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Historical laws in one place

In anticipation of tomorrow’s Genealogy and the Law day — the annual seminar of the Genealogical Society of Bergen County in Mahwah — The Legal Genealogist has been poking around the old law books again.

This time, New Jersey’s old law books.

You see, in some respects, New Jersey researchers have it tough.

Although the Garden State began as one of the original colonies and has a rich and deep history, it too has suffered records loss. As in, just as a few examples, the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 United States census records for New Jersey, all of which are missing in action.1

NJSL.lawHowever, as if to make up in part for that sort of records loss, what New Jersey researchers have as a plus are the legal resources of the New Jersey State Library, which has gathered together in one place all of the online resources for New Jersey’s historical laws.

A Garden State researcher should start out at the entry page for New Jersey Historical Laws, Constitutions and Charters at the New Jersey State Library website. And from there… oh, from there… well, the choices make a law geek like me drool.

Here’s an overview of the goodies you can find:

New Jersey Charters and Treaties, starting with the 1664 Grant to Berkeley and Carteret and 1664 Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors and going through to the 1756 treaty between New Jersey and the Indians.

New Jersey Colonial Ordinances, ranging from a 1704 catalog of fees to a 1728 Ordinance for Establishing the Remedies for Abuses in the Practice of the Law.

New Jersey Constitutions — all three that New Jersey has had: 1776; 1844; and 1947. But more than just the text of the Constitutions, there are reports of the constitutional conventions, journals of proceedings and more.

• The Historical Compilations collection pulls together all of the compiled statutes from colonial times, ranging from an index of colonial laws from 1663, the laws and ordinances of New Netherland and New Jersey’s Provincial Statutes up to the modern New Jersey Statutes, for which an online link is not available.2 Most of the law codes are available in digitized versions through Rutgers University or one of the online services like Google Books, HathiTrust or Internet Archive.

New Jersey Session Laws are available online starting with the statutes of 1776 and continuing right up to today. Most of the resources are offered by Rutgers University; modern session law information is from the New Jersey Legislature.

• For court cases, the Reporters collection, reports of court decisions published in the New Jersey Law Reports series, volumes 1-96, 1816 to 1922, the New Jersey Equity Reports series, volumes 1-91, 1836-1920, and the Atlantic Reporter regional case reports, volumes 1-116, 1885-1922.

• You can also find historical information about New Jersey’s lawyers and judges in the New Jersey Lawyers’ Diary and Bar Directory collection from 1904 through 1916 and the New Jersey State Bar Association Yearbook collection, spanning the years from 1900 through 1921.

And even that extensive list isn’t everything the site has to offer! There are treatises and a legislative manual and Journals and Minutes of the Legislature… and… abd…

So go ahead, go poke around.

Good things await you in those musty old books…


SOURCES

  1. FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/), “New Jersey,” rev. 4 Nov 2014.
  2. Current New Jersey statutes are available at the New Jersey Legislature website.
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