… for American legal research
There’s not a day that goes by without the question coming in to The Legal Genealogist.
“How do I find out what the law was in (insert name of some American state)?”
And, just about every time, the answer begins the same way.
“Did you check the links at Cyndi’s List?”
That really is the place to start to try to find the law for almost any time period and almost any American jurisdiction.
Every single state page — we’ll use the state where I live, New Jersey, as an example — has a link like this, highlighted in this image:
To the Laws & Statutes of that state.
Included on those Laws & Statutes pages — like the one for New Jersey — is a link to the published court cases from that state available on the wonderful Caselaw Access Project from Harvard University.1
Then there will be links to statutory materials available on Google Books, HathiTrust Digital Library and Internet Archive. You won’t need to figure out what search terms to use — the link takes you to a preconstructed search results page. You might end up wanting to do more searching to hone your results, but these links will get you started.
Then there will be links to current statutes and legislative materials.
There will be a link to any research guide available for that state from one of my other favorite websites, the Law Library of Congress.2
And — to the extent that there is one and it’s known — there will be link(s) to any collection of historical legal materials from that state, like the absolutely terrific collection called New Jersey Historical Laws, Constitutions and Charters from the New Jersey State Library.
This is the way I start my own research into the laws of a jurisdiction where I haven’t researched before.
It’s the way you should start your research too.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A start point…,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 29 Oct 2021).