Category Archives: My Family

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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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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I found my Duke!

We’ve been stuck with tracing our family tree and had assumed that my gt. gt, grandfather James came over from Ireland as a young man, leaving his parents behind. But no! Last night, while trawling old records, I came across the 1851 UK census and my own Duke! My mystery great great great grandfather was actually in York too. They had been hiding from us because their name was transcribed wrong in the database.

That led to the discovery of his wife Mary Ann Ormsby later living as a widow (he died in 1855) and in that census, she gives her birthplace as Sligo Ireland. Which seems to suggest that my family really does come from County Mayo along with the other Dukes.

So here’s what we know now. Sometime between 1848 and 1851, Duke Ormsby, then in his 50s, moved his whole family from Ireland to England. Presumably, he was fleeing the effects of the potato famine, which hit Sligo very hard and had its worst impact in 1847 and 1848. It must have been so tough to leave Ireland – especially not being a young man anymore – but presumably he needed to save his family. There’s a big gap between his eldest son and the 4 year-old, which makes me think some of his kids died.

The place they moved to in York (Plow’s Rectory Buildings) was horrible. Squalid, cramped, fetid and reserved for the poorest of the poor. Brothels lined the streets near their house and numerous slaughter houses were right next to homes. If the stories of Irish immigrants drinking too much are true, you can hardly blame them! After leaving Ireland, Duke and Mary Ann shared a tiny space with their 3 kids, a visiting family member, and 4 lodgers.

I’m going to write this all up on a page of its own and change the home page, but for now I just wanted to make note of it. I’ve been thinking about how hard it must have been for Duke, but how what he did means I’m here today, in my lovely house enjoying all my creature comforts. My gt gt grandfather James was a tiny baby when they left Ireland and it’s quite likely he wouldn’t have survived had they not emigrated. So thank you, Duke Ormsby.

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