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THE PARISH RECORDS OF MARYLAND.

HENRY F. THOMPSON.

The Protestant Revolution of 1688, which changed the Government of England, and placed William and Mary on the throne, extended its influence over Maryland, and ended there by taking the Government from the Lord Proprietary and handing it over to the King and Queen.

The first Royal Governor, Lionel Copley, called a meeting of the General Assembly at Saint Mary's in June, 1692, and that Assembly passed an “Act for the service of Almighty God and the establishment of the Protestant Religion in this Province,which Act provided for the division of the Counties into Parishes, the choosing of “six of the most able men of the said respective Parishes to be a vestry for such Parish,” the building of churches except where there were churches already built, and the levying of a Poll Tax for the support of the Establishment.

Certain changes were made at different times in this Act, but in the main it was the law of the Province until the year 1776, when all connection between Church and State ceased, and the tax for the support of the Establishment was abolished.

Thirty-one Parishes were laid out by “metes and bounds,” and in them vestries were chosen, and churches built with more or less promptness, so that the beginning of the Parish Records is in 1692, or about one hundred and fifty years after Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-General of England, required that in all Parishes, Records should be kept not only of marriages, births and deaths, but of the proceedings of the vestries of the several Parishes.

As these Records contain very often more than the mere mention of the marriage or birth, etc., they throw much light on the life and manners of the times, and this makes them of great interest to the student of history, while to the genealogist they are of inestimable value, in the tracing of pedigrees.

It is therefore a subject of great regret, that so many of them should have been lost, through the carelessness of those who had charge of them, whether that carelessness was owing to a want of recognition of their value, or during and after the Revolutionary War to the fact that they were remnants of an aristocratic establishment.

Some of them are in books “with parchment leaves,” and naturally these have stood the wear and tear of years, better than those which being on paper, have been worn and torn by frequent use.

Entries are not made regularly and dates are very much mixed up, apparently because the entries were made from memory or from memoranda, at long intervals, and sometimes they are made after the death of the person mentioned, in order that a true record might be handed down of certain facts relating to the deceased, as the following extract from the Records of Saint Peter's Parish, Talbot County, June, 1811, shows, viz. :

“Samuel Chamberlain 3! son of Samuel Chamberlain esquire, late of Saint Michaels Parish, Talbot County who was youngest son of Thomas Chamberlain of Sanghall near West Chester in Great Britain by his first wife, born 23 August 1742 — Baptised by Henry Nicols Rector of S! Michaels — Confirmed by Bishop Clagett 26 May 1793, married 15 January 1772 to Henrietta Maria Holyday—Died 30 May 1811—Buried 1 June 1811.”

The first entries in these Records always begin with the meeting of the Justices of the County, the fixing of the bounds of the Parish and the election and organization of the vestry. The vestrymen after taking an oath that they did not believe there was “any transubstantiation in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper or in the bread and wine at or after the consecration thereof,” and the oath of allegiance “ to William and Mary King and Queen of Great Britain,” proceeded to the transaction of the business of the Parish.

Measures were taken for the building of a church, unless there

a

was one already built, when it was repaired and improved, and among other things the vestry went “to view the clay” of which bricks were to be made, which proves, even with no other evidence on the subject, that in 1692, it was no new thing to make bricks in the Province, and that the “ Churches built of imported bricks" are fictions.

Sometimes regular accounts of the receipts and expenditures are to be found, and the cost of building the church or repairing the old one, the expense of clearing the ground and caring for the church, tolling the bell, etc., etc., are all stated, generally in tobacco, but sometimes in pounds, chillings and pence, as in All Faiths Parish in Saint Mary's County, where was paid in 1693 “ for Horses for bringing the Minister and his Lady from Saint Marys (about 25 miles] £1. 07/and on the same day for “bringing his [the Rector's] goods from Saint Marys, 400 is of Tobacco."

There was also paid for a “Record Book and Register Book with parchment leaves, 500 lbs Tobacco ” and for a

and for a “Chest for Keeping the books, 12/.

It was not only tobacco and pounds, shillings and pence, which formed the currency used by the inhabitants of the Province; for the various kinds of money in circulation are shown by the returns of the collections taken up in the several Parishes in compliance with a proclamation of the Governor of Maryland, calling for help for the sufferers by the fire in Boston in 1760.

In Saint Michael's Parish in Talbot County, there were received

72 guineas

2 Double Livres
31 Pistoles
21 Johannes
119 Pieces of eight

Sterling silver and

paper Cash

18 Copper pieces
4 Pistareens,

all valued at £195. 9/ 87 currency, equal to about £120. sterling, which was a generous contribution, but it must have taken some reflection to decide on the value of the many different pieces of money. Besides these coins, there were notes of several kinds to complicate still further the difficulties of keeping accounts in the days of the Province.

In every Church, a table of the degrees of relationship within which marriage was forbidden, was set up, so that all the inhabitants of the Parish might have warning of the law on the subject, but there are many entries like the following to be found, showing that people did not always obey the law.

“John Giles appeared according to summons from the Vestry, for marrying Hannah Scott, sister to his late wife, deceased, and being admonished to put her away, has refused to do it—therefore the Vestry hereby orders the Clerk to make presentment to the Grand Jury against said Hannah Scott as having offended against the Act of Assembly in that case made and provided

September 1752 S! Georges Parish Balt.” Although there are many persons cited to appear before the different vestries for marrying within the prohibited degrees, there is not an instance of the infraction of the rule that “a man may not marry his Grand-mother."

In these days, it is not customary for drunken men to frequent the church during service, but we know that Abram Cord was guilty of so doing, for he was fined five shillings for being drunk in Saint George's Church, Baltimore County, in April, 1750, and the fine was paid by him. There is no charge that he made any disturbance or in any way interfered with the services, but we are left to infer that the vestry thought him wanting in respect for the Church, when he showed himself there drunk.

The case of Mr. Crook was different, for he was a vestryman (although not very attentive to his duties, as he neglected to attend ( the meetings of the vestrymen), and was concerned in a riot in Joppa, then the county town for Baltimore County, and a shipping port, but now abandoned and even the site hardly known.

“Being informed that Joseph Crook a vestryman of this Parish aided and abetted a certain riot in thc Town of Joppa on Easter Monday last, and was not in Church Easter day or Easter Monday, we are of the opinion that Mr. Crook be no longer a Vestryman and give notice to the Parish to choose one in his room.

S: Johns Parish Balto C. May 1758.”

A more remarkable case—not found in the Parish Records, but in the Public Record Office, London—is that of the Rev. Peregrine Coney. In a batch of charges against Gov. Nicholson, occurs this :

“His Chaplain, Mr. Peregrine Coney, a pious and good man, the creditt of the Clergy of this Province, happening one day to be, by the Governors meanes, a little disguised by drink, the Gov! sent for him to performe his duty of Divine Service, though he excused himselfe, and the Gov!, very sensible of the Condition he was in, yett commanded him to be brought and publickly exposed him to the Congregation, calling him Dogg, and then ordering him to be turned out of doors."

In the entries of births, sometimes the day and hour are given with much care, as if some of the children named were to have their horoscopes taken, as for instance :

John Bullen the eldest and first son of Thomas Bullen and Rachel his wife was born the 26 April on Saturday between the hours of eleven and twelve oclock in the forenoon A. D. 1740.

S! Peters—Talbot County." Hugh Merrikin son of Joshua Merrikin and Diana his wife was born the 17 September about the hour of nine or ten oclock on the Sabbath day at night in the year of our Lord 1721.

S: Johns Baltimore County.” But no idea of a horoscope dictated the following, which was inspired by the delight of the father in the fact that his son came into the world at a time of rejoicing :

“Born (just as the guns were firing, on account of the Birth of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales), in Annapolis Frederick

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