I’ve been having fun lately using the Google Earth overlay feature to map where my ancestors lived in various townlands in Ireland during the 19th century. By referencing Griffith’s Valuation records, it’s possible to determine with a great deal of accuracy where they lived and what land they were leasing.
While doing U.S. research last weekend on my great great grandparents Lewis Blacker and Margaret Rebecca (Loury/Lower) Blacker, I wondered if it might be possible to map where they lived in 1850.
Here is the family in the census record – Lewis and Margaret living with their two daughters Elizabeth and her husband Nathan Pierce and Sarah and her husband Alonzo Ford – living in Ward 1, City of Dayton, Miami County, Ohio.
I started by searching Google for an historic map related to that location and time period but the closest I could find was this 1875 map from historicmapworks.com.
Looking again at the 1850 U.S. Census record, I was hoping to find some reference to an address, or at least a street name – but was quickly disappointed when I realized there were none. The only reference is the “dwelling house” number (column 1) and a number indicating the order in which each family was visited (column 2).
Never one to give up easily, however, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, there might be some other notation or reference to a landmark that might give me a clue. So I decided to go through the record, page by page.
Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. The very first listing on page 1 was for a group of people who lived in a hotel. A rather large group of people – 27, to be exact. That could be good, right? A rather large hotel possibly owned by the first person listed – a “hotel keeper” by the name of Francis Ohmer.
Next, I searched Google for Mr. Ohmer’s name, plus a few additional identifiers like “Ohio” and “1850” – and soon came across the American Antiquarian Society web site, with a reference to the Richard P. Morgan Indexes. Included there is a searchable database of the “Ohio Name Index, 1796-1900”, which includes “Odell’s Dayton Directory and Business Advertiser, 1850”. And Mr. Ohmer is in that database.
It appeared at first that the directory was a listing of business people so I began by searching the database for other individuals listed in the 1850 census that looked like they might have owned a business . . . a distiller, a moulder, a grocer, and a cooper. By mapping the addresses of those businessmen, I might be able to ascertain the direction in which the census taker was moving, which would ultimately help me determine where the Blackers lived.
And my idea seemed to be working. And then, quite by accident, I realized there were some “laborers” listed in the directory.
Since Lewis Blacker was listed as a “laborer” in the census, I searched his first and last name in the database but nothing came up. Remembering that “Blacker” is often misspelled, I tried searching on his first name alone – and I got lucky. There was only 20 names in the result, one for a “Lewis Blicker“. A laborer who lived at “Third North Side East of Old Canal, Dayton, Ohio”. And since “Blicker” is an alternate spelling that comes up over and over again (which will be the subject of a blog post in the near future), I believe this is my guy!
I was unable to find a digital image of the directory online but did discover several locations where I could order a reproduction, at a very reasonable price. So I placed an order – and it came in the mail yesterday. Hooray!
Here’s an image of the page where Lewis Blicker appears.
And so now I know he lived on the “north side of Third east of old canal.” Well, at least that’s where he lived according to the Dayton directory.
As a double-check, I decided to continue mapping some of the other folks referenced in and around the Blacker family in the census and it actually appears they lived in a different location at the time the census was taken in October of that year. If my calculations are correct, they lived on First Street between Madison and Sears – just a few blocks north of the Third Street location – at the time of the census.
I still believe the “Lewis Blacker” in the census record (October 1850) and the “Lewis Blicker” in the Dayton directory (published in August 1850) are likely the same individual, as it seems entirely plausible that the family might have lived in two different locations in the same year.
Shown below are the two different locations on the historical Dayton map . . .
And here are those same two locations shown on a current Google map . . .
Obviously, none of this information answers my ultimate brick wall question, which is . . .
Where in Germany were Lewis and Margaret born??
But while driving in my virtual car up and down Third Street, I noticed a church in the block just on the other side of Madison St. I zoomed in on the church sign and saw that the name was St. John’s United Church of Christ. I then located the church website and learned the following:
- St. John’s was established by a group of German Evangelical Protestants in 1840 as the “German Evangelical Congregation”
- The original meeting location was in the old courthouse located at 3rd Street and Main
- The East 3rd Street site was built in 1865
- That building was destroyed by fire in 1899 and construction on the new church was completed in 1901
So that’s some good information. The church was not in that location in 1850 when the Blacker family lived down the street, but it was in existence at another location. So that’s definitely worth further investigation for possible records.
And once again, you never know what you’ll find on Google!!
Featured Image attribution: By Google Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons