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(Live webinar only – no recording will be available.) Civil law – as opposed to common law – is a legal system that governs private relationships and interactions in most non-English speaking countries. Rooted in principles derived from ancient Roman law, it is the legal system that governs an estimated 60% of the world’s populations, including most European countries. Consequently, researchers tracing ancestral lines outside the United States frequently encounter records created in a civil law tradition. Proper interpretation of those records requires understanding the underlying civil law principles. In the United States only the state of Louisiana is today ruled by civil law, a legacy of the state’s unique colonial history under France and Spain. Colonial records created under civil law are also among the colonial records of California, parts of the Mississippi Valley, the Gulf Coast, and the American southwest. This presentation discusses major legal concepts that affect records and research in civil law societies.

Presenter: Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA, FNGS, is a professional genealogist in Washington D.C. focusing on Louisiana French and Acadian families. She has lectured nationally and was a contributing author to Professional Genealogy (ed. Elizabeth Shown Mills, 2001). She has published in the NGS Quarterly, APG Quarterly, and other publications. Currently she is writing a book about her paternal line for private publication. She has served as the director of NIGR (now Gen-Fed) and a ProGen mentor, and on the boards of NGS, APG, and BCG. She is on the NGSQ editorial board and volunteers at the National Archives.

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