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Research helps trace family's past

POSTED: July 13, 2009 10:18 a.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

Rob Hicks with the Plum Creek Foundation presents a $5,000 check for repairs and expansion to Mary Beth Evans, president of the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation foundation, and three members of the research board.

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Up until just a few months ago, Donald Lovette, like many other Liberty County residents, was missing large chunks of information about his family history. Since he’s passionate about history, especially Liberty County history, it bothered him that he didn’t know anything about his relatives who preceded his grandfather.
So when he heard that Mary Beth Evans, president of the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation Foundation, and a research board comprised of local volunteers were conducting a research project to recover names and any other information pertaining to the slaves who lived in Liberty County in the mid-1800s, Lovette jumped at the chance to find out more.
He gave Evans a little information about some of his other family members and she was able to dig into the voluminous slave registry, trace Lovette’s family and give him new information.
“William Blake was my great-grandfather’s name,” Lovette said of the name he learned for the very first time thanks to Evans.
“It’s connectivity,” he said. “Because William Blake raised my grandfather and my grandfather’s hands have touched me and so I’ve touched Williams Blake. And I’ll continue to touch younger generations of my family, so they’ll touch William Blake. It continues our legacy.”
Lovette also was able to trace a few more family members and even found the origin of the family name “Champ.”
Evans and the board are conducting the research to coincide with the construction of the historic site’s memorial walk to remember the slaves who lived in Liberty County. There will be a brick in the walkway for every slave listed on the 1860 census. Now she can engrave Lovette’s actual family names on some of the bricks instead of using generic information like ages and genders.
Evans said there are more unidentified slaves than she originally expected. She’s encouraging people to help so she can more accurately memorialize the people who she said are mostly responsible for establishing the area.
For more information, call Evans at 844-6500.
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