Tuesday’s Tip: Why Did Everyone Move in 1886?

When I first started researching in the early 2000s I spent hours plowing through microfilm of the Baltimore City Directories at my local library.  One thing I noticed when I put my information into my spreadsheet was that all my Baltimore City ancestors moved in 1886.  And most of them just moved to another house on the same street.  It was weird!

I also thought that there was some kind of weird printing issue in the 1887 directory.  I couldn’t understand why there were numbers before AND after the street names.  For example, my 4th great grandfather’s widow’s address was listed as 1217 e Chase 243.

Then one day in 2008 I decided to do some research and figure out what was going on.  I learned that most of my ancestors didn’t move (although one set of 2nd great grandparents did in fact move that year), the streets of Baltimore were renumbered in September-December 1886.  The new system used Charles Street as the new divider between east and west (it had been Calvert Street) and implemented “hundred blocks”.

Once I understood the changes I FINALLY stopped trying to figure out where my 2nd great grandfather’s produce store was at 141 West Baltimore Street in current day Baltimore.  Now I knew that it was at 209 East Baltimore Street and he occupied the same building from 1875 until 1899.

For those looking for more information on the renumbering, the 1887 R.L. Polk City Directory is a great resource because it included the new numbers as well as the old numbers (hence the 1217 e Chase 243 for my 4th great grandfather’s widow).  The new address was 1217 e Chase, the old address 243 e Chase.  The directory also included a complete listing of the renumbering starting on Page 45 of the directory.

As of today, I could not find a complete 1887 R.L. Polk Baltimore City Directory on-line for free.  However, the Baltimore City Archives has a PDF of just the street renumbering information from the 1887 directory here.
Fold3.com has the entire 1887 directory included in its records but you need a subscription for access.
***Note that there is an 1887 Business Directory free on archive.org but that does not include the renumbering information.***
For print and microfilm versions of the 1887 R.L. Polk Baltimore City Directory, go to the Baltimore City Archives City Directory listings.

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