Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Place To Stand

A lot of family history research is spent indoors at libraries and on computers. Sometimes we want to visit the places our ancestors lived so that we might get a sense of their surroundings. Walk the same streets and imagine what life was like for them.

We found that Census records and City directories are a good resource. In the case of the 1906 Baltimore City directory (appearing to the right), we discovered George Ruth's father worked in a saloon at 406 West Conway Street. According to some sources, George, Jr. had a room above the saloon for about 7 years. That is, however, when he wasn't spending time at St. Mary's Industrial School.

Wouldn't it be great to walk the same streets that Ruth walked as he came of age! Unfortunately, those streets haven't been around for a long time. In fact, the neighborhood has been replaced with a stadium that is home to the Baltimore Orioles. Since they won't let us walk on the playing field, let us recreate the neighborhood.

Over the years we have collected a number of maps. The auction site Ebay is an excellent source for old stuff. I used an 1887 Mitchell map of Baltimore to create the first map image to the right. It is the general area of Ruth's neighborhood. The next step is to mark the location of Ruth's house on the map. Land records precisely define the location of a property using landmarks and street names.

Using the information available on the Internet we were able find Ruth's house. It appears as a yellow dot on the second map image on the right.

If you are satisfied just seeing the location without hearing an explanation, then you can skip the rest of this Web log.

The land records for the State of Maryland are online at the following link:MDLandRECS

The site asks for a username and password. Instead, click on the highlighted text above the dialogue box that says "Fill out an application for a password". Sign up and get access. We then go to the Baltimore City records. If George, Sr. actually owned the property, we could search the Grantor / Grantee books for this time period. A search for this time period shows no ownership by him.

Baltimore City keeps a set of Block books that record land activity on properties within a block. We select the Block Books link. We need to lookup George's block on one of the Maps. However the only series that has online images is the one entitled "CE225 (Block Maps) 1991-1991". Sheet 13 is the image we want. Our area of interest is Block 688.

We then select the book series "CE9 - Block Book (1851-1976)". This part is tedious. Starting with a book series after World War II, we searched Block 688 looking for any transaction with "406 W Conway" street. Going back we finally find one in the 1928-1935 series.

We can enter the Book and folio number at the top of the page and jump to the deed from there. The entry is Book SCL 5272, Page 27.

The Deed is made between Mary Hornig and Frank Paplauckas. The names are unimportant but the description of the house is. It says that from the corner of Conway and Little Paca Street proceed southerly 21 feet. Then at right angles to Conway Street 66 feet, then north parallel to Conway 13 1/2 feet to Little Paca Street and then back to the beginning.

It sounds like a corner home that is wide in the front and tapers to the rear.

The deed also referred to the very old names for these streets. Conway was once Jefferson Street and Little Paca was Lunns Lot Lane.

The general area of the map we need is covered by ward 16. To the right of the large number 16 is Eutaw Street that runs north / south. It is next to and to the left of Camden Station.

We can go to the site Archive.org and lookup the records for the street definitions of Baltimore. The street names document is located at Archive.org. You have to page down to "178 Records Of".

The definition put Lunns Lot Lane / Little Paca as one street to the right of and parallel to Greene St. Using the above information I updated the map to include the name of Little Paca Street and also a yellow dot for 406 w Conway Street.

Wouldn't it be nice to see how this map might fit in with the current streets? Next time we will take our new map out for a spin with Google Earth.


MD Land Records


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