The Blanchard Family of Orange, NJ: From Slavery to Freedom

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I dedicate this post to all my Blanchard cousins..To those whom I have already met and to those whom I will hopefully meet in the future. I want to especially single out my 98 year old 2nd cousin 2XR, Helen Blanchard Hamilton, who is still shining brightly for all to see.

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My Blanchard Ancestors/Relatives (From right to left: Essau and Daisy Blanchard Hamilton, Sarah Blanchard, Edward Blanchard, Mary Catherine Hicks Blanchard, Gladys Blanchard Hammond, and Helen Blanchard Hamilton)
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My Cousin Helen Blanchard Hamilton reading my blog.

My third great grandparents, Cato Thompson and Susan Pickett Thompson had three daughters (Laura, my 2nd great-grandmother, Catherine and Mary) and three sons (Richard, Thomas and Jacob). My family affiliation with the Blanchards is via their daughters, Catherine (1842-1891) and Mary (1849-?), who married two Blanchard brothers, George (1844-?) and William (1845-?). Catherine and George were the parents of 5 sons: Edward , George, William, James and Frederic. Mary and William were the parents of 11 children: William, Thomas George, Katie, Sarah Elizabeth, Susan, Daisy, Walter, Christina, Eugene, Carrie, and John Franklin. Some of the surnames linked to the Blanchards include Hamilton, Hammond, Remson, Baldwin, Hicks, Dorsey, Van Duyne, Roberts, Mickson, Smith, Lynn, DeGroat, Thompson, Green/e, among others

Over a year ago, I started to research the Blanchard line in earnest. I wanted to know where they came from and how two sisters ended up marrying two brothers. We know from census records that the Blanchard brothers were from Orange, NJ and worked as teamsters. What more could I find out? A lot more it turned out….a whole lot more.

George and William were two of 5 children— in addition to Charles, Jr., Elizabeth, and Louisa– born to Charles Blanchard, Sr. (about 1792-1872) and Sarah Berry (1794-1879). Charles was born a slave in NJ sometime around 1792 and it can be assumed that Sarah was born a slave as well.

Charles was born before NJ’s 1804 Gradual Emancipation law which meant he was a slave for life. If he had been born after 7/4/1804, he would have had to serve his master for a term of only 25 years as stipulated in this new law. I didn’t know how long he was a slave until I came across his manumission record at the Newark Public Library. He was manumitted on April 1, 1824. He spent 32 years a slave which qualifies as a lifetime for many. His last slave owner was a John Harrison, of Orange, NJ who was a descendant of the Harrison Family  who founded the Oranges in New Jersey.

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Manumission Record for Charles Blanchard

Three years after Charles was manumitted, he married Sarah Berry in the First Presbyterian Church in Orange, NJ and they went on to have five children and live their lives as free Blacks.

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Marriage Record of Charles Blanchard to Sarah Berry, January 7th,1827

Charles became a paid laborer and worked in various stables in and around Orange, NJ. He was also a property owner. On Ancestry.com, Charles’s NJ Death Record occupation states that “He was Born a Slave”. But, we all know that he was so much more than the circumstances of his birth. Regarding Sarah, we have no idea when she became free or who her parents were.

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Charles Blanchard’s Death Record

Going further back, we find out that Charles’s father was Robert Blanchard (1765-1865?). In the 1860 census , we see Robert, age 95,  living with his son Charles, age 68, and his family. None of the prior census records indicate who Charles’ mother was.

Regarding lost names due to slavery, if I find out the names of our unknown ancestors, I will call their names out loud and clear. You can bet they will be nameless no more. We owe it to our ancestors to remember there names whenever possible.

I was able to find a lot of information about our Robert Blanchard. For the most part, what I learned about Robert and his wife Dinah was due to the fact that their slave owners were from quite prominent families in both NJ and in NYC. At the NY Historical Society Library, I was able to find five critical documents that mentioned Robert and Dinah. These documents provide us with a view of slavery as it affected The Blanchard family.

The first document is a bill of sale for Dinah when she was 13 years old. She was sold for 20 pounds and 10 shillings. Her slave owner was Robert Whiting whose family was one of the founding families of Hartford, CT. Whiting sold her to John Ramage  (1748-1802),  an Irish Loyalist, who become the first artist to paint a portrait of President George Washington in 1786.

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Dinah’s bill of sale to John Ramage on July 26, 1792

In 1793, Dinah was sold again at the age of 15 years old for 30 pounds. Ramage sold her to Catherine Bradford (1742-1822).

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Dinah’s bill of sale to Catherine Bradford on November 23, 1793

Catherine was the widow of Cornelius Bradford (1729-1787). The Bradfords were the proprietors of the Merchant Coffee House, a very interesting, intriguing place to say the least. In addition to serving coffee, the Merchant Coffee House was the meeting place for merchants, shipbuilders, captains of vessels as well as various organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Bank of New York, Free and Accepted Masons, Knights of Corsica, Whig Society, Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, Society of New York Hospital , etc. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, it was a gathering place for Patriot sympathizers in NYC and during the British occupation of the city, the British auctioned off captured American vessels. The coffee house was the place to be until 1804 when it was destroyed by a fire.

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The Merchant Coffee House

In 1794, Catherine Bradford retired from the Merchant Coffee House and moved to Cortland, NY.  We are not certain what happened exactly, but Dinah ended up back with Catherine Ramage as her slave. Was Dinah’s sale to Catherine Bradford a conditional one with a set term? We have no idea.

In 1801, there is a document that mentions Robert Blanchard being the slave of John Blanchard of Morris County, NJ. John Blanchard was writing to Catherine Ramage giving permission for his “boy” Robert to marry Dinah. By the way, his “boy” Robert was 36 years old and Dinah was 22 years old.

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John Blanchard’s permission for Robert and Dinah to marry in 1801

This would be the first “legal” marriage for Robert. However, we do know he had other children, like Charles, prior to his marriage to Dinah. In addition, we now know that Robert and Dinah re-wed in 1819 as their marriage was officially recorded in the Essex County, NJ Marriage Records.

The years between 1801-1814 are somewhat of a mystery regarding Robert. At some point, he became free. His slave owner, John Blanchard died in 1811 in Chatham, NJ, however, Robert is not listed as being freed in John Blanchard’s will.

John Blanchard's Will
John Blanchard’s Will

All we know is that, by 1814, Robert  is already paying taxes in Orange, NJ as a free Black. We don’t know how he became free, but he he did and he made enough money to be able to pay taxes.

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Sometime during this period, Robert also  became a stagecoach man. He was a contemporary of my own 4th great-grandfather, Thomas Thompson, another  Black stagecoach man. It is more than likely this is how The Blanchards met The Thompsons and ultimately how their grandchildren ended up marrying each other. The world of free Blacks in NJ was a very small one indeed.

The 4th document that was found pertained to the conditional sale of Dinah and Robert’s son, Robert, Jr. In 1813, Robert, Jr.  was sold to an Ephraim Sayre by Catherine Ramage for a term of up to 18 years. In the bill of sale, she indicates that one quarter of Robert, Jr.’s day be spent on his education as well as him learning a trade.

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Robert Blanchard, Jr.’s Conditional Bill of Sale to Ephraim Sayre in 1813

This document doesn’t mention how old Robert, Jr. was, but if he was born after 7/4/1804, he had to serve 25 years as a slave before being granted his freedom. While Robert was free, it is clear that Dinah was still a slave, as were their children. We don’t know what ever happened to Robert, Jr.

Reading these four documents made my heart heavy. Sometimes when I do family research, I can’t help but to put myself in the shoes of my ancestors so to speak. What was it like being sold as a human being, to see your children taken from you, to have no control of your body, to have no control over your personal freedom, etc. Sometimes I wonder how they got over… Just when my heart was at it’s heaviest, I read the 5th document.

SAY AMEN SOMEBODY!!!

The 5th document was another bill of sale dated 1815 written by Catherine Ramage to ROBERT BLANCHARD! Robert ended up purchasing his wife Dinah’s freedom along with  their three youngest children Cyrus, Jep and Hannah for $125 dollars (i.e., $31.25/person)!

$125 sale
Robert Blanchard’s purchase of his wife Dinah and their three youngest children in 1815

You cannot imagine the sheer joy I felt when I read this document. I can’t lie. I was doing my happy dance all over the NY Historical Society Library. Many tears of JOY were released just knowing that, in spite of the degradation of slavery, Robert Blanchard found a way to buy his family out of slavery. Not only that, but years later he was able to reunite with his other children who had either been gradually emancipated or manumitted at some point. Robert did what he had to do to keep his family together to survive slavery, freedom and beyond.

About the Blanchard Surname

Robert Blanchard’s last slave owner was Captain John Blanchard (1730-1811) who was born in Elizabethtown, NJ in 1730 and died in Chatham, NJ in 1811. Captain John Blanchard was an American Patriot during the Revolutionary War. He was married to Joanna Hatfield (1735-1786). His father was Jean “John” Blanchard, a lawyer, who was born in New York in 1699 and died in Elizabethtown, NJ in 1747. The first John Blanchard was Jean “John” Blanchart/Blanchard who was born 1655 in St. Michel, Rouen, Normandy, France and died in Elizabethtown, NJ in 1730. It is this French immigrant from which the Blanchard surname originates.

8 thoughts on “The Blanchard Family of Orange, NJ: From Slavery to Freedom

  1. Girl Yes! luved how u put this together and was amazed that one of the records, called Robert Negro Blanchard, was that really his name or a Typo, because at least u knew he was your kin by that error if it was one. Keep them coming take note .

    1. Through 23 and Me, I am identified as a cousin to Helen Hamilton. All this information is terrific! I’ve sent a note to her through 23 and Me.

  2. I am excited to find out this information about the Blanchard family, whom I am proud to be related to. Charles Blanchard and Martha DeGroat are my 4X Great Grandparents. I would love to know more about this part of my family. Thank you Cousin for your research.

  3. My grand mother was a Blanchard,before she married a Ferrell, I have been seaching my Mamas (GRANDMA) FAMILY,your story caught my attention, because my grandmother mother”s name was Carrie Blanchard, who die in Kingstree S.C. On or near a railroad track. My grandma went on to Marrier David Ferrell from Florence S.C they had two kids, Barbara Lee Ferrell And Charles Lee Ferrell, My grandma had an older son name Brain Blanchard my gM was born i believe 1903

    1. Tehelia-Yes, Carrie Blanchard is our ancestor. The Blanchards of the Oranges Going way back are definitely ours. Please contact me via my email,address so we can confirm your link officially! This is awesome!

  4. Teresa,

    Amazing work! My name is Monique Amador Perzel, I am the daughter to Greg Scott. My mother met Greg when he was stationed in Texas in 1969., he then got stationed out before it was confirmed she was pregnant. Last year I ran my DNA results, it was actually to start my mothers family tree assuming I would never find my father. On Thanksgiving last year I noted my results of a 1st cousin and that lead me to my father in 30 minutes! My mother side is hispanic and my father side being African Decent.

    Now that I have found him, I have been trying to help them on their family tree. His mother passed in 2014. Her name was Mary Ella Thomas, her parents were Marguerite Francis (Orange NJ) and Aaron Thomas (VA). They had 5 children all from the Orange NJ area. Marguerite Francis mother was Mamie (Marie/Maria) Duffy (She married Mr. Francis). Her parents where Thomas Duffy(DC)and Mary Ella(Ellen?) Blanchard from NJ. They had 4 girls, Lavina, Ethel, Edna and Mamie.

    I have been stuck trying to decide who Mary Ella Blanchards parents were. There is numerous people that share her same name and not sure who exactly her parents would be. Mary Ellen Thomas had about 15 years of diaries that I was allowed to sit down and look through and take several notes. All her children seem to not know very much but either side of their families. Most of which is because it was not really discussed. Some information was passed down, some being incorrect by my research with the notes verified by Mary Ella Thomas. She however in her notes mentioned some key names that help me get down to Blanchard. The family always said her maiden name was Mary Ella Duffy, this being untrue from the birth index I found on the girls. She also mentions that her Great Grandmother maiden name was Blanchard (she had started documenting there tree by hand). She also mentions that her Grandmothers family was also the Hammonds. She only mentions Hammonds but does not show exactly who she is referring to in NJ. She also had several memorial cards. I found one for Theodore Blanchard she had with all her pictures, past away in 1990.

    Mamie Francis daughter is the only child she had. Her daughter is also half white. I am hoping that maybe one of the Blanchard Family members may read my comments and it may jog their memory of the story. The story goes that Mamie married a much older man in 1907 by the name of Luis/Lou/Lewis Francis he was about 58 at the time and she was around 28. They lived above a Bank or a Courthouse. A man by the name of Judge Raymond of Irish decent (based on Mary Ella Thomas notes). States Mr. Francis and Mamie gave him a room to board in since they were close to the courthouse. Mamie became pregnant and Marguerite Francis was born. It seems she left Mr. Francis shortly after, I have not found any divorce records as of yet. We know that she married some time later a Japanese man (which I can not also find their marriage records). and they moved to NY. Really I have found very little information on the Duffy girls after 1940. The issue being multiple names on Duffy and none of the family members seemed to have kept in touch after starting their own families and moving to NY (The Thomas family). This has made it difficult for me as even Mary Ella Thomas marriage to her first husband (my fathers father) has lead me to a dead end, because none of the kids can remember much past what they were told before their father left them at a young age.

    So I am hoping you can email/call me and maybe you have some knowledge of Mary Ella Blanchard. I would have assumed since she shows to be born around 1840’s that her parents would have had to be born in 1820’s. I am also on Ancestry.com and my family tree is under AMADOR. Start with Monique Amador and go under my fathers side. I found your information from Hughes family member from CA. Who reached out to me.

    Anyone else who reads this and may have some information that may also help me please feel free to reach me at moniqueperzel@yahoo.com or monique.amador@yahoo.com.

    Thank you for the information in your Blog, it has inspired me to continue my research and hope to plan a trip to NJ to gather additional information I am still seeking.

    1. Hello, cousin! I will reach out toyou today. Sorry for the delay. All the anmes you have mention are our our Blanchard side. My 2nd great-grandmother, had 2 sisters. One hsister, Catherine Thompson, married a Blanchard who was a distant cousin. Welcome to the fami;y!

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