Course Detail

Civilly Uncommon: Advanced Legal Analysis for Genealogists GEN224

Course Description

Class runs from July 28 - August 1, 2014

Taught by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Benjamin B. Spratling III, JD, this Boston University course analyzes the two very different traditions that informed North American legal systems: the Common Law of England underpinning colonial and early American law; and the Civil Law, from the old Roman Code, as introduced by Dutch, Spanish, and French colonists. In the New World melting pot these systems clashed and blended into something distinct from those European roots and integral to legal record applications.

This intensive hands-on workshop uses historical and modern statutes, case law, court records and legal documents from the full gamut of American jurisdictions to explore the development of civilly uncommon law in North America.

Utilizing proprietary and non-proprietary data sources in Boston University's superb classroom facilities, the course’s foundation will be in identifying and understanding the legal concepts that led to document creation and that govern proper analysis and interpretation in genealogical proof arguments.

Students will work with a wide range of resources both online and offline to gain experience and confidence in interpreting legal language and analyzing documents’ significance in resolving kinship issues.

Daily case exercises will include civil, criminal, probate, bankruptcy, immigration and naturalization, family and marital relationships including guardianships, and more. For each case type, students will analyze records in the context of their contemporary legal system and extract reliable but often unapparent, genealogical information.

Students will have the opportunity to develop research plans and work with both routine and novel legal resources to solve complex genealogical problems.


*Basic familiarity with legal documents and typical court records including dockets, minute books and loose papers is a prerequisite.

*Completion of the Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate Program or its equivalent is recommended.

Scheduling Details

  • * Four and a half days of instruction, approximately seven hours each day with a break morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch.
    * Limited on-campus housing is available during this week for $65/night. Please contact our office to reserve this space.
    *This course is also available for students to attend remotely if they wish to. Students must have a high speed internet connection and minimum system requirements to use the Adobe Connect tool to log in daily and participate in the course during course hours.
    *This course is limited to 8 remote and 24 registrations total.

Textbooks and Class Materials

  • Materials for the course will be provided.

For more information, please call 1-866-633-9370.