New Castle Community History and Archaeology
A house research guide for New Castle County is available from the State of Delaware has much useful detail, but there are some resources specific to the Town of New Castle. These research approaches are listed below in order of ease of use and usefulness. Even if you know only the address of a property in the historic area you can find out the names of occupants or owners from the first settlement in the 1650's up to the 1840's. These names help with the other approaches such as census, probate, tax or burial records.
Look at Jeanette Eckman's typed notes. These cover history of each lot in the historic area from the Dutch settlement till about 1840. See an example for 30 The Strand. She prepared these notes around 1950 as part of the feasibility studies for the "Williamsburg on the Delaware" project-- only houses existing in 1824 would have been preserved. The notes are available at the Historical Society of Delaware (HSD) library on Market Street in Wilmington and in the NCHS archives in the Amstel House (open 9-12 Wed. or by appointment).
|Latrobe survey plan, 1805
|30 The Strand, Post
Office, George Reed I, II
|Beer's Atlas 1868||
from Del. State Library
|Water St (The Strand) from Church Alley
to Read House
To get information from the census (before 1900), or wills, probate or orphans court records you need to know the names of the owners (or occupants for the census). If you don't know the names of owners from maps you can get these via following the chain of title starting with data from your deed.
Census information varies among the
various decennial censuses. None before 1900 give the street number--
you have to know the resident's name. But you can find out who lived
in a house, occupation, literacy...
You can search the entire Heritage Quest database of all states from 1800 on if you have a public library card in one of the Delaware Counties. For 1850 and 1870 all the New Castle records have been transcribed, and are available as text or as spreadsheet/database, with analysis by family size, wealth, birthplace, race, birthplace...
Wills reveal not only property bequests, but provides information on spouses, parents and children, and sometimes even long-term employees or friends.
Probate Records can provide insight not only about possessions and their valuation but also what rooms were used for and where the possessions were located. [dungan link]
Orphans court has information about
properties of homeowners who die leaving minor children. The records
from 1770 - 1830 have been abstracted. Those for New Castle town and
hundred are available here. You must know the name of the
deceased to find a record, but just browsing is fun. For
example, the Dutch tile house on the Strand was described as:
YEATES, JOHN (child-Ann) I-1-448 (1806) New Castle Hundred, Town of New Castle - lot on Front Street
...an old House in bad repaire a Stable and Carriage House a Well which wants to be cleaned out and a Pump placed therein the Floors in the House to be laid with good Hart-pine boards and new stairs made the South East Gable and being so bad deem it for the benefit of the Orphans that it should be taken down to the Ground and rebuilt the rooff to be made as far as the Chimney to corospond with Doctr. James McCallmont's and to be pitch to Front Street the ally to be paved with Stone to carry the Water in the Midle thereof to the Street gutter the Windows being in bad repaire we deem it advisable to have them put in good order new Joice to be put in where the decayed ones is the plaistering of the Walls being broken and decayed is to be plaistered where necessary...
annual value $120.00
Tax records available from CHAD at U. D. list the person, and his or her real property and their value. For example in 1816 this includes house and land, acreage, rental property, plate (silver only? also gold?) and slaves for life (or for e.g. 7 years), their names and value. Charles Thomas in 1816 owned a store rented to McCullough, 2 rental house and 5 slaves for life of various ages.
Newspaper accounts. The Philadelphia Gazette (the 'New York Times of the 18th century') has been indexed by Accessible Archives from 1754-1800. Search on early occupants can be interesting. For example, Slator Clay who ran a store at 30 The Strand was reported as selling an almost new sloop. J M'Cullough had for sale 2 stills at J M'Cullough near New Castle in 1813 or J & E M'Cullough in New Castle (according to an ad in The American Watchman).
Graves -- Most early inhabitants were buried in the Episcopal churchyard or in the Presbyterian cemetery near Brosius Eliason lumber yard. The graves can help establish birth/death dates which may useful as a starting point for search of newspapers without indices.
The accumulated biographical information [under construction] from the above sources gives a very sketchy idea of the previous owners and their lives. What was life like for them-- interiors/exteriors of their houses, food, social interactions, drinking, sex, possessions, education, taxes, wealth, occupation, travel.... Although snippets of information can be gained from deeds, census, wills, probate records, a better picture can be gained through [under construction!!!] economic, historic and material culture studies of colonial and post-revolutionary America.