Spesutia Hundred, 1681-1799: A Study of a Colonial Maryland Parish
Becker, Ruth Anne
Olson, Alison Gilbert
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My study of some aspects of the lives of the people of Spesutia Parish in Harford County, Maryland, was made possible by the discovery of three surviving documents from this area. There is a parish record listing births, marriages, and deaths from 1680 to 1790. Information about households and wealth, as well as slavery, can be learned from a census taken in 1776 and a tax list from 1783. From the parish record and census, I found data on births, and was able to estimate the birth rate. The total population grew rapidly, so there must have been significant in-migration. The number of children per family was about four. I was able to estimate the age at marriage from the parish record and census. Second marriages seemed common. There did not appear to be many single adults except for servants, and bachelors had to pay a special tax. There was little evidence of extended families in one house but many had servants. Deaths were the least frequent entry in the parish record, and, if the death entries were accurate, Spesutia had a low death rate. In 1776 there were significant numbers of blacks and whites over age fifty. Maternal and infant deaths from childbirth were not especially high. Spesutia's population of 1440 in 1776 was almost half free and half slave. Over half the households did not have any slaves. Slave owning contributed to taxable wealth, but wealth did not correlate with social and political leadership. Lastly, I compared my data with other studies of colonial Maryland, and studies of New England and the South. More demographic studies are necessary, however, before we can speak definitively about birth, death and marriage in colonial Maryland or other parts of the colonies.