Select Page

NWGC bound

So it’s going to be Washington State for The Legal Genealogist later this week, at the Northwest Genealogy Conference 2015 in Arlington.

Today, Tuesday the 11th of August, is the last day to register online for the conference, which gets underway with Beginning Genealogy Classes tomorrow afternoon by Winona Laird and Janet Camarata and then a meet and greet hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society tomorrow evening.

Online registration saves money: it’s $150 for all three days and $$75 for any single day, and if you wait and register at the door, it’ll be $175 for all three days and $95 for a single day. So register now!

The line-up for this conference is stellar:

Thursday’s speakers include Angela Packer McGhie, Cyndi Ingle, Lisa Louise Cooke, Angie Bush, Luana Darby, Linda Harms Okazaki, and Reed Powell on topics ranging from historic newspapers to tax records to maps to Evernote and more.

Friday’s speakers include CeCe Moore, Cari Taplin, Elissa Scalise Powell, Steven W. Morrison and Michelle Goodrum, as well as Cyndi Ingle, Lisa Louise Cooke, Angie Bush, and Luana Darby, speaking on topics ranging from DNA basics to foreign language tools for English-speaking genealogists to case studies to ethics. And I’ll be speaking at the banquet on Alphabet Soup: DNA, GPS & You.

Saturday’s speakers include yours truly, Jill Morelli, Janice C. Lovelace, Sara Scribner, Janice Sellers, Janet Camarata, and Jean Wilcox Hibben, as well as Cari Taplin and Elissa Scalise Powell, speaking on topics ranging from using court records to house histories to county histories to finding clues in the censuses.

And, of course, in preparation for heading west, I had to go looking for legal gems of Washington history… and boy…

Wash1Does Washington ever make them easy to find!

All you need to do is head over to the website of the Washington State Legislature and, in the menu on the left, choose Laws & Agency Rules, then you can choose among options like the current Revised Code of Washington, or the State Constitution, and — best of all from a researcher’s perspective — the session laws.

The Legislature’s Office of the Code Reviser has an entire page on the legislative website with nothing but the statutes of Washington from the very first territorial legislature in 1854, all the way up to volume 2 of the 2014 session laws.

A more complete online state legislative history library would be hard to find.

And if you poke around in those very earliest statutes… oh, the things you can find…

• It was a crime for anyone who was already married to marry again — but the law expressly didn’t extend “to any person whose husband or wife shall have been continuously absent from the other, without having been heard from for the space of five years before such marriage, or to any person who shall have been divorced.”1

• Administration of the estate of a non-citizen, if he didn’t have kin in this country, would be handled by the consul or vice consul of the alien’s home country.2

• A poll tax was set at $1 for every white male inhabitant between 21 and 50 years of age, and real and personal property was also taxed.3 But property belonging to “any religious society, or to any benevolent, charitable, literary, or scientific institution, … and all school houses and school lands, public libraries, and all places of burial, (and) the property of all indians, shall be exempt from taxation.”4

• It was illegal for non-residents to take clams, oysters or shellfish for sale.5

• The county assessors were supposed to take a census of all county inhabitants on the first Monday of December each year: “a complete list of all the white male inhabitants, with their ages, occupations, the state or county they are from, whether married or single, and also, whether citizens or aliens…. all white female inhabitants, their ages, whether married or single, and the county or state they are from … (and) separate lists of all taxable half breed indians, negroes, kanakas, and mulatoes, and chinamen.”6

• Jurors were supposed to be qualified electors, but “civil officers of the United Status, probate judges, and judges of thre supreme court, attorneys at law, ministers of the gospel, or priests, school teachers, practicing physicians, sheriffs, and their deputies, constables, clerks of court, county and territorial officers, millers, ferrymen, and all persons more than sixty years of age, (were) not (to) be compelled to serve as jurors.”7

• You can even get the identities of the first officers of the counties, like those in Pierce County: William P. Dougherty, L. A. Smith, and William N. Savage, county commissioners; I. C. Perkins; treasurer; Casper Dunham, sheriff; Hugh Patterson, assessor; Anthony Laughlin, coroner; M. H. Frost, Samuel McCaw, and George Brown, justices of the peace; G. C. Bowlin, auditor, H. C. Mosely, probate judge; and William McLucas and William Sherwood, constables.8

And that’s just a few sections of just a few statutes in just one volume.

Hope to see you in Washington!


  1. §116, “An Act Relative to Crimes and Punishments, and Proceedings in Criminal Cases,” in Statutes of the Territory of Washington, … 1854 (Olympia: Public Printer, 1855), 96; digital images, Washington State Legislature, Office of the Code Reviser, Session Laws ( : accessed 10 Aug 2015).
  2. Ibid., §4, “An Act Respecting Executors, Administrators, and the Distribution of Real and Personal Estate,” at 268.
  3. Ibid., §1, “An Act to Provide for the Assessing and Collecting County and Territorial Revenue,” at 331.
  4. Ibid., §2, at 331-332.
  5. Ibid., §1, “An Act for the Preservation of Clams, Oysters, and Other Shell Fish,” at 388.
  6. Ibid., §1-2, “An Act to Authorize the Assessors of Each County to Take the Census,” at 430.
  7. Ibid., §1, “An Act Relative to Grand and Petit Jurors,” at 431.
  8. Ibid., §1, “An Act Appointing Officers for the County of Pierce,” at 485.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email