Today I remember my 3x great-grandmother Elizabeth Bilyeu Workman (1808-1834). I remember Elizabeth because almost no one else does. She is a descendent of Pierre Billiou and his wife Francoise Du Bois, who emigrated to New York from French Flanders in 1661.
This is what “The Workman Family History”, a book written by Thelma C. Anderson, has to say about the connections between the Bilyeu and Workman families:
“The closeness of the Workman and Bilyeu families and the rate at which they intermarried justifies a detour to give the background of the Bilyeu family. With a similar origin, following the same patterns of movement, naming their children much the same and with the same high ideals, it was inevitable that these two families should become inseparably entwined. The name itself has gone through the same sort of metamorphosis, gradually emerging from the jumble created by scribes interpreting foreign sounds into a new language to the present forms. From the original Billiou of France it appears as Bilyou, Biljou, Bilyon, Billoo, Bellew, Ballou, Blue and others. However, the direct lines tended to standardize at the present form, Bilyeu.”
There are many intermarriages between these two families over the centuries in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois.
Elizabeth was born to Peter and Diana Blackwell Bilyeu in Overton County, Tennessee, the fourth of their 12 children.
Elizabeth married James Workman in Overton County in 1826, when she was 18 years old, and had her first child, my 2x great-grandfather James Abraham Workman, in 1827. She and James move from Overton County to Sangamon County in southern Illinois and back again during the early years of their marriage, and she had two more children before her tragically early death in 1834 at the age of 26.
I tell her story because it deserves to be told; it also is a story of continued connection between the Workman and Bilyeu families. After Elizabeth’s death, James married Elizabeth’s older sister Lydia, who helped raise her sister’s children. After Lydia died in 1850, James married again, this time to a woman named Eliza Rayburn, with whom he had four more children.
Elizabeth died in Overton County in 1834