Destination: Frederick, Maryland

If you have any Frederick County (MD) research – or even if you don’t – don’t hesitate to hit the road for the City of Frederick. It’s only about an hour west of both Baltimore and Washington, but feels much further. I chose a Thursday because it …

If you have any Frederick County (MD) research – or even if you don’t – don’t hesitate to hit the road for the City of Frederick.  It’s only about an hour west of both Baltimore and Washington, but feels much further. 

I chose a Thursday because it allowed me to visit both the Historical Society of Frederick County and the Maryland Room of the C. Burr Artz Public Library,  with its early evening hours.  I could have easily spent several days at each repository but the goal of the trip was to get the lay of the land. (1)  Both are located in the historic downtown area, which has evolved into a picturesque shopping and dining destination area.  Honestly, there is a lot to do.  Add genealogy to that list.  In fact, put it at the top.

My Thursday happened to be a lovely day.  I parked in a garage right across the street from the historical society on aptly-named Church Street.



Picture credit: Maryland State Archives

A very knowledgeable volunteer, Nancy, showed me around the compact but well-equipped library and oriented me to significant Frederick County sources.  I had used the Jacob Engelbrecht Diary but I was not familiar with the Martin index. (2)  I headed straight for the surname vertical files, always the most unique materials on hand.   Like packages wrapped in question mark paper, vertical files can either delight or disappoint or both.  But I was mostly delighted and again reminded that you should always check surnames from adjacent counties.  You just never know.

When I took a break, I found the Starbucks around the corner, and enjoyed my latte in the sun. (Yes, I succumbed to the familiar logo but was more adventurous in the evening.)  By late afternoon, after the second shift and equally helpful volunteer, Richard, finished my photocopying, I was ready for Phase II.

On my way out of the historical society, I peered wistfully in to the exhibit room. The Fritchie Phenomenon: Barbara Fritchie in Popular Culturewas under construction.  I’ll have to go back and see her.

Leaving my car in place, I walked two blocks to the C. Burr Artz Public Library.

The library is stunning. Even more thrilling (to librarian-types) than the physical beauty was the high level of use on display.  The place was packed with patrons- and not everyone was sitting in front of a a computer screen.

I felt public library envy.

I made my way to the Maryland Room – my first visit there as a patron, and I received a wonderful greeting and excellent orientation from Carolyn Magura.  She had a number of patrons on hand but adroitly guided each of us according to our needs.  She pointed out the major Frederick County sources, like the Martin index. I smiled knowingly — ah, yes, the Martin index, I know all about that (at least for the last five hours….)

This is Mary Mannix’s shop.  She is the Maryland Room Manager and she knows her stuff.  In fact, she teaches future librarians how to serve genealogical patrons. (3)  Here’s a telling detail.

Earlier in the day, at the historical society, a set of Maryland German church records had been pointed out to me as a significant source. (4)  I didn’t get around to looking at them.  But, at the Maryland Room, they had been pulled out of the church section and placed on a shelf  labeled “Core Collection.”  That placement got my attention and I took a few (of the 15!) off the shelf.  Admittedly a bit tired by that time, I asked Mary if there was a way to identify which churches were in which volume.

She looked me in the eye and said “Trust your reference librarian.  You have to look at all of them.  They seemed to move around from church to church depending on who was preaching.” (5)

I sat back down.

And, in the fourth volume, I found my Michael Baer, baptism and marriage.

The shelves are browsable and they are packed with many volumes I’d never before seen.  Mary reminded me that they collect material for the whole state.  And if the Civil War is a particular interest, you will swoon.   Between the collection and exceptional staff, you can’t go wrong.  I didn’t even make it to the surname files, so I have to come back.  [Check the webpage for remote assistance and personal consultations.]

As I left the library, the sound of live music drew me to the other side of the building, where a weekly Thursday event in Carroll Creek Linear Park was just getting underway.


Bonus!   I enjoyed the sun, the sounds, and the sights.  And then charcuterie at a local eating establishment, The Wine Kitchen, where I was served a chardonnay that is “as elegant as it is muscular.”  Their words, not mine.

Frederick, Maryland – a fine genealogy destination, by any standard.


(1) The Frederick County Court House is also located within a short walk – at 100 West Patrick Street 21701.

(2)  Engelbrecht, Jacob, William Rogers Quynn, and Historical Society of Frederick County. The Diary of Jacob Engelbrecht. 2 vols. Frederick, MD: Historical Society of Frederick County, 2001. Martin, John Stanwood. Genealogical Index to Frederick County, Maryland: the First Hundred years. 4 vols. Malvern, PA: Conlin’s Copy Center, 1992.  NOTE: The Engelbrecht Diary set is on sale at the Historical Society of Frederick County for $50; it’s also available on CD.  You can get both for $75 – very tempting.  Members get a discount.

(3) Mary Mannix is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, known more recently as the iSchool.

(4) Weiser, Frederick S. Maryland German Church Records, vols. 1-10, 12-16. Westminster, MD: Historical Society of Carroll County, 1996-2001.

(5) Mary and I had met professionally several times, so she felt free to be firm with me.  And I needed it.  If I could have come up with an entire blog post titled “Trust Your Reference Librarian,” I would have.

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