Announcing the Maryland Loyalism Project
The Maryland Loyalism Project is a new digital archive and biographical database of women and men from the Maryland colony who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. Following the war, Loyalist refugees lined up in New York, London, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to relate their wartime experiences to Parliament-appointed Commissioners in hopes the state would recognize their political allegiance and compensate them for their losses through evacuation, land, a pension, or reimbursement. The Maryland Loyalism Project makes available digitized, transcribed, and indexed volumes of original manuscript sources held in North American and United Kingdom archives.
Project Co-Director Kyle Roberts brought the Maryland Loyalism Project to the APS when he was hired as the Associate Director of Library & Museum Programming in September 2019. The Project had its origins in a digital history course that he team-taught with Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst, Project Co-Director and faculty member in the History Department at Shepherd University. The Project is designed to teach bright undergraduate and graduate students how to use digital platforms to learn valuable digital skills while making poignant stories and revealing data available to scholarly and descendant communities. Generous support from a Lapidus Digital Initiatives grant from the Omohundro Institute for Early American Culture, the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities at Loyola University Chicago, and two paid interns from the CV Starr Center for the American Experience at Washington College have made it possible for the first iteration of the Project to launch in September 2020.
The Maryland Loyalism Project provides a digital archive of high-quality scans of original manuscript material documenting the experience of Black and White Loyalists from Maryland before, during, and after the American Revolution. The September 2020 launch includes five volumes that contain 73 different Memorials by White male (and a handful of female) petitioners to the Loyalist Claims Commission and three volumes that list 55 different Black women and men who freed themselves from Patriot enslavers and were listed in the Inspection Roll before evacuation to a new life in the Canada or the Bahamas. These records will be familiar to longtime David Library of the American Revolution users as drawn from the Loyalist Claims Commission Papers (AO12 Papers of the American Loyalist Claims Commission) and the Sir Guy Carleton, British Headquarters Papers (PRO 30/55). More information on those holdings, now at the APS, here. Transcriptions of each page make it easier to read the original documents, especially for those unfamiliar with 18th-century cursive handwriting.
The biographical database provides information about the women and men named in the original manuscript and makes it much easier to find connections between them. Individuals are divided into three categories: Memorialists (those who brought the claim), Witnesses (people called to testify in support of a claim), and Mentioned (a rich assortment of other people named in these often lengthy documents). As of the September 2020 launch, there are records for 138 Memorialists and 138 Witnesses in the database. Thousands of people in the “Mentioned” category will be uploaded in a subsequent phase of the project.
For too long, scholars have dismissed those who remained loyal to the Crown as the “losers” of the American Revolution. Tens of thousands—perhaps as high as 100,000—left the young United States to start new lives elsewhere in the British Empire. Early historians sought to vilify them in or write them out of histories of the American Revolution. Recent excellent published scholarship on the topic of Loyalism has left Maryland relatively underexplored. Today, as we look to the 250th anniversary of the Declaration on Independence in 2026, many interested people—scholars, genealogists, museum professionals, and descendents—are actively seeking to recover their stories. They recognize the necessity of understanding how people navigated a time of intense political turmoil, especially how thousands of women and men enslaved by Patriot families used the war to secure their freedom by running to British lines. The experience and treatment of Loyalists is part of the founding story of the United States with repercussions to the present day. Explore the Maryland Loyalism Project today!
Learn more about the Maryland Loyalism Project by watching The Untold Stories of Maryland Loyalists, a talk with Jillian Curran, Elizabeth Lilly and Benjamin Bankhurst (American Philosophical Society, 4 August 2020)