Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It Was There All Along


     Recently I've been taking another look at my Wiggins relatives.  There are several unknowns there that I've been trying to puzzle out.  I looked through some trees on Ancestry and nothing new came up, though I did find a tree with the incorrect parents and death date for my third great grandfather William H. Wiggins.  I left a note, I'm not sure if that will help or annoy the poster?  Anyway I left a copy of my sources, and reading through them again something hit me.  William H. is mentioned in the book, "Landmarks of Wayne County, New York", and in it he is referred to as the last surviving child of Richard Wiggins and his wife.  Her name isn't given, but I know from other records she was Hannah Ostrander.  William's obituary on the other hand, mentions two sisters among his survivors, Hannah Beasley and Nettie Owen.  Contradictions in records are nothing new to family historians but this was sort of a big one; generally speaking, last surviving children do not have two living sisters.

     I pulled up my Wiggins tree and checked through it, and William H. did indeed have a sister named Hannah who appeared to have been born the year their mother Hannah Ostrander passed away.  I always figured she probably died from giving birth to Hannah Jr.  But the other sister Nettie?  Who was she?  Had I missed her somehow?

     Richard Wiggins, father of William H. was born in 1810 somewhere in New York.  New York didn't keep the nice records New England states did, so I've found very little on him.  I know he went west to Michigan, where his daughter Hannah was born in 1848, and that he died around 1857, but there is no conclusive evidence where he died.  Some trees claim in New York, and that he is buried in Victory, NY.  There is a Richard Wiggins buried there, but nothing proves it is the right Richard Wiggins.  His wife Hannah Ostrander died in Michigan in 1848, his mother Elizabeth died in Michigan in 1856, and his sister Phoebe died in Michigan in 1858.  In fact, both of Richard's parents along with his siblings had moved to Michigan shortly after 1850, so I would think Richard likely died there too.   

Clarissa Wiggins
     But then there is Susan Gray.  I was doing a search of the 1860 census for Wiggins' in Michigan and I found a Clarissa Wiggins, born in 1855 in New York.  Clarissa was living with Susan and Abel Aldrich in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1860.  A tree on Ancestry had mentioned a Susan Gray as the second wife of Richard Wiggins.  Since the tree had no sources, I took it with a grain of salt, but kept it in mind.  Now I wondered, could Susan Aldrich be Susan Gray?  She could!  I found her death record on Family Search-- Susan Aldrich, born in New York, died in 1870 in the Lapeer County Poorhouse at age 37 of consumption, father's name...GRAY!  And he too was now living in Michigan.  This could be the widow of Richard Wiggins, making Clarissa from New York their child.  So Richard had returned to New York after all!  

     It now appears Susan and her little daughter Clarissa came to Michigan after Richard's death, possibly to the home of her father, he was there in Michigan by 1860, perhaps even earlier.  Then after a year or two, Susan married Abel Aldrich. Clarissa would have been 15 when her mother died leaving her orphaned,  what became of her after that?

     I couldn't find her in the 1870 census, and hoped she hadn't been a victim of the same disease that killed her mother.  I tried all the name variations I could think of and nothing.  Then I tried a search using just a first name and dates and places, still nothing.  Next, a search using last name, dates and places, BINGO, there was "Janette" Wiggins, age 15 from New York. Still living in Lapeer County, Michigan, now a servant with the Morse family.  
1870 Census Metamora, Lapeer, MI
     Other records confirmed her name was Clarissa Janette Wiggins.  Still I had nagging doubts, (I'm hard to convince).  I had never seen any concrete proof that my Richard Wiggins married Susan Gray and fathered a daughter.  Until last night that is, when I posted that note to the online tree.   

     Doh! (Homer Simpson forehead smack) The proof I sought had been right there in an obituary in my own computer files.  Of course!  Janette Wiggins and Nettie Owen, the other surviving sister from William's obituary, were one and the same!  A Michigan marriage record transcription at Family Search sealed the deal-- 
January 18, 1880, "Natsie" Wiggins, born in New York in 1857, married David Owen in Delhi, Michigan.
She clearly was the daughter of Richard and Susan, and William H. was her half brother, and they knew each other, or at least knew of each other.

     Technically, the book was right, Nettie Owen was not a surviving child of Richard Wiggins and Hannah Ostrander, although Hannah Jr. was, and she, (Hannah Jr.) was really the last surviving child of Richard and Hannah, not William.  Guess for now I can chalk that up to human error.


  1. Well done, Ellie, I do love when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place!

  2. Interesting, my name is Mike Wiggins and I'm going to the old Westbury cemetery this morning to start repairing Richard Wiggins' grave marker. He was my great-great-great great grandfather and I live in Victory, about 2 miles from the cemetery.

  3. Sorry Ellie, I forgot that we discussed this on back in 2011. I just went on that site and refreshed my memory. I've been a long time away from it.

  4. Nice to hear from you, and good on you for doing that. Which child of Richard's are you descended from?

  5. I was excited to see your blog. I come from the Wiggins family too. I descend from Elizabeth Wiggins who I am pretty sure is the sister of your Dr. Richard. The Elizabeth and Richard are neighbors in the 1850 Michigan census. She is listed in the will of the 1786 William (have you seen it?,%20USA&msypn=35&msypn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C35%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&MSAV=1&msbdy=1786&msbpn__ftp=New%20York,%20USA&msbpn=35&msbpn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C35%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&msddy=1873&msdpn__ftp=Michigan,%20USA&msdpn=25&msdpn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C25%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&mssng=Elizabeth&_83004003-n_xcl=f&cp=0&catbucket=rstp&uidh=eo1&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=1326359&dbid=8793&indiv=1&ml_rpos=6 )

    I have so many questions about this family and hope to find more answers as new documents are available all the time