Guide to the BCA for Genealogists
Resources at the Baltimore City Archives:
Records Relating to a Person:
- The best way to find an individual that is mentioned in the historical records of the Baltimore City Archives is by utilizing the WPA Historical Records Survey Name Index. In the 1930’s, the Works Progress Administration, in the process of their Historical Records Survey Project, indexed every name mentioned in specific record groups of the Baltimore City Archives. The cards produced from that index are available online in alphabetically segments. For guidance on how to use the Name Index, please view BCA volunteer and genealogist Malissa Ruffner’s excellent step-by-step blog post. For an understanding of which records were indexed and included in the Name Index, see our page on WPA-HRS Indexing.
- If you are looking for vital records (birth, death, marriage certificates), visit our page, Vital Records of Baltimore City.
- To find out where an individual lived during a specific year, or the information about their business, search Baltimore City Directories.
- Suspicious deaths in the mid-19th century required a coroner’s inquest, some of which made their way to the Baltimore City Archives (deaths in 1827, 1835-1860,1864, 1867). See our index arranged by surname: Suspicious Deaths in Mid-19th Century Baltimore. Coroner’s inquests are located in BRG19-1.
- To find the locations and records of churches before 1900, visit our Church Records page.
- For the 1860 Census, Wards 1-4 were indexed by Bill and Martha Reamy. Volume 1 contains Wards 1 and 2- parts of today’s Harbor East, Fells Point, Butcher’s Hill, and Canton. Volume 2 contains Wards 3 and 4- parts of today’s Little Italy, Washington Hill, and Jonestown.
- The incomplete 1868 Police Census, Wards 3, 6. 8, 9. 13, and 20 contains name, street address, age, sex, race, country of birth, naturalized or registered, occupation, and religion. Those wards were parts of today’s Washington Hill, Middle East, Greenmount East, Downtown, and Midtown. These digitized reels are accessible from BRG11-9.
- For burial records and locations, check our our Baltimore Cemeteries page.
- Immigrants who arrived at the port of Baltimore between 1833-1866 were most likely placed on Passenger Lists by the vessel captains who were required to do so by law. The Passenger List index has been digitized and is available online.
Records Relating to a Property:
- For information on Maryland’s digital repository of land records, visit our page, Real Estate/Land Records for Baltimore City.
- Property Tax Records have been digitized; you can view our Property Tax Records for Baltimore City page for details.
- If you are interested in current and historical maps and atlases of the city, take a look at The Geography of Baltimore City: Sources.
- If you are having trouble working with changes in the wards over time, take a look at our webpage on Ward Changes and read William LeFurgy’s Baltimore’s Wards, 1797-1978: A Guide.
- Additions and improvements to properties from 1924-1961 required building permits. If you are looking for work done on a specific property, check the Building Permits Index Cards, which are arranged by block. If you do not know your block, use the state’s SDAT page to determine it by searching for the property- the block number is in the account identifier at the top of your property’s information page.
- Duvall’s Practical Points for Conveyancers from 1894 includes changes in street names that have occurred over the years.
- Street numbers changed in the 1880s. Take a look at the 1887 Street Directory (from the 1887 City Directory) to figure out number changes from that time period.
- Many historical properties have been inventoried by the Maryland Historical Trust. Those inventories have been placed online through the Maryland State Archives at Maryland Inventory of Historical Properties.
Records Relating to an Event, Group, or Subject:
- The WPA also created a card index for subjects, the WPA Subject Card Index; we have examples of how to use this index on our Topics page.
- If you want to just do a general browse of our records, you can get into the guide by choosing a specific Record Group/Manuscript Collection.
How to Schedule an Appointment:
If you find records in our collections that you wish to view, visit our Planning Your Visit page to view our hours, schedule an appointment, and read over our Searchroom policies.
Make sure that when you fill out the Research Appointment form you give a detailed description of what records you want to view by giving the Record Group, Series, HRS number, and the year if the item was from one of the WPA-HRS indexes, or as much detail as you can give from the Record Group, Series, Sub-series, and Box number if the item is not from the WPA-HRS indexes.
- Maryland State Archives
- Maryland Historical Society
- Enoch Pratt Free Library
- Baltimore County Historical Society
- Baltimore City Historical Society
- Jewish Museum of Maryland
- Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture