Fifth Blogiversary: Five benefits of genealogy and family history blogging

Sepia Saturday 467: Today is the Fifth Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy! Many thanks to my family, readers and fellow bloggers for your support and valuable feedback along the way! Help me celebrate – please leave a comment.

Number 5. Today I am proud and happy that Molly’s Canopy is celebrating its Fifth Blogiversary. Many thanks to my family, readers and fellow bloggers for your support and valuable feedback along the way. Image: Pixabay

Today is the Fifth Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy — a landmark event I did not envision when I began blogging in 2014 during the Sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War.

Five years ago I was writing weekly about my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull’s experiences as a Union Army soldier — but I hadn’t considered what I would blog about after that first year ended.

Yet that’s when regular blogging began to yield many valuable genealogy and family history benefits. So today — to celebrate the Fifth Blogiversary of Molly’s Canopy — I thought I’d share five benefits of blogging that I’ve discovered along the way.

FIVE BENEFITS OF BLOGGING

1. Blogging gets the writing done. As I researched my ancestors over a couple of decades, I amassed documents and photographs, kept notes, logged dPixabay - Creative Commons - no attribution requiredetails into my genealogy software — and even used this material to write draft narratives about some of them. But I did this in fits and starts as time permitted and not in a regular, disciplined way. That changed after Molly’s Canopy was launched. There’s nothing like having a regular/weekly deadline — even a self-imposed one — to get the writing done. And post-by-post, the writing transforms from an ancestral character sketch to a more detailed life story — and could evolve into the draft of a book-length manuscript. All by writing a few hundred words on a regular/weekly basis.

2. Blogging focuses broader historical research. Genealogists rely on careful documentation — from vital and church records, census reports, land and probate documents and more — to verify the life details of individuals and establish family relationships. But to tell a compelling family narrative requires additional historical research to put ancestors’ lives in context. Regular blogging helps focus this research. Where did ancestors live during the census? What was going on in their town, in the country, in the world? Why did they move there? When and why did they leave? Did they appear in the newspaper? These and other questions cropped up as I was writing blog posts — and a deep dive into history yielded valuable background details that illuminated my ancestors’ lives.

3. Blogging helps get those photos scanned. Like me, most family history researchers have a stash of ancestral photos that need to be digitized. But when to do this? It’s easy to put off the task to “someday” —  that vague deadline way off in the future that somehow never arrives! This is especially true if a family photo collection is large. But blogging can break photo scanning into regular, manageable chunks. The Internet is visual — and blog posts benefit from at least one good photo. A post can also consist of several photos and extended captions. Scanning a few photos for each blog post helps move the digitization forward.

4. Blogging creates social connections. As part of the social media universe, blogs help connect their writers with a wider world of readers — and the valuable feedback they provide. Genealogy research and family history writing are solitary tasks — and it’s easy to feel isolated when you’re working alone. But blogging puts some of that information out in public — where readers, other bloggers and relatives can follow along and leave comments. This is a great way to reach younger, Internet-savvy family members. One more bonus: newfound cousins may get in touch to share their research, photos and ancestral stories — and you can even meet up with them at reunions!

5. Blogging preserves your research for the future. Family trees are invaluable as research tools that organize relationships and documentation in one place. A blog can illuminate that research — allowing a family history writer to breathe life into the documents’ revelations and place ancestors in their historical context. Years of family history blogging will amass a body of interpretive, narrative work as a legacy for future generations — whether the blog is preserved online, turned over to a repository that accepts digital donations, or the posts are printed into a book. And this legacy can be created in a totally manageable way — one blog post at a time.

So on this Fifth Blogiversary I’m glad I launched Molly’s Canopy when I did — and I am grateful to experience these valuable benefits of blogging and more with each new post.

Up next: Annual Spring Break for Molly’s Canopy. May is always a busy month, so I am taking a much-needed blogging break to refresh and recharge. Please stop back when regular blogging resumes in June — and in the meantime, visit my fellow Sepia Saturday bloggers here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1856: Wedding bells in Brookdale, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 466. Ninth and last in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Sometime circa 1852-55 my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee met and got engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

Soon wedding bells rang in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., as they said their vows and pledged a life together on 11 Aug. 1856. Mary was 18 and Arthur was 22 when they wed.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672387/
Women’s fashions (1856). My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee married Arthur T. Bull on 11 Aug. 1856, This photo evokes Mary, her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, her mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — and perhaps a young cousin who  may have attended the Presbyterian  wedding ceremony in Boorkdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Source: Library of Congress

News of their marriage reached me more than a century later — prompting a 1995 genealogy road trip with my dad to Binghamton, N.Y., to learn more about these ancestors.

In The Tiny Road Map I describe how that journey led to the astonishing discovery that Arthur was a U.S. Civil War veteran.

So I hold a special fondness for the Blakeslee-Bull wedding because it provided my first research clue about these family lines.

A wedding announcement

An announcement of Mary and Arthur’s wedding appeared in 14 Aug. 1856 issue of The Montrose Democrat — a newspaper serving Susquehanna County, Penna.

https://www.susqcohistsoc.org
The Blakeslee-Bull wedding announcement (1856). The 11 Aug. 1856 marriage of Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee and Arthur T. Bull was announced in The Montrose Democrat, a newspaper serving Susquehanna Co., Penna. Image courtesy of the Susquehanna County Historical Society

Although Arthur is listed as “Mr. T. Ball, of Corbettsville, N.Y.” there is no doubt that this is my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

The Susquehanna County Historical Society listed him as Arthur T. Bull when adding this item to their card catalog — which is what led me to the news clip.

Even better, I have direct testimony supporting the newspaper’s details from two wedding witnesses — Mary’s sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and her husband William.

Witnesses to a wedding

More then three decades after her 1856 marriage, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth had to prove to the U.S. Pension Board that she was entitled to Civil War widow’s benefits from her late husband Arthur’s service in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

To verify her marriage Mary relied on an affidavit (excerpted below) from Rhoda Ann and William Whitney of Binghamton, N.Y. — her sister and brother-in-law, who attended the wedding.

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

Starting a life together

My great-great grandmother Mary, 18, was younger than the typical bride of that era when she wed my great-great grandfather Arthur, 22. According to theclassroom.com:

Between 1800 and 1900, women generally married for the first time between the ages of 20 and 22. Less is known about the average age of first marriages for men during the 19th century.

Nevertheless, Mary does not appear to have looked back once they wed. Together she and Arthur weathered separation during the U.S. Civil War, raised nine children, moved around New York State for his job, and persevered in later years as Arthur’s health declined and he applied for his Civil War pension.

Perhaps one day I will locate a photo of my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull —  if some generous Bull or Blakeslee cousin comes forward. But until then, I hope I have done justice to the story of her early years along the New York-Pennsylvania border.

Up next: Fifth Blogiversary for Molly’s Canopy! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1855: A Brookdale engagement

Sepia Saturday 465. Eighth in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

The years 1854-56 were pivotal ones for my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull. In 1854, at 16, she moved with her family from New York’s Southern Tier to Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna.

There she came of age and got engaged to her future husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a tanner from nearby Corbettsville, Broome Co., N.Y.

https://www.artic.edu/artworks/180709/the-lovers
The Lovers by William Powell Firth (1855). Sometime between 1854-56, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee of Brookdale, Penna., became engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull of Corbettsville, N.Y. But where and how did they meet? Image: Art Institute Chicago

So how did my great-great grandparents meet — and how long had they known each other?

Geographic proximity

During the 1855 New York State census, my great-great grandfather Arthur, 21, was living in Town of Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — where my great-great grandmother Mary lived until about 1854.

According to the census, Arthur had lived in Conklin for only a year — which would place his arrival around 1854. However, another source suggests he may have arrived earlier.

A History of Broome County (1885) says Arthur’s father, Jeremiah Bull, took over a foundry in Corbettsville (in Town of Conklin) and turned it into a tannery two years earlier — in 1852.

Conklin Centre, where Mary lived in 1852, was about three miles north of Corbettsville — so she and Arthur could have met while they were living near one another. (See map above.)

Arthur was relatively new to the area — perhaps a welcome change for Mary from the local young men she had grown up with. And even after she moved to south Brookdale, Penna., Mary’s home was still just three miles from Corbettsville.

In addition, Mary undoubtedly returned to Conklin periodically to visit her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, who still lived there. So she may have met Arthur during one of her visits.

A Presbyterian connection

Since Arthur and Mary were married by a Presbyterian minister, there is also a good chance that they met at church.

According to J.H. French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York (1860), Town of Conklin had a Presbyterian church where they may have worshipped when they were both lived nearby.

As described below,  there was also Presbyterian church in Lawsville Centre, Penna. — built circa 1850 — which was about three miles south of Mary’s home in Brookdale, Penna. and six miles south of Arthur’s Corbettsville, N.Y., residence.

https://archive.org/details/cu31924028854689/page/n769
Source: Centennial history of Susquehanna County, Penna. (1887)

Other intriguing possibilities

As a tanner, Arthur may  have worked in the Conklin area where his father owned a tannery for a few years — or in Brookdale where a large tannery near the saw mill employed 25 men, which “gave the place a busy appearance” according to the Centennial History of Susquehanna County, Penna. (1887).

https://archive.org/details/cu31924028854689/page/n767
The Brookdale, Penna., tannery operated from 1851-1885. Could my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull have worked there? Source: Centennial History of Susquehanna Co., Penna. (1887)

Could Arthur and Mary have met when tannery work brought him to Brookdale? It’s hard to know without his employment details.

Of course it’s always possible they met by a more traditional route: through their families.

The Bulls and Blakeslees may have been acquainted — with Arthur’s father Jeremiah owning a business, Mary’s dad Zebulon working as a rural postmaster and both families possibly attending the same church. So maybe their parents had a hand in introducing their children in hopes of making a match.

However it happened, meet they did — and by 1856 wedding bells were ringing for my great-great grandparents Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee and Arthur T. Bull.

Up next: The Blakeslee-Bull wedding. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time