Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Who's Your Daddy, Alfred Riggin?

Alfred Riggin was Alice (Muir) Jennings' great grandfather. She was my paternal grandmother. For many months, I thought Alfred descended from Teague Riggin, who settled in Somerset County, Maryland, by 1667. But I was incorrect. He may yet tie into Teague's line, but right now my working theory is he was dropped by aliens into Madison County, Illinois, in the early 1830s.

Alfred lived during a time in history that wasn't too fussed with keeping records and seemed to me more interested in fighting Native-Americans, arguing about the "peculiar institution" of slavery, acquiring land, and prospering if they could. Madison County began recording land sales in 1802 and marriages and probate records in 1813. The first census was enumerated in 1820. Births began to be recorded in 1858 and deaths in 1877.

Alfred was born about 1811 in Tennessee and disappeared from the records after 1850, neatly dodging almost every helpful record that could have been left about him.

According to the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, a searchable database available from the Illinois State Archives, Alfred Riggin and Sally (a nickname for Sarah) Piper obtained a marriage license on 7 April 1833 in Madison County.

On April 1836, the Illinois Public Land Purchase Records, 1813-1909, indicated he purchased 40 acres of land, or a quarter section, for $50. The land was described as Section 25, Township 4 North, Range 7 West. This purchase was later recorded at the U.S. General Land Office in Edwardsville on 1 August 1844 and Alfred received Certificate No. 16142 as proof of his ownership. John Tyler was president of the United States of America at the time.

1844 U.S. General Land Office Certificate for land owned by Alfred
Riggin; image courtesy of Ancestry.com

The 1840 census indicated there were 5 people in Alfred's household. He was between 20-29 years of age, so, too, his wife. He was born in Tennessee and she was born in Ohio. One adult could not read or write; this was likely his wife, Sally. They had three male children living in the household with them: two under 5 years of age and one between 5 and 9 years. Alfred was a farmer.

Ten years later the census documents included names of the people living in a household, but not their relationship to each other. That did not begin until 1880. Alfred was 39 years old; his wife Sarah, whose nickname was Sally, was 36 years old. Their likely children, enumerated in the 1840 census, were now named: John W., 15; Nathaniel D., 13; and James Carrol, 11. In addition, three more children have been added to the household: Theodore A., 9; William H., 5; and Mary J., one year old.

Then, poof! Alfred disappeared after the 1850 census was enumerated just as suddenly as he appeared in 1833. The entire family was missing in action in 1860. I need to browse those records page by page in order to locate them.

Alfred's widow reappeared in 1870. She was living on Alfred's farm in Township 4, Range 7, next door to her son James and his wife and child. She lived with her son William, who was now 25 years old, and owned his father's farm, or at least a portion of it. The land was valued at $2,500 and William's personal estate, at $600. A pretty good return on Alfred's initial $50 investment!

Section 25 of Township 4, Range 7, in Madison County; Illustrated
Encyclopedia and Atlas Map of Madison County, Illinois,

Sarah's oldest son, John W., also lived there. He was a widower and with him were his three children by Mary Ramsey: Josephine, Harrison, and Alice Mary. Mary J. Riggin was now 21 years old. She, too, lived with the household. She had married Charles H. Norton and had an infant son, William Henry, who was 8 months old.

In 1880, Sarah lived in Jarvis Township, the name then for Township 4. She listed her occupation as retired farmer. Living with her were two grandchildren: Tressa, Theodore's daughter, and Mary's son, who went by Harry at the time.

According to her headstone, Sarah died 30 July 1887 in Troy, Illinois, which is a town in Jarvis Township. From her headstone, I also learned she was born on 7 March 1813. She was buried in the Troy City Cemetery. No record of Alfred's burial has been discovered.

Research To-Do List:
  1. Look for Alfred in the 1820 census. He won't be named, but he should have been about 9 years old.
  2. Look for Alfred in the 1830 census. He may not be named, but he should have been about 19 years old.
  3. Order Alfred Riggin and Sarah Piper's marriage records.
  4. Look for Sarah (Piper) Riggin and her children in the 1860 census.
  5. Order a book of cemetery inscriptions from the Madison County Illinois Genealogical Society; maybe Alfred will be listed.
Any other suggestions?


  1. Did Sarah remarry before 1860? This scenario happened to my husband's ancestor, too. It turned out that he died, she remarried and the family was enumerated under the surname of the new husband. That marriage didn't last and in the next census, they were correctly enumerated.

    1. You are very good, Linda! Yes, she did in 1856. I tell that story Thursday. I still can't find her after a cursory search. A page-by-page browse is one the agenda this weekend.