Finding my heritage in Utah’s legal history

My brother presented me with  a rare gift and a lucky find for my birthday. While nosing through an estate sale, he saw a volume of the collected laws of Utah, circa 1876.

You know, back when they would all fit in one volume.

If you’ve read this blog with any kind of regularity, you know I love books, so this was a welcome addition to my collection.

When I opened it up, the names listed among the “authorities” in the territory at the time was a who’s who of frontier Utah.

Among the first things listed were the “Laws of Congress Applicable to Utah.”

An old book, a compilation of the laws of Utah. How much better does it get?


When we turned to the page that listed the compilers, I found a name I knew, but had not expected.

The Committee on Compilation of Utah laws in 1876 included Abraham O. Smoot, Silas Smith, and Robert T. Burton.

Robert Burton, Deputy U.S. Marshal and Command...

Image via Wikipedia

Robert T. Burton is my ancestor, sheriff of Salt Lake (you can find his picture hanging in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s office to this day), a member of the Presiding Bishopric of the LDS Church, a rescuer of the Martin Handcart Company, and, like many in his day, a polygamist. With his three wives, he fathered 27 children.

I proudly count myself, along with H. David Burton, among his progeny.

Not too shabby, eh?

The price to my unsuspecting brother? Just $9. Not a bad price to own a piece of history.

7 responses to “Finding my heritage in Utah’s legal history

  1. A treasure! Way to go David!

  2. Stewart Gardner

    Hello Dan,
    Great blog. I enjoy reading about your experiences. I read this post and laughed as I realized Abraham O. Smoot is one of my ancestors. Who would have guessed? Keep up the good writing.

  3. DId you thank your brother?

  4. Geneaology is a dangerous thing brother. All my ancestors were on the wrong side of the law, and eventually on the wrong side of the ocean (transported from England). But it looks like a great book. Do me a favor and see if there was in effect a common law reception statute. It will probably say something like this: “Unless otherwise repealed by statute, or repugnant to the laws of this Territory or the United States, the Common Law of England is adopted as the rule of decision in the Courts of this Territory.” Let me know if you find that and give me a cite.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s