Finding The Details

Census records are one of the most fundamental records in which to find your ancestors. They give so much information and provide clues to other records we can search for. But they are just a snapshot of place and time every 10 years. If you want to find out what happened between census years you have to look for records that were taken on a more regular basis. Tax records are one example of this, but so are city directories.

Frederick W. Stabley was my 2nd great-grandfather. Here he is with his wife Emma, who you can read more about here. I love this picture! My guess is it was taken in the late 1920s.

Photo of Frederick and Emma Stabley

Frederick and Emma were married on 12 February 1871 in York County, Pennsylvania. 1 An article celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary spells out wonderful details about them and their family.

50th Wedding Anniversary newspaper article for Frederick and Emma Stabley

I have been able to find Frederick in every census record throughout his life. Starting in 1870, when Frederick was 20 years old, he is listed as a “carpenter.” That is such a generic term and I wanted to know more, so I turned to city directories.

York County, Pennsylvania has a wonderful city directory collection on This table shows him as a carpenter in each one during a portion of his adult life. There’s not much to glean from this except for his change of address. If you looked just at the census records, you would have missed his move to 286 Cottage Hill Avenue. All addresses are for York, Pennsylvania.

Table of city directory entries

I’m glad I didn’t stop in 1915 because I would have missed so much more about Frederick and the kind of work he did.

In 1917 the York County City Directory showed Frederick was an assemblyman for the Hench & Dromgold Company. Did an ad like this prompt Frederick to work there?2

Men wanted ad

Hench & Dromgold made spring tooth harrows, a type of agricultural cultivator. Frederick already had experience working in this field. The 1910 census has his place of employment as the Spring Harrow Company.3

In the 1919 and 1921 directories Frederick was a woodworker for the Flinchbaugh Machine Company. Then from 1923 to 1927, he worked as a woodworker or bench hand for Frederick Blaebaum & Sons. Here’s an ad from 1922…perhaps Frederick saw this and decided it was a good move.4

Men wanted ad

Frederick died on 12 Jun 1932 in York, Pennsylvania.5 His death certificate says his occupation was “carpenter”…that generic term once again. By looking through each city directory I was able to find out what kind of carpenter he was painting a more detailed picture of his life.

Genealogy tip: Don’t stop at census records! Other types of records like city directories can give employment information, members of a household at the same address, and migration information.

1 “To Celebrate Golden Wedding,” York Daily Record (York, Pennsylvania), 10 Feb 1921, p. 8, col. 3.

2 “Men Wanted,” The York Gazette (York, Pennsylvania), 10 May 1917, p. 7, col. 7.

3 1910 U.S. census, York County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, York City, p. 6B, dwelling 134, family 139, Frederick Stabley; digital image, ( accessed 13 Nov 2019), image 12; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1435.

4 “Machine and bench men,” The York Dispatch (York, Pennsylvania), 25 Oct 1922, p. 14, col. 7.

5 “Pennsylvania U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1969,” database with images,  Ancestry ( : accessed 21 Apr 2019), certificate 61864, Frederick Stabley, died York County, 12 June 1932, image 375; citing Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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