Resources at the Jane C. Sween Research Library and Special Collections


Some of our special collections have been digitized, and are available to view online through the Enoch Pratt Free Library/State Library Resource Center Digital Maryland project:



Following are some of the resources available at the Sween Library. 

Click on the underlined links to access finding aids.


The Jane C. Sween Library in Rockville now has over 5,000 books, many of which are listed 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 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. 


Cemetery Records
Tombstone inscription readings from 111 cemeteries and family burying grounds indexed by name, as well as survey materials on all known county cemeteries, prepared by the Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites working with Peerless Rockville and completed in 2008.


Church Records
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) are kept at the Maryland State Archives and/or the Montgomery County Circuit Court. For ease of research, the Sween Library provides abstracts of the following records:

  • Wills (1776-1875)
  • Marriage licenses (1798-1896)
  • Land Records (selected) (1777-1865)

We also have complete records for the following:

  • Tax assessments (1793-1852)
  • Census records for Montgomery County (1776-1930) *including the census taken of formerly enslaved people in 1867, and the census of black land owners from 1867.
  • Microfilm holdings include the census records for the county, county land records from 1777-1865 and county probate records from 1777 to 1881.


Family Records
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.

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 in our collection include the 1865 Martenet & Bond map, the 1879 Hopkins Atlas, 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 do not have Sanborn fire insurance maps for Montgomery County (those can be found at the Library of Congress).


The most widely used newspaper in our collection is the Montgomery County Sentinel, a local paper that began publication in 1855. We retain both hard copy (restricted due to condition) and microfilm holdings of every extant issue, 1855-1969, as well as published books of abstracts on genealogy (Malloy) and general abstracts (Bowman). In addition we house rare issues of Rockville and Maryland papers published from 1800-1850, eight Montgomery County weeklies and dailies published between 1878 and 1947, and newspapers from Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Rockville, Kensington, Damascus, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Potomac offering broad coverage of area events and people. There is a special collection of newspapers from historic events such as presidential inaugurations, the Lindbergh flight, and Maryland’s tricentennial in 1934.


Oral Histories
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 conducted from the 1950s through the present day. (Audio recordings are restricted due to condition).


The Library’s vast photograph collection, consisting of 8 x 10 prints, 3 x 5 snapshots, photographic slides, and postcards depict Montgomery County’s changing scene from before the Civil War until today. 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. In addition to views of area street scenes, residential and commercial buildings (exterior and interior views), and countryside, there are images of people and events important in the county’s history.


Special Collections
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. The insurance policy records of the Montgomery Mutual Insurance Company, the Family Bible collection, and the papers of Montgomery County historians and authors Richard MacMaster, Joyce Siegel, and Nina Honemond Clarke are among the more prominent of these collections.


Vertical Files
 Files for each town in Montgomery County, public schools, Historic Houses, Crimes, Businesses, Religious Establishments, Mills, ClubsCustoms and Folklore, the Civil War and other subjects pertinent to Montgomery County. Files contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, papers from the Maryland National Capitol Parks & Planning Commission, copies of Maryland Historical Trust inventories of historic properties, and other ephemera.


A growing collection of video documentation of Montgomery County history, communities, and family reunions.