San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Seminar with Judy Russell: the Legal Genealogist

The Law, GPS Evidence, and DNA Ethics

Saturday, November 2, 2019,  9 am - 3 pm. Doors open at 8 am.
Menlo Park LDS Church - 1105 Valparaiso, Menlo Park

Join us for a day of gaining insight about genealogy, more than you may have thought.
Judy Russell is a genealogist with a law degree and is one of the best thinkers and lecturers in the field. Her talks are delivered with good humor, perception, and thoughtful connections. She will address law in our ancestors' time, conducting solid research, and ethics surrounding today's DNA testing.
  • Finding the Law
  • The Law and Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search
  • DNA and the Golden Rule: The Law and Ethics of Genetic Genealogy
  • No Vitals? No Problem! Building a Family through Circumstantial Evidence


  •  8:00 – 9:00       REGISTRATION & Time to Browse our Silent Auction Items & Book Sales
  •  9:00 – 9:15      INTRODUCTIONS
  •  9:15 – 10:15    LECTURE ONE - Finding the LawTime and time again, we’re told as genealogists that we need to look at records in the context of the law at the time and in the place where the records were created. Easier said than done! With 50 states and the federal government all passing laws, how do we find the laws we need?
  • 10:15- 10:45 BREAK
  • 10:45 – 11:45   LECTURE TWO The Law and Reasonable Exhaustive (Re)Search They’re the building blocks of any genealogy: wills, deeds, vital records. Once we've gathered records from all areas where our ancestors lived, we tick off that GPS—what once was called the “reasonably exhaustive search.” We have, we believed, examined “a wide range of high-quality sources” and therefore minimized “the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion.” Or have we?
  •  11:45 – 12:45   LUNCH   Time to check out the Silent Auction Items, Book Sales and the Family History Center
  •  12:45 – 1:45   LECTURE THREE  DNA and the Golden Rule: The Law and Ethics of Genetic Genealogy Whose permission is needed to test a child or an adult unable to consent? Who owns our DNA? What can we disclose about a cousin who has tested? The rules of the road for the ethical challenges facing genealogists interested in using DNA evidence as part of their family history research. Learn how applying the Golden Rule can guide us through many if not most of the situations in which we as genetic genealogists find ourselves.
  •  1:45 – 2:00  BREAK
  •  2:00 – 3:00   LECTURE FOUR No Vitals? No Problem!Building a Family through Circumstantial Evidence - A Family for Isabella When there’s no birth, marriage or death record, what’s a genealogist to do? Learn how to use circumstantial evidence to build a family. This case study involves tracing a woman married before the 1850 census.

 The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell CG®, CGL℠, writes and lectures on topics ranging from using court records in family history to understanding DNA testing. On the faculty of numerous genealogy institutes, she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, from which she holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist and Certified Genealogical Lecturer. Her award-winning blog is at

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