Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)
Jefferson Springsteen (1820-1909) and his wife, Anna Connor (1824-1887), are hard to trace in their early lives. Both have fairly common surnames-especially Anna, with a common first name too. Anna was born in Ireland thus was an immigrant; the names of her parents are unknown, increasing the difficulty. Both Jefferson and his family apparently moved about in the northeast (New York, New Jersey) until they settled in Indianapolis in the early 1850s.
Brooklyn city directories are now available online for many years, and I finally found an entry for Jeff, with his last name listed as “Springstan” which was a new variation to me.
This city directory states that Jefferson lived at “116 Hudson av” in Brooklyn, NY in 1848. The first thing I do when I know an address is look it up on Google Maps, to get an idea of the area.
[Above, embedded GoogleMap from https://www.google.com/maps/place/116+Hudson+Ave,+Brooklyn,+NYfirstname.lastname@example.org,-74.0165205,12777m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25bcd6e88e27d:0xfb6d025aa4780125?hl=en-US]
If there is a house there, I check Zillow.com (or local property tax records) to see when the house was built. (In some instances, it is the same house that our ancestor lived in!) A search showed 116 Hudson (which runs basically N-S) to be between the blocks of Marshall and John St., south of the East River and west of the Navy Yard. Looking at the Street View, it shows an industrial area- definitely the house is long gone. The house would have been a long block from the river to the north, and the same to the Navy Yard. It probably was not a very glamorous area, being so close to the river, even back in 1848 when the Springsteens lived there.
The next thing to do is look for a map printed close to the date of interest- in this case, 1848. Unfortunately, some of those maps that are online just are not readable when enlarged, so they did not help much. I did find a map drawn in 1865. A lot changed in Brooklyn between 1848 and 1865- the population boomed- but the map is still better than a current day map to give us a feel for the number of roads and where they went.
Hudson Avenue is in the pink section to the left of the Navy Yard. Hudson Avenue continues to the river, where the Hudson Ferry docked and transported customers across. New York ferries were the first real mass transit in the US. Brooklyn and New Jersey had become ‘suburbs’ of New York, with over 60,000 of those who had been born in NYC moving there, and they needed a way to get to work. The East River ferries carried even more passengers per day than those that crossed the Hudson (to New Jersey). Every 5-10 minutes one of six ferries would begin an East River crossing, with a total of 1,250 crossings per day. The fare was a penny, and they no longer accepted wampum as the earliest ferries had done. The ferries were probably steamboats, which Robert Fulton, an owner of a ferryboat, had invented in 1807. He used a center paddlewheel boat so it would not require a large space in which to turn around; this made getting on to the next trip faster as well.
I wonder how many time Jeff and Anna Springsteen travelled on the Hudson Ferry?
By the mid-1850s, slightly after Jeff and his family left Brooklyn, it had become large enough to be the third most populous city in America. So they lived there during quite a boom time.
There is a wonderful website full of (copyrighted) images called “Whitman’s Brooklyn- A virtual visit circa 1850.” It has wonderful 3D maps and images from the years when Walt Whitman, America’s poet, lived in Brooklyn. Taking a look at the images will give insight into what life might have been like for Jefferson and Anna and their five children who were born in Brooklyn between 1844 and 1852. (Four more were born after the move to Indianapolis, Indiana.)
Notes, Sources, and References:
2) “The Twin Cities of Brooklyn and New York in 1866” by Johnson, A. J., Johnson’s New Illustrated Family Atlas. (1866 Johnson Edition) This file was provided to Wikimedia Commons by Geographicus Rare Antique Maps, a specialist dealer in rare maps and other cartography of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as part of a cooperation project.–
3) NY Harbor History: A Glance Back in Time: http://www.baycrossings.com/dispnews.php?id=1006
4) Whitman’s Brooklyn- A Virtual Visit Circa 1850: http://whitmans-brooklyn.org/
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