Sepia Saturday 472: First in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.
Summer is almost here — that wonderful season when census takers go house-to-house each decade, knocking on doors to compile the data that eventually leads many of us to our ancestors.
Census returns usually help family history researchers discover where individuals and families lived at a particular time — and can also provide the names and relationships of previously unknown relatives.
Yet federal, state and local censuses can also reveal family mysteries — such as why my paternal great-great-great grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was living separately from his wife Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in 1860, as illustrated in the table below.
In this series, I hope to use census information and other research to try to figure out what was going on with the Blakeslees circa 1860 — something I have long wondered about.
|U.S. Federal Censuses (1830-1880) for Zebulon Blakeslee and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. Source: FamilySearch|
|Year||Location||Zebulon Blakeslee||Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee)||Others in household|
|1830||Lawsville, Susquehanna, Penna.||Free white male 20-29 (1)||Free white female 20-29 (1)||Free white male 20-49 (1)|
|1840||Chenango, Broome, New York||Free white male 30-40 (1)||Free white female 20-30 (1)||Free white females under 5 (2); 5-10 (1); 40-50 (1); and a male 30-40 (1)|
|1850||Conklin, Broome, New York||Age 42, Farmer, born in Conn.||Age 37, born in Penna.||Mary E. Blakeslee 12, born in New York|
|1860||Brookdale, Liberty Twp., Susquehanna, Penna.||48, Merchant, born in Conn.||—||Head of household: James Adams|
|1860||Walton, Town of Hancock, Delaware, New York||—||Age 48, born in New York||Head of Household: Son-in-law Arthur T. Bull|
|1880||Binghamton, Broome, New York||—||Age 68, Widowed, born in New York||Head of household: Grandson Albert E. Whitney|
Happy times in Brookdale circa 1856
When we last encountered the Blakeslees, they were celebrating happy times in Brookdale, Susquehanna, Penna. — the 1856 marriage of their younger daughter Mary Elizabeth to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, my Union Army ancestor who was then a tanner from Corbettsville, Broome, N.Y.
At the time, Zebulon was the Brookdale postmaster, a merchant with a store near the local tannery, and may have still been working a professional elocutionist dispensing therapy for stuttering or stammering. Hannah was keeping house. Their older daughter, Rhoda Anne (Blakeslee) Whitney lived in nearby Conklin, Broome, New York with her husband William.
What happened in 1860?
Yet by the summer of 1860 — just four years later — all of that had changed. Both my great-great grandmother Mary and her sister Rhoda Ann had relocated with their husbands and children to Delaware County, New York — taking Hannah with them. And Zebulon appeared to be living as a boarder in the household of James Adams.
So I can’t help but wonder: Was this upheaval precipitated by a personal or family crisis? Or had there been a downturn in the local economy? Or had some larger social, political or economic forces impacted my Blakeslee and Bull ancestors — prompting them to pull up stakes, leaving Zebulon behind?
More on this Blakeslee mystery in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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