Sunday, April 20, 2014

52 Ancestors #16: A Wanderer Returns

Ancestor Name: John Andrew Riggin

Oh sure, old newspaper archives are great for finding your ancestors' obituaries, marriages, birth announcements and social activities; but did you ever look for more than those typical "black and white" facts when searching through musty archives, old microfilm rolls, or online indexes? I have found so much "gold" in these articles that I've added a step to my research process to include hunting down newspaper archives in the places my ancestors lived.

Clementine Wells was my great great grandmother. She married twice, was widowed twice, and had at least six children. The Wells branch of my family tree has been tough to trace, but that's a story for another day. The Troy Weekly Call archive yielded just the color I love about John Andrew Riggin[1], one of Clementine's sons:

Troy Weekly Call 17 Sep 1904

John Riggin, of this City, Who Has Sailed Almost Around the World, Tires of Sun Life and Returns
John Riggin, a son of Mrs. Wm. Collins of this city, returned last Saturday from San Francisco and arrived in Troy Sunday for a visit of a few days with home folks.

Since last leaving Troy about two years ago young Riggin has traveled almost around the world as a sailor and has acquired some valuable experience. He first enlisted as a sailor on an American sailing vessel at Portland, Ore., and went to Cape Town, South Arica. There he enlisted on a German ship of the same kind and went to New Castle and Sidney, Australia. The crew was shipwrecked of the coast of Sidney and picked up by a tug. He then went on an Italian sailing vessel and on account of the hardships and starvation to which he was subjected, was among a number to desert the vessel leaving several months' pay behind. On the Hawaiian Islands he went on another American ship which finally landed him at Tacoma, Wash.

Young Riggin says a sailor's life is a dog's life and he wants no more of it, but would take nothing for the experience and sightseeing has had had. He has secured a position with the Heydt bakery in St. Louis and how proposes to settle down.

Yes, the article contained and confirmed some genealogical facts:  1) Clementine Wells remarried after her first husband died to William Collins, 2) John Riggin was her son, and 3) Clementine Wells lived in Troy, Illinois -- all things I already knew. But unknown to me was the character and life experience of John Riggin. This articles provides a taste of both.

What interesting things have you learned about your ancestors in old newspapers?

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

[1] John Andrew Riggin was born 15 October 1881 at Madison County, Illinois, to John Wesley "Wes" and Clementine (Wells) Riggin. His father died 5 months before he was born. He moved to Oakland, Alameda, California in 1909 and married someone named Alice on 19 October 1909. He died on 3 Jun 1970 at San Jose, Santa Clara, California. I do not know if he and Alice had children as none were ever listed on the 1920, 1930 or 1940 census.


  1. Hi Schalene, I agree with you one hundred percent that no genealogical research is complete without searching the newspaper archives! Just like this, you get the most colorful stories that breath life into your research! this is a great story! I amkin to many muirs by DNA, we are going to find our kinship yet! Did you do DNA through ancestry, or do you have a tree there?

  2. oops, all I had to dowas read your menu to find the answers to both of my questions! I love the way you have organized your pages and posts, I am going to check out your tree and will get back with you! Helen

    1. I did my DNA through Ancestry because I was most interested in genealogy. I also uploaded it to Family Tree DNA, but am still learning about chromosome matching so am not using that site to the fullest. I can't wait to learn how you are related to the Muirs. I am stuck at my great great great grandfather, Robert Muir (abt 1800-1869). I believe he was born to a Scottish family in northern Ireland and came to Scotland before 1828. He married a Henrietta Brown, which is absolutely no help in tracing the family past further back!

      Do you keep a tree anywhere that I may review?