Broome County, NY: First supporting affidavit

Second in series about my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull and his application for a Civil War pension.

On 14 July 1862 — about two months before my ancestor Arthur Bull registered for the draft in Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — the U.S. government approved an important pension act (12 Stat. 566) that covered Union veterans of the U.S. Civil War.

https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/btlflags/artillery/6thArtFlankMarkers.htm
U.S. Civil War flank marker of my ancestor’s regiment. Fifteen years after he honorably mustered out with the 6th NY Heavy Artillery at the end of the U.S. Civil War, my ancestor Arthur Bull filed a declaration requesting his veteran’s pension due to lingering health effects from his military service. Image: NYS Military Museum

The act “increased pension rates and provided potential eligibility for pensions to every person in military or naval service since March 4, 1861, their widows and orphans, and for dependent orphan sisters,” according  to the U.S. National Archives website.

Two decades later, an amended version of this act would provide my great, great grandfather Arthur with an invalid pension for partial disability due to the persistent effects of war-related illness — sustained during his 1864-1865 service in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

But first he would have to prove his case. So after filing for benefits on 2 July 1880, Arthur approached family members for help.

First of many affidavits

On 25 Jan. 1881, Arthur’s two brothers-in-law signed a general affidavit testifying to their knowledge of his health status before and after the U.S. Civil War.

The document was notarized, then signed and sealed by a New York State Supreme Court clerk for Broome County. The affiants were:

  • Edward C. Tamkins, 41, of Conklin Station, Broome County, N.Y. [widower of Arthur’s late sister, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins] and
  •  William Whitney, 62, of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. [husband of Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, sister of Arthur’s wife, Mary].

The notary wrote that the two men “are personally known to me, and they are credible persons.” Written in Edward’s hand, they stated the following:

That we have primarily known the said Arthur T. Bull for 10 years previous to his enlistment and knew him to be a sound man physically and mentally. And that since his discharge he has been unwell and part of the time under a physician’s care. And know personally that his health was impaired by service rendered between the date of his enlistment and the date of his discharge.

Eventually, their testimony found its way to the U.S. Pension Office, where their affidavit was stamped on 27 May 1882 — a year and a half later! Which raises some questions.

Missing pieces

On a genealogy research trip to Washington, D.C., I copied the entire contents of my ancestor Arthur Bull’s pension file. But now that I have finally begun to closely examine the documents, I wonder whether pieces may be missing.

The date that Arthur filed his pension declaration is clearly stated as 2 July 1880 on later documents. But an original copy of the declaration was not in his pension folder at the National Archives.

And could it really have taken a year and a half for the Tamkins-Whitney affidavit — apparently the only supporting document between 1880 and 1882 — to make its way to the pension office?

Or might there have been other documents filled out and filed in the interim that also did not make it into the pension file?

Stay tuned as I try to unravel these mysteries and continue on the trail of my ancestor Arthur Bull’s Civil War pension application.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Union Army pensioner

First in series about my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull and his application for a Civil War pension.

When my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull had lived in New York State’s Adirondack foothills for about five years, declining health began to interfere with his work as a leather tanner and he applied for his U.S. Civil War pension — events I first wrote about in A decade in Moose River Settlement.

The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. This edifice was once the Pension Building in which U.S. Civil War pension claims, such as my ancestor’s, were processed. Photo by: National Building Museum

According to his pension file, Arthur filed a declaration for an Invalid Pension on 2 July1880 citing persistent health effects from his Union Army service during the war. He was just 46 years old.

Supporting a large family

In 1880, Arthur was working as a tannery foreman and headed a large household according to the federal census for Lyonsdale, Lewis County, New York.

In addition to his wife, Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, 41, there were seven children in the household: Carrie, 20; Milo, 18; my great grandmother Eva, 13; Frederick, 8; William, 6; Alice, 3 and Waples, 2.

Son Milo was helping out, working as a common laborer according to the census. But Arthur’s physically-demanding tannery job was the family’s primary source of income — and declining health may have been affecting his ability to work.

With so many family members depending on him, Arthur needed a reliable income. During the U.S. Civil War, he fought with the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery and was hospitalized several times for heart and lung complaints that continued to affect him after the war’s end.

So applying for an Invalid Pension was likely the only option — in the days before Social Security — to supplement declining income due to lost work time, probably caused by the lingering effects of Arthur’s wartime illness.

Proving his case

Today, Union Army veterans are regarded as heroes who put themselves in harm’s way to preserve the union and help end the brutal system of slavery. So it’s hard to imagine denying them the support of a veteran’s pension as they aged and grew infirm.

But in 1880, the pension system for U.S. Civil War veterans was still controversial. According to a brief history on the U.S. Social Security Administration website:

Such a large federal expenditure could not help but engender some criticism. The process of awarding pensions, which was administered locally, was amenable to political patronage and other forms of corruption. Also, a robust legal specialty sprung up of lawyers who specialized in helping would-be recipients secure potential pensions. Over time, these developments led to skepticism about the program and to concerns that it was rife with fraud, waste and abuse.

How did this impact my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull? It meant that — even as his health declined — his claim would take years to process, requiring many doctor visits and supporting affidavits from extended family and others to prove that he was legitimately entitled to his Civil War pension.

We will join my ancestor on this difficult journey beginning with the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Here’s a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z journey.

imageNow that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my first-time participation in the April 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Overall, a positive experience!

Because I learned about the challenge only a week before it began, I missed the Theme Reveal and had no posts written ahead. What I did have was a desire to celebrate my Second Blogiversary in style — and a sketched-out list of potential posts.

So I decided to go for it and added Molly’s Canopy to the list of challenge participants. Amazingly, when I jumped a net did appear!

Week one — described in Yes! Almost there! — was a hectic process of writing and scheduling enough posts so I could settle in for the blogging marathon on the theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

Fortunately, I was able to establish and maintain a steady pace for the rest of the challenge — keeping up with posting, doing pretty well with commenting/responding, and even stopping by the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Connecting with kindred spirits

One of the best parts of the challenge was connecting with kindred spirits — genealogy and family history bloggers and others — who care passionately about their subjects and are dedicated to sharing them with a wider community.

For an entire month, the A to Z Challenge united us in a virtual space where we moved together toward a common goal — encouraging one another as we went — and that was an empowering experience.

Speed posting and social engagement

Another plus for me was learning to speed post on a blog topic — complete with a photo and links. I typically post weekly, which allows for longer, deeper posts — sometimes in a series — examining my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

But not all ancestors’ stories require this in-depth treatment. During the A to Z Challenge, I experimented with shorter vignettes and discovered — through visitor feedback — that these self-contained posts can be equally satisfying to readers.

Social engagement for Molly’s Canopy showed improvement, too. Traffic, sign ups and follows on blog feeds increased, and the number of comments rose as well — even through letter Z, when we were all getting pretty tired!

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my first A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Seeking a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category

Quite a few enthusiastic genealogy and family history bloggers participated in this year’s challenge — which was great! — but it was hard to find them without a dedicated Genealogy/Family History (GF) category.

Because GF bloggers combine specific research and sourcing techniques with history and memoir/oral history to create blog posts, none of the existing A to Z categories seemed to be an exact fit. So I suggested to the A to Z Team — by email and on #azchat — that they consider adding a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category next year.

A dedicated category would make networking easier among participating GF bloggers — especially those like me without “genealogy” or “family history” in their blog titles — and it might encourage more GF bloggers (there are thousands of us!) to join the next A to Z Challenge.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers.

That’s why — about two thirds of the way through — I sat down and put together a theme and tentative list for the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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One-stop summary: Ancestors from A to Z

One-stop summary of the twenty-six Molly’s Canopy posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

When the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge ended on April 30, I was happy to be counted among the survivors who completed the online marathon. Not bad for a first-time participant!image

After generating twenty-six posts in just one month, I am craving a return to the more leisurely pace of weekly blogging as I continue to explore my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

Still to come is my Reflections post about my A to Z Challenge experience.

Ancestors From A to Z recap

But for this week — while I mentally recharge — here is a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z posts from April 2016 so you can check out any you may have missed. Comments are still open on the later posts, so please join in!

Please stop back for the next post — Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Swiss family Zinsk

Letter Z: Last of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Crossed the finish line today! Thanks for joining me on the journey!

The Swiss family Zinsk was a late arrival on my family tree . They showed up unexpectedly while I was investigating my paternal Charbonneau ancestors — and restored Switzerland as a long-forgotten source of my family’s roots.

http://backroadstraveller.blogspot.com/search?q=Otter+Lake+Community+Church
Otter Lake Community Church (2015). My Swiss ancestors, the Zinsk family, attended services here when it was St. Trinitatis — a German Evangelical Lutheran parish in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. The church was later moved to its present location on Route 28 in Otter Lake, where it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Photo by Tom/The Backroads Traveller

I was excited about our Swiss ancestry because my family was completely unaware of this heritage  — or so I thought until I called my dad to tell him the breaking news.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” Dad said thoughtfully, while I rolled my eyes and had a face-palm moment at the other end of the phone.

Yet in some ways it’s understandable how awareness of our Swiss heritage might have faded with each succeeding generation, given how challenging it was to find details about these elusive ancestors.

Seeking Ursula’s maiden name

My first hint of our paternal Swiss ancestry came from the 1900 U.S. Census for Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y. The record for my great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau (spelled Charbono), who emigrated from Quebec to New York’s Adirondack foothills, listed his wife Ursula — born in Switzerland.

To learn more, we needed her maiden name — always a challenge. So Dad and I added this to the list of goals for our next pre-Internet family history road trip in August 1992.

We examined Laurent’s tombstone in Beechwood Cemetery, Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y., but the inscription was no help. All it said was “Ursula, His Wife.”

Then Dad and I found Laurent’s obituary in the Irwin Library and Institute in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — but Ursula’s name did not appear in that, either, much to Dad’s chagrin.

A census breakthrough

Clearly, we needed more to go on. So back I went to the census, where the various spellings for Charbonneau (such as Charbono, Charbonno, Sharbono and Sherbenon) slowed my microfilm research.

But one evening — while browsing door-to-door through the 1870 U.S. Census for Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — I found Nicholas Zink, 84, and Barnard Zink, 40, (both from Switzerland), living in the home of Laurence Sharbono (from Canada) and his wife Angeline [Ursula](from Switzerland). This looked like the breakthrough we needed on Ursula’s maiden name!

There were more surname variants to come — from Zink to Sink to Zingg  to Zinsk — which eventually led to records that clarified our Swiss ancestors’ family relationships and even identified the church where they worshipped, shown above.

Best of all: I found my ggg grandfather Nicholas’s naturalization papers, on which his signature confirmed Zinsk as the correct spelling of the surname — opening the door to future research into my family’s once-hidden Swiss heritage.


With this post, I have completed my first April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Ancestors From A to Z. I made it! I’m thrilled! And I can’t wait to order my tee-shirt!

Coming soon – One-stop summary: Ancestors from A to Z Please stop back for the victory lap.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time