Justice Of The Peace Records


  The historical role of the Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania has already been discussed in the section titled Court Records ~ Miscellaneous. In addition to the information supplied in that section, it should be noted that the Justice of the Peace was the supreme arbiter of all matters, criminal and civil, in the early county courts.

  The Justices And Constables Assistant, by William Graydon, printed in the year 1805 lists the following as some of the topics with which the Justice of the Peace would perhaps become involved: accessary, adultery, affray, arrest, arson, assault and battery, bail, barrator, bigamy, blasphemy, burglary, complaint, conspiracy, conviction, dams and wears, deceits, discharge, elections, escape, evidence, examination, executors and administrators, extortion, fees, ferries, forcible entry, forestalling, forgery, fornication, highways, horse stealing, hunting, husband and wife concerns, incest, indictable offences, interest, land-marks, larceny, libel, lotteries, malicious mischief, marriages, master and servant issues, mayhem, murder, negroes and mulattoes, nusance, oath and affirmations, parricide, partner, payment, perjury, poor peoples, public houses, rape, recognizance, rent, rescue, returns, riot, robbery, search warrant, sodomy, summary convictions, summons, surety of the peace, timber, treason, vagrants, vendues, vice and immorality, warrants, and wolves and foxes. In other words, the Justice of the Peace dealt with just about every issue that might come up between a county resident and his own family, his neighbors or the county and provincial laws.

  It should also be mentioned here, that in addition all his other concerns, the Justice of the Peace was, and still is, empowered to perform marriage ceremonies in certain instances.

  Records kept by a Justice of the Peace are usually filed and maintained in the office of the Prothonotary in the local court house. It is possible that Justice of the Peace records might have been kept with the records of the court of quarter sessions, and therefore might have been bound into docket volumes along with those types of records. It is also a good idea to check with the Clerk of Courts to determine if Justice of the Peace records might be filed in a court house archives or similar collection.