Law School for Genealogists
Coordinators: Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL and Richard “Rick” G. Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA
Additional instructor: Marian L. Smith
Held July 16-21, 2017, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.
Overall Course Objective: Students will acquire an understanding of various domains of law relevant to genealogical research. Students will study specific domains of the law and learn to use resources created by legal processes and other government actions.
Monday, 8:30: Freshman Orientation (Russell): Introduction, course outline, and overview of the legal systems affecting genealogy (common, civil, canon and statutory law).
Monday, 10:15: Courts 101: State Courts and their Records (Russell)
Courts created by state law can be called the People’s Courts, since they are the courts with which our ancestors had the most interaction. Understand the organization of these courts, the division of functions among the various courts, the record-keeping systems historically in use and the scope of court records of value to genealogists.
Monday, 1:00: Courts 102: Federal Courts and their Records (Russell)
From the original 13 U.S. District Courts created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 to the multi-layered federal system now in place, federal courts adjudicate civil, criminal and administrative matters of interest to genealogists. Learn the structure of the courts, the nature of the records they create, and how and where to find them for use in family history.
Monday, 2:45: Legal Research 101: Century of Lawmaking (legislative process through the resources of the LOC) (R. Sayre)
Many individuals are mentioned in or the subject of laws passed by the Congress. Also many laws passed by Congress created records of genealogical interest. Learn about the legislative process to include how a bill becomes law. The principal records created – debates, journals of congress, and statutes will be described. Learn how to find and use the Statutes at Large.
Tuesday, 8:30: Legal Research 102: The Serial Set, American State Papers, and Territorial Papers (R. Sayre)
These publications contain the reports of the Congress and the Executive branch and are an essential source of American history. Thousands of people are mentioned in these documents. Learn about the creation, the content, and genealogical importance of these core publications of the federal government. Learn how to locate and access these publications.
Tuesday, 10:15: Legal Research 103: The Serial Set et al Illustrated (case studies and usage concepts) (R. Sayre)
Case studies and usage concepts for the reports of the Congress and the Executive branch will be the focus of this continued instruction.
Tuesday, 1:00: Estate Law 101: Wills, Intestacy and Probate (Russell)
Probate records created on a person’s death are among the most valuable of genealogical resources. Learn the differences between testate and intestate estates, the ins and outs of the probate process in both cases, the types of courts that supervised probates, and the wide variety of records created in a typical probate case.
Tuesday, 2:45: Estate Law 102: Dower, Curtesy and Guardianships (Russell)
An ancestor’s death triggered more than the probate process of disposing of property. It also triggered automatic legal systems in place to protect widows, widowers and minor children. Understand the records created when the law sought to enforce a widow’s right of dower or a widower’s right of curtesy, or to name and supervise the actions of a guardian for children.
Wednesday, 8:30: Immigration Law 101: Immigration laws generally (Smith)
Effective use of the records of immigration in the United States requires an understanding of the legal controls exercised by government, and how changing economic, social and political conditions dictated changes in the law – and in the welcome extended to newcomers. Both the laws and the records resulting from the laws will be covered in this comprehensive review.
Wednesday, 10:15: Immigration Law 102: Naturalization laws generally (Smith)
Effective use of the records of naturalization in the United States, like the records of immigration, requires an understanding of the legal controls exercised by government, and how changing economic, social and political conditions dictated changes in the law. Both the laws and the records resulting from the laws will be covered in this comprehensive review.
Wednesday, 1:00: Property 101: Federal Land Law – The Public Domain (R. Sayre)
Beginning with the Land Ordinance of 1785 several key acts of Congress created the public domain. Some 3,000 laws governed the public domain. Through the use of case studies, we will explore the key laws and how the contests over land entry and the ensuing legal complexities generated rich records of genealogical significance.
Wednesday, 2:45: Property 102: State Land Law – Deeds, Mortgages and More (Russell)
Land acquisition, through grants, purchase, inheritance and more, was closely controlled by colonial and state law. Who could acquire land, what limits were imposed on sale, transfer and use, and how those transactions were recorded were all dictated by law. Learn how the records created can be the key to resolving many questions of relationship.
Thursday, 8:30: Military Law 101: Military Pension Laws (R. Sayre)
Almost every military conflict resulted in the award of pensions and other benefits. Discover how pension law created records of genealogical significance. Understand how the constantly changing eligibility requirements determined if an individual was awarded a pension or bounty land.
Thursday, 10:15: Legal Research 104: The Claims Committees of the Congress and the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims (R. Sayre)
Beginning in 1794 and continuing well into the twentieth century Congress created 14 different claims committees, acting in effect as an appellate authority over the decisions of the executive branch. Favorable resolution of these claims often resulted in the passage of a private act. Understand the jurisdiction and operation of these committees and discover the importance of these private acts in genealogical research.
Thursday, 1:00: Family Law 101: The Law of Marriage and Divorce (Russell)
Who could marry, when, and under what circumstances after what legal formalities – these are the fundamentals of the law of marriage. How old the persons had to be, whether consent was required, how closely they could be related, and what the consequences were if the marriage was void or voidable will be reviewed, along with the laws governing the other end of the marriage and the availability, grounds for and authority to grant divorces.
Thursday, 2:45: Family Law 102: The Law of Women and Children (Russell)
Many aspects of the law distinguished between men and women, generally to the disadvantage of women. From property ownership to voting, the English common law in particular was distinctly patriarchal, with men given authority over both wives and children. Learn how the law treated women and children, and what records may have resulted from that distinction.
Friday, 8:30: Legal Research 105: Federal Prisons and Investigation (R. Sayre)
Prison records and investigative files reveal details of an individual’s life available nowhere else. Understand how to locate federal records of investigation and incarceration. Learn about the genealogical value of these records including records of the Bureau of Prisons and the investigative case files of the FBI (1908–1922).
Friday, 10:15: Evidence 101: Using the Law to Prove a Case (case studies) (R. Sayre & Russell)
Case studies showing how the law can often provide the key to solving difficult genealogical problems.
11:30 a.m.: Wrap-up and certificates before Friday lunch