Category Archives: The Dukes

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under The Dukes, York

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Dukes

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under My Family, The Dukes

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Dukes, To research

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under My Family, The Dukes