Saturday, June 20, 2009

Eavesdrop on the lawyers

Texas-based researcher Debbie Parker Wayne has a nice list of legal books and resources with genealogists in mind, including some by state (there's something for all five of our focus states). This is more than just a law dictionary, it includes current statutes as well as some histories of pertinent matters like marriage and inheritance laws.

Maybe this post belongs under methodology, as Tom Jones makes a strong case in his lecture "Inferential Genealogy" that you have to know the law in order to interpret the evidence, or even to recognize it as evidence. So in Wayne's phrase, you probably do have "ancestors hidden in the statutes."

Breaking news: Just out from Stanford University Press is Lawrence M. Friedman's Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law. I haven't seen it, and the blurbs focus on current hot-button issues -- leaving it open whether he goes back far enough, and deep enough, to interest genealogists. But any book with a title like this has real potential. Hat tip to the Legal History Blog.

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