My Walker and Allen families in Baltimore, Maryland have been a mystery to everyone. Isaac Allen and Elizabeth Walker marry on December 31, 1834 in the First Methodist Church in Baltimore (aka “Lovely Lane Church.”) They are my third great-grandparents.
I did find the parents of Isaac Allen eventually, and I’ll write more about him in a separate blog post. Hint: they are from Lancashire, England and get married there in 1802 before migrating to America.
Isaac and Elizabeth show up in the City of Baltimore in 1850, 1860, and 1870. She dies some time after 1870, and he dies some time after 1880. All their kids stay in Baltimore.
Elizabeth Walker was a mystery! There are hundreds of Walkers in Baltimore by the 1830s, so how to find Elizabeth’s family among all those Walkers? A lot of digging and trial-and-error, to be sure.
Here’s how I did the research, so far.
It’s taken me about a year to do all this work, one tiny piece of information every day, one more puzzle piece to try to place. There are many unanswered questions, and not enough “proof” by genealogy standards, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.
The one tricky part was the up until 1851, Baltimore City and Baltimore County were one entity. Sometimes the records say Baltimore County, sometimes they say Baltimore, Maryland, and sometimes they say Baltimore (Independent Cities). The phrasing matters because Ancestry cares about the exact spelling of a location. If the census record says “Baltimore (Independent Cities), Maryland” and I type in “Baltimore, Maryland” Ancestry might not find the record.
Also, some northern parts of Baltimore County were absorbed into Carroll County when Carroll was created in 1831.
I would love to say that this was a linear research plan and I plowed through the checklist below one item at a time. In reality, I’d start off on a track, then have to double-back to recheck records as I gained knowledge.
And each stage of this journey yielded a gem. Sometimes I didn’t know it was a gem until much, much later. I’m so glad I kept all my notes, every detail, in Evernote. It allowed me to find the answers to questions like: Who lived on Argyle Alley?
Start with the marriage record, and find her siblings
Because Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen were married at Lovely Lane, I started my search with the assumption that her siblings might also have married at Lovely Lane, sometime either 10 years before or after her. This would be more likely for Elizabeth’s sisters as they’d be married in their own church; Elizabeth’s brothers might be married in the church of their spouse.
I researched all the marriage records for Lovely Lane aka First Methodist Church aka Baltimore City Station Church from 1830 to 1850. Ancestry does indicate the church, but it’s not in the visible display of the record. It’s only when you add the record to an ancestor, Ancestry will show the location as First Methodist Church/Baltimore City Station, Baltimore, Maryland.
It’s far easier to find it in FamilySearch where you’ll see it instantly on the next screen.
Some marriage records are NOT for the First Methodist Church, even though it displays that way on FamilySearch. How do I know? I found each marriage record in the PDF marriage index cards on the Maryland State Archives website. These cards list the minister’s name. (As a side note, the Maryland State Archives is an amazing resource for family tree researchers. Many of its records are digitized. However, the site is not easy to navigate, so take your time.)
Next, I researched each minister to find out which church he was associated with:
- First, it’s important to know that during this time period, travelling preachers were commonplace. Some ministers only stayed with a congregation for a year or two.
- The easiest way to do this is to Google the minister and the word “Baltimore” and see if you can find him easily. Sometimes you get lucky.
- Next, try Archive.org. It has digitized books, including religious annual conference notes, and city directories, for several hundred years.
- Search for the minister on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org or whichever online service you’re using. He might show up in census records.
By finding the church of each minister, I found the some were Catholic records and some were Episcopal records. Good to know so that I didn’t waste time going down rabbit trails for people who might not be a fit.
Because the City of Baltimore was part of Baltimore County until 1851, I couldn’t know which of these marriages were city people. What I did discover was that people would come from the outlying counties into the city to get married at the church. Some people came all the way from Dorchester County, across the Bay! This put a confusing spin on finding these people later, because I had erroneously assumed that city marriages were for city citizens. A lesson learned the hard way.
Looks for easy DNA matches
Once I knew about the marriages for the Walkers in the Methodist Church, the first (easy) step was to search for Walker DNA matches to see if I’d get lucky. And I did!
There were three couples who matched both the Baltimore Methodist marriages and a DNA match. I’d do further DNA “proving” on them later in the process, but this gave me a starting place:
- Margaret Walker married William Lovett in November 1826. She’s likely 18 or older, so probably born around 1808 or earlier. Her descendants were in both Baltimore City and County. They were married at Baltimore City Station church by Rev George Roberts.
- Elizabeth Walker married Isaac Allen in 1834. That’s my family line. Elizabeth’s 1850 and 1860 census say she’s born around 1818, but it’s more likely she’s born around 1816 (18 when she married).
- John Walker married Elizabeth Mitchell in 1841. His descendants stayed in the Baltimore City area. He would likely be 21 or older when he marries, so born in/before 1820.
Once I knew this, I could build out Margaret’s and John’s trees to see if there was any further information to glean about them.
I could also look in the 1820 census for a family that had these children, and an 1830 census for a matching family ( minus Margaret who was already been married by 1830).
Find them in the census
In order to build out the family trees for all these couples, I had to find out who they were. The easy first step was to see if they showed up in the next census record after their marriage date, in Baltimore.
The once-a-decade census can help you find people quickly and build a larger framework for building your trees for these couples. It will quickly show you if the ages are right and if there’s more than one person in Baltimore with the same name.
For each couple, I looked for them in the next few census records in Baltimore City. I had to guess the ages of the couple. By default, I would guess at least 21 for the man and at least 18 for the woman. I couldn’t be sure, just looking at the marriage record, whether it was a second marriage for either of them.
Sometimes people truly didn’t know how old they were. But the legal age for men to marry was 21; under that, they had to get the consent of a parent or guardian. So if Isaac Allen married in 1834, he was probably born around 1813 or earlier. (This is how I know, for sure, that the Isaac Allen born in 1818 Baltimore can’t possibly be the one that marries in 1834. He would have only been 16 years old.) I’m guessing the Elizabeth was the same age or slightly younger, perhaps as young as 18. I did this same calculation for all the Walker/Lovely Lane marriages I found.
About half of these couples had census records and the other half seemed to disappear from Baltimore. Either a spouse died (then I had to look for a second marriage for the surviving spouse) or they moved out of the city.
In the 1830s, one migration trend was for people to move away from the countryside into the more industrialized cities where they could find work, so it would be unlikely that they’d move into Baltimore County, unless they moved to one of the bigger towns in Baltimore County. The other migration trend was for them to move west into Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, etc., or move south into Tennessee, Kentucky, etc.
And because Baltimore is a port, they could have moved anywhere! I did find some Walkers moving to New York City and Washington, D.C., and as far away as New Orleans.
I started with the 1830 census, to see if I could find a family that included Elizabeth Walker and John Walker. I came up with several. By 1840, Elizabeth and Isaac Allen have their own census, as do Margaret and William Lovett.
In 1830, I found one family that matched both the children for 1830 and the children who would still be at home in 1840: a woman head of household, Elizabeth Walker in Ward 1 of Baltimore City. I didn’t know if she was widowed or divorced. But she’s having children up to 1826, so whatever happens to her husband, it happens after that time. In my head I called her “widow Elizabeth Walker” so I wouldn’t confuse her with the Elizabeth Walker who married Isaac Allen.
Then I went back to the 1820 census, looking for a family who would have contained all 3 children, and found several possibilities.
To tie them together, I had to figure out who Elizabeth Walker had married. In 1830, the age ranges of her children indicate that she marries sometime in the early 1800s, probably around 1800 to 1808.
Who did Elizabeth Walker marry?
I looked for all Walker men who married a woman named Elizabeth, Eliza or Betsy. I was especially interested in any marriages that were Methodist. Most were listed on Ancestry, a few were only listed on FamilySearch.
- Charles Walker married Elizabeth Williams, 1802. No minister noted. The only Charles in the census in 1820 has just himself and a wife, so he can’t be the father of children born before 1820.
- Cornelius Walker and Elizabeth Owings, 1802. No minister noted. He leave Baltimore by 1807 so can’t be the husband of Elizabeth Walker in 1820 when she’s having kids.
- Jacob Walker married Elizabeth Pumphrey, Methodist. The index says “Humphrey” but the marriage card says Pumphrey and there is a newspaper announcement that says Pumphrey. The card does not give a minister name, but his brother, William Walker, marries her sister, Aschah Pumphrey about seven years earlier, and the minister is Rev. John Hagerty, Methodist. When Elizabeth Pumphrey Walker dies, she’s buried at Mt Olivet Cemetery, which is a Methodist cemetery in Baltimore. So, I put them in the Methodist category by association, not by proof. Jacob does not have enough daughters in his census records to be a match.
- William Walker married Elizabeth Kensell, 1803, Methodist. The card says the minister is Rev Coats. After searching the newspaper, the minister is actually Rev. Samuel Cotes, who was in the Light Street Church/Baltimore City Station from 1802-1804. The William Walker who shows up in 1820 does have the right number of children.
- John Walker married Elizabeth Marrell, 1806, Episcopalian. The minister is Rev Bend. Although FamilySearch says this is a Methodist marriage, Rev Joseph Bend was an Episcopalian minister, so this might have been mis-filed. FYI, I’ve seen Catholic and Lutheran records that say Methodist in the FamilySearch records, so always look for the minister.
- John Walker married Elizabeth Walker, 1808. No minister noted. This is John Walker marrying his cousin, Elizabeth Walker. He is the son of Christopher Walker and Patience Foster. She is the daughter of Joseph Walker and Jemima unknown maiden. Most of this family ends up in Hamilton, Ohio in 1820, so can’t be having children in Baltimore at the same time.
- William Walker married Betsey Kreamer/Kramer, 1809, Methodist. The minister was Rev. Joseph Shane, who was in the Light Street Church/Baltimore City Station starting around 1808 for several decades. (He is also the minister who marries Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen in 1834.)
- Thomas Walker married Elizabeth Down, 1810, Methodist. No minister is noted, but FamilySearch says it’s a Methodist marriage. He does not have the right number of children in the census.
From this list, I came up with a subset of viable couples. Some I could dismiss because they had already left the Baltimore area, and some I could dismiss because they didn’t have the right number of children for 1820 and 1830.
People with the same name
When I look at the list above for marriages, I’m curious: Is it the same William Walker marrying twice? Is it the same John Walker? I haven’t been able to figure it out for sure. I went through all the Baltimore Directories to see if there were two Williams and two Johns, and tried to reconcile the locations and marriages.
Back to the 1820 Census
Once I knew that Elizabeth’s youngest child was born around 1808, and that she was on her own by 1830 (but not in 1820), I could go back to the 1820 census to find a family who would match.
The best match I found was William Walker, in Ward 8. I like him as a possibility for several reasons:
- He has the right amount of kids, though more than I expected.
- He gets married by Rev Joseph Shane, the same minister who marries my Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen.
- He’s near the harbor in 1820, and in 1840 the “widow” Elizabeth Walker has two mariners living with her. Isaac Allen is a sea captain.
- He’s near the Light Street Church/Baltimore City Station were many of my Allens get married.
Build out their family trees
But William had more kids than I expected, so I was missing some people. In order to be sure, I had to build out the trees of all the Walker marriages, to see who else was out there. While I concentrated on those in Baltimore City, I also did all of them for Baltimore County, just in case. I couldn’t rely on other people’s trees being accurate, but I used them as a template, then proved or disproved them with records.
This took the better part of six months. The good news is now I know about nearly every Walker family in the late 1700s and early 1800s in Baltimore area!
Here’s what I checked for records:
- Newspaper articles – a huge treasure trove, because it often give family relationships or names of ministers. I looked for births, deaths, marriages and any mention of a William Walker or a Wm Walker.
- Marriage records and birth records. Marriage records don’t often say whether it’s a second marriage, but a newspaper might say something like Samuel Jones married Mrs. Sarah Smith.
- Gravesite information. Mt Olivet has a spreadsheet on their website with all the burials, so I could compare that to the other information to see if any Walkers were buried in this Methodist Church cemetery.
- Baltimore City Directory, which is updated every 2 years. I have most of them from 1800 through 1850, so I could see how people moved around. Elizabeth Walker shows up on her own in the 1827 Baltimore Directory on Ann Street. She has her final son in 1826 per the 1830 census, so all the puzzle pieces were coming together. Her husband is either dead or they are separated by 1827.
- Tax lists
- Maryland State Archives – they have a ton of digital information on their website, though it’s not easy to navigate. They specifically have an area for Baltimore City records.
- Archive.org and Google Books is another treasure trove of arcane information. This is where I found most of the information about who the Baltimore ministers and priests were.
- Military records. These men would have been around during the War of 1812, especially the defense of Baltimore in 1814 at Fort McHenry. They are referred to in newspaper stories as “Old Defenders.”
- Plain old-fashioned Google searches. You never know what you’ll uncover.
Finding the missing kids
In 1850, Margaret Walker Lovett has a Roset Walker living with her. I went back and found a Rosetta Walker marrying John O’Neill in 1838, minister is Rev Joseph Shane! I could not find a John O’Neill mentioned anywhere: no census records, not in the Baltimore Directory. He either dies, or they split up, and she goes back to her maiden name. Rosetta is with Margaret as Roset Walker in 1850 and Rose Walker in 1860.
Then I found a newspaper article about a 17-year-old Benjamin Franklin Walker, son of William Walker, who died in 1823. This matched exactly with the missing child from the 1820 census. However, if he’s born 1806, then this means that William Walker was married twice, and one of them was before 1806.
Going back to my marriages list, it would be the William Walker/Elizabeth Kensell marriage in 1803. I have access to another Walker DNA report, and when I checked my report and their report, we have no DNA matches for Kensell, Kensel, Kensal, or Hensell, etc. But that would be okay — If William Walker married twice, then Benjamin Franklin and possibly Margaret are his kids from the first marriage in 1803 to Kensell, and Elizabeth, John and Rosetta are his kids from the second marriage in 1809 to Kreamer/Kramer.
The way I’ll know for sure is to reach out to people from the Margaret Walker Lovett line, and ask if they have any Kensell DNA matches.
Check for DNA matches
At this point, I had about 30 or 40 Walker trees going, and had enough information to check for DNA matches — especially for those Walkers who were born in Maryland and moved away.
Just because I had a match for a Walker born in Maryland doesn’t mean anything. My father has many ancestors from Maryland on his mother’s side, and I suspect he might have some on his father’s side, too. I couldn’t assume that just because I had a Walker/Maryland match, that it was from the right family.
I looked a the shared matches I had with the DNA match person – were any of these “known and proven” Walkers or Allens? I separated my matches into two categories: “strong possibility” and “needs research.”
For all the “strong possibility” matches, I rebuilt their tree back 4 or 5 generations to see if the match could be elsewhere. Yes, I know, it’s mind-numbingly exhaustive work, but it pays huge dividends: I got to know ALL the Walker families in the Baltimore area during this timeframe. This was crucial information: it allowed me, later, to add or discard people based on what I knew about the entire Walker Universe in Baltimore.
I came up with three strong DNA matches that seemed to be the right family, matched with my other known Allen matches, and best of all, matched with each other.
I noticed when I was at this point that there were several other serious researchers looking into the same Walker families. I reached out to each of them with what I knew so far, and luckily I met Donna, who also had several Walker DNA tests on AncestryDNA. Oddly, my Dad was not a match for Donna or her sister, but when I looked at Donna’s DNA report, I was able to identify all the Allen/Walker kids from my own line in her report.
Then I knew I was on to something big!
I could confirm that DNA matches to Margaret Walker Lovett and to John Walker who married Elizabeth Mitchell.
Oddly, I could find no matches further back than these couples. To me, that’s a hint that they’re either all first generation Americans, or that their parents were only children.
Build a timeline and map them out to street level
In order to double-check, I built a timeline for all the William Walkers in Baltimore, from 1800 through 1850. I noted their professions (either listed in the Baltimore Directory, census records, or in news reports) and their location.
Mostly I was interested in one thing: where were Isaac Allen and Elizabeth Walker Allen, and who was around them who could be family members. Many families in Baltimore tended to live near their parents, siblings, cousins, etc. Did any of the William Walkers live near them?
The 1836 map of Baltimore was super helpful as it showed me the names of the streets during that time period.
And the online list of the street name changes was a brilliant find. If the 1827 Baltimore City Directory said a Walker lived on Argyle Alley, why couldn’t I find it on Google Maps? Come to find out, the City of Baltimore did many “street name change” projects, as smaller villages were consumed by the city and many street names were duplicated. By knowing the old street name (which showed up in the Baltimore City Directory in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s) and the modern-day street names (which show up in Google Maps), I was able to see who lived near each other. It told me which election ward they were in for the census records, too, when I compared the street name to the 1836 online map. Come to find out, Argyle Alley is today’s Regester Street.
Almost as important, it showed me the streets as they related to two important locations: The location of the Light Street Methodist Church (aka Lovely Lane/Baltimore City Station) and the location of the harbor. Isaac Allen was a sea captain, his sons were ship carpenters and ship caulkers. If he had that affinity to the sea, and the need to live close to the harbor, then the Walkers might be in the same boat (pun intended!).
Do a census analysis to find the family
Once I had Margaret, Elizabeth and John, I could go into census records to try to find this Walker family in Baltimore. There was no guarantee that they lived in the city the whole time — they could have come from anywhere.
Start with what you know:
- Margaret was born around 1808, Elizabeth was born around 1814 and John was born around 1820.
- Margaret married in 1828, so I’d find her on the 1820 census with her parents, but possibly not in 1830.
- Elizabeth married in 1834. I’d find her on 1820 and 1830 with her parents.
- John married in 1841. Because he was born “about 1820” I couldn’t know if I’d find him on the 1820 census. But I’d definitely find him on the 1830 census.
Checking locations: how did Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen meet?
It’s all well and good to gather data points, but those pieces of information have to make sense in the real-world lives that Isaac Allen and Elizabeth Walker lived in. How did they meet? Was it through the Methodist church? The Baltimore Directory proves it out – Isaac Allen, during this time, is living with his uncle, Henry Allen. Elizabeth would be living with her mother, “widow” Elizabeth Allen.
- 1827 – Elizabeth Walker, Ann Street, east side near Aliceanna
- 1827 – Henry Allen, carpenter, Argyle Alley, north of Wilk
- 1829 – Elizabeth Walker, 19 Ann Street
- 1829 – No Henry, William or Isaac Allen in directory
- 1831 – Elizabeth Walker not in directory
- 1831 – Henry (sic Hervey) Allen, carpenter, Argyle Alley, near Wilk
- 1833 – Elizabeth Walker not in directory
- 1833 – Henry Allen, ship joiner, Argyle Alley, near Bank
- 1834 – Isaac Allen marries Elizabeth Walker
- 1835 – Elizabeth Walker, Argyle Alley (today’s Regester Street), south of Lancaster
- 1835 – Henry Allen, carpenter, Argyle Alley, south of Bank
- 1837 – Elizabeth Walker, Argyle Alley, south of Aliceanna
- 1837 – Henry Allen, carpenter, Argyle Alley, south of Bank
- 1842 – Elizabeth Walker not in directory – nor is she in the directory any time after this.
The DNA surnames that match
Here are the kids of William and Elizabeth (Kensell, Kreamer/Kramer) Walker. If you have any DNA matches down one of these lines, I’d love to hear from you! Together, we can fit more of the puzzle pieces in place.
Margaret Walker Lovett’s children have the surnames: Lovett, Hook, Underwood, Bryan, Hare, Ford, and more
Rosetta Walker O’Neill doesn’t have any children that I know of.
Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen’s children have the surnames: Allen, Webster, Wroten, Dowling, Graves, Slouck, Rice and more
John Walker and Elizabeth Mitchell’s children have the surnames: Walker, Thomas, Toole, Remmey, Pilcher, Cole, and more
I have added William Walker and Elizabeth Kreamer/Kramer and Elizabeth Kensell to my tree. If you’re on Ancestry, you can see William’s tree here.
That’s what I have so far
This is the end of my search for the family of Elizabeth Walker and Isaac Allen. I did find a divorce case for Elizabeth Walker vs William Walker in 1845, Baltimore County, which I’ve ordered from the Maryland Archives. There are only three Elizabeth/William couples this could be, and two of them are still together in 1850. If I get lucky, this will be my “widow” Elizabeth, who wasn’t a widow at all!
I’m nearly 100% certain that the parents of Elizabeth Walker Allen are William Walker and Elizbeth Kreamer/Kramer. I don’t have many Kreamer/Kramer DNA matches, but they might have been newly-arrived immigrants, too. I’ll look into it now that I have something to hang my DNA hat on.