Category Archives: Tamkins

Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins: The 1865 sandwich generation

Second in a series on my ancestor Arthur Bull’s parents and siblings at the end of the US Civil War (1865).

Locating early records pertaining to female ancestors is seldom easy. But those I have found on Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins — my ancestor Arthur Bull’s younger sister — reveal a young woman with many responsibilities during the Civil War era.

From a book of calisthenics for women (1864). Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins might have have needed these to keep in shape for her many duties: caring for two toddlers and her aging parents, and running a farm while her husband served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. By: Internet Archive Book Images
Illustration from a book of calisthenics (1864). Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins might have have needed these exercises to keep in shape for her many duties: caring for two toddlers and her aging parents, and running a farm while her husband served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. By: Internet Archive Book Images

The dutiful daughter

In the 1855 New York State census, Mary, 15, was enumerated as M. E. Bull in the household of her parents — Jeremiah and Mary Bull of Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. Her brothers Arthur and Milo were also still living at home.

Five years later — according to 1860 US Census returns — brothers NorrisArthur and Milo had moved away for work and started their own families. Yet Mary E., 20, was still living at home with her parents in Conklin — about 13 miles southeast of Binghamton, N.Y.

Mary’s father — my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull — was 57 and required the assistance of a live-in farm hand, who was enumerated in their household. So Mary was probably tasked with whatever housekeeping duties her mother, 51, could not handle.

Mary marries the local butcher

The following year, however, Mary’s life took a new direction as she began a family of her own. According my notes from a Philadelphia Free Library research trip (later supported by a newspaper abstract), she married Edward C. Tamkins, a local butcher and farmer who was born in Dutchess County, N.Y., on 4 May 1861 in Great Bend, Susquehanna Co., Pa. — just across the border from Conklin, N.Y.

By the time the New York State census taker called on 8 June 1865, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins, 24, and husband Edward, 25, had two children — Carrie, 3, and Norris, 21 months. Also living in their Conklin household were Mary’s parents –Jeremiah, 62, and Mary, 56 — neither of whom had an occupation listed.

So Mary was an early example of the “sandwich generation” — minding two toddlers while also keeping house for her aging parents. Nor were these the only responsibilities she shouldered.

A Union soldier’s wife

On 30 August 1864, Mary’s husband Edward C. Tamkins was called to war — serving in the Union Army as 1st Sergeant in Co. L of the 137th Regiment, New York Infantry. According to information from his N.Y. Civil War Muster Roll Abstract, Edward’s fighting unit took part in Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia — and he was hospitalized in January 1865 in Savannah.

This meant Mary had the added duties of a Civil War wife — taking care of the farm while her husband was away at war and worrying about what might become of him in the heat of battle. She likely relied on Edward’s town and county military bounties totaling $900 (about $13,500 today) to keep the household going.

Fortunately, Edward survived the war and was mustered out with his unit on 9 June 1865 at Bladensburg, Maryland — a couple months before my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull, who mustered out in August.  One can imagine Mary’s relief to have both her husband and brother return safely at the end of the US Civil War.

Still, I can’t help but wonder: Was she entirely pleased to have her husband take up part of the workload she’d been handling alone? Or was she a bit wistful about giving up some of the independent decision making she engaged in during his absence?

There will be more on Mary in future posts. For now we turn to  Arthur’s oldest brother Norris C. Bull  to see where he lived and worked in 1865.

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Tanners in my family tree

While hunting for the birth place of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull I discovered that, not only do I have Catskill Mountains heritage — but I also have at least two generations of tanners in my family tree.

My ancestor Arthur Bull with his family of origin in the 1855 NYS Census for Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y.
My ancestor Arthur Bull with his family of origin in the 1855 NYS Census for Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. (listed as A.T. Bull on line 13). The Bulls had been in Conklin only a year, and Arthur, his father Jeremiah and brother Milo were all tanners — a common occupation in the Catskills area where they likely resided until at least 1840. Screen shot by Molly Charboneau

How do I know this? From the general evidence provided by the Bull family’s enumeration in the 1855 New York State Census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — which helps elucidate Arthur’s early life.

First, the census entry indicates that Arthur, his parents and siblings were relatively new arrivals to Conklin that year — judging by the number 1 appearing in the column “Years resided in this city or town.”

Next, all the Bulls are listed with Schoharie or Greene County birthplaces, including the  youngest child M. E. [Mary Elizabeth] Bull, 15, who was born in Greene County, N.Y. This information appears to place the family in the vicinity of the Catskills until at least 1840.

Finally, in the column for “Profession, trade or occupation,” Arthur, his father Jeremiah, and his brother Milo were all listed as “Tanner” — a common leather-producing job in the Catskill Mountains area of New York State since the early 1800s.

Alas, the census taker did not put the usual occupation of “keeping house” beside the entry for my great, great grandmother Mary — Jeremiah’s wife and Arthur’s mother.

But for now we can assume that was how she was occupied on a daily basis — and that some time after 1840 she rose to the challenge of relocating her family from Greene County to Broome County, N.Y., with all of the logistics such a move entailed.

So my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull likely spent his childhood and adolescence in the vicinity of his birthplace (in either Greene or Schoharie counties) — eventually becoming a leather tanner like his father as he reached young adulthood. Then, when he was around 20 years old — about a year before this census was taken — he relocated with his family of origin to New York’s Southern Tier.

What an amazing amount of family history information from just one historic document!

Knowing I have tanners in my family tree raises new questions: How was leather production done in the mid nineteenth century? Was it a robust industry, or one with booms and busts that forced families to move? Were there occupational hazards that may have affected Arthur’s war-related health issues when he went back to this work after his Union Army service during the U.S. Civil War?

The search for answers continues with the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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.

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