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25 May 2017

An Interview with Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist



The Legal Genealogist is coming to town!  The California Genealogical Society is hosting the nationally known expert in law and genealogy, Judy G. Russell, on September 23rd for an all-day seminar in Berkeley. 

Register now to hear how her genealogy gold can help you with your own family history research.

Who’s The Legal Genealogist?


With her law degree as her calling card, Judy has become one of the most respected genealogists speaking around the country.  It’s this keen insight into how the law affected our ancestors that sheds light onto our collective past.

She has her own acclaimed blog, The Legal Genealogist, to which she continually adds amazing content that helps both the new and experienced genealogist.

Judy holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist® (CG) and a Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). You can learn about her numerous credentials at her Association of Professional Genealogists page.

We hope you’ll join us for Judy’s seminar, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about her. I recently talked with her on a variety of topics, mostly genealogy of course.  Here’s what I learned:

What are your latest personal genealogy projects? At the moment, I'm still trying to identify some dropped-off-by-space-aliens ancestors using DNA to augment the few surviving records. I'm hot on the trail of a third great grandmother and her parents at the moment.

How did the genealogy bug bite you? My mother's family is Scots-Irish. That means I grew up listening to the stories -- and at some point you really want to know if there's even a chance that some of the stories might possibly be true. Once I got started looking into the reality, rather than the stories, I found that the truth was at least as much fun as the stories -- and sometimes the stories were even true.


As an attorney, what unique skills do you bring to the field of genealogy? First and foremost, a legal education gives me a comfort level with a whole series of resources that are critical but arcane to the average genealogist: the laws themselves.

Let's face it: most of the records we have wouldn't exist if the law didn't require them. Even the information recorded is dictated by legal mandates. So we can't really understand the records unless we understand the laws -- and the laws, to me, are old friends rather than scary enemies. Beyond that, my experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney and legal educator makes me want to hunt for the facts and then present them clearly so I can convince others.

What do you feel are the most important ingredients in being a successful genealogy researcher? Tenacity and curiosity. You have to want to look under every rock -- and you have to go ahead and actually turn over every single rock.


How would you describe your teaching style? I'd hope most people would find it down to earth -- with a leavening of humor.

What do you hope seminar attendees learn from your seminar? I have a mantra: to understand the records, we have to understand the laws as they were at the time and in the place where the records were created. If folks come away with a clear understanding of why that's so important, it'll be a good day all the way around.

What would you say to those contemplating registering for your seminar? Besides "come to the dark side, we have cookies"? Seriously, genealogy -- and the law as it impacts genealogy -- can be fun. And when you add in a dollop of science through DNA the whole thing takes on shapes of CSI. 

What do you do like to do when you aren't working on genealogy? There's life beyond genealogy? Really? Okay, okay, in my abundant spare time (koff koff), I play with the cats and am an amateur photographer.

Law, genealogy and tenacity...Judy’s got what it takes.  We hope to see you on September 23rd in Berkeley for her seminar!



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