Monday, January 3, 2011

Methodology Monday: finding out the law

Genealogists often need to know the law in ways that relatively few lawyers do. Often a relevant question is more specific in time and circumstance -- not so much at what age you could get married legally, but at what age could you get married in 1894, but only with parental consent?

When I needed to know that for Indiana, I turned to Google Books and triangulated. I found the complete revised statutes of the state for 1881 and again for 1901. In both cases women under 18 and men under 21 had to have parental consent. (I'm reasonably sure -- but not positive! -- that the legislature didn't change the law in the intervening 20 years and then change it back. This is a chronic legal research problem for me, since I'm rarely in a place where I have the time and disposition to check each year's record of legislative enactments.)

Since I was dealing with a possible shotgun marriage, it was also interesting to learn that if a couple married prior to the birth of a child, that would block any charge of bastardy. That was based on a couple of case citations, which did not include years. More research for another day, if needed...

But what I started out to say was, wouldn't it be nice to have a source-cited table of marriageableness for every state, every year?


Unknown said...

Sounds like you have a new project for 2011 .

Debbie Parker Wayne, Certified Genealogist® said...

I've been working on this for Texas. I plan to have handouts with a summary of the Texas marriage laws available at seminars I am doing in Tyler and Lufkin later this year. Now if we can get 49 more people to commit to doing the other states we would all benefit. Any takers?