Sunday, March 15, 2015

52 Ancestors #11: Indentured Servant to Landed Gentry

Ancestor: Teague Riggin (1640-1707)

Most of my Irish ancestors were none too lucky and many weren't really Irish at all. They were Scots "planted" by English kings in northern Ireland and always considered themselves Scots from what little evidence remains of them. So I decided to write about my first possible[1] Irish ancestor to come to America. For months I thought he was my ninth great grandfather, Teague Riggin. Most of what I learned about Teague came from a book by Sharol Riggin, entitled Teage Riggen and his Riggen - Riggin - Riggins Descendants published in 1987, validated and extended by my own independent research. What I particularly love about the book is that most of the sources are listed for the early Riggin family members. Day trips to Somerset County, Maryland, and the Maryland State Archives enabled me to acquire copies of several relevant wills and land records.

According to Irish Pedigrees (Volumes I and II) by John O'Hart in 1875 and published in 1915, Teague Riggin was a brother-in-law to the 123rd prince of Ireland, Dathi Oge O'Dowda. I'll admit to always being a little skeptical when royal ancestors are claimed, but when I read Dathi's son was over seven feet tall, eyebrows did a bit of a waggle.

Irish Pedigrees by John O'Hart; image courtesy of Internet Archive

The Civil War of 1641-1652 did not treat the Reagh clan very well as they were on the losing side when Oliver Cromwell prevailed in putting down the rebellion. Irish soldiers were allowed to move from Ireland and join foreign armies. Wives of Irish soldiers and children over 10 years of age were sent as slaves to Virginia or the West Indies. The remaining population was required to move west of the Shannon River.

Whatever the reason for Teague's coming to America, he did; and was here by the late 1650s. He was sent to the southern end of Virginia's Eastern Shore. By 1667 he was in Maryland and registered his cattle under the mark Teage Riggen  as "cropt in both ears and holes of both ears." Teague married Mary London, daughter of Ambrose London, in late 1667. His father-in-law deeded land to Teague called Teags Down, a property of 16 acres. Down meant rolling grassy hills along side water. Not long thereafter, Ambrose London deeded Teague another property called Last Choice, which was ten acres. Over time, Teague enlarged his properties to encompass fifty acres.

In 1675 Teague purchased a 700-acre planation called Golden Lyon. The price was 28,500 pounds of good, marketable tobacco. Hamilton Owens, in his book Baltimore on the Chesapeake,  said "those who had land in suitable locations -- which meant, in the early days almost anywhere along the lower bay and its rivers -- were almost certain to get rich, provided they could provide sufficient capital to employ the large number of hands necessary to produce and cure the tobacco crop."

Map of Somerset County c1795

Teague must have been able to do so because he continued to buy property. First, 150-acre Halliards Discovery in 1680, then another 150 acres called Seamans Choice in 1683. Later he patented Riggins Mines, which consisted of 100 acres. In 1687 Teague sold Teags Down and Last Choice. In 1693 Teague started selling portions of his land holdings to his children.

Teague died in November 1707 after writing his will the previous May. We do not know when his widow, Mary, died but she gave testimony in 1730 that her age was 86.

So Teague Riggin came to the America likely as an indentured servant and died as a land owner in Somerset County, Maryland. That's the luck of the Irish!

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Luck of the Irish.

I thought my descent from Teague Riggin (c1640-1707) was Teague Riggin II (1670-1721), Charles Riggin (1704-1773), Teague Riggin (c1735-1773), James Riggin (1756-1826), John C Riggin (1781 to 1801-1869), Alfred Riggin (c1811-c1850), John Wesley Riggin (c1835-bef 1897), Ida Mae Riggin (1879-1909), Alice Muir (1906-1993), Charles Theodore Jennings (1931- ). However, it likely that John C Riggin only had one son named Ignatius, who is definitely not in my direct line. The Find a Grave Memorial for John states he was born in 1781 but this is fully a decade before his parents were married. I believe his headstone says 68 years and not 88 years old, which would put his birth year as 1801. In this way he fits nicely into the birth order of James and Mary (Howard) Riggin's known children. However, that also makes it impossible for him to be the father of Alfred Riggin, who was born about 1811 in Tennessee. Alfred is the furthest back I can prove my Riggin line. A DNA match leads me to believe Alfred Riggin was related to Rev. James Riggin (1756-1826). I just don't know how.

Slaves of the Riggin Families of Somerset County
Confusion and the Proof Standard
Lost an Election to Abraham Lincoln


  1. I was just wondering if he had slaves, figuring he must with all that land, when I saw the link to Slaves of the Riggin Families of Somerset County. I'm so glad you are putting the names up!

    1. Yes, Kristin, I had just written the Slaves of the Riggin families post and was wondering what to do with the other slaves names I run across in my research when Cathy Meder-Dempsey posted her three-part story. Her posts sparked the idea that became the Slave Name Roll project, which launched with 5 links: Cathy's story and two of my own posts. It's really grown in just a few short weeks.

  2. Phil RIGGINS Jr and Esther RIGGINS in los Angeles California

  3. I've been searching for a copy of the book you speak of by Sharol Riggen. If you have any info on where I might find a copy, please send me an email at thank you. -Dan Riggin.

    1. I found my copy on eBay but have since given it to another Riggin. Have you checked the holdings of the Library of Congress or the genealogy library in Salt Lake City? Or WorldCat to see if a copy is held by any library close to you?