Records kept by the British State give a rich view into the experience of Marylanders before, during, and after the American Revolution. There are thousands of people named in these records but in this database they have been organized into three categories: Memorialists (those who submitted a petition for some form of recognition and/or compensation), Witnesses (those named by Memorialists as able to validate their claims of political allegiance), and a large group of Mentioned (people who played a wide range of roles in the lives of the Memorialists).
There are a few dozen possible fields for each record, but the biographical database only displays fields for which information has been entered. Some records have a significant amount of information; others have very little.
The database is designed for users not only to discover biographical information about Maryland Loyalists but also to discover connections between them. Names in the database that appear in red are linked to another biographical record. Clicking on that name will take you to that record.
The first iteration of the Maryland Loyalism Biographical Database only has records for Memorialists and Witnesses. As time permits, we hope to upload records for the far more numerous individuals in the Mentioned category.
For more information about the history of the Inspection Roll of Negroes, also known as the Book of Negroes, held in the National Archives, Kew and the National Archives, Washington, DC, click here.
For more information about the history of the Parliamentary Loyalist Claims Commission records held in the National Archives, Kew, click here.
Following the American Revolution, Loyalist refugees lined up in New York, London, and Halifax, Nova Scotia to share their experience of wartime activities in hopes the British state would recognize their political allegiance and compensate them through evacuation, land, a pension, or reimbursement. Memorialist is the name we use to refer to formerly enslaved women and men who responded to the invitation of Sir Guy Carleton in summer and fall 1783 to be recorded on the Inspection Roll to be evacuated out of New York and to the free men (and sometimes women) who submitted petitions to the Loyalist Claims Commission created by Act of Parliament in July 1783) for losses of property and revenue. In a few cases in the Loyalist Claims Commission records, the Memorialist might be the members of a commercial partnership or a relative of a deceased Loyalist (typically a wife or son).
The Inspection Rolls and the Loyalist Claims Commission records provide different types of biographical information about individuals. The Inspection Rolls are organized as a spreadsheet with nine columns recording information as various as a physical description, former enslavers, and from whence the Memorialist came. The Loyalist Claims Commissions records are minutes of the narratives and claims made by individuals. Biographical information is embedded within these documents, but is unevenly represented across the Memorials. It is important to note that in both records, the information was recorded by a White male state official based primarily on oral testimony but also, in some cases, written testimony. All of what is recorded has been mediated in some way by these officers of the state.
In addition to listing biographical information about the individual, this database allows the user to see the names of individuals who Memorialists stated could validate their claims. Scrolling down to the “is referenced by” section takes the user to pages in the digital archive where the Memorialist is named. Scrolling further down to the “Relation” section will take the user to the original memorial submitted by the individual.
Information in the database record here is drawn directly from the original manuscript Inspection Roll and Loyalist Claims Commission records. It has been augmented with additional information from other sources. Look under the “Related Works” section for other biographical works on the individual. If you are a descendent or researcher (or know someone who is) that has information about any Memorialist, Witness, or Mentioned person, we encourage you to contact use here so that we can update the record.
Memorialists were called upon to provide the names of individuals who could attest to their political allegiance. Individuals who provided such references are called Witnesses in this biographical database. In the work of the Loyalist Claims Commission, Witnesses were called in separately from the Memorialist to verify the veracity of their memorials. In the Inspection Rolls, the work of the two primary witnesses - Samuel Birch and Thomas Musgrave - had been done in advance of the Memorialists’ interview. Birch and Musgrave had been charged by Carleton in Spring 1783 to provide certificates to self-emancipated women and men who had served the British military forces for at least a year. These certificates came to be known as General Birch Certificates and many (but not all) Memorialists in the Inspection Roll are noted as possessing them. (Example of a General Birch Certificate here.)
Efforts have been made to gather as much biographical data about Witnesses from the original manuscript record as possible. Sometimes Witnesses were themselves Memorialists. In that case, an individual is recorded as both under “Category.” Their records have also been augmented with additional information from other sources. Look under the “Related Works” section for other biographical works on the individual.
By far the largest category of people in the Inspection Rolls and Loyalist Claims Commission records are referred to as the Mentioned. Many neither actively presented a memorial nor were called upon to witness some else’s allegiance. Rather, they were passively invoked for a range of reasons: for being family members; Patriot persecutors; or past or present owners of the Memorialists’ property. Nearly 800 of the Mentioned were enslaved women and men. Only one out of the few dozen Memorialists who enslaved people, James Chalmers, actually named his slaves in the record. A goal of the Maryland Loyalism Project is to restore the names of those who are unnamed in the record.
As noted above, the Mentioned do not currently have their own individual records. An objective of the Maryland Loyalism Project is for each individual to have her or his own record, allowing users to see the many connections between people in revolutionary Maryland.