04 December 2013

Finding Old State Statute Books-Three Free Places to Start

A fan on Genealogy Tip of the Day on Facebook asked about how to find old state statute books. Short of going to a university law library, here are some free online sources for digital copies of these materials.

  • Hathitrust.org -- start with subject search and use "yourstate" statute as an initial search--the year of publication cataloged in Hathitrust isn't always correct, so be careful using that. 
  • Internet Archive --search the "texts" 
  • Google Books
Determine if a nearby library has electronic access to a database that may contain additional digital copies of old state statutes. A reference librarian should be able to help you.


Anonymous said...

Enlighten me. Why would a genealogist need/want to find state statutes? It's a source I've never considered.

Bubba said...

The quickest answer to this is to determine the age at which a person could marry without consent at a certain point in time.

State statutes also stipulate who can bequeath property, how inheritance "works" when a deceased person has no descendants, etc.

There are other details about legal proceedings that can be explained in statute, but those are some of the reasons genealogists commonly refer to the statute books.

Geolover said...

Interesting, your interface with the 1816 and 1817 boundary changes concerning the KY counties of Bourbon, Nicholas and Harrison. These changes affected where some distant kin were assessed taxes in the 1796-1820 period, and that some relevant land records were filed in a different County than the one in which an estate's proceedings were recorded.

Knowing of the statutes which changed County boundaries, even in really tiny ways, is a key part of doing an exhaustive search -- and finding treasure.

Bubba said...


That's exactly what happened to the estate of Thomas Sledd. He died in 1815 and the estate was administered in Bourbon County.

When the land was partitioned out fifteen or so years later, it was no longer in Bourbon County and the deeds are recorded elsewhere.