Select Page

From the legal genealogy perspective

The Legal Genealogist has to play along.

Top 10James Tanner started it, in his “My Top Ten Genealogy Programs for Now” post on his blog, Genealogy’s Star, on August 14th.

Randy Seaver joined in with his post, “My Top Ten Genealogy Research ‘Programs’,” on August 16th, on his blog, Genea-Musings.

Pauline Cass joined the fun from Australia yesterday with her post, “My Top 10 Genealogy Gateways,” on her blog, Family history across the seas.

And I can’t resist.

Because, of course, I’m looking at this from a somewhat different perspective.

I always look at the law.

And at finding the law.

And at understanding the law.

So with that in mind… here are my top 10 websites for genealogy… and the law.

1. “A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation,” Library of Congress, American Memory Project. Total one-stop shopping for all things federal law related from the Constitution (and before) to 1875. The debates. The laws themselves. And free, from the Library of Congress. It doesn’t get much better than that. And because it features so much of interest both to a genealogist and to a genealogist interested in the law, earning its own slot is

2. In Custoda Legis, the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress. Well-written, interesting, unusual blog from some of the brightest folks around when it comes to the law. A good read. And to explain some of the terms we find in both Century of Lawmaking and In Custodia Legis,

3. The Law Dictionary, essentially a freebie version of the 1910 second edition of Black’s Law Dictionary and a good resource for trying to figure out what some of the words mean. But don’t stop just with one dictionary — go on and cross-check any term you’re having trouble with in

4. John Bouvier’s A Law Dictionary, 6th edition (1856), HTML and text versions online at The Constitution Society. This dictionary predates Black’s, sometimes differs in the way it explains a legal term, and is well worth the time to review. And for both historical and modern terms, there’s always

5. Wex, the Legal Information Institute’s community-built, freely available legal dictionary and legal encyclopedia. It may not be quite as complete with historical terminology as Black’s or Bouvier’s, but it sometimes explains a concept in a better more understandable way. And, since it’s part of the same overall website, that leads of course to

6. The Legal Information Institute from Cornell University Law School. This is a wonderful, comprehensive research site with a ton of content, from statutes to court cases to administrative rules on a federal and state level, and even in different countries. But we’re not done yet with Cornell, because every genealogist needs

7. The Copyright Information Center from Cornell University. Here again, we have a site that is just loaded with good information about the full gamut of issues that come up in copyright law. And because it’s just so darned useful, earning its own place on the list is

8. “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States,” the updated-every-year chart by Cornell’s Peter Hirtle that guides us in understanding when something is and isn’t covered by copyright. And because we sonmetimes need more help, there’s

9. The United States Copyright Office website, with everything from a full copy of the U.S. copyright law, to circulars and pamphlets explaining various issues, to the complete Copyright Office guide (called the Compendium), and more. And if that’s not enough, then make sure you look at

10. Cyndi’s List, “Law & Genealogycategory, with a ton of listing for all kinds of law-related items.

The Legal Genealogist‘s top 10.

For genealogy… and the law.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email