111 W. Montgomery Avenue
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Following is an overview of the resources available at the Jane C. Sween Library and Special Collections. Click on the underlined links to access collection searches or lists of material.
For information on our artifact collections, visit this page.
The Jane C. Sween Library in Rockville now has over 5,000 books, most of which are catalogued at the link above and in the Montgomery County Public Library (MCPL) catalog. The primary focus of this collection is the history of Maryland and the development of Montgomery County from the pre-colonial period to the present including genealogy reference books, biographies, and published Maryland county records. The state and local histories of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Virginia are also strongly represented.
The library holds tombstone inscription readings on index cards from 111 cemeteries and family burying grounds indexed by name (survey done in the 1970s), as well as general survey materials on all known Montgomery County cemeteries, prepared by the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites working with Peerless Rockville and completed in 2008. For the 2018 updated cemetery inventory data, as well as digitized versions of the 2008 surveys, visit their website hosted at Montgomery Preservation.
Births, marriages, deaths, and other information copied from the record books of numerous churches in Montgomery County, indexed by name. Photocopies of the original records of several Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches in the County. The Library also collects general historical information on Montgomery County places of worship–including newspaper articles, history publications, pamphlets, anniversary programs, and events– for reference and research.
Early Montgomery County Records
Original vital documents (birth and death certificates; marriage licenses; wills) are kept at the Maryland State Archives and/or the Montgomery County Circuit Court. Deeds and other land records are also available online through mdlandrec.net. (For a tutorial on how to use the indexing system for searching land records, see this video)
For ease of research, the Sween Library provides abstracts of the following records:
We also have records for the following:
The Library maintains an extensive amount of genealogical material organized by surname, including family trees, ancestor charts, family group charts, copies of original documents (letters, wills, Bible records, photographs), and prior research compilations. Additionally, Library staff have clipped and maintained files of biographical material on hundreds of Montgomery County residents, primarily consisting of obituaries and other newspaper articles. *note: a portion of the family files have been described in our online collections database but entry is ongoing. Not all families are yet represented at the link above.
This collection includes atlases and maps of Maryland and Montgomery County dating from the early 19th century to the present. These include area maps, topographical maps, maps of local jurisdictions, neighborhoods, and plat maps which detail the structures built in an area at various times. The most frequently used maps of Montgomery County include the 1865 Martenet & Bond map, the 1879 Hopkins Atlas, a B&O Metropolitan Real Estate map of Rockville in 1890, the 1916 Deets & Maddox real estate atlas, the Klinge real estate atlases ranging from 1931-1959, and the Lusks real estate directories and property maps, ranging from 1951-1993. We also have Sanborn fire insurance maps for selected portions of Montgomery County, updated through the mid-1960s.
This collection contains news-related publications reporting on the Montgomery County area from the early 19th century through the 21st century, including rare issues of Rockville and Maryland papers published from 1800-1850, numerous Montgomery County weeklies and bi-weeklies published between 1878 and 1995, and newspapers and periodicals from Rockville, Kensington, Damascus, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Wheaton, Gaithersburg, Potomac, and many more– offering broad coverage of area events and people. The title link above provides the catalog listings for all newspapers and periodicals in our collection. Here is a list of newspapers, sorted by time periods they cover.
The most frequently used newspaper in our collection is the Montgomery County Sentinel, a local paper that began publication in 1855. We retain microfilm holdings of every extant issue, 1855-1969 (issues from 1970-2020 can be accessed on microfilm at the Rockville Memorial Library). Issues of the Sentinel from 1914-1944 and 1959-1963* have been digitized through the Maryland Digital Newspapers Project and are now searchable at the Library of Congress via their Chronicling America site. (*the entire run through 1963 has been digitized: more will be added to the site as they are processed, noted as of 7/30/2021)
To aid with research, we also provide published books of abstracts from the Sentinel, on genealogy (Malloy) and general interest (Bowman), as well as clippings of published obituaries.
The Sween Library has collected a large number of oral histories, including transcribed interviews with over 80 residents of Montgomery County. These transcriptions are available for research on varied topics including family/community life, politics, development, reminiscences, military service, businesses, schools, agriculture, and much more. Interviews were conducted from the 1950s through the present day. (Audio recordings are sometimes restricted due to condition).
The Library’s vast photograph collection, searchable at the link above, consists of 8 x 10 prints, 3 x 5 snapshots, photographic slides, and postcards depicting Montgomery County’s changing landscape from the mid-19th century until today. In addition to views of area street scenes, residential and commercial buildings (exterior and interior views), and countryside, there are hundreds of images of people and events important in the county’s history. The photographs in our special collections consist of rarer and more fragile photographic media, including daguerreotypes, tintypes, cabinet cards, glass plate negatives and oversized/framed portraits and group photos.
The Jane C. Sween Library is the repository for the archival records of a number of notable Montgomery County residents, businesses, and organizations. In addition to photographs and other audiovisual materials, this material consists of varied documentation of life in Montgomery County, including (but not limited to) diaries, almanacs, correspondence, vital documents (wills, deeds, legal papers), meeting minutes, publications, business ledgers and receipts, school yearbooks/publications/memorabilia, scrapbooks, blueprints/architectural drawings, and authors’ research notes.
Files for each town in Montgomery County, public schools, Historic Houses, Crimes, Businesses, Religious Establishments, Mills, Clubs, Customs and Folklore, the Civil War and other subjects pertinent to Montgomery County. Files contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, papers from the Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning Commission, copies of Maryland Historical Trust inventories of historic properties, and other ephemera.