In the United States, generally speaking, each state has jurisdiction over the government records that are kept regarding their inhabitants' births, marriages, deaths, divorces, land transactions, probates, health, disease, education etc. They are not responsible for private record-keeping efforts such as those done by churches, cemeteries, community groups, companies, businesses etc. The federal government oversees the taking of the national census every decade, but not of state censuses. Certain cities have also participated in early record-keeping efforts even prior to their state's commencement of such things. And then there are numerous other entities involved with keeping records; these include shipping lines, publication companies (city and county directories, and phone books), orphanages, hospitals and military organizations.
If you are researching your genealogy in Maryland, then this article is for you. Since all states have essentially the same basic types of federal records (census and vital or civil registration), we will devote this article to sources that are specific to Maryland genealogy. Much of the information I give in this article comes from Val D. Greenwood's The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy (2nd Edition, 1990), a standard in its field, and various web sites. This is not a complete list of sources.
Something interesting happened as I was preparing to write this article - something that those researching Maryland genealogy, in fact any researcher, should be aware of. I started on the web site GeneaSearch and found that there are a lot of links to other genealogy sites - Footnote, Ancestry, OneGreatFamily, Genealogy Archives, Colonial Ancestors and Ancestor Archives among others. This can be a good thing because it can make you aware of research tools you may never have known about otherwise. However, as I clicked on "Unknown Photos", I somehow picked up a virus. Fortunately, I was alerted immediately and was walked through the proper steps to get rid of the virus. So let this be a warning to you when you start poking around in material that others have uploaded to these various sites.
Otherwise, doing genealogy research in Maryland is much the same as in other states. Many of the same sources exist here as elsewhere. However, what is interesting is its history. Originally set up as a haven for Catholics by Lord Baltimore, the first settlers (1634) happened to be Protestant. In spite of that, the highest political positions were held by Catholics. In 1649 the Maryland Toleration Act was passed which granted religious toleration albeit only to Trinitarian Christians. People of other religious denominations soon settled in Maryland.
Searching for Maryland genealogy in church records can be problematic. First, you need to know which church your ancestors belonged to and second, you need to determine where those records are today. Greenwood provides a partial list of church record depositories in Maryland and includes the Hall of Records in Annapolis, Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Baltimore (Catholic), Baltimore Yearly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite and Orthodox) in Baltimore, Maryland Diocesan Library (Protestant Episcopal) in Baltimore, Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, and the Methodist Historical Society in Baltimore. Other records may still be with the minister or church in question. You may be able to find out which church your ancestors belonged to by looking at their obituary, where they are buried, their nationality, their tombstone, a will, hospital or military records, articles about them in newspapers, or the history of the town.
Maryland also became the destination of tens of thousands of British convicts. There is a great web site called blacksheepancestors.com that can give you lots of information if your Maryland genealogy turns up someone in these circumstances. The good thing about having a convict as an ancestor is the amount of records kept. Not only will you find prison records but also ship passenger lists, court records, execution/burial records, insane asylum records, newspapers and biographies. Most of the convicts who were deported to America remained here but some returned to their home country. Of course, law-abiding citizens often broke the law once they were here and it is surprising what may turn up in church records regarding their illegal activities.
Searching for your Maryland genealogy can be very rewarding. Be sure to look into church and convict records while you're at it.