52 Documents in 52 Weeks #46 – Enoch Hunt’s City Directory

Person of Interest: Enoch Hunt
Relationship: 3rd great-grandfather


Source Citation: H. Wilson, compiler, Trow’s New York City Directory: For the year ending May 1, 1857, (New York: John F. Trow, 1856), 406; digital images, Google Books (http://books.Google.com : accessed 17 July 2017).


Document Description: This is a page from a New York City directory published in 1856. It was part of a digitizing project with Google books and the entire book is available for download. This indexed book has a listing of residents, streets, calendars, list of nurses, and commercial register with advertising.


Background on city directories: City directories are a great resource for putting people in a particular place at a particular time. If you haven’t checked out the FamilySearch Wiki yet, you should! They have a great page dedicated to city directories. This wiki page has information on why they were created (for salesmen, merchants and people wanting to find residents of the area…), why they are useful (locating people in large cities…), potential content (married couples, occupations, maps…), availability, and finding aids. They were generally published annually and were a precursor to the modern phone directories which are themselves becoming defunct. Many libraries and archives still have city directories, you just need to dig to find them.


Document Scan/Transcription: I am not going to transcribe the entire page… Not going do it, not going to happen! I will however transcribe the entry I’m interested in:

Hunt Enoch, printer, h 174 W 20th


Analysis: Looking up the “h” in the abbreviations shows that Enoch was living in a house as opposed to an apartment building or over a store.

So what do I get out of this nondescript listing of Enoch Hunt? From other research, I know that he spent some time in New York City and worked as a printer for a while. This city directory confirms his occupation as a printer. The commercial appendix (page 30) that has the listing of printers paying for advertising.  It shows that Enoch probably didn’t own his own business or, if he did, was not large enough to afford advertisement in this directory as a separate business. He was most likely working for one of the larger printers in New York City.

Enoch was living on W. 20th Street.  That made me curious to find where in New York City that was.

This address is located on Manhattan quite close to the Flatiron Building, Gramercy Park, and Washington Square Park. A 2017 Google map shows where it is located on the island. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole on this task. I tried to locate a Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1855 or so, just to see what buildings would have been constructed and standing at Enoch’s time of residence. With the limited amount of time I gave myself I had no luck on finding anything online but that doesn’t mean I won’t turn one up later.

Source: Google maps, satellite mode, 2017

Perusing the rest of the Hunts in the directory yielded some other Hunts living nearby.

Henry Hunt, carman, living at 171 W. 20th

William Hunt, builder, living at 211 and 213 W. 20th

William S. Hunt, builder, also living at 211 W. 20th (perhaps father and son) and then another address at 218 W. 21st

Enoch lived with his daughter Kezia married to a man named Washer in New York City for a while, so I also looked for Washers in the directory. This listing goes directly from Washburn to Washington with no Washers in the mix.

This source is an authored work. Mr. H. Wilson compiled the directory (I’m sure with some help) and then published the work as a unique book. The information found in the book is secondary or even undetermined. Most of this comes from what Mr. H. Wilson collected and is prone to error. Case in point, there are mistake and addendum pages in the book. The evidence is direct with regards to the research question, “Where did Enoch Hunt, who worked as a printer in New York City, live in 1856-1857?” It directly answers that question with “174 W. 20th.” It is indirect in that it will not answer any kinship research questions like, “Who was the wife [or daughter or son] of Enoch Hunt, who worked as a printer in New York City, live in 1856-1857?” I would need to combine this with some other sources to answer kinship questions.

CONCLUSION

Since they were usually published annually, city directories are a great resource to track people in particular cities over the years. Locating this one for Enoch Hunt helped me to confirm he was working as a printer in New York City for a time but does not help to figure out why a man from New Jersey moved to New York City for some years to work as a printer. Perhaps the growing concerns about a Civil War lead him to move into printing. Another little mystery to add to my ever growing list of things to find or figure out!

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