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Finding New York statutes

Tomorrow will see the start of three days of genealogy in upstate New York — Syracuse, to be precise.

It’s the 2015 New York State Family History Conference, co-sponsored by the Central New York Genealogical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, with tomorrow’s sessions in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

Topics for sessions starting tomorrow morning with the FGS Focus on Societies Day and running through Saturday afternoon range from mastering social media for genealogical societies to using DNA as part of our family history research to specialized resources to crack tough New York research problems.

And there’s an all-star cast of speakers lined up — Jen Baldwin of; Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist; Laura Murphy DeGrazia, former editor of the NYG&B Record; Ed Donakey, Jim Ison and David E. Rencher of; Dick Eastman; James Folts of the New York State Archives; Eric G. Grundset of the DAR Library; Henry Hoff, editor of the New England Historical Genealogical Record; Karen Mauer Jones, editor, NYG&B Record; Thomas W. Jones, co-editor, NGS Quarterly; Matt Knutzen, New York Public Library; Terry Koch-Bostic, NGS board member; D. Joshua Taylor, and FGS president; Jane Wilcox, host of the Forget-Me-Not radio program; Curt B. Witcher of the Allen County Public Library; and … who am I forgetting? Oh yeah… me, The Legal Genealogist.

Laws.1802So you might think, knowing my track record, that I’ve been spending some time poking around in old New York statute books.

And you’d be right.

And you might even think, knowing my track record, that I’d share with you some links directly to some of those old statute books.

And you’d usually be right.

But not today.

I’m not gonna do it.

Not because I have any aversion to sharing New York statutes, mind you.

But because somebody else has already done all the hard work of putting together a really good resource list for New York statutory research.

Enter the website Manhattan Past.

The person behind the website is Don Rogerson, author of the book Manhattan Street Names Past and Present,1 described by his publisher as “a freelance writer living in southwest Iowa, just west of Manhattan.”2

And this website has links to the Google Books digitized editions of New York’s laws from before there even was a New York: it starts with the 1638-1674 New Netherlands period and then proceeds, with few exceptions, all the way through 1922.

So if you’re looking for New York statutes to answer a question about what the law was at that time and place, save yourself a little bit of research time and head over to the “Laws of the State of New York” page at Manhattan Past.3

And then you can further your research by looking at the compiled laws collected on the “Laws of New York State” page at the website of the New York State Library. It includes “New York State revised statutes/consolidations that have been digitized from volumes in the New York State Library’s collection,” including the two-volume 1802 set by James Kent and Jacob Radcliff; the three-volume 1829 laws; the two-volume 1882 set edited by Montgomery H. Throop; and the official consolidated laws of 1909.4

Because, after all, we all need to understand the records in the context of the laws that existed when and where the records were created.

And these websites make that a lot easier in New York.


  1. Donald A. Rogerson, Manhattan Street Names Past and Present (Charleston, SC : Griffin Rose Press, 2013).
  2. From the website, I’d take bets that the publisher — Griffin Rose Press — and the author are one and the same…
  3. Laws of the State of New York,” Manhattan Past ( : accessed 15 Sep 2015).
  4. See “Laws of New York State,New York State Library ( : accessed 15 Sep 2015).
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