Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Melville family in NYC Municipal Archives, new find by Warren F. Broderick

Warren F. Broderick reports a new Melville family find in the New York City Municipal Archives, this from an incomplete series of Jury Censuses for the years 1816, 1819 and 1821. Here's a link to the finding aid that describes this series: 

Herman Melville was born August 1, 1819. Concerning his father Allan Melvill and household, Broderick notes the following information:
  • The 1816 census does not list 6 Pearl Street in Ward 1.
  • The 1819 census lists "Allen Mevill" at that address in Ward 1 (see image above).
  • The 1821 census for the 3rd Ward is missing.
  • The 1819 entry reads as follows:
Number of House / Name of Street 6 Pearl St  
Name Allen Melvill 
Occupation Mercht 
Age 36 
Personal estates of $150 1 
Total Number of [eligible] Jurors 1 
White Inhabitants, male 3 
White Inhabitants, female 3 
Coloured Inhabitants, not Slaves, male 1 
Coloured Inhabitants, not Slaves, female 1 
Tenants Earning $5 per annum 1 
Total number of Inhabitants 9
Comments by John Bryant, as forwarded by Warren F. Broderick:
"I find one mention of 'servants' (no number or race) in the Log, and no mention of a lodger. I can account for the 3 white males: They would be, presumably, Allan, Gansevoort, and Herman (assuming the Jury census was conducted in fall 1819 or early 1820). The three females are a puzzle; they would include Maria and Helen, but who is the third? Maria wrote much later that Caroline Taylor Yates was visiting at the time in the "winter" (maybe 1819-1820), and Maria's mother Catherine Gansevoort was also visiting around the time of HM's birth."
In Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), Hershel Parker highlights the importance of Caroline Yates and her visit during that "first winter of Herman's life":
Miss Yates (later Mrs. Taylor) read aloud a Dumas novel in French and translated it for Maria sentence by sentence. Herman became "very fond" of his mother's friend, his first recorded preference. (pages 24-25)

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