First in a series on how I found my Civil War ancestor Arthur Bull.
The quest to find my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull began almost by accident in the early 1990s when I was living in Washington, D.C.
I was telling an out-of-town friend about my recent, exciting discovery on a trip to Montreal — the 1832 baptismal record of my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau.
“You know, you have the National Archives there in D.C.,” she said. “You could look up some of your other ancestors in the U.S. Census. The records are open after 72 years.”
Seriously? I was totally new to genealogy then. This was too good to be true!
So one night after work, I took the Metro over to the National Archives and Records Administration and stepped through a towering door into a wonderland of family history research.
In those pre-Internet days, I began by watching NARA’s video “Reeling Through History” about how to create a soundex code of my ancestors’ surnames to find them in an index, and from there in the census. Then I’d pull rolls of microfilm from endless cabinets lining the walls and load them into a reader.
The hunt for my Bull ancestors started where many searches do with the fully indexed 1880 U.S. Census — the first to show relationships to the head of household. From my dad, Norm Charboneau, I knew the maiden name of my great grandmother Eva Bull. I was thrilled when I located her family in Lyonsdale, Lewis Co., N.Y.
And there, in that hushed NARA research room, was where I first met Eva’s parents — my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull, 46, a tannery foreman, and my great, great grandmother Mary E., 41, who was keeping house. When the census taker called on 28 June 1880, they had eight children living at home — four daughters and four sons.
I wanted to learn more, and would drop by the archives on free nights to continue researching the Bulls — but to no avail. I had hit my first brick wall.
One lead from the 1880 census proved invaluable, though: Eva was their only child born in Pennsylvania. And a road trip with my dad to her adult hometown yielded the next breakthrough in finding Arthur Bull.
To be continued.
© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.