Byline: Christi Parsons
CHICAGO _ To Phebe Beaumont, her house servant Abby was a valuable piece of property, just like a cow or a barn. So sometime in the 1840s, Beaumont, a Mississippi slave owner, took out an insurance policy on Abby with the Nautilus Insurance Co.
Likewise, the Virginia owner of a slave named Ben, who worked as a carpenter, bought a policy on him. Same for a slave known only as Bill, bought and paid for to work in a North Carolina turpentine distillery.
That and other information about insurance policies taken out on slaves before the Civil War was posted on an Illinois state Web site for the first time Tuesday, part of a broad new effort to help African-Americans research their past.
Illinois is the second state to require insurance companies to search records and report archival data about coverage of slaves, a development that genealogists say could help fill in gaps in knowledge about the black experience in the United States.
Hours after the information went online, even some people who had pushed …