The information she has could help someone find that missing branch in their family tree. That's what Marguerite Ross Howell thought each time she came across new data taken from centuries old court petitions.
"Genealogists may know their family history and that they were enslaved by so and so, and their ancestors lived on this plantation, but they may not know that one of their relatives was a cook or a carpenter or suffered a disease. These documents tell a lot of personal detail," Howell said. "They fill in the gaps a little bit and give a face to the individuals."
Howell, a former student of UNCG history professor Loren Schweninger, has helped him compile 14 years worth of data taken from court petitions submitted by Southern slave owners, slaves and free blacks. Schweninger's Race and Slavery Petitions Project 1776-1867 is a compilation of 17,487 legislative and court documents from 200 county courthouses in the 15 former slaveholding states and the District of Columbia.
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