Monday, August 16, 2010

Indexing the Court Records of an Illinois County

The Coles County Legal History Project (CCLHP) is yet another example of a volunteer effort to preserve local court records or make them more accessible. Other recently noted examples are here, here, and here. According to its website, the CCLHP:
is an on-going investigation by student researchers and history professors at Eastern Illinois University and elsewhere of legal documents from an Illinois county (primarily during the 19th century), which are being entered into an online database. The database is free and accessible to the public (see below), and has been designed so that high school students, undergraduates, graduates, genealogists, and professional historians can manipulate the search engine with a minimum of fuss. Coles County was created in 1830 and civil and criminal cases date from that year onwards. CCLHP provides excellent data for comparative legal history. But it also reveals the impact of settlement, railroad construction and use, the Civil War, integration with Chicago and other markets, and a comparative base for study of the law practice of Abraham Lincoln, as well as many other historical questions.
The top of the CCHLP's top five legal cases is the fugitive law case, Ashmore for use of Bryant et al. v. Matson (1847), in which Abraham Lincoln represented the slaveholder.

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