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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Occupational Records  by Beverly Rice, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Occupation Records-
Finding Aids and Resources -
A Basic Overview

Lawyers and Judges

The profession of the law has been prominent in the United States history since the signing of the constitution. Lawyers and judges are listed in census records, newspapers, city and business directories, school records and in directories directly related to lawyers. The local government might have required a lawyer to post a bond or purchase a business license.

The Martin Hubbell Law Directory contains biographical sketches for most of the practicing lawyers in the country. This directory has been published most years since 1860s under one of the combined names (Martin or Hubbell). The sketches include information related to education, type of law specialty, residence and to what law firm they are associated. The current edition can be found at most reference libraries. The older editions will be housed in a law library, state archives or historical society library.

Other books might begin with “Who’s Who in the Law of...” or “The Bench and Bar...” and would cover a more local area such as a state or city. These sketches might be longer and more detailed.

Lawyers are often small business owners either working with themselves or in a small office with several partners. There will not be employment records or payroll records or many other records available because of the confidential nature of the business.

Judges are either elected or appointed and usually require a law degree. Some judgeships are appointed for life, such as the United State Supreme Court while other judges must run for election every four years. There are different levels of judges and the researcher will need to determine in which court the judge serves to determine his or her occupation.

Do not confuse a judge with the term Justice of the Peace, who is a lay magistrate and performs miscellaneous administrate duties.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Occupational Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.