Tag Archives: Schoharie County NY

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A Greene County clue

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

Two possible birth locations for my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — Greene County and Schoharie County, N.Y. — appear on various civil and military documents spanning several decades — a curious phenomenon that I wrote about in last week’s post Schoharie County serendipity.

Naturally, questions spring to mind: Why the fluctuating birthplaces? Did Arthur really not know where he was born? Or is this seeming conundrum actually a promising lead that might help me identify the place of Arthur’s 1834 birth and pinpoint where he spent his early years?

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-f249-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Map of Greene County, N.Y. by cartographer David H. Burr (1829). On 3 March 1836, a northwest portion of Greene County was annexed to neighboring Schoharie County, N.Y. Could my ancestor Arthur Bull have lived in this area as a child?  Map: NYPL Digital Collections 1
In search of answers, I turned to several historic sources — and found my first clue in the 1860 Gazetteer of the State of New York by J.H. French. The  Schoharie County chapter begins:

This county was formed from Albany and Otsego, April 6, 1795. A small part of Greene was annexed in 1836.

This sounded promising. If Arthur’s 1834 birth took place in the portion of Greene County that — two years later — was annexed to Schoharie County, it might explain why these two counties were given interchangeably as his birthplace on various documents over the years.

Next, I looked at a digital version of the New York: Atlas of Historic County Boundaries, which contains a section titled New York: Individual County Chronologies. Scrolling down the list to Greene County, I found the date of the land transfer along with a legislative reference I could follow up on later:

03 Mar 1836  GREENE lost to SCHOHARIE. (N.Y. Laws 1836, 59th sess., ch. 31/p. 33)

So where was this annexed land located? I kept digging, and on the New York: Atlas of Historic County Boundries web page found a digital document with maps of county borderlines and their changes over time.

One Greene County map in this collection clearly shows the land that was ceded to Schoharie County in 1836. Could this be it? Had I found the area where my ancestor Arthur Bull was born?

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Footnotes

  1. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of the county of Greene” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed August 17, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-f249-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.