Ancestors-in-Law: The Shermans of Susquehanna County, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 481: Tenth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

After his 1866 divorce, my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee married Sarah Ann Sherman in 1867. She was the daughter of Abel Sherman of Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna., according to their wedding announcement in the Montrose Democrat.

So this summer, not only did I learn about my Blakeslee ancestors’ divorce — but I was also surprised to discover a whole new set of ancestors-in-law: the Shermans of Jessup Township!
A Pennsylvania farm. In the mid-1800s Abel Sherman — the father of Sarah Ann Sherman, Zebulon Blakeslee’s second wife — owned a farm in the fertile Porter Ridge area north of Wyalusing  Creek in Jessup Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. Photo: Coffee/Pixabay

I say ancestors-in-law because Zebulon and Sarah Ann, who married late in life, did not have children together.

Nevertheless, the extended Sherman family seems to have embraced Zebulon when he relocated to their part of Susquehanna County — so it seems fitting that I write a bit about them.

The Abel Sherman household in 1860

In the 1860 federal census[1]1860 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. for Jessup Township — enumerated seven years before Sarah Ann married Zebulon — I found her living with her parents and two younger brothers on her father Abel’s farm. Located next door was an unoccupied dwelling. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Abel Sherman household – 1860 U.S. Census, Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna – Source: FamilySearch[2]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Dwelling Name Age Born Details
339 Abel Sherman, Head of Household 61 NY Farmer; Real Estate: $2,000; Personal Prop: $821
Louisa Sherman 59 Mass. Wife
Sarah A. Sherman 38 Penna.
Charles Sherman 23 Penna. Farm laborer
Jim Sherman 21 Penna.
340 Unoccupied

The Shermans in 1870-1880

Ten years later, there were significant changes for the Shermans. By the 1870 federal census[3]1870 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. of Jessup Township, Zebulon and Sarah Ann (Sherman) Blakeslee were married and living next door in the  formerly “unoccupied” dwelling — and Zebulon was working as a “day hand,” possibly on his father-in-law Abel’s farm.

The year 1870 is also when my possible cousins-in-law appeared. For Sarah’s brother Charles Sherman had married and started a family — and by 1880 his family had grown. (See Table 2.)

Table 2. U.S. Census Enumerations for Charles Sherman – Source: FamilySearch
Year Location Head Wife Children
1870[4]ibid. Bridgewater, Susquehanna, Penna. Charles Sherman, 33, Born in PA, Works on Farm Hannah, 19, Born in PA, Keeping House Son Fredrick, 2, born in PA
1880[5]1880 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. Jessup, Susquehanna, Penna. Charles Sherman, 43, Born in PA, Farm Labor Hannah, 29, Born in NY, Keeping House Son Fred, 11, and Dau. Gerty, 9. Both at school & born in PA

More to learn about the Sherman in-laws

Sarah Ann’s brother Jim Sherman, however, has been more elusive. In 1870, there was a Jesse Sherman, 35, with his presumed wife Ellen, 22, and children Emily, 4, and Lucy, 2, living in Abel and Louisa Sherman’s household[6]ibid., 1870 U.S. census.. Was “Jesse” actually Sarah’s younger brother Jim, just enumerated with a different name — which could mean more possible cousins-in-law?
Eastern Branch of Wyalusing Creek, Susquehanna County, Penna. Photo:

The 1860-1880 U.S. censuses for Jessup and neighboring townships show a number of other Shermans living in the vicinity of Abel’s farm — but it’s unclear how they were related to Sarah Ann or her family.

Since the Shermans are the newest additions to my family tree, I haven’t  had time yet to do much research on them.

Suffice to say there is more to learn about the family that gave my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee a new late-in-life start after his 1866 divorce — and hopefully I will find out more about them through future research.

Up next: A one-stop summary of my Blakeslee ancestors’ story. After that, a new series focusing on my Blakeslee ancestors’ divorce. (Yes, I have located the records!) Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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1 1860 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
3 1870 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
4 ibid.
5 1880 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
6 ibid., 1870 U.S. census.

12 thoughts on “Ancestors-in-Law: The Shermans of Susquehanna County, Penna.”

  1. I love that you have explored these “ancestors-in-law”! So often we ignore collateral branches, but they can reveal so much about our ancestors’ lives, or just provide an interesting case study. The farm looks beautiful too — but I imagine their life was not easy back in those days!

    1. So true. Our ancestors often lived among extended families who were part of their daily lives, so it ‘s important to give those collateral relatives their due. Thanks for visiting!

    1. I passed similar Pennsylvania farms during my Montrose, Penna. research trip and kept thinking of my ancestors’ rural lives — so different from my own. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Such a beautiful farm setting. I’ve enjoyed looking at the aunts and uncles of my own ancestors…and how they had such interesting lives (compared to my own direct line most of the time!)

    1. I also find that the collateral relatives often have more interesting stories. The Blakeslees’ 1866 divorce is the first out-of-the-ordinary (for the times) occurrence on my direct line.

  3. Following your series inspired me to extend my research on my subjects beyond immediate familes. It really opened up new interesting stories on marriage and divorce that I might otherwise have overlooked. Not to give anything away, but I took a guess about how entertainment people might meet a spouse and I was amazed that I was proven right three times with three different couples. To find that treasure you just need to keep digging deeper!

    1. I am really enjoying your new series! I find you can go much more in depth with a series without expecting readers to absorb too much at one time. Television has accustomed us to material presented serially so it’s a natural transition to blog that way, too. And as you say, a series allows you to go much deeper with the research — which is where the buried treasure lies 🙂

  4. It will be interesting to see if there might be a clue as to why they divorced as divorce was rather unusual in those days.

    1. That is my hope! While divorce was rare in the 1800s, it did have a slight uptick as the century progressed. So my third great-grandparents were not alone in dissolving their marriage, but they were certainly ahead of their time.

    1. Yes, finding this nineteenth century divorce was quite a surprise and will be interesting to learn from and write about. Look forward to your comments as the story unfolds!

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