Sepia Saturday 458. First in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.
Researching distant female ancestors can be challenging because at one time women accumulated few records in their own name.
In addition, women who lived in rural areas — like my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — lacked city directories and local newspapers where their personal details might appear.
So I do not know as much about Mary Elizabeth as I do about her husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a veteran of the Union Army’s 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. Yet I long to know more.
In this new blog series, I hope to review what my past research has revealed about Mary — and to identify what more is needed to paint a fuller picture of her life.
First federal census
Mary’s parents were Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee (who I have written about on Molly’s Canopy) and Zebulon Blakeslee (whose given name I love, but about whom I know far less).
The bewildering Blakeslee saga begins with Mary at age 12 in the 1850 U.S. Census of Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — the first in which she appears by name — to see what her family’s enumeration reveals.
|1850 U.S. Population Census – Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. – Aug. 6, 1850 – Source: FamilySearch1|
|Mary E. Blakesley||12||NY||X|
|Rhoda Ann Whitney||19||PA|
For starters, this census indicates Mary’s parents were born at a geographic remove from one another: her father in Connecticut and her mother in Pennsylvania.
Mary had an older sister Rhoda Ann (who has also appeared previously on this blog). In 1850, Rhoda was living next door with husband William Whitney and a young man, John Stevens, whose relationship is not stated.
The census says Rhoda was born in Pennsylvania (circa 1831) while Mary was born in New York (circa 1838).
Conklin is just north of the Pennsylvania border, so it’s not unusual that the sisters were born in different states. However, if accurate, their differing birth locations are a clue that the Blakeslee family likely moved sometime in the mid-1830s.
Adjoining family farms
Zebulon’s farm in Conklin was valued at $2,000 (equivalent to about $64,542 in today’s dollars) — a respectable spread. The neighboring farm of his son-in-law William Whitney was worth $1,000 (or about $32,271 in today’s dollars).
Both families were apparently doing well, because their farms were comparable in value to those of nearby neighbors.
Mary’s sister Rhoda, 19, was newly married — having wed William on 9 Dec. 1849, according to a transcribed wedding announcement in Maurice R. Hitt’s Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880). And Mary, 12, was attending school — a positive sign that she was not needed at home to help with the workload.
Up next: What more could I learn about the Blakeslee family farm where Mary lived in 1850? Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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