Widows and orphans have always had a special place in the law. But it’s not always the place that 21st century researchers might expect. An orphan in the early days wasn’t a child whose parents had died, but rather a child whose father had died. The law didn’t care much about the mother. She was just the widow, entitled to her dower rights and generally not much more. Learn more of the way the law treated widows and orphans, and what the records may tell us about them.
Speaker: Judy Russell
Judy Russell is a genealogist with a law degree who aims to help folks understand the often arcane and even impenetrable legal concepts and terminology that are so very important to those of us studying family history. Without understanding the context in which events took place and records were created, we miss so much of both the significance and the flavor of what happened.
She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a political science minor from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a law degree from Rutgers School of Law-Newark.
She has worked as a newspaper reporter, trade association writer, legal investigator, defense attorney, federal prosecutor, law editor and, for more than 20 years before her retirement in 2014, she was an adjunct member of the faculty at Rutgers Law School.
She holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM from the Board for Certification of Genealogists® and is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, and, among others, the state genealogical societies of New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Illinois. She serves on the faculty at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI), and the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed).
She has written for publications including the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (see Judy G. Russell, “`Don’t Stop There!’ Connecting Josias Baker to His Burke County, North Carolina, Parents,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 99 (March 2011): 25-41, and the award-winning “George Washington Cottrell of Texas: One Man or Two?,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 105 (September 2017): 165-179), the National Genealogical Society Magazine (see Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43, “Fifty years of credentialing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, January-March 2014, 15-19, and “Shootout at the Rhododendron Lodge: Reconstructing Life-Changing Events,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, January-March 2015, 28-35), and BCG’s OnBoard newsletter, among others. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.