Lovely Discovery & Fabulous Information on York’s History

I just got a wonderful email from a kind stranger who must have stumbled on this site. He sent me information on two sites I had no idea about.

The first, is a digitized version of a map of York from 1852. You can zoom in and see each individual house. For the first time, I’ve seen Plow’s yard – where Duke and MaryAnn lived when they first moved from Ireland – on a map.

And that allowed me to Google streetview the area. The buildings were located behind a church that still stands and, although they are gone, there is a large building in their place, so that the scale and shape of the Yard remains preserved between Dennis Street and St Denys Road between Walmgate and Picadilly.

Finally, we will be able to visit the actual place where they lived. Plus this map will allow us to identify the location of other subsequent addresses for Duke and for James (my gt gt grandad).

The other site ( will take longer to explore, but it contains tons of old photographs of the city, including the first one I’ve ever seen that shows the glassworks on Fishergate where James worked.

That photo is from the 1950s, long after James worked there, but it’s still nice to be able to see the building, which was demolished years ago.

Thank you so much, kind stranger for taking the time to write to me. Your help is much appreciated.


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I Wish Mary Louise Belonged to Us

One of my most well-documented Dukes is the one living in New York in the mid to late 1800s. I’ve found records of him teaching, serving in the army, becoming a Reverend in the Episcopalean church, leaving the church and being sued for slander, but I found all this via Google books and nothing in any census records.

I’m still without results on the census, but today while playing around on Google, I made an exciting discovery. It seems that Duke’s wife was quite the woman. I found her bio in a book called “A Woman of the Century: Fourteen-Hundred Seventy Biographical sketches” written in 1893. Here is her bio. (click to enlarge)

It says she was ‘unjustly deprived of her patrimony’ so I wonder if that means her family didn’t want her marrying lowly Duke. Now that I know she changed her name to Frost Ormsby, and that he went by “DC” maybe I can find them on census returns.

I found her school listed in a city directory – it was at 125 West 42nd Street, which will sadly now be completely gone since that’s right in the heart of Times Square.

Here is one of her published poems.

Here is one of her peace movement associations.

And this book says she got a letter from President Grover Cleveland asking her not to use his wife’s name for one of her activist groups!

Here is her story of traveling to Rome as a peace delegate.

But best of all is this New York Times story. The headline is a novel in itself!

PEACE SOCIETIES AT WAR; BELVA LOCKWOOD RECEIVES A SHARP LETTER. Mrs. Mary Frost Ormsby and Hamilton Willeox, President of the New-York State Suffrage Party, Denounced — Two Rival Organizations in the Field-Prospects of Strife on the Docks When Foreign Delegates Arrive — Some Talk About Windbags and Frauds.

Perhaps somewhat less impressive than Mary Louise’s accomplishments, but interesting all the same – I found DC listed as running a branch of the New York Post Office in 1871, where he made $1,500 a year.

It seems that he really did serve in the civil war as a chaplain – here is his nomination by the senate in 1863.

It’s exciting to find these little bits and pieces!

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If the Dukes Could Have Tweeted

Looking for family history will be so different 200 years from now. People won’t have to wonder about their ancestors – they’ll actually be overwhelmed with information – probably a lot of which they’d rather not know! (Imagine finding your great great grandfather’s subscription to an Internet porn site or your long-lost aunt’s embarrassing online obsession with the Jonas Brothers).

But I can’t help wishing the Dukes had been able to leave something behind for us. Imagine their Twitter accounts or Facebook pages! And if they had written blogs? Well, it would make this whole thing a LOT easier!

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George is Ours!

While researching Ormsbys in York, mum discovered that there were two Ormsby boys in The Ragged School in York in 1851. She was convinced they belonged to my gt gt gt grandparents Duke and Mary Ann, but couldn’t prove it.

Well, last night I found the evidence. one of the boys, George, got married and has his father as ‘Duke Ormsby.’


There was only one Duke in York in 1855, so George is definitely ours.

This research can be so frustrating at times, but I do love that feeling when one more piece of the puzzle slips into place! plus, it’s a relief to know George didn’t meet a bad end.

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York Map

I ordered two old maps of York and they arrived yesterday. I was a bit disappointed that Plow’s Rectory Buildings, where Duke and Mary Anne lived when they first moved, is not marked although I know the buildings were behind St Deny’s church, which is marked on this map with a red circle. (Click to see a large version)


But I just realized today that Plow’s Yard, which is where Mary Ann (Duke’s wife) died in 1882, is marked on the map. Scroll up to see the area marked with a blue circle. I found out that St. Maurice’s Road used to be called Barker Hill. (Note: Who else did we find on Barker Hill?)

One other note – I didn’t mark it, but you can see the glass factory on this map if you scroll down below the red circle. It was huge!

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Is This Slandering, NY Church Duke?

I was just trolling through the website and came across an entry for Ormsbys in the American Civil War. Listed is a “DC Ormsby” who was a Chaplain for one year (on the side of the Union thank goodness!). He’s listed as being from New York and that’s the right time for our disgraced New York church guy Duke Compton, because he was in the NY church between 1860 and 1866 before being disciplined for some reason and thrown out.

Updated: Hmm… maybe not. I found this entry on the official civil war records site. It lists a Reid DC Ormsby from NY who was a chaplain. So unless that’s a typo, he’s probably not our NY Duke.

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Filed under The Dukes, To research

James and the Glass Factory

I was just reading up on the Irish immigrants in Britain in the UK (google has a feature called ‘Google Scholar’ and you can millions of papers and books for free). One of the papers I was reading talked about how hard it was for the Irish to climb up the social ladder. He said it was very rare for the children of immigrants to do better than their parents, and the heavily unionized skilled trades were the hardest of all to get into. He claims it would be easier for the son of an Irish immigrant to get a job as a white collar clerk than to get a union job.

Yet that’s what my gt. gt grandfather James did. The Glass Maker’s Union was apparently one of the most powerful unions of the day so I think that getting a job in the glass factory was a real achievement. I have to learn more about the trade and the union to be sure, but it seems James might have been both smart and enterprising.

I think he probably worked at Redfern National Glass Factory on Fishergate. The factory has been torn down now, although I think I read that the tower still remains. The York archive office has the records, so when I get to York, I’d really like to see if we can find mention of James as an employee. I’m also going to look and see if anyone has written an obscure book or pamphlet about the company, just so I can know more about what it was like.

Today I ordered two mid-nineteenth century maps of York – I’d like to see the streets where they lived and modern maps don’t show them because they have all been torn down.

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