Friday, March 23, 2012

Taking a Second Look

Six months ago I wrote a summary of a presentation given by Doug Magee for the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. I wish I had paid more attention to my write-up.  While researching my Joneses in the East End, I have relied heavily on information derived from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and Cincinnati City Directories accessed through the Virtual Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. One of the things Doug mentioned during his talk was that the library had a digitized copy of the Decennial Tax Valuation of Cincinnati Real Estate.

As genealogists, we know that the 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a fire and does not exist.  We must make use of other sources to put together our story.  Since this tax valuation was published in 1892, I neglected to realize the contribution this book could make to my research.

I knew my early Jones family members lived on the banks of the Ohio River behind St. Rose Church. You can read about it here. Years ago I researched this property.  I knew that Nancy Torrence had inherited this property from her father, George Torrence.  My ancestors lived on Lot 10 and she had donated Lot 11 to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for St. Rose Church.  I believed that she continued to own this land and that my relatives were renters.  I did not immediately recognize, therefore, that the 1892 Tax Valuation would have a lot of relevance for me.  THAT ASSUMPTION WAS SO WRONG!

Lot 10 owned by Nancy Torrence
Note small building on the riverbank.

The Tax Valuation lists the value of real estate by Cincinnati Wards in existence in 1892.  There is a value for the land and for any structures on the land.  There is a description of the Ward boundaries.  The lot pictured above was situated in the First Ward.

I then looked for property owned by Nancy Torrence and found this:

From the table above, you can see that Lot 10 had a land value of $1570 and a building value of $170! I knew that this house, located on the riverbank, flooded nearly every spring.  As a comparison, I looked up the property values of other family members in the area.

In 1892, my g-grandparents, Charles Henry and Rachel Adela Jones, owned a two-family home on Gladstone (then called Fulton) that had a land value of $380 and a building value of $1220. The total value of both properties is very close ($1740 vs. $1600) but the values are reversed.

There was one more surprise. Cincinnati City Directories list Rachel's mother, Mary Elizabeth Wainright, as living in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, probably taking care of the children. Rachel died of  "consumption" in 1892. I knew when my great-grandfather remarried eight years after his wife's death, his mother-in-law took up residence in a home she owned around the corner on Collins (then Woodburn).  Despite the listing of her residence on Gladstone, the tax records showed that she also owned the property on Collins.

Although I've not been able to find a picture of this home, I know that the lot was only 30' across the front and that, typical of its time, there was no indoor plumbing.

Given what I was able to learn about my family from a year when there was no census, you may want to consider this resource. What's especially great is that all of this research can be completed with your laptop in a recliner (at least that's how I did mine).  Enjoy!


  1. Great stuff from a little known resource!

    1. Thanks, Carol. I can't believe I overlooked it. I'm the one that wrote the summary for our genealogical society blog and just recently realized that there was a gem hidden in there.