Land office records have utility for other types of inquiries as well. Natural scientists will find evidence of the early vegetation and topography of the colony through the trees, waterways, and other natural features used as boundaries or markers. The development of local infrastructure, in the form of mills, churches, stores, and roads, can similarly be traced through references in the metes and bounds of tracts. The distribution and timing of patents document the pace and density of settlement, while the rent rolls and debt books can be used to calculate the per household distribution of land, measures of landholding (maximum, minimum, mean, and median), and the degree of concentration of ownership.
The Land-Holder's Assistant
John Kilty divided his study of the land office into two books. The first, as Kilty described it on the work's title page, contained an account of "the grant and settlement of the province," with an explanation of the terms by which the proprietor held his colony and the conditions under which he made grants to settlers. Kilty, who had intended to write a history of the colony, opened the first book with a "brief account of the settlement of Maryland," including the proprietary charter, arrival of the first colonists, dispute with William Claiborne, and rule by the Parliamentary Commission, and ending with reference to the English revolution and temporary end of proprietary rule in 1689.
The second chapter provides an historical study of the feudal origins of tenure, the obligations of feudal tenure, and the evolution of those obligations in the post-medieval period. Kilty related the general discussion of feudal tenure to both the terms by which the proprietor held his land from the king and those which he could impose upon his own tenants. The following chapter elaborates upon this subject with an analysis of the successive conditions of plantation by which Lord Baltimore made land available for settlement, documented by extensive quotations from the conditions themselves, proprietary orders to the governor, and council proceedings. Chapter four reviews the initial establishment of a land office through designation of officials responsible for land affairs. The chapter consists largely of extracts from early land records with commentary upon the practices that they document. As the extracts in this chapter dealt with freehold grants to tenants, Kilty devoted the next chapter to a discussion of practices peculiar to proprietary manors and reserved lands.
In chapter six, Kilty traced the "formal and distinct establishment" of the land office bureaucracy, with the appointment of individuals specifically responsible for land affairs. Kilty included here extracts from the various proprietary proclamations, orders, and letters that regulated the conduct of the office. The following chapter consists of a lengthy and technical discussion of all the aspects, practices, and precedents concerning the resurvey of previously-patented land. Kilty provided numerous examples of the varied circumstances under which resurveys were ordered or granted and sought to explain the basis for the actions so described. In the following chapter, Kilty sought to clarify the meaning and usage of proclamation warrants. Chapter eleven distinguishes surplus lands from vacant lands and examines the various remedies devised to reconcile discrepancies between warrants and patents. In the following chapter, Kilty gathered together a set of extracts that similarly document actions taken to correct an assortment of oversights, errors, and deficiencies. Kilty noted here that the large universe of such examples, of which he selected only a small portion, demonstrated the extensive discretionary powers land officials enjoyed under proprietary rule. The following chapter chronicles practices, not previously discussed, that were no longer used by the state's land office, while chapter fourteen deals briefly with leaseholds on proprietary manors.