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In 1680, Charles, the third Lord Baltimore, appointed a Register of the Land Office to administer the new agency. The register assumed duties pertaining to land grants from Lord Baltimore previously reserved for the Governor or Secretary and began to issue warrants of survey and grant patents. In 1684, Charles established a four-member land council to hear and determine all matters relating to land in Maryland.
As a result of the Protestant Revolution of 1688, the Land Office was closed from 1689 to 1694. Within the colony, questions were raised concerning whether the office was public or private. The Governor and Council, Secretary, and General Assembly aligned themselves against the Lord Proprietor, claiming a public right of settlement of judicial questions related to title, custody of records, and control over surveying. Private rights, they asserted, were limited to the Proprietor's collection of revenue.
Since the Land Office was managed by the Governor and Council, the Proprietor had to rely on his agents to uphold his claims. The first two agents, Henry Darnall and Charles Carroll the Settler, brought to the office a power and diligence unequaled by their successors. After the Proprietor's territorial rights were restored in 1715, Land Office administration fell to the Judge of the Land Office who also took the title of Register. He appointed a Surveyor General for both shores. That officer appointed deputy surveyors in each county.
The Proprietor lost his rights to Maryland with the outbreak of the Revolution. The 1776 Constitution authorized the Governor and Council to appoint a Register of the Land Office for each shore, and took steps to protect those persons who already held titles to property. Moreover, under the Confiscation Acts of 1780 and 1781, the revolutionary government appropriated lands held formerly by the Proprietor. Confiscated lands were subsequently divided and sold. The Land Office issued patents on the resurveyed tracts.
In 1843, the Eastern Shore office was abolished. Thereafter, the Western Shore Land Office administered all land patents. The 1867 Constitution declared the Land Office a repository of all patent records. In addition the Land Office received records of the recently defunct Chancery Court. In 1967, the functions, records, responsibilities, and employees of the Land Office were transferred to the Hall of Records Commission. The State Archivist assumed the duties of the Commissioner of Land Patents and is responsible for issuing land patents and conducting court hearings (Chapter 355, Acts of 1967).
See Introduction to Land Records for more information concerning the Land Office in general and its relationship to title to land in Maryland. [annotated by ecp 2010/01/15]