By: Lorraine Arnold
Last blog entry we began to seek to identify Sarah Mills of 927 Broadway and were met with many brick walls. She was not discovered in the US Federal Census records and aside from the fact that she had never married (ruling out a marriage certificate as identification), birth and death records were not mandated during her lifetime. So...
Where to go from here?
There was only one place left to turn. Had Sarah not been a holder of real property she may have been a mystery still. That place to turn was toward probate records. The real property of her estate was being sold off in 1857 by her executor, but this didn’t necessarily mean that she had died that year, nor, as I later found out, did it mean that she had died in the last ten years. Oddly enough, tax records continued to be recorded in her name up until 1859 further confusing the attempt to pinpoint a death date.
As it turns out, she died in August of 1849. This was discovered in probate records. Here I say, kudos to those who are working on digitizing and indexing old documents. Had these records not been searchable it more than likely would have taken a considerably longer time to solve the mystery of Sarah Mills. But once I found a will which belonged to a Sarah Mills, how did I know this was the correct Sarah Mills? Thankfully she detailed so many individuals in her life, including her brother-in-law, William Banta, who was also named as the executor in the sale of 927 Broadway in the 1857 deed and newspaper notice. This discovery opened the doors to her identity and her entire family.
While the identity of Sarah Mills was discovered, to my client’s disappointment, no particularly bizarre events had occurred in the building as he had hoped. One mystery did remain though. If Sarah Mills died in 1849, how could she have built the house at 927 Broadway? The Landmark Preservation Commission’s Ladies’ Mile Historic District Report states that Sarah Mills was the builder/owner in 1857. How could that be? This mystery will be solved in our next blog piece at www.nyhousehistories.com.