For an article about The Territorial Papers of the United States,and their use by Census Trail, click here. NOTE: This is an Adobe Acrobat format document.
Petitions to the governor, legislature, etc., were an important way for individuals to communicate with their government regarding issues that were very essential to them. Their influence in making changes throughout our history has contributed to making our society what it is today. They are an essential link in our legislative and judicial history. In these early petitions one can trace the growing desire for democracy. In fact they are one of the most visible manifestations of democracy in practice. It is fascinating to view the changes in the reasons for submitting petitions over time.
Because petitions represent the feelings of one or more individuals, they provide a window into the soul of the petitioners that illuminates the historical landscape. Many aspects of the human condition are addressed in some form by these important documents. The names listed with the petition can be used as a census of inhabitants for a particular locality. Often it is possible to determine useful information about individual persons from these records. They also can help compensate for lost or destroyed county records. Petitions are original records that contain historical background about our culture and society.
Unfortunately, petitions are among the most inaccessible and underused records because there are so many, they are often difficult and time-consuming to read, and are usually housed only in the state archives or other repository in their un-microfilmed condition.
To help resolve this problem, we have abstracted the content of many petitions
and indexed the names of the petitioners. A brief context of the petition is
provided with each name. Generally, we have not included those petitions with
fewer than 10-12 names. For more information on petitions, see Value
New page added, addressing how difficult names are entered into Census Trail
New Search tip added for using the "%" wildcare character.
Click here to see our progress at Censustrail.com (Updated 11 Jan 2006)