Considering the Law
Melissa Johnson December 14, 2015
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As family historians, we use various types of historical records to link generations of our families together. In doing so, we often forget that these records were not created for genealogists. Many were created as a result of laws that were in effect years ago. To complete reasonably exhaustive research, we must consider the laws that affected the geographic areas where our research subjects lived, identify what records may have been created as a result of those laws, and consult the records with regard to our research subjects.
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Can you suggest a good strategy for locating early state laws, or a resource that would provide guidance?
State libraries, state archives, and law libraries will have published copies of early statutes. Some state legislature websites also have searchable or browsable databases that include early laws in addition to more recent laws. You may also be able to find digital versions of published copies of early statutes on websites like Google Books, The Internet Archive, or HathiTrust. Also, don’t forget about private acts. Good luck!