Category Archives: Blakeslee

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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Susquehanna River reflections

Letter S: Nineteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

From second grade through high school, I lived two blocks from the North Branch of the Susquehanna River in Broome County, N.Y. The schools I attended were located on elevated ground well above the flood plain. But on my street, the river was a constant presence.

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Susquehanna River in Town of Union, Broome County, N.Y. (1993) As a child I lived on the North Branch of the Susquehanna River not far from the Pennsylvania border —  unaware that paternal ancestors once lived there, too. Photo by Molly Charboneau

My dad bought our family’s first house, a small Cape Cod, in the late 1950s without realizing how close it was to the Susquehanna.

“The real estate agent stood in the back yard, pointed at some trees in the distance and said there was a river ‘way over there,’ ” Dad told me. “Well, the following spring, the river flooded and the water was lapping at the edge of our back yard!”

The river at flood stage was unnerving — water as far as the eye could see out our kitchen window, where I watched my classmates on the next block travel home in small motorboats to houses that seemed to float atop the water.

But after the freshet subsided, the land was lush and green. The Italian family on the next block grew a huge vegetable garden; the pear tree by their house bloomed and grew heavy with fruit, and every puddle brimmed with tiny toads for us children to catch. And in the summer, swarms of lightening bugs glowed in the night.

Our block was chock full of children to play with — 52 at the peak of the Baby Boom — but we had no relatives nearby. So after we left the area and I began studying my family’s history, I was amazed to learn that some of my dad’s ancestors once lived there.

I wrote about this in Hidden hometown heritage — how surprised I was to learn about my paternal Broome County ancestors (the Bull, Hance and Blakeslee families) and how the absence of local relatives when I was growing up may have sparked my interest in finding ancestral connections as an adult.

What I left out of that story is that I feel connected to those ancestors not only by heritage, but also by the mighty Susquehanna River — which flowed past our homes, and through all of our lives, going back more than two hundred years.

Up next: Two years: Second Blogiversary. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Library research leads

Letter L: Twelfth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Online family history research is great — but because there are still so few genealogical resources that have been digitized, library research leads continue to play a significant role in my ancestral journey. And that’s fine.

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/home/2014/1/11/gloversille-free-library.html
Gloversville Free Library in Fulton Co., N.Y. On a family history visit here with my mom in 1991, we researched our Italian and German ancestors and met a librarian who knew one of our collateral relatives. Photo: Front Page Gloversville

Some of my most valuable clues and evidence have come from libraries — and the wonderful librarians who work there — both on road trips and by phone. Here are just a few examples.

Pictured is the Gloversville Free Library, which my mom and I visited in August 1991 on a family history trip to her home town. There, we consulted city directories that listed our Italian and German ancestors.

Even better, we met a librarian who knew Lucy Edel — a cousin of my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner,  who my mom said, “could have been her twin.”

She told us Lucy was a career librarian at the Free Library and was very proud that she earned enough money to buy her own house. Now that’s not a story you will find on the Internet!

My dad and I made a similar trip to his Otter Lake home town in August 1991. At the Irwin Library and Institute in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y., using an ancient microfilm reader, we found the obituary of our Montréal-born ancestor Laurent Charles Charbonneau — a landmark discovery! Alas, we were not so lucky on that trip learning the name of his spouse.

“His wife? His wife?” Dad fumed when he saw her nameless entry in the list of Laurent’s survivors. “Doesn’t she even get to have her name in the paper?”

Helpful librarians: a phone call away

Calls to libraries have also yielded breakthroughs. The Salamanca Public Library in Cattaraugus County, N.Y., maintains a index of newspaper obituaries. With a phone call to their librarian, I was able to obtain the obituaries of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and his mother-in-law, my great, great, great grandmother Hannah (Hance ) Blakeslee.

And when I called a helpful librarian at the Little Falls Public Library in Herkimer County, N.Y., he found and sent me the long-sought-after obituary of my Grand-Uncle Albert B. Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother — who died in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

Are there libraries in the towns where your ancestors lived? Check their catalog and resources online, then consider planning a visit to see what genealogical treasures they hold. Not sure where to start? Call their help desk and speak to the librarian. And always send a thank you note, by mail or email, when they help you make a discovery.

Up next: Maps point the way. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Elizabeths in my family tree

Letter E: Fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

Among my ancestors, there are many duplicate given names. But Elizabeth is one of the most common — as a first or middle name — on both sides of my family tree.

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My maternal grandmother’s handkerchief with the letter E. Elizabeth was a common first or middle name among my female ancestors. Photo by Molly Charboneau

My paternal great, great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — wife of my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — apparently went by Elizabeth because there were so many Marys in her family. Here and there, it shows up as her first name on records.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth Christina (Stoutner) Laurence was called Lizbeth by my grandfather, who knew her from childhood. But when she learned, and later taught, Early American Tole Painting, she always signed her work Liz.

She appears to have been named after her German-born grandmothers — her mom’s mother Eva Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm (who went by Elizabeth) and her dad’s mother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner.

Then there was my Irish great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey, born in 1865 in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. — a twin and part of the large household of my Irish-born great, great grandparents William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

There are some other Elizabeths, Lizzies and Mary Elizabeths among my side line ancestors, too — clearly a popular name on many branches of my family tree.

Have you looked for patterns in your ancestors’ given names? They might hold clues about the next generation back.

Up next: Fort Monroe in Virginia, where my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull — husband of one of my Elizabeths, Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — was hospitalized during the U.S. Civil War.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A decade in Moose River Settlement

After exploring how Moose River Settlement was established, I wanted to know more about the daily lives of my Bull ancestors after their 1875 move to the then-thriving hamlet.

http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/295
South Branch of the Moose River (1912). A man driving a horse drawn sled loaded with logs along Moose River in the Adirondack Mountains. Logs piled along the river, and in the distance is a man standing on a log bridge. From 1875-1885, my Bull ancestors lived on this river in Moose River Settlement — an area with sufficient forests, water and transportation for leather tanning. Photo: New York State Archives Digital Collections

That’s when I discovered author Judy Jones — who wrote about her own contemporary journey of discovery after she and her family bought a camp in the area and became curious about its history.

Early in her book Moose River Diary – In Search of The Settlement (2011) she sums up a quest that sounds very much like my own and provides many details I am grateful for:

Now we knew the origin of Moose River Settlement, but that was all. Then, in a series of minute snippets, we learned a little more. We learned that a village of three hundred citizens once bustled in a place called Moose River. There had been a sawmill and tanneries and a boarding house and private homes. There had been a general store and a schoolhouse and a post office and a fine hotel. But then what? And what became of the place?

One of those tanneries employed my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull (a tannery foreman) and his father — my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull (who returned to tannery work at age 70).

Perhaps it was Lyon and Snyder’s Mammoth Tannery — built in 1866 at Moose River Settlement and one of the largest in the Adirondack region. Such a substantial operation could certainly have enticed my Bull ancestors to leave the Southern Tier for the promise of steady work in the North Country — and for hundreds of others to join them as co-workers and neighbors.

And Moose River Settlement appears to have fulfilled some of my Bull ancestors’ expectations — because they remained there for a decade from 1875-1885.

Highlights of the Moose River years

During their time in Moose River, my great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull saw their oldest children grow to adulthood, start work and begin families of their own. One of these was my great grandmother Eva May Bull who married a local lad — my great grandfather William Lawrence Charboneau.

And Arthur and Mary became the proud parents of two more children — daughter Alice I. Bull and son Waples H. Bull — who were both born at Moose River Settlement.

Yet my Bull ancestors were also growing older, and health issues began to arise during their Moose River years. Arthur’s heart and lung complaints — for which he was hospitalized during his Union Army service in the U.S. Civil War — reasserted themselves, making it harder for him to work.

So in 1880 — about five years after moving to Moose River Settlement — Arthur Bull filed for a veteran’s Invalid Pension from the federal government and began seeing local doctors in connection with his application.

There will be more details in future posts on this and other aspects of my Bull ancestors’ Moose River years.

But first I have news to share about my Irish ancestors — William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey — starting with the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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