Category Archives: Tamkins

Windam’s winding border

Third in a series on searching for the birthplace of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull.

County boundaries in New York State took a while to settle down after the Revolutionary War. As a result of this nineteenth century border wrangling, the elusive birthplace of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull may have started in one county (Greene) and ended up in another (Schoharie).

http://www.loc.gov/item/2013593222/
Map of Greene County, N.Y., in 1858. The northernmost parts several Greene County towns — indented at the top of this map — were ceded to Schoharie County in 1836. Could this land have included my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s birthplace?  Image: Library of Congress

I can almost hear Arthur explaining this anomaly over the course of his lifetime:

“Well, I was born in Greene County, but now the land is part of Schoharie County.”

Thus leaving it up to census takers, town clerks and military personnel to pick one or the other to put on a form as his place of birth.

Of course imagining this is one thing. Finding sufficient evidence to satisfy the genealogical proof standard is quite another.

So I continued consulting historic maps and census records for clues to support the moving-borderline theory in hopes they might ultimately point the way to Arthur’s birth location.

Histories of Greene County, N.Y. —  which was created in 1800 from parts of Albany and Ulster Counties — indicate the county underwent a series of border changes after its founding. But the one that most interested me was the last one on 3 March 1836 — two years after my ancestor’s 1834 birth — when Greene County lost 30 acres of northwest land to neighboring Schoharie County.

Consulting historic maps

This acreage was carved out along an east-west ridge of the Catskill Mountains — and appears as in indent in the upper left of the Greene County map above. The land south of the mountains remained in Greene County, while the land to the north went to Schoharie County. In 1836, the ceded area bordered three Greene County towns:

  • Town of Prattsville (created from northwest Windham in 1833),
  • Town of Windham (which at that time included the the Town of Ashland, shown in yellow), and
  • Town of Durham.

I wondered: Had my ancestor Arthur lived in one of these towns — perhaps in the the ceded area — leading him to claim two counties as his birth place? Maybe census records could help me out.

Looking for census clues

In Schoharie County serendipity, I noted that the 1855 New York State census for Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., gave the age of Arthur’s younger sister M.E. [Mary Elizabeth] as 15 and her birthplace as Greene County, N.Y. That could place his family of origin in the Catskills area at the time of Mary’s birth in 1840 — a federal census year.

So I searched digitized records of the 1840 U.S. Census for my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull (Arthur’s dad), and found someone by that name enumerated as the head of a household of six in Greene County’s Town of Windham — one of the towns that gave up land to Schoharie County. Yet if this was Arthur’s family, they were still living in Greene County four years after the 1836 land transfer.

Did this debunk my theory? Or might the Bulls have lived further north at the time of Arthur’s birth? And how could I determine if this actually was Arthur’s family when only the head of household’s name appears on the 1840 census form?

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Schoharie County serendipity

First in a series on searching for the birthplace of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull.

Lately when I fill a glass with New York City tap water, I marvel at a serendipitous connection to my family heritage — for a portion of my city’s drinking water comes from the upstate Schoharie Reservoir near where my paternal great, great grandfather Arthur Bull was born in 1834.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyschoha/map1895.html
Map of Schoharie, Greene and Delaware Co., N.Y.(1895). Preliminary family history research suggests my ancestor Arthur Bull was born in the area at the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains where these three counties meet. Image: Rootsweb

This water source is located at the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains, where Schoharie, Greene and Delaware Counties meet.The reservoir was created in the 1920s, requiring the village of Gilboa — its remnants still visible during droughts — to be moved to the west to make room.

My preliminary family history research suggests my ancestor Arthur was born in this general vicinity. The question is: Where?

Nine years before he joined the Union Army, Arthur, 21, was enumerated with his parents and two younger siblings in the 1855 New York State census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. 1 — a census that asked what county each person was born in.

Arthur’s birthplace was given as Greene County, N.Y. — the same birth location as his mother Mary, 46, his brother Milo, 19, and his sister M.E. [Mary Elizabeth], 15. Only his father Jeremiah Bull, 52, was enumerated with a Schoharie County, N.Y., birthplace.

Yet other sources — such as the New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900  — give Arthur’s birthplace as Schoharie County, N.Y.

Schoharie County’s name comes from a Mohawk word for driftwood — and that certainly seems to apply to Arthur’s birth location, which floats back and forth between the two Empire State counties over several decades depending on which records I reference.

Here is the genealogy challenge: How to account for this? And how to resolve it so I can determine where to search for more definitive primary records to verify Arthur’s date of birth and illuminate his childhood years?

My research trail through the Catskills begins with the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Footnotes

  1. 1855 New York State census, Broome County, N.Y., population schedule, Town of Conklin, p. 2, enumeration district (ED) 2 , swelling 9, family 11, line 13, A.T. Bull; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://interactive.ancestry.com/7181/005207111_00358?pid=1654594523&backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2f%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fdb%3dGeneral-7181%26indiv%3dtry%26h%3d1654594523&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true : accessed 13 Aug 2015); citing Census of the state of New York, for 1855. Microfilm. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

Mother of three

While my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull was in the Union Army (1864-65), his wife Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull was left in charge of their household in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y.

Union Reenactors 4 May 2014
Union Army reenactor and his wife, Spotsylvania Court House, Va., 4 May 2014. Photo by Molly Charboneau

What was life like for my great, great grandmother during the Civil War years?  It’s hard to know with few records to go by.

Elizabeth, as she was called, was 27 in 1865 and a mother of three young children — Emma, 7, born in Pennsylvania; Carrie, 5, born in Delaware Co., N.Y.; and Milo, 3, born in Broome Co., N.Y. The family had moved several times since her 1856 marriage to Arthur in Liberty, Susquehanna, Pa.

Arthur received a $300 bounty when he enlisted — equivalent to more than $5,000 today — so there would have been money to live on. But for Elizabeth, as for many women of that era, her husband’s absence also brought new responsibility to run things as she thought best.

Census records show she had family living nearby to turn to for help — her older sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, Arthur’s parents Jeremiah and Mary Bull and Arthur’s sister Mary Emma (Bull) Tamkins, whose husband Edward was also away in the 137th Regiment N.Y. Infantry.

Mary Bull signature
Signature of Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 53, on 9 May 1892 affidavit in Civil War widow’s pension application file. Photo by Molly Charboneau.

But I have inherited no diary or letters from Elizabeth to illuminate her inner life. I have only her signature on documents from her application, decades later, for widow’s benefits.

What were her thoughts, her hopes, her worries as a young woman during the U.S. Civil War? How did she cope with having a husband in harm’s way? What did she tell her children?

How I wish she had found the time to leave answers to those questions.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.