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Pennsylvania law online

It’s a gift that keeps on giving: the guides to online state law resources at The Advancing Genealogist.

And now Keystone State researchers can find the bulk of Pennsylvania’s historic law resources online in one place, thanks to the efforts of Illinois-based board-certified genealogist Debbie Mieszala.

PA law online

Yep — added to the 16 states and territories with resources already outlined at the website1 comes the newest set, and frankly one of the most useful sets because (sigh) its legal research resources are a mess — one-stop shopping for Pennsylvania law.

And boy do we need it…

The colonial era statutes have always been pretty easy, thanks to the Statutes at Large collection at the Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau website. But, alas, for anything else in the Keystone State, research has been a bear. Just a day or two ago, a thoroughly frustrated researcher contacted The Legal Genealogist for help finding the rules on intestate succession for a specific time period and — well — let’s just say it wasn’t easy finding the answer.

It’s going to be a whole lot easier now: researchers can simply head over to The Advancing Genealogist and its brand-newest law page, for Historic Pennsylvania Statutory Law.

Now… a word of warning: Pennsylvania law is a bit of a mess. Unlike other states where eventually the legislatures regularly and routinely codify their laws — that is, go through the existing laws, throw out the ones that no longer apply, and organize all the remaining laws by topics2 — even today Pennsylvania statutes are a mashup of codified and uncodified laws.3

The topically-arranged volumes from earlier years — generally called digests in Pennsylvania and often referred to by the name of their editor or compiler and so, for example, Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes — are often unofficial (meaning not specifically authorized by the state legislature) but often the easiest way to find the answer we need. So this collection includes official laws (the session laws), the unofficial digests, treatises (books generally written by lawyers for lawyers on a specific area of the law) and the like — because they all help in finding the answer in Pennsylvania.

Yeah, I did say Pennsylvania law is a bit of a mess, right?

But — messy as it is — at least we’re not going to have to scramble to find the resources we need.

Just head over to The Advancing Genealogist and its brand-newest law page, for Historic Pennsylvania Statutory Law — and be sure to add a thanks to Debbie Mieszala for her work in collecting these when you do.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A gift for Keystone State researchers,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 13 Dec 2021).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “More one-stop law,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 19 Nov 2021 ( : accessed 13 Dec 2021).
  2. See Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 216, “codification.”
  3. See Pennsylvania General Assembly, “Statutes of Pennsylvania and the Constitution of Pennsylvania” ( : accessed 13 Dec 2021).
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