Before Rosa Parks: Irene Amos Morgan Ancestry Part I


Note: I hate referring to people, especially those that I do not know, by their first name. Someone pointed out that I do this in my blog. I realized I do this, it is not an accident. When writing about a family’s history it becomes confusing referring to everyone as Mr. Amos and Mrs. Amos because there is no distinction between if I am talking about a father or a son. I could put Mr. First name middle initial last name, but it becomes very lengthy especially when writing about the same person in an entire post. Hope that answers your question.

If your new, I would recommend checking out my previous post. This series is about the ancestry of Irene Morgan, a courageous woman who in 1944 refused to give up her seat for a white passenger while traveling to Baltimore.

Amos is her maiden name. Irene was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland in 1917. This post will cover the  1910 Census, 1920 Census, 1930 Census, and 1940 Census on the Amos family.

1910 Census:


      This census was quite difficult to read and sadly I was unable to read the street address of the Amos in 1910 although it was a rented. Robert Amos was listed as the head of the household. Robert, Irene’s father, was married to Ethel Amos. I was unable to find a marriage record between the two. Roadblock after roadblock I swear. Robert was born in 1884 in Maryland. He was four years older than his wife, Ethel, who was born in 1888 in Maryland as well. Robert was 26 and his wife was 22. By 1910, the Amos had three children (they would eventually have a total of nine children). Dorothy was born in 1906, Grace was born in 1908, and Ethel was born in 1909. Also listed as part of the household was Jane Shorts and her son Charles Shorts. Jane was listed as the sister of Robert. Two boarders, Isaac and Rosetta Williams, also lived with the Amos. 
      According to this Census, Robert and Ethel had been married for five years. Both Robert’s parents were native to Maryland as well as Ethel’s mother, however, her father was born in Virginia. Robert worked as a laborer and his wife was not employed.

1920 Census


The Amos lived on Reese Street. Below is what the street looks like today. Thank you Google Maps.


This census document is actually more legible, therefore, I will provide the section with the Amos listed.

1920 Amos

Now, Irene was born in 1917, so I was expecting her to appear on this census document, but she doesn’t. Perhaps the three year old was just forgotten. By this time Robert and Ethel went from having three children to seven (technically eight), two sons and five (six)  daughters. Robert continued to work as a laborer at a factory. The new additions to the family included Conrad (bn. 1913), John (bn 1916), Jane (bn 1918), and James (bn 1920).

1930 Census

     The Amos now lived on at a rented house on 3100 Barcley Street in Baltimore. From the 1930 Census, the age of first marriage is asked. Robert was 20 years old when he married a 17 year old Ethel. Robert continued to work as a laborer and was not a veteran of the First World War.
     By this time a few of the oldest children got married, yet they continued to live in the household along with their children. Dorothy, the eldest, was 24 at the time of the census. At the age of 18 she married a 21 year old Daniel Stokes around 1924. In 1925, they had their first child, a little girl name Blanche Stokes. Ethel, who was the second oldest, married her husband in 1929 when she was 19 years old. Her husband is not listed on this census, but their 5 month old daughter Shirley Shakespeare is. She worked as a maid in a private home. There is also a Rutherlord Steadman listed as a son-in-law to the head, yet he is only 1 years old. Weird.
     Irene is listed in this document. She was 14 years old. Two additional children also appeared in this census—Jessie (bn. 1922) and Justine (bn. 1925).

Now the research becomes more complicated.

1940 Census

IBy 1935 Robert and Ethel decided to part ways and got a divorced. I found an Ethel Amos living in Gloucester, Virginia in the 1940 Census. How do I know it is her? Well in an articling covering Irene’s brave act against bus segregation and racial discrimination it stated that she was returning home after visiting her mother in Gloucester.


Ethel lived by herself in Abington, Gloucester, Virginia. Her martial status was listed as divorced and she was 52 years old at the time of the census. Her highest level of education was two years of high school and she worked 12 hours a week as an operator at a beauty parlor.



      The remainder of the Amos family remained on Barclay Street in Baltimore. Robert had two children under his household Howard, which is John’s middle name, and a Martha who has the same age as Justine. Why the use of middle names? I have no idea. No one in the household worked. Robert highest level of education was the 5th grade, John’s the 8th grade, and Martha’s the 7th grade.  
      Living next door was Robert’s daughter, Dorothy Stokes with her children. No man lived in the household, yet she was still listed as being married. She was 30 years old working as a maid for a private family. Her children, Blanche and Charles, were 12 years old and 5 years old. Children who should have continued living with a parent in the 1940s are ‘missing’ from the census. By this time Irene should have gotten married to Sherwood Morgan, but I have not found an Irene Amos or Irene Morgan in 1940. Wish me luck as I hunt her down.

New Lead…

One thing I have learned is to always look at who else is living in the neighborhood. When reading the 1920 Census, I notice a Martha Amos. She lived on the same street as the Amos family. She could be Robert’s mother. Born in 1846 in Maryland, she was already a widow by 1920 and at 74 years old she worked as a servant in a private home. I will save the rest of her story and her connection to the family in a later post.


Hope you enjoy Irene’s family story.


Christina Thomas

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