BCG Luncheon at NGS 2013: Judy Russell on “Blackguards and Black Sheep: The Lighter Side of the Law”

Please welcome guest blogger Diane Gravel, CGSM.

Inviting the audience to take a moment to think about the police and court records we are creating now, Judy challenged us to consider how those records might be viewed by genealogists one hundred years from now, exploring us as their ancestors . . . a rather daunting prospect. Present-day examples of intellectually-challenged criminals posting their illegal deeds on social media sites lent stark contrast to the records created by our own “blackguard and black sheep” ancestors.

“Law brings out the mischief-makers!” she declared. And so began the journey through our nation’s legal records, rich with tales of scoundrels and mayhem. A typical story was that of an 1889 case from the Supreme Court of California in which an appeal was filed based, in part, on the intoxication of the jury. The Attorney General contended that the alleged misconduct was not sufficient to reverse the verdict because the wine was “California claret,” and the cognac was used as a “flavoring for coffee.” Then there was the 1823 North Carolina case of a father who petitioned the legislature for a divorce for his son, who had married a prostitute! That had come as news to the minister at whose home that 14-year-old wife had originally been a boarder.

This was a delightful, lighthearted invitation into the wealth of records produced by our Blackguard and Black Sheep ancestors, as well as a cautionary tale for those of us who might be creating our own records that may someday emerge at the hands of our descendants.

This session was not taped.

 

 

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