Women, Marriage, and the Law

It’s been a while since we’ve given you an update on materials being added to the North Carolina Digital Collections, so here’s a snapshot of what we’re currently working on:

First, we’re loading Civil War materials related to Lawrence O’Bryan Branch and several letters related to William Hyslop Sumner Burgwyn. Some of my coworkers are working on more detailed blog posts about these materials, so look for those in the coming months.

We’ve also started loading a collection called “Women, Marriage, and the Law,” which was previously known as “Studies in Scarlet.” The Studies in Scarlet Project was organized and partially funded by the Research Libraries Group in order to created a “virtual collection” of digitized primary and secondary documents valuable for researching the legal, historical, and cultural aspects of marriage and other personal relationships in the United States and the United Kingdom from 1815 to 1914. In addition to the State Archives of North Carolina, the participating institutions included the Harvard University Law Library, the New York Public Library, the New York University Law Library, Princeton University Libraries, the University of Pennsylvania Law Library, and the University of Leeds (U.K.). Studies In Scarlet was completed in 1998. Obviously we’re only loading the State Archives materials, but there’s still a lot of interesting historical and genealogical information in there including petitions for divorce, petitions to recognize children born outside of a legal marriage, and petitions from slaves or their spouses seeking their freedom. Most of what I’ve seen so far is from the Antebellum period, but given the years focused on by the original project I wanted to let our Civil War blog readers know that these items were going online.

The “Women, Marriage, and the Law” materials also include records related to the Tom Dula case. Tom Dula and Ann Melton were accused of the murder of Laura Foster. Dula, a Confederate veteran, was defended by the former North Carolina Governor, Zebulon B. Vance. Vance succeeded in having the trial moved from Wilkes County to Iredell County, and in having the co-defendants tried individually. The folk character Tom Dooley, best known through popular folk songs, developed out of the story of the real life person Tom Dula. You can read more about the Tom Dula case in this blog post.

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