Saturday, October 13, 2007

NGSQ Theme Issue: Law and Genealogy

The September 2007 issue (Volume 95, No. 3) of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) came during the week, and I've been reading it during the baseball playoff games on TV. It is a "Theme Issue" - the theme is Law and Genealogy, with four major articles.

The Table of Contents for the articles includes:

* "The Common Law of England: A Key Resource for American Genealogists" by Donn Devine, J.D., CG, CGL -- page 165

* "Civil Law Concepts and Genealogy: Learning from the French Model" by Claire Mire Bettag, CG, CGL -- page 179

* "Genealogical Applications of American Statute Law" by Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL -- page 197

* "Protestant Church Law and Records in America: Some Denominations and Archives" by David McDonald, M.Div., CG -- page 211.

There are also a number of book reviews, including one for Elizabeth Shown Mills' book "Evidence Explained ..." I use these reviews to add to my To-Do lists of "Books I Want to Buy" or "Books I Want to Review."

This issue was difficult to read because of the subject (and perhaps my attention was drawn away by the games and my granddaughter dancing on the floor) but the issue is excellent material for the serious genealogist.

Each article has plenty of examples of the application of the different types of laws to genealogy research, but the "Protestant Church Law and Records in America ..." article was the highlight for me. It provided a summary of the beliefs of many denominations, a survey of the available records, and the church archive locations. The article identified the genealogically valuable records as:

* Membership records
* Baptism records
* Marriage records
* Ordination records
* Burial records
* Miscellaneous Administrative Records

As an example of the information for each denomination, here is the description for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"In 1830 Joseph Smith founded the LDS church. Adherents view The Book of Mormon as a companion volume to the New Testament. Throughout its first half-century, the church held polygamy, or plural marriage, as one of its tenets. The church formally renounced plural marriage in 1890. LDS belief in baptism of the dead by proxy has led to the church's support of genealogical research on a grand scale. Its extensive microfilm archive of vital records and genealogical data is accessible worldwide through a system of more than 3,500 branch libraries. Its main Family History Library is at 35 North West Temple; Salt Lake City, UT 84101. A useful Web site offers an extensive online index to genealogical records, a collection of compiled genealogies, and a catalog of library holdings [ ]."

The paragraphs for the other denominations follow the same pattern - some are quite long when there are offshoots from the original denomination (e.g., there are paragraphs for Freewill Baptists, Primitive Baptists, American Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists and Southern Baptists in the "Baptists" section).

This article is a great aid to understanding how the different denominations formed, what they stand for, the records that might be available and the location of the church archives.

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