Getting My Geek On, pt. 3: The McDonalds in the 1940 Census

In the first two posts on my series about my forays into the 1940 census, I wrapped up my paternal grandfather and grandmother’s families. In this, the third in the series, I’ll be moving on to my my maternal grandfather’s family, the McDonalds.

While growing up, I was constantly reminded of the dichotomy of my parents, even before they divorced when I was ten, but especially since then while doing family history research. My mother was born in California, while my dad was born in Texas. When my mother moved to Texas in the 1970s, she met my father through the company they worked at and started dating. Though born in D.C., my father had lived his whole life in Texas pretty much, save for occasional jobs that took him elsewhere. He was the son of a long line of southern folks, and when I look back in the records, I see this clearly. Virginia, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas…all of these places feature prominently in their history. Most of them were slaveholders and coming west to them still meant staying in the western part of the south. Sweet tea, front porches and cornbread all the way. This heritage was clear even in the 1940 census, with the families remaining in towns they’d been in for much of the century.

My mother’s side of the family, meanwhile, were rather footloose. They weren’t always like that – they settled for a generation or so back in the early 1800s. But come the 1900s, this Midwestern folks just kept moving father west, and often within a short span of time. Within about one hundred years, I traced families from Ohio to Illinois to Nebraska to Kansas to South Dakota, back to Kansas, to Utah and then to California. Part of this move was due to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, which my maternal grandmother’s family was right in the middle of. I’ll cover that in my next post as I look for her family. For now, we’ll stick with my maternal grandfather’s family, who ended up following railroad work initially and then just looking for a better place in the 1900s in California.

Since my grandfather passed away in 2006, I relied on the memory of his wife, my grandmother, and my mother to help me narrow down where he would be. I was told he went to high school in Napa, but they couldn’t get any more specific than that. I started out with that and in my third enumeration district, I hit paydirt:

Craig McDonald, 52, son of Frank and Fidelia (Frazier) McDaniel/McDonald, is listed here with his wife, Maude Edna (Goble) McDonald, 53, and two of their three sons, Franklin, 19, and Keith, 15. Their eldest, Craig Wyman is already out of the house and I have yet to locate him in the 1940 census. I may wait until the index comes out to try, since it’s really a needle in a haystack for him. One can see the familial migrations here, though, in their birthplaces. Craig’s parents were born in Illinois – he and Maude were born in Nebraska, and their own children in Utah, but they were all in California at this time. Even more fascinating is the 1935 residence description – apparently, they were all in San Francisco. I don’t know how long they were there, but it was news to me. I wonder if perhaps the eldest son was still there, or what other records might exist from their stay there. I will need to look into it.

Something else that was intriguing was looking at how hard the entire family was working. All of them were employed in some aspect or another, even the youngest, Keith (my gpa!):

Craig, the father is seen as working 44 hours a week for about 50 weeks in the year as a farm hand at the state hospital. I’ve heard many stories about him working there from my grandmother over the years. I really would like to look into this more. Just a cursory glance at the historical section of the Napa State Hospital website includes the following quote:

“Initially, 192 acres of land were purchased for $11,506 from Don Cayetano Juarez. These acres were part of the Mexican Land Grant, Rancho Tulocay, received from General Mariano Vallejo. Additional land was acquired over the years bringing the total to over 2,000 acres. The land extended from a wharf on the Napa River to the eastern edge of Skyline Park, allowing for the development of dairy and poultry ranches, vegetable gardens, orchards and other farming operations necessary to make the hospital as self-sufficient as possible. Farming operations ceased in the late 1960’s.”

Maude was employed about 30 hours a week for about 13 weeks of the year as a cook at a local high school, and then Frank, my great-uncle,was working as a waiter in the college cafeteria for about 28 hours a week about 34 weeks of the year. Finally, my grandfather was working as a janitor at a church about 10 hours a week 12 weeks of the year. In sum, they brought home $1930 for the year, slightly more than my paternal grandfather’s family did with their family-owned tailoring business in Texas. I can’t speak to the living costs of either place, but just noting it was similar at least in take-home money.

My grandfather worked hard all of his life, and I can see it started young. He later was in the military for WWII and then became a policeman. Even when he retired from that and owned his own business and other things, he was a driven individual. It’s fascinating to see this glimpse of him early in life. I only wish he were still here for me to show him.

In my next post, I’ll share more about my search for my maternal grandmother’s family – the trickiest of them all!

Source Citations:

1940 U.S. census, Napa County, California, population schedule, Napa, enumeration district (ED) 28-12A, sheet no. 2-B (penned), dwelling 53, Craig McDonald household; digital images, ( accessed 27 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T627.

“History – Napa State Hospital.” California Department of Mental Health. 2011. Accessed 27 Apr 2012.

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