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The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

It’s mid-way through the GRIP week, and The Legal Genealogist is exhilarated… and tired.

I’m a student this week, at least mostly, back in the classroom at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, picking up tips and tricks on research and — my weakest suit — organizing my research from an instruction team led by Kimberly Powell and Angela McGhie.

It’s fun, it’s great to be on the other side of the podium1 and it’s time-consuming.

So the blog has been a little quiet, hasn’t it?

But one of my colleagues here popped me a question I can’t resist sharing, with her permission.

Peggy Clemens Lauritzen came across this early 19th century notice in the Maryland Gazette2 and, she wondered, just what was a sheriffalty anyway:

Maryland Gazette

The question is simply answered in the legal dictionaries: a sheriffalty is the “time of a man’s being sheriff. The term of a sheriff’s office.”3 Or, perhaps a bit more completely, the “office of sheriff, the time during which a sheriff is to remain in office.”4

But think about that notice, versions of which ran in the newspaper starting at least as far back as 18055 and as late as 1809.6

You know what this is, right?

This is a campaign notice.

Solomon Groves is throwing his hat into the ring as a candidate for sheriff.

How cool is that!?!?! An early 19th century campaign ad!

And oh yeah… he won.7

What a neat find… and what a great reminder that our ancestors may have stood for election, and we need to look for those records…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Into the ring,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 17 July 2019).


  1. Mostly. I did do one evening lecture, on the ethics of genealogical sharing, sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, and will do one copyright presentation in the writing course tomorrow.
  2. Notice, (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 4 Aug 1808, p. 4, col. 2; digital images, ( : accessed 17 July 2019).
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1091, “sheriffalty.”
  4. John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and of the Several States of the American Union, rev. 6th ed. (Philadelphia : Childs & Peterson, 1856), 2: 521, “sheriffalty.”
  5. See Notice, (Annapolis) Maryland Gazette, 18 Apr 1805, p. 3, col. 1; digital images, ( : accessed 17 July 2019).
  6. See ibid., 27 Sep 1809, p. 1, col. 2.
  7. George A. Martin, compiler, “Vital Records from the National Intelligencer,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 44 (March 1956): 25.
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