Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A New GeneaBlogie Project: HARP

Historical Appellate Review Project to Launch

A few months ago, I told the story of being inspired to a new project through a dream about one of my ancestors. I said the new project would launch in a few months. Now is the time. Here's the story:

The ancestor I was dreaming about was my great-great-grandfather, Guy Bryant. He was born in DeWitt County, Texas, in October 1860. He was the oldest son of Alfred and Harriet Bryant, who had come from Tennessee and North Carolina respectively. The Bryants eventually found their way to the Texas Gulf Coast, settling in Nueces County. Corpus Christi is the seat of Nueces County.

On December 2, 1876, sixteen year old Guy was arrested in Corpus Christi and charged with "hauling & removing shell from front of lots on the beach." He was arraigned that same day in the City Recorders Court. Guy entered a plea of guilty and was fined five dollars. See a transcript of the court records here. He didn't have five dollars and therefore ended up spending several days in jail. I believe a relative eventually paid the fine.

A few years ago I was invited to Corpus Christi for the dedication of a new edifice on the waterfront. I couldn't go, but one of my associates went in my stead. He knew Guy Bryant's story and told it to the then-Mayor. The Mayor said, "Well, we'll have to see about a pardon!" Everyone assembled chuckled. The Mayor didn't grant Guy a pardon, but sent me a lovely coffee table book about Corpus Christi.

One night, I dreamed about Guy Bryant. And in the midst of the dream, I thought (or maybe Guy thought), "A pardon? Well, why not?!" In that moment, the Historical Appellate Review Project (HARP) was born.

It works like this: Using state-of-the-art genealogical and legal research techniques, HARP will investigate cases of allegedly ne'er-do-well ancestors and render an opinion as to whether they were likely guilty or not, whether they got a fair trial, and whether they might be eligible for a pardon. In certain select cases, HARP might actually go to court to clear the name of a wrongly accused or wrongly convicted ancestor.

The purposes are to educate and inform the present generation about the truth of their forebears. Often, it won't be pretty. Sometimes, it'll be historically miraculous! HARP might actually succeed in setting the record straight.

There are some conditions. First, the case must be at least seventy-five years old. That is, seventy-five years must have passed since the last court order in the matter. Second, the accused must be deceased. Anyone, not just relatives, may submit a case to HARP. And, yes, there will be a fee--a reasonable one. HARP reserves the right to change the conditions at any time. Complete details are available by e-mailing HARP.

I'm quite excited about this project. It should be fun! Stories about the cases will appear here at GeneaBlogie. Of course, the first case is in progress--that of Guy Bryant himself!

The HARP Website is here; still under construction, but we're ready to go.

And, by the way, all the usual features that you like about GeneaBlogie will still be here, too!

Let me know what you think.

UPDATE (9/20/07--7:31 AM PDT): Link to HARP Website corrected.


Janice said...


What a great idea! :D

You may want to present a couple of blog articles about "How To Discover Your Ancestor's Criminal Past," and "Where to Obtain Court Records," to get people warmed up.

I think your link to the Har p Project has an extra "i" in it.


Miriam Robbins said...

What a terrific idea, Craig! I'm very excited about this. Guess I need to get busy and obtain some court records on one of my black sheep ancestors!

Craig Manson said...

Thanks for your positive reactions!
The link has been fixed.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I think this will make for some interesting reading! The only black sheep in my family (at least so far as I've found) are still alive but I look forward to reading the stories you find.

Taneya said...

Very cool! What a great way to combine your profession and your hobby together! I look forward to reading more of the cases as you post them. (FYI - my blog has a new address)