The earliest reference to Brooklyn in my tree is in 1850 – James Duff (b 1829 in New York) was living next door to his brother John Duff (b 1823 in New York).  Their parents – James Duff and Jane Thompson – both came from Ireland and/or Scotland, but they married in Manhattan in 1822. They were married by the Rev WW Phillips, a Protestant minister, and there is even a memorial published about him!

WWPhillips memorial


The “Mother Church” First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York is the “mother” church of several of the present-day Presbyterian churches in Manhattan, notably Brick, Second, Rutgers, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, and Emmanuel,


1810 – 1812: A New Building on Wall Street

Old First is Completely Rebuilt. View of the streets when James and Jane arrived and likely married


This is the man that married James Duff and Jane Thompson – William Wirt Phillips

In the 1840s amd 1850s, Bushwick was mainly German immigrants, so my peeps may have felt a bit different.  James had a German girl living with them in the 1850s census, in fact.  The brothers were both starch manufacturers living in Bushwick Township, and their parents lived in New York Ward 17.

Bushwick remained rural until the 1850’s. The entire area was then mapped by a descendant of the original Lefferts and Suydam families and sold for homes. The former Town of Bushwick merged with the City of Brooklyn in 1855 and from then on the population doubled and tripled every 20 years.

In the 1855 city census, James Duff and family owned land in Brooklyn City, Ward 17, and he was a starchmaker;  they had an Irish servant girl living with them.  He noted he had lived in that city for one year.  John also lived in this ward, with his family and a servant and boarder from Ireland, but he notes he had lived in that city for 6 years.  They no longer lived next door to each other – perhaps James had moved.


By the 1860 census, both of the brothers had moved to Peoria,  Illinois, where they continued as starchmakers.

Their parents stayed, however.   Jane Thompson died in 1852 and was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  Cemetery records show that James purchased the plot in 1851, so maybe she was sick and knew the end was near.  To make things extra confusing, James married another Jane in 1860.


Plot: Lot 4797, Section 33 – Jane and James, plus other Duff’s buried here

In 1865, James and his new Jane are living in the 13th ward of Brooklyn, with a few boarders living with them.  One of them was a phrenologist – hmmmm….  His daughter Alice and her husband lived next door.


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