Sunday, February 16, 2014
Clues in Land Records
I've been tracking my Wiggins ancestors for the past few weeks, and I've turned up some interesting facts. I never did get to Lyons, NY to visit the Wayne county historian last week, two feet of snow has a way of rendering my driveway impassable, but Tuesday is the new target date. To console myself I've been digging into the New York land records 1630-1975, available at Family Search.org.
The first Wiggins transaction I found was in 1824 when a Richard Wiggins and his wife Freelove, of New York City, sold 50 acres of land in Wolcott, Wayne County, NY to Joseph Rumsey. Two years later in 1826 the same Richard and Freelove sold an additional 50 acres, right next to Mr. Rumsey's lot, to Thomas Wiggins also of New York City. Another two years passed, and in 1828 I found Richard selling yet another 50 acres to William Wiggins, again next door to Mr. Rumsey.
In 1837, Richard and Freelove, (great name huh?), sold an additional 50 acres in Wolcott to Thomas Wiggins of New York City. I'm not sure why anyone in New York City would be interested in, or even aware of land for sale in the backwater that Wolcott, New York was in the early 1800's, or for that matter, still is. It's part of the old military tract reserved for Revolutionary War veterans, but I can find no trace of a transfer under that statute to any Wiggins. Furthermore, I have found evidence that while the New York Wiggins family did not give aid to the British during that altercation, they did not entirely approve of or participate in the war.
I'm sure the William Wiggins who purchased land in 1828 was my 4th great grandfather, born in approximately 1786 in New York State. So who were Thomas and Richard? Quite possibly they were all brothers--in the deed book for 1839 I came across an intriguing document, not a deed at all, but a power of attorney. Thomas Wiggins of New York City made William Wiggins of Wolcott his "true and lawful attorney", in regards to his business dealings in Wayne County. He wouldn't have given that position of trust to just anyone, but unfortunately, the document didn't make clear their relationship.
I went back through the grantee index seeking to find Richard buying all the land he later sold to his fellow Wiggins' but there was no record of such a purchase. In 1837 he did buy 50 acres in Wolcott from the estate of William Nichols, who I believe to be Freelove's brother, again I have no idea why. He paid $600 dollars for the land, and that same day, he turned around and sold it for the same price to Thomas Wiggins, as mentioned in the third paragraph above. Most peculiar.
It wasn't all dead ends though, the power of attorney is great evidence, and in all the land records Richard is referred to as a teacher of New York City. One deed executed by Richard and Freelove even mentions it was witnessed by Richard Wiggins Jr., another clue. I looked at some NYC directories and there was only one teacher named Richard Wiggins listed, which led me to this:
The preface specifically mentions the book was composed by two New York teachers:
My working theory is that Richard was the brother of Grandfather William, though I can't be sure yet. I am convinced however, that Grandfather came to Wolcott from the Long Island area of New York and that the family was an educated one. In addition to Richard, the teacher/author, William's son, who was named Richard by the way, was a physician.
To read more about Dr. Richard, check here and here.