Don’t Fence Me In

One of the most exciting developments to come out of our trip to the Eastern Shore was the Maryland Land Record website.


Our helpful librarian gave us a tutorial on how to use the site [see Day Two: The Nabb Center] — it can be confusing and we wouldn’t have figured it out without him. By eliminating the present-day real estate concerns, we can concentrate on the Active Indices, 1665-1995. I already had an account at the site (no charge) so we were ready to go.

Mattie and I are such nerds that we’ve been delighted to plunge into this arcane site for the actual deed document images. And having fun 1) transcribing the handwritten deeds and 2) translating the legalese. We learned how to download the whole deed as a PDF. Then I can enhance the scan in Acrobat, and we attempt to read it all, misspellings and lack of punctuation included.


They are full of colloquial-seeming land descriptions, like this

“Also two lots or parcels of swamp land known as the Old Hopkins and John Q. Robertson’s land, beginning at a sassafras post in center of ditch and at a corner of the west side of Samuel C. Evans swampland.”

Consequently, we are looking for a sassafras post that was in a ditch in 1864.

But we were told that it was common to name these parcels of land, so we’re trying to find Belvedere (or Belvideer) and other parcels bordering on Shiles Creek, a tributary from the Wicomico River.


Shiles Creek map, from the Wicomico River Stewardship Initiative website

We have found one mention of our great-grandmother, Leah (Wainwright) Robertson (as George W.’s wife), in a Trustee Deed from 1847, a rare sighting of a mostly invisible woman.

And we’ve traced the history of the cemetery, backwards in steps from 1962 to 1895. It gets more problematic before that but we persevere. We know the cemetery was founded in 1876, but haven’t yet discovered that deed.