Monday, March 6, 2017

The Northern Liberties - East Meets West

It's been a long while since I posted anything about the Mann family because it really seemed like we had that one "all sewn up." But other recent research has lead me to the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, and in the back of my brain I remembered that's where the Mange (early American spelling of Mann) brothers lived. So I decided it was as good a time as any to review what I thought I knew. It seems there was a lot that I glossed over back when I started researching the Mann's. Finding them in Germany was pretty darned exciting back then (a whole 6 years ago), and didn't necessitate any understanding of their lives in Philadelphia. But now the time to understand better has come. You can read more about my updated understanding of the Mange family in the Northern Liberties here.

But here's one of the lessons learned in this round of research. The source I've been focused on has been the PHL tax lists, and for the Northern Liberties, residents were divided between Northern Liberties-East and Northern Liberties-West. It doesn't appear that the residents in the two areas were taxed differently, but I think the division was created because the area was so vast that one assessor could not handle it all. So they split the area, but what was the dividing line? I'm sure the answer to that question is written somewhere in plain sight, but I just haven't found it yet. Then to add to the fun, there was the Northern Liberties district, just northeast of the city, and the Northern Liberties township which was also north of the city, but vast in area, and which eventually saw other townships carved out of it. So how does any of this relate to the tax lists?

For the Mange brothers, they all started out in NL-E, at least up through 1769. Then suddenly Ernst was in NL-W while John remained in NL-E. Even after Ernst removed to New Jersey around 1776, he apparently leased his property in NL-W where his lessees were recorded paying the taxes on his property (in those days, the occupier, not the owner paid property tax!). After the war, Ernst finally sold his NL-W property to his brother, John, after which point John was recorded being taxed in both NL-E and NL-W!

The trick to this one was all about Howdy Neighbor! I made a careful list of the neighbors for each Mange property over the years, and one name appeared over and over next to Ernst's NL-W property: James Nevill, a tavernkeeper. The Nevell family persisted at the same location until at last PHL city directories were published. In 1793, Nevill's widow, a tavernkeeper, was recorded at 466 N. 2nd St. That got me wondering about the widow of John Mange, and sure enough she too appeared in the directory as a tavernkeeper at 219 N. 2nd St. That's interesting - same street, maybe a few blocks apart. And yet Ernst's property was always taxed in NL-W and John's in NL-E.

Finally I found a reference that said this:

"...when the first census was conducted, the numbering system was changed again. All of the buildings on the north or east sides of streets were given odd numbers and those on the south and west were given even numbers." 

And there you have it. John Mange had an odd number address on N. 2nd Street, and so was taxed in NL-E. Ernst Mange had an even number address, and so was taxed in NL-W. At least in the Northern Liberties district, it appears that the dividing line was N. 2nd St. My thought is that 2nd St. up to and then along Germantown Ave. constituted the dividing line for the Northern Liberties township, although I'll be honest and say I haven't verified that yet.

Now that I've come to this happy conclusion, I look it all over and wonder a little so what? I mean in the big scheme of things how does the Northern Liberties tax division boundary matter to a genealogist? In my case, and by some fluke, my family was living right on the line, and the fact that they were has helped me to locate them with some degree of accuracy. And frankly, what might matter more is how much I've learned about the history of the Northern Liberties in the last two weeks. I can still be curious, I can still expand my understanding, and I can still enjoy a better and more complete picture of my ancestors' lives.

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