Free from the NY State Archives
It may be the single best guide to a single state’s court records that’s ever been produced.
Authored and compiled by Dr. James D. Folts of the New York State Archives, it bears the unwieldy title: “Duely & Constantly Kept:” A history of the New York Supreme Court, and an Inventory of its records (New York, Albany, Utica, and Geneva Offices), 1691-1847.
All The Legal Genealogist can say about its content is… wow. From a history of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature through an explanation of its jurisdiction and procedure to a detailed inventory of the records of the court and how and where to find them, this is one powerhouse volume.
So… a few things about this research guide.
First, where does the name come from? In his foreword to this new edition, New York State Archivist Thomas J. Ruller explains that:
In 1691 the Assembly of New York Colony passed an act establishing a Supreme Court of Judicature and provided that the court should be “Duely & Constantly kept” at times to be provided. Nearly three hundred and fifty years later, after a political revolution and independence from Great Britain, four State constitutions, and four major reorganizations of the judiciary, the Supreme Court continues as the State’s court of “general, original jurisdiction.” The Supreme Court today is still “duly and constantly kept.” The court holds trial terms in each county and hears appeals in its Appellate Division. Extending the meaning of the phrase, the Supreme Court’s archival records have likewise been “duly and constantly kept” for the past three centuries.2
Second, why is this book one you don’t want to miss? Well, this book is important to anybody doing early American research. Because New York was one of the original colonies and the site of a critical port city, its records and particularly its court records are of vast importance to researchers.
And this book is critically important to anybody doing New York research because there’s been a fair amount of records loss in New York and court records can fill in a lot of gaps.
And this book is even more important to anybody doing New York court research. As its author James Folts has said, “despite several major reorganizations over the past two centuries, New York’s system of multilevel, special-purpose, and locally and regionally organized courts is the most complex of any state.”3
In short, you want this.
And it’s a free downloadable word-searchable PDF.
You’ll thank me for telling you to go get it.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Attention NY researchers!,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 17 Apr 2023).
- James D. Folts, author/compiler, “Duely & Constantly Kept:” A history of the New York Supreme Court, and an Inventory of its records (New York, Albany, Utica, and Geneva Offices), 1691-1847, 2d ed. PDF (Albany: NY State Archives, 2023); New York State Archives (https://www.archives.nysed.gov/ : accessed 17 Apr 2023). ↩
- Thomas J. Ruller, “Foreword,” in ibid., 9. ↩
- James D. Folts, “Courts, State” in Peter R. Eisenstadt and Laura-Eve Moss, eds., Encyclopedia of New York State (Syracuse : Syracuse University Press, 2005), 416. ↩