Saturday, August 25, 2012

Miracle of the 1940 Census

I finally pulled up the new 1940 census.  I didn't think it would add anything to my family research.  After all, I'd managed to find the exact addresses of my relatives from the Williams Cincinnati Directories for almost every year, and they even included the residents' occupations. So, I thought, what could the census tell me.

This morning I wanted to write about Camp Washington, Henshaw Avenue, where my father was most likely born, according to the 1920 directory.  But Ancestry's shimmering green leaf on my paternal grandmother's name couldn't be ignored any longer, and I clicked, if only to get it out of my mind and get back on track with what I started out to do.

And then a question I've been carrying around for almost my whole life was finally answered.  Just by studying the 1940 census.

According to this new census, Grandfather Frank Dean and my Grandma Clara were living at 1455 Columbia Parkway, an apartment most likely or a two-family home, because Charles and Mabel Creech, the next family on the form also lived at that same address with their daughter Betty Doris and son William.  The "r" for rent was apparent on both listings.

Frank, "head of the house," lists his employment as "watchman" at a W.P.A. park project.   This would be a Works Project Administration, part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program.  
From Wikipedia:  "The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Works Project AdministrationWPA) was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects,[1] including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects.[1]"
I notice a few lines down on this census form another citizen working for a W.P.A. sewer project.  Employment was picking up thanks to FDR.

My father is listed as working as a stock clerk in a retail book store, and Uncle Norb was working for the C.C.C. Reforestation Project as a laborer.  The CCC, Civilian Conservation Corps, was another FDR New Deal project set up in 1931 by the state government as a temporary emergency relief administration which hired the unemployed.

I notice both my grandfather and Uncle Norb were making quite a bit more money than my father.  Dad probably liked his job a lot more, however, because he so loved books and reading.

The listing of the Dean children on the form is what finally grabbed my attention.  My father, Raymond, is 20, and the youngest, Frank, Jr., or "Uncle Junior," is 8.

In all of the directories I've researched over the last few years, I wasn't able to make a connection to an event that I've pondered for so long because the city directories did not list the children in the household, except those who were employed.  For instance, the 1935 Williams' Cincinnati Directory only lists Frank B. Dean  as a laborer, living at 1455 Gladstone Avenue, which brings up a question.

The '40 census states that the family was living in the "same place," as in 1935, and indeed the house number is identical, 1455.  However, this 1940 census has the family living at 1455 Columbia Parkway, not 1455 Gladstone Avenue. When did Gladstone turn into Columbia Parkway?  I know they are close together, but they've never been the same street.

Our recent trip took us all over the city to houses my family lived in, and Gladstone was one of those.

I don't know if houses were once on the other side of the street, the other side of the tracks, but this is Gladstone Street, in the East End, the street where Dad and his family lived from 1935 and on into 1940, even though the census says they lived on Columbia Parkway.  There was no 1455.  The houses shown in the photo were on the even side of the street.

This was the neighborhood, however.  Looking today a lot better than it looked back then.

View from Gladstone Avenue, 1937 Flood ~ 
Facebook/ Cincinnatis-East-End-Columbia-Tusculum-Linwood, with permission
I found the 1937 Flood photo on Facebook, showing the section of the city where my grandparents lived.

Back to this morning's eye-opening moment and the '40 census.

Studying the Dean family listing, I suddenly grasped the clarity of the information staring me right in the face. This was the first listing that showed all of members of the family together.

1940 was the last year my father lived with his parents and siblings as an intact family.  Dad married my mother soon after this, and Grandfather Frank disappeared from the family by the next directory or census listing.

And Uncle Junior was eight, old enough by this time to remember the night that changed their family history, the big fight.

It never seemed logical to me that Dad didn't live in the same house he threw his father out of.  The way Grandma told the story, though now I realize she held some things back, my father was there when Frank came home and everything went out of control that night.  They all were there that night.

A last family get-together, as it were.

Why this seemingly unimportant, tiny fact has bothered me so much I'm not sure.  I just know I needed to picture my father at this particular event as precisely as possible.

That night, which I now believe happened on Gladstone Avenue, or Columbia Parkway if that's what the Ohio Census Bureau wants to call it, was no insignificant happening for my father.  He carried that memory with him as long as his brain was functional.  I know that for a fact.

The guilt Dad took on his shoulders from that night weighed heavy at times in his life.  When Grandfather Frank came to our house in the '50s, to tell Dad and Grandma he was dying, after all those years not seeing anyone since the night he was forced to leave for good, that night I watched my father sag under his burden of guilt.

One would have to have known Dad intimately and understood him, listened to what he said during those times he was deeply depressed, to grasp the full impact that night with his father had on him.

Dad was a fighter, as were both of my uncles.  They knew how to box in the ring.  Uncle Norb wasn't as good as Dad and Uncle Frank.  Dad had to take up some of Norb's fights and finish them for him in the city barrooms and saloons.  This was going on when I was ten years old, so I recall it well.

I always had the impression, from Grandma's telling of the story, that my father was maybe a teenager, or possibly age 12, that night of the fight.  But thinking of that now, she was telling me that my Dad was still living at home.  He was a "boy" to Grandma.  That's how she referred to her oldest son at age 20.  A "boy." Just like my mother thought of my brother Ray at age 30 as a "boy," because he still lived at home.

Little pieces of the story continuing to be uncovered.  That's what family history is.  So many times these tiny nuggets shed much insight into the personalities and character of our relatives.

And I think that's why I do it.

My whole growing-up life was spent trying to figure out the people around me.  Maybe because if I knew them and what they were about, I'd be able to finally figure out who I was.

I don't have a photo of the house at 1455 Gladstone Avenue.  Just the memories, both good and terribly bad, that still live in those of us who were told the stories.


  1. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

  2. Thanks for the welcome! I like the idea of the Daily Themes, though most of the time I just get an idea and go with it. I guess when I can't think of a good story, I could go with the day's theme. Enjoyed visiting your blog. You've done a lot of writing!

  3. I had a similar problem with addresses that seemed to conflict. Then I found a city directory that listed their address along with the note 'formerly called ____' . Apparently the streets were renamed and renumbered! That solved my little mystery.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

    1. Theresa, I wish I'd come across a directory that stated that. Fortunately, a group on Facebook who have ancestors who lived in that area shared information on those streets. Yes, it had been renamed, and some of the houses demolished when the road became a busy highway. Good to "meet" you!