Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Mapping The Wiggans'
Still hunting down the wily Wiggins family from New York City. I've discovered that records in NY for the 1770-1800 time period sort of stink. I found the birth and death dates for Richard Wiggins and his wife Freelove Nichols on the Family Search site in the NY Deaths and Burials 1795-1952 database. It's gotta be them, the dates are the correct time frame and how many Freelove Wiggins' could have been running around Manhattan?
Several online trees give the Nichols home base as Hempstead on Long Island, and a city directory I consulted gave Richard's address as 246 Division Street, Manhattan. Since I was having no luck with marriage records, I thought I'd check out the two locations in respect to each other. Turning to Google Maps I searched 246 Division Street. This is the current street view:
Smack in the middle of the lower East Side. Looks a little skeevy from the picture, but in Richard and Freelove's day it was a newly built residential area. I found that Hempstead, Long Island was quite close to the Manhattan address, and in between the two lies Jamaica, Queens. I've found lots of information indicating the Wiggins family originally lived in Jamaica, though there is another Wiggins family in Flushing, also very close.
As usual, I found some interesting history while doing this research. The map below shows what New York City looked like at the time of the Revolutionary War. Richard married just 27 years after this map was drawn.
The grid in the center labeled Delaney's New Square, (it should read Delancey's) is projected housing with a large area in the center for shops-- even back then there were rapacious land developers. The whole thing fell through after the revolution when the loyalist Delancey family was forced into exile and their immense property was confiscated.
Division Street would eventually be built at the bottom of the grid, above the line, "New Buildings Not Finished". Over to the right on the East River you will see Crown Point. In the mid 1600's it was the plantation of a Dutchman named Corlaer, and was also known as Corlaer's Hook. By 1816 it had become known as the place to find streetwalkers. As time went by, these unsavory residents of the Hook came to be known as "hookers". But that is neither here nor there.
I'm not sure what sort of salary a teacher earned in the early 19th century, but it must have been enough to live in a nice area. Once again I'm amazed at how much can be learned about our ancestor's time in just one afternoon. Even though I didn't find much that was specific to Richard and Freelove, I found a great deal about their neighborhood and it's political atmosphere. The Wiggans family were not the only ones who didn't support war with England, it would seem Long Island was a hotbed of Tories.