Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Unrelated Riggins?

I had considered my three times great grandfather Alfred Riggin a space alien for some time. He dropped into Madison County, Illinois, in 1836 when he bought land, then pulled a disappearing act after the 1850 census was enumerated. The scant records about him indicated he was born in Tennessee about 1811 and that he married Sarah "Sally" Piper in Madison County.

I had one DNA match to a living descendant, and after communicating we both confirmed through records we had collected our shared common ancestor was Alfred, the space alien. I had four other matches that included the Riggin surname in their pedigree charts.

One DNA match particularly excited me as it was a descendant of a Teague Riggin, who came to the American colonies in the 1640s after he was exiled from Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. He married the boss' daughter and died a rich plantation owner in Somerset County, Maryland, in 1707. One of his descendants became a circuit-riding minister and settled in Sevier County, Tennessee. Three of his sons made their way to Madison County, Illinois -- one even founded the town of Troy where my space alien lived and another lost a state legislative election to Abraham Lincoln. Alfred must be the reverend's son. How many Riggin men would travel from Tennessee to one county in Illinois about the time the territory became a state and not be related? The exiting part for me was 1640 would be the furthest back in time for any direct ancestor in my tree. I even blogged about old Teague Riggin several times.

From the Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois; image
courtesy of Internet Archive

I would poke at the problem from time to time looking for definitive proof. I finally read about a reference to a book about the Riggin surname that was supposedly housed in the Los Angeles County, California public library. Unfortunately, they no longer had a copy. I did find it, however, on the FamilySearch.org website.

Harry Riggin, co-founder of Troy, Illinois, copyrighted image
purchased by my from Historic MapWorks for
non-commercial use in publications. It may not be reused
by others
The good reverend, who settled in Tennessee, had a son, who wrote a short biography about his father. It was included in the book! He had four sons, all were named...and none were named Alfred. This caused me to go back and review everything I had collected about the Riggin family. And staring out from my family tree was the proof that Alfred came from a different Riggin line. Since Rev. Riggin's son, John, married Elizabeth Reid, this had to be another John. And I knew Alfred's mother was Margaret Farris. I'd had that "proof" for several years! Argh!

Snippet from the Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois (John
Riggin and Margaret Farris are Alfred Riggin's parents); image courtesy
of Internet Archive

I now know who Alfred's daddy was and and I now know why one Riggin line disclaims the other (Alfred's daddy was more than a bit of a scoundrel), but I still believe the two lines are related in some way. How else do you explain the DNA match?

This post was written for the Little Bytes of Life May 18 blog party.

Finding Alfred's Daddy
Who's Your Daddy, Alfred Riggin
Lost an Election to Abraham Lincoln
On the High Road to Ruin
Indentured Servant to Landed Gentry


  1. I love it when DNA is helpful. On some of my lines it has really been a huge help, but it seems on some of my lines no one else seems to have tested (yet that is!)

    1. I have the same thing! Mom's eastern European line is very sparse when it comes to DNA matches. For that matter so is my husband's. He has two pages of matches. I have 60 -- thanks to Dad's "old" Virginia families.

  2. Good you found Alfred's father, but it looks like you have more to uncover to support your DNA results. I love genealogy. It's like. A puzzle, but every time one piece falls in place, two more (parents) appear.

    1. Oh there certainly is more to do. The next big step is trying to find Alfred's grandfather, who likely lived in North Carolina and may be William Riggin. Lots of tantalizing clues but no proof yet.

  3. "Alfred" the space alien. You have a way with words. Good luck on your next steps!