Tag Archives: Sarah Ann Blakeslee

1867: Zebulon Blakeslee’s second marriage

Sepia Saturday 479: Eighth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

My discovery of the 1860 separation and subsequent divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee prompted a recent genealogy road trip to Montrose, Penna. in search of details and documentation.

I was not able to obtain their divorce decree on that trip — but I was successful in learning about Zebulon’s later life, including details of his second marriage.

A midlife second marriage. Nine months after his divorce from my ggg grandmother Hannah, my ggg grandfather Zebulon, 56, married a second time. Was his desire to remarry the impetus to file for divorce?  Photo: annca/Pixabay

Notice of a marriage

From his federal census returns, I knew that Zebulon married a woman named Sarah Ann after his divorce from Hannah. But what was her maiden name, when did they wed and exactly where did they live?

Happily, my visit to the Susquehanna County Historical Society in Montrose provided answers! Because that’s where I found the newspaper announcement of Zebulon and Sarah Ann’s wedding (below) from the 7 June 1867 issue of the Montrose Democrat.

Montrose Democrat (7 Jun 1867): Announcement of the second marriage of my divorced 3rd great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee to Sarah Sherman in Jessup Township, Susquehanna County, Penna. Scan by Molly Charboneau

This brief announcement yielded a wealth of family history information:

  • Exact wedding date: 27 May 1867
  • Bride’s maiden name: Sarah Sherman
  • Bride’s father’s name: Abel Sherman
  • Wedding location and place of residence: Jessup Township in Susquehanna Co., Penna.
  • A civil ceremony: They were married by D. Hoff, Esq.
  • Calculated ages [based on the 1870 federal census]: Zebulon, 56; Sarah Ann, 45; Abel Sherman, 68.

Details tell a tale

When and how Zebulon met his second wife is still unclear. But the fact that he initiated the divorce from Hannah (finalized circa 28 Aug 1866) — and married Sarah Ann nine months later (27 May 1867) — implies that his desire to remarry may have prompted his divorce petition.

By the time of his second marriage, Zebulon had relocated within Susquehanna County. He left Brookdale (in Liberty Township) and moved to Jessup (a township southwest of Liberty) — putting some distance between himself and his past life.

Learning the name of his new father-in-law, Abel Sherman, helped pinpoint exactly where Zebulon might have lived in Jessup (see map below).

Map of Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna. (1858). Click map to enlarge. The farm of Abel Sherman is highlighted at the township’s northern border.  In May 1867 — nine months after his divorce — my ggg grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee, 56, married Abel’s daughter Sarah Ann Sherman, 49, and moved in next door. Map: ancestortracks.com

Abel Sherman: A longtime Jessup resident

Abel Sherman appears in one source as an 1827 taxpayer in Susquehanna County’s Bridgewater Township, east of Jessup.

But by 1847 he was on a roster of Jessup Township taxpayers, in 1858 he was named on the Jessup map above, in 1866 he hosted his daughter’s Jessup wedding ceremony, and in 18601and 18702he was enumerated as a farmer, with his wife Louisa, in the Jessup federal censuses.

I took a careful look at Abel’s 1870 federal census enumeration, and what do you know: Zebulon and Sarah Ann lived right next door to her father! Zebulon’s 1870 occupation was “Day Hand.” So I wonder: Did he work in that capacity on Abel Sherman’s farm? Was that how Zebulon met Sarah Ann?

A civil ceremony

Also of interest is that D. Hoff, Esq. presided at Zebulon and Sarah Ann’s wedding — apparently a civil ceremony. Zebulon’s daughters Rhoda and Mary (my great-grandmother) were both married by Presbyterian ministers — so that might have been Zebulon’s denomination. But since he was divorced, maybe a church wedding wasn’t possible for him the second time around.

Nevertheless, it appears that Zebulon and Sarah Ann (Sherman) Blakeslee made a go of their midlife marriage — remaining together until Zebulon’s death.

And although they did not have children together, I may still have some of cousins-in-law out there — descendants of Sarah Ann’s younger brother Charles Sherman and his wife Hannah.3

Up next: Zebulon Blakeslee’s final years. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Genealogy road trip yields Blakeslee breakthroughs in Montrose, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 478: Seventh in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

Genealogy road trips were a regular part of my recipe for success when I first began compiling my family’s history. Few records were digitized then, and it was fun to visit locales where my ancestors lived — especially when my parents came along.

Later, as more records went online, it became easy to research from home — and even easier to forget just how many valuable non-digitized records (most, actually) still exist in repositories all over.

Susquehanna County Courthouse in Montrose, Penna. (2019) The Historical  Records room houses early court, divorce, land and tax records that yielded new information about my Blakeslee and Hance ancestors. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When I recently discovered the 1860 separation and 1866 divorce of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, I realized online research would not be enough to fill in all the gaps.

So I decided it was time for new genealogy road trip to the Susquehanna County seat in Montrose, Penna. — where I went earlier this month to see what I could find.

Overall, I was not disappointed!

Alas, no divorce record, but…

Montrose is a lovely town with a verdant park, Monument Square, situated between the county courthouse and the Susquehanna County Historical Society (SCHS) — my two research destinations.

Historical Records room, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, Penna. (2019) Bound volumes of indexes and records line the shelves of the Historical  Records room, which is open to family history researchers. Photo by Molly Charboneau

At the courthouse, the Prothonotary escorted me to the Historical Records room on the second floor — the home of early divorce, court, land and tax indexes and records.

I had hoped to obtain a copy of my Blakeslee ancestors’ 1866 divorce decree to shed light on that event.

Alas, my search was thwarted because there was no court index for 1866 and divorces were not indexed before the 1870s.

But happily other years were cataloged.

Court, land and tax record success!

So I decided to see what else I could find about my Blakeslee ancestors. With the help of staff, I looked at old tax records, court proceedings and land transactions — and found my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee in all three!

In the tax rolls we also found some of my third great-grandmother Hannah’s family, the Hances — an unexpected bonus! Since tax records are digitized on the courthouse computer system, the Historical Records staff printed those out for me.

The old court records were in bound volumes, which I photographed with my tablet — more gentle on the folio-sized record books than attempting to photocopy them.

And when I provided the book, page and year from a deed index, the Register & Recorder staff was able to immediately print the 1827 deed for a land purchase in Lawsville, Penna., by Zebulon Blakeslee from David Fish — also digitized in the courthouse computer system.

Card files and newspapers

Next I crossed the square to the Susquehanna County Historical Society, which recently reopened for research after expanding into the entire old library building. The renovated facility is a researcher’s dream!

Susquehanna County Historical Society, Montrose, Penna. (2019) The SCHS recently reopened for research after expanding into the entire old library building. The renovated facility is a researcher’s dream! Photo by Molly Charboneau

There are card files by surname (for marriages, deaths and “odd” information from local papers/publications), compiled family histories, county histories, a huge book collection — and full sets of microfilm for the Montrose Democrat and other local newspapers.

How pleasant to work in the sunny, welcoming central research room — and to peruse books and photo displays in several side rooms.

As soon as I indicated that Blakeslee and Hance were my families of interest, staff brought out the appropriate binders/files and pointed me to pertinent books and county/biographic histories. For the usual per-page photocopy fee, I was able to photograph the records I needed with my tablet.

Blakeslee breakthroughs

A careful look at the card files yielded my latest Blakeslee breakthroughs — finally finding the date and place of death of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee and learning the maiden name of his second wife, Sarah Ann, from their marriage announcement!

Main research room of the Susquehanna County Historical Society, Montrose, Penna. (2019) Card files organized by surname contain excerpts of marriages, deaths and “odd” information from local newspapers and other publications, which can then be printed from SCHS microfilm holdings. Photo by Molly Charboneau

The notices of both events were available from microfilmed issues of the Montrose Democrat (covering time periods that I have not found online) — and SCHS staff quickly retrieved and printed copies for me.

Altogether, I spent about four hours in Montrose on a beautiful summer day — time well spent for the records I was able to retrieve!

And the journey renewed my belief that — even in the digital age — genealogy road trips should be part of every family history researcher’s recipe for success.

More on the Blakeslee breakthroughs from this genealogy road trip in the next post.  Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Epilogue: Life moves on for the Blakeslee divorcees

Sepia Saturday 476: Fifth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

Research into why my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were living separately during the 1860 U.S. census turned up the startling news that they divorced in 1866!

Quite an unexpected solution to this summertime mystery — and one that deserves an epilogue. For the Blakeslees’ marriage did not end in a vacuum, and they went on to very different lives after they parted.

Divorce the lesser evil (1900). The lock reads: Unhappy marriage. The sword says : Divorce law. Original caption: The Church – Stop this awful immorality! Justice – You are wrong! Divorce is rather an aid to morality. Statistics prove that countries where divorces are granted are more moral than countries that forbid them! Source: NYPL Digital Collections

Hannah moves out

The first hint of possible marital discord was when Hannah left Brookdale, Penna. — where she and Zebulon lived circa 1856 — and moved with her daughters and their families to Walton, Delaware Co., N.Y., where she was living in 1860. Zebulon was left behind.

Was Zebulon impossible to live with? Had economic hardship strained the marriage? Did she object to his owning a tavern in Binghamton, N.Y. circa 1859? The records are silent on Hannah’s motivation — but it was enough for her to move more than 60 miles away to a place where Zebulon had not lived and was not known.

Zebulon files for divorce

Perhaps a separation and geographic remove were enough for Hannah — but apparently not for Zebulon. In the news announcement of their settled divorce case, which was filed in Pennsylvania, it says “Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee.” So he appears to have initiated the proceedings.

“What was his motivation?” I wondered. Divorce rates in the U.S. were on the upswing in the mid to late 1800s — in part because it became easier and less costly to file once the statutory waiting period had passed. But why not just live separately?

Was Zebulon worried that the Married Women’s Property Act, passed in New York and Pennsylvania in 1848, might give Hannah rights to some of their property — or to sue for divorce herself? Or was something else afoot?

Zebulon’s census entries tell a tale

So I checked Zebulon’s federal census returns for 1870 and 1880,  the years after the divorce — and that’s when I found out about his move to Jessup, Penna., and his younger second wife.

U.S. Census Enumerations for Zebulon Blakeslee. Source: FamilySearch
Year  Location Head Job Wife Job
18704 Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Zebulon Blakesley, 59, born in Conn. Day Hand Sarah Blakesley, 48, born in Penna. Keeping House
18802 Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Zebulon Blakeslee, 70, born in Conn. Shoemaker Sarah Ann Blakeslee, 57, born in Penna. Keeping House

Seems both Hannah and Zebulon wanted to get away from their previous home in Brookdale, Penna., and start over in new locations where they were not known.

In Zebulon’s case, the clearest motivation to file for divorce in 1866, at age 55, was so he would be free to marry his second wife Sarah Ann.

And Hannah? From that point on, she lived with one family member or another and characterized herself as a widow.

“Any why not?” one friend quipped when I told her story. “After the divorce, he was dead to her.”

More on Hannah’s “widowhood” in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin