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Tracing the BLY Family


Associated Families: ETNYRE, RATHBUN (RATHBONE) and TANNER

Henry Mentor ETNYRE

This document presents the research to date establishing the ancestry of Henry Mentor ETNYRE, my Great Grandfather, with respect to the BLY, RATHBUN, and TANNER families of Colonial and Post Revolutionary New England and New York. Mentor ETNYRE was born in Ogle Co., Illinois and was a geologist who promoted mining ventures in several Western states, as well as engaged in oil exploration in Texas. He married Caroline Athalie GOETH in 1918 in Austin, Texas. The photograph above was probably taken in the early 1920s. It was later hand tinted.

Mentor ETNYRE is found in the 1900 United States Census in the household of his mother and stepfather, Lelia and Perry BURDICK (Head) in Dixon, Lee Co., Illinois. Also present in the household were Egford ETNYRE and Effie BLY (relationship to Perry listed as "sis in law"). According to this census Lelia was born in Illinois in Aug 1858; her father was born in New York; her mother in English Canada. Effie BLY, Lelia's sister was reportedly born in Sep 1873 in Illinois; her father was reported to have been born in New York; her mother in New York.1

Lelia, listed as 25 years old, is found as Lelia ETNYRE with her first husband Charles Frederick ETNYRE, age given as 30 years old, occupation given as Photographer, in Franklin Grove, Lee Co., Illinois in the 1880 United States Census. Her husband, listed as Chas. in the return, was born in Illinois. Also in the household was Egford ETNYRE, 3 years old.2

Charles Frederick ETNYRE was the 2G Grandson of Johannes EIDENEIER, a native of Palatinate, who immigrated to Philadelphia 4 Oct 1751 on the Queen of Denmark. ETNYRE is one of several variations of this name used by descendants of Johannes. Our ETNYRE line resided in Western Maryland before moving to Ogle Co., Illinois in 1838.3 A portion of Ogle Co. later became Lee Co.

Lelia is found in the household of Anna and Henry BLY as their 12 year old daughter, born in Illinois, in the 1870 United States Census of Ashton Township, Lee Co., Illinois. The birthplace of Henry BLY, 42, is given as New York; Anna BLY, 40, was born in Canada according to this Census return.4 Other children of Henry and Anna listed in this census return include Egford BLY, 16 years old, for whom Egford ETNYRE was most probably named, and Grant BLY, 3 years old, who years later wrote a letter to Mentor and his bride Caroline Athalie GOETH in Austin, Texas, inviting them to visit him in Florida, where he was living at the time.5

Henry and Anna BLYare found in the 1880 Census in Ashton Township, Lee Co., Illinois, fairly close to Charles and Lelia ETNYRE. Egford BLY (26 years old), Grant BLY (13 years old), and Effie BLY (8 years old) were in the household. Henry's father's birthplace is given as Rhode Island, while his mother's is given as Connecticut.6

Henry BLY enlisted in Company I of the 140th One Hundred Day Regiment of Illinois Volunteers on 28 Apr 1864. The Muster and Descriptive Rolls of his unit gives his birthplace as Green, New York and his age as 37.7

Henry BLY is found in the 1850 United States Census in Nashua Township, Ogle Co., Illinois married to Anna. Their surname was spelled BLIGH by the emumerator. They are living with Rebecca BISSEL. Most interestingly there was also in Nashua Township, living in a household nearby, Nancy BLIGH, 53 years old, born in Connecticut, birthplace of Henry BLY's mother according to the 1880 Census (see above). Three BLIGH children, all born in New York, were also living there: Thomas, 20 years old; Mariah M., 17 years old; and Emily A., 15 years of age. Living with Nancy were William and Julia NORRIS, 35 and 20 years of age, and born in Maine and New York, respectively.8 Based upon the data presented so far, it seems pretty likely that Nancy BLIGH was Henry BLY's mother.

An additional source increases that liklihood to a near certainty. A biography of Henry BLY was published in The History of Lee County in 1881.9 The information contributed to the biography's author most likely came from Henry BLY himself:

Henry Bly, merchant, Ashton, son of Thomas R. and Nancy BLY, was born in Chenango County, New York, June 9, 1827, where he resided until eighteen years of age; at that time he came to Light House Point, Ogle County where he was engaged in farming until 1850. In that year he went with a party of wealth-hunters to California, crossing the plains in a wagon drawn by oxen. While there he traveled through a large portion of the mining district, and encountered a great many difficulties and dangers that beset the paths of those hardy, daring men who cast their lot in the wilds of California. Was in that state fifteen months; returned by way of New York. In 1857 was elected supervisor of Ashton township, and held the office eleven years. In 1853 was elected justice of the peace, and with the exception of a few years has held the office ever since. Is a member of Odd-Fellows and Masonic orders. Was married in July 1848, to Miss Anna J. WOOD, a native of Canada.

Not only does this biography corroborate the notion that Nancy BLY (BLIGH) is Henry BLY's mother, but it gives the name of his father, as well as confirms the birthplace of Henry as Greene, Chenango Co., New York,

A BLY family genealogy, published by Jamie L. BLY on the World Wide Web,10 provides a likely candidate for the identity of Thomas R. BLY: Thomas Rathbone BLY, son of Job BLY Sr. and Olive RATHBUN. No additional information regarding this Thomas Rathbone BLY is given in this genealogy other than that he was born about 1800.

In Greene, Chenango Co., New York a Thomas BLY appears in the 1820 United States Census, 11 and a T. R. BLY in the 1830 United StatesCensus.12 The entries for household members for each of the two censuses are shown in the table below.

1820 United States Census

1830 United States Census

T. R.

Free white males under 10


Free white males under 5


Free white males 16-25


Free white males 5-10


Free white females under 10


Free white males 10-15


Free white females 26-44


Free white males 30-40


Free white females under 5


Free white females 40-50


Nancy and Thomas R. BLY appear on a list of the earliest members of the Congregational Church in Greene.13 They may have converted to Methodist Episcopal at some time since a Thomas R. BLY made a $3 subscription to that church in 1827;14 instead of cash he pledged to work for about 3 days, based on a $1 per day equivalency suggested by other entries in the subscription list.

According to a BLY family genealogy found in the BLY Family Folder at the Chenango Co. Historian's Office in Norwich, Chenango Co., New York, Thomas Rathbone BLY was born in 1793 at Voluntown, Connecticut (later New Hartford) to Job and Olive (RATHBONE) BLY. He married Nancy Bourne TANNER. This genealogy lists three children Jonathan, Benjamin, and Abigail. Thomas died, and his widow Nancy BLY moved with her father, B. TANNER, to "Stillman Valley, Oglo (sic) Co., Illinois. Abigail married Clark STILLMAN, presumably in Illinois given the name of the locality the BLYs and TANNERs moved to.15 No sources for the information in this genealogy are given.

A hand drawn chart found in the PAGE Family Folder (cross referenced to BLY Family Folder) at the Local History Room in the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich shows Thomas Rathbone BLY, born in 1793 in Connecticut, marrying Nancy Brown TANNER (1797-1860, died in Illinois). Only one child of this marriage is given by this chart: Isaac, born in 1822 in Greene.16

The date of Thomas Rathbone BLY's death is not yet known, but it must have occurred in 1845 or before according to Henry BLY's biography cited above. He could not have died earlier than 1834 since his youngest child we know of, Emily A., was born in 1835. Reading between the lines of the BLY Genealogy found in the Chenango Co. Historian's Office, the impression is given that Nancy, her children, and her father B. TANNER moved to Illinois soon after Thomas' death.17 Nancy BLY also sold land to Benjamin HORTON in 1845 as evidenced by a deed recorded in the Chenango County Clerk's Office.18

Nancy and Thomas BLY could have married as late as 1818; no marriage record has yet been found. They had two children by the time of the 1820 United States Census as noted above. Exactly the correct number of children of the correct sex are known to account for the entries in the 1830 United States Census. One discrepancy between the 1820 and 1830 Census entries for the BLY family is that in 1820 the only female child listed is one female under 10 years of age, and in 1830 the only female child listed is under 5 years of age. We only know of a single female child born to this couple prior to 1830, Abigail.19 There are numerous possibilities to explain this discrepancy. The most likely is that Abigail was born after 1820 and the female under 10 prior to 1820 died.

We know birth years for Issac, Henry, and all the children known to be younger than Henry, but we do not have birth information for Jonathan, Benjamin, and Abigail. The dates we have are given in the family group sheet appended to this document. We do not know who the NORRIS couple is that is found living with Nancy BLIGH in 1850, or who Rebbeca BISSEL, the woman living with Henry and Anna BLY in 1850 is.

One other curious thing to note is the age of Nancy as given in each Census we have found her so far. The 1850 Census suggests a birthyear of ~1797; the 1830 Census, barring a transcription of enumeration error, gives a range for birthyear of from 1780 to 1790; the 1820 Census gives a range of possible birthyears between 1776 and 1794. Nancy is in 1820 and 1830, reported to be older than is her husband Thomas R, inconsistent with the majority of genealogical sources which give birthdates of 1793 for Thomas R. and 1797 for Nancy.

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1 1900 United States Census, Dixon, Lee Co., Illinois, Enumeration District 59, Sheet 23, line 28, Family 444. Return to Text

2 1880 United States Census, Franklin Grove, Lee Co., Illinois. Return to text

3 Etnier - Etnire - Etnyre - Itneyer - Itnyer - Itnyre; Descendants of Johannes Eideneier - Eidinor (Ide-ee-neer): Information compiled and collected by: Oliver L. Etnier 1925-1928. Privately published, Return to text

4 1870 United States Census, Ashton Township, Lee Co., Illinois, Family 145. Return to text

5 This letter is in 1998 in the possession of Yvonne Patricia Ramage, a grandaughter of Mentor Etnyre. Return to text

6 1880 United States Census, Ashton Village, Lee Co., Illinois. Return to text

7 Muster and Descriptive Roll of Company I of the One Hundred and Fortieth One Hundred-Day Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, Illinois State Archives. Uncertified photocopy obtained 9 Feb 1998 and in possession of David Lewis Ramage a greatgrandson of Mentor Etnyre. Return to text

8 1850 United Staes Census, Nashua Township, Ogle Co., Illinois. Return to text

9 in History of Lee County, Chicago: H.H. Hill and Company, Publishers,1881, pp 848-849. Return to text

10 Jamie L. Bly, Home Page of the Family BLY, viewed 12 Sep 1998 by David Lewis Ramage, Return to text

11 1820 United States Census, Greene, Chenango Co., New York. Return to text

12 1830 United States Census, Greene, Chenango Co., New York, as cited by: Mildred English Cochrane, From Raft to Railroad, A History of the Town of Greene, 1792-1867, Ithaca, NY: Cayuga Press, 1967. p 247. Return to text

13 Mildred English Cochrane, From Raft to Railroad, A History of the Town of Greene, 1792-1867, Ithaca, NY: Cayuga Press, 1967. p 76. Return to text

14 ibid, p 82. Return to text

15 The Bly Genealogy, author unknown, found in BLY Family File in the Chenango County Historian's Office, Norwich, Chenango Co., New York, 2 Nov 1998. Copy in possession of David L. Ramage. Return to text

16 Hand drawn chart of Descendants of Benjamin and Johanna BLY, Becky Raymond, HCR, Box 229, Deposit, NY 13754, found in PAGE Family File in Local History Room, Guernsey Memorial Library, Norwich, Chenango Co., New York. Return to text

17 See reference 15 above: "When Thomas died, Nancy's father, B. Tanner brought up the children and went to Stillman Valley, Oglo Co., Illinois." Return to text

18 Chenango Co., New York Deed Book 71, p 7. Viewed 2 Nov 1998 at the County Clerk's Office, Norwich, Chenango Co., New York by David L. Ramage. Return to text

19 See reference 15 above. Return to text