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Through HeinOnline and the Law Library of Congress

“Guilty as charged, yer Honor.”

The Legal Genealogist most certainly is, without a doubt, a law geek.

LLOCAnd I am totally geeking out over yesterday’s announcement by the Law Library of Congress and the legal publishing company William S. Hein & Co., Inc. that Hein is making a whole bunch of federal legal resources available online, in digital format.

Free.

The publisher has a subscription-based online legal research portal called HeinOnline.

It’s used mostly by lawyers, but also by researchers, and it’s got a nice range of federal legal materials we might all need to call on every so often.1

Yesterday, my favorite non-genealogy blog — In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress — announced that:

Through an agreement with the Library of Congress, the publisher William S. Hein & Co., Inc. has generously allowed the Law Library of Congress to offer free online access to historical U.S. legal materials from HeinOnline. These titles are available through the Library’s web portal, Guide to Law Online: U.S. Federal, and include:

United States Code 1925-1988 (includes content up to 1993)
     From Guide to Law Online: United States Law
United States Reports v. 1-542 (1754-2004)
     From Guide to Law Online: United States Judiciary
Code of Federal Regulations (1938-1995)
     From Guide to Law Online: Executive
Federal Register v. 1-58 (1936-1993)
     From Guide to Law Online: Executive2

In plain English, what this means is:

• We’re getting all of the federal statutes — the United States Code — as those statutes existed between 1925 and 1988. Need to know what a specific tax law said in 1934? No problem. Head over to the Law Library of Congress’ Guide to Law Online: United States Law, click on the link for United States Code (HeinOnline) 1925-1988, or go directly to the page for the United States Code. Then choose the code for 1934, open the first link for Titles 1-50, open the file for Title 26 (for Internal Revenue) and have at it.

• We’re getting all of the opinions of the United States Supreme Court — the United States Reports v. 1-542 from 1754-2004. Want to read, say, the opinion of the Court when it said Texas never had the right to secede from the Union? The case is Texas v. White, reported at 74 U.S. 700 (1869), so go to the Guide to Law Online: United States Judiciary link, and click on the United States Reports (HeinOnline) v. 1-542 (1754-2004) link, or go directly to the United States Reports v. 1-542 page. Then scroll to volume 74, click on the link and scroll down to page 700 where the case begins.

• We’re getting all of the administrative agency rules and regulations — the Code of Federal Regulations for the years 1938-1995. So if an ancestor was buried in a national cemetery in 1938 and you want to know what the rules were then, you could go to the Guide to Law Online: Executive, click on the link for the Code of Federal Regulations (HeinOnline) 1938-1995 or go directly to the Code of Federal Regulations page. Then scroll down to 1938 and choose that, then scroll to the index for Titles 36-41, and when it opens, choose the file for National Cemetery Regulations.

• And we’re getting the entire text of all of the proposed federal rules and other government actions — announced in the Federal Register v. 1-58 for 1936-1993. The contents of the Federal Register can be really broad. Think of it as one-stop-shopping for federal proclamations, orders, regulations, notices, and other documents. And there are lots of people mentioned: in volume 1, for example, there were notices of federal actions involved hundreds if not thousands of individuals from to E.F. Agee to H.R. Zimmer, both of whom had hearings before the Federal Trade Commission.3

These databases are, again, being offered completely free. The only restriction is that we can only download 20 pages at a time in a PDF format. Other than that, it’s wide open access.

It doesn’t get much better than that, and what’s really wonderful is what William S. Hein & Co. said when it agreed to make the information available through the Library of Congress. It was doing it, the company said, as a gift: “a donation to the Library and to the American public.” 4

And, by the way, there’s a lot more to HeinOnline for the genealogist than these free databases. It’s the best online resource that exists for historical statutory research. It’s not cheap, but you can get a short-term subscription to the Session Law Library which has all of the statutes of all of the states right back to their inception. The price tag is $29.95 for 24 hours, $44.95 for 48 hours and $64.95 for a week, but if you absolutely have to have that copy of that statute and there’s nowhere else where you can access it without traveling, it may well be worth it.

In the meantime, go play around in the federal legal resources Hein is making available to us all through the Law Library of Congress.

Free.

My geeky heart is beating awfully fast…


SOURCES

  1. See generally, “What is HeinOnline?,” About HeinOnline, HeinOnline (http://home.heinonline.org/ : accessed 14 Oct 2014).
  2. Donna Sokol, “Free Public Access to Federal Materials on Guide to Law Online,” In Custodia Legis, posted 14 Oct 2014 (http://blogs.loc.gov/law/ : accessed 14 Oct 2014).
  3. For Agee, see 1 F.R. 395 (12 May 1936). For Zimmer, see 1 F.R. 1265 (1 Sep 1936).
  4. Sokol, “Free Public Access to Federal Materials on Guide to Law Online,” In Custodia Legis.
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