of Accomack County, Virginia. The land was fertile, well-served by the Bay and numerous inland waterways as transportation lanes, and sparsely populated by relatively peaceable Indians.
The conditions and the prospect of free land brought settlers thronging into Somerset. The explosive population growth led to the organization of the territory south of the Nanticoke into the county of Somerset on August 22, 1666. Somerset's population continued to mushroom until it became the most populous county in Maryland by the beginning of the 18th century with official records showing 5,404 inhabitants both taxables and non-taxables. Only Talbot and Anne Arundel approached this figure with 4,862 and 4,121 respectively.
It is these 5,404 men, women, and children (as well as those who preceded them but did not make it to the end of the century) whom we seek to identify in this listing to the extent that existing records permit. It is fortunate that record-keeping was early established in Somerset. It is also fortunate that so many of those early records have survived for three centuries or more. The researcher finds, however, that specific county information is scattered and not always readily available. The format of this book, therefore, is designed to consolidate and compile data from a multiplicity of sources in alphabetic and chronological order. If my own experience in researching individual families is any criterion, the ability to view data in consolidated form will aid others materially in family research.
Further, the usual basic sources cover only that part of the population whose economic condition was such as to warrant drawing a will or to call for the administration of an estate. The majority of people did not fall into that category. Their names survive only if they were called upon to serve on juries, witness documents, or were brought into court for whatever reason.
For this compilation I have drawn on probate records and a number of additional sources. They include county vital statistics, parish records, judicial proceedings, legislative biographies, and the published Archives of Maryland. Not included, however, are any of the voluminous land records. The reason for this seeming omission is the availability of the superb abstracts prepared by Ruth T. Dryden in her three-volume series Land Records . . ., one each for the present-day counties of Somerset, Worcester, and Wicomico. The section under "Explanatory Notes" covering "References" will give more specific data on sources.
It cannot be too greatly stressed that what this compilation provides is "bare-bone facts". Researchers finding entries of interest should not fail to refer, if at all possible, to the sources themselves for possible additional data as well as to consult the land records.
Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in this compilation. Experience tells me, however, that errors will have crept in. Should the reader come across any inaccuracies, I will appreciate being so informed (with documentary references when available) for correction in any future editions.
Wilmer O. Lankford
Route 1, Box 2-B
Princess Anne, Maryland 21853
The text of They Lived In Somerset: 17th Century Marylanders is used here by the Somerset County Maryland USGenWeb site with permission of the author, the late Wilmer O. Lankford.
They Lived In Somerset: 17th Century Marylanders
Lankford, Wilmer O.
© 1990, printed by Manokin Press, P.O. Box 14, Princess Anne, MD 21853
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 90-63790
Hard copies of this publication are available for purchase from the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture in Salisbury, Maryland.
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