Sepia Saturday 412: Fifth in a series about my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh Owen, who married into the Irish Dempsey family in Baltimore, Maryland.
One disadvantage of having an urban ancestor like my Welsh great grandfather Francis Hugh “Frank” Owen is the difficulty of doing a door-to-door search in census records when his name can’t be located in an index.
Fortunately, the year after his 1888 marriage to Elizabeth C. Dempsey (the daughter of my Irish immigrant ancestors), Frank started showing up in an alternative urban source: Baltimore city directories — the name-and-address catalogs that predated phone books.
West Baltimore residents
Frank’s first Baltimore city directory entry in 1889 gave his address as 642 Portland Ave. and said he worked as a clerk.
This would also have been the first home of Frank and Elizabeth’s oldest child — my Welsh-Irish grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau, who was born on 22 March 1889.
From 1889 to 1922, despite numerous moves, Frank and his family remained in the general area north/west of Baltimore’s inner harbor. Frank’s addresses for that time period, from Baltimore city directories and one federal census, are marked on the map below
MAP INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the icon to the left of the map title for a description, sources and addresses/residence years. Click on the colored pins marking each address to see Frank’s Baltimore city directory details. The northernmost pin is his address in the 1900 Baltimore federal census. Building icons mark the big three straw hat factories where he may have worked.
Where did Frank work?
In the last post, I discussed Frank’s job as a clerk in a straw hat factory. So I wondered whether this map might help me figure out where he worked — at least geographically.
There were many small hat shops in Baltimore during my great-grandfather’s working life. However, Baltimore’s three main manufacturers of straw hats likely provided the bulk of the jobs:
- Brigham-Hopkins — 413-421 W. Redwood Street
- M.S. Levy — Paca & Lombard streets
- Townsend-Grace – 209 W. Fayette Street
So I added these company addresses as building markers to the map above — and Frank really could have worked at any of the big three. All were in reasonable commuting distance from most of his Baltimore homes.
More research ahead
More research would be needed into hat company archives to determine Frank’s exact employer. Are there rosters on which he might appear? What about payroll and other employee records?
However, mapping his addresses and those of the large straw hat manufacturers has given me a place to start.
More on the Owen household in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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