The Census and the Presidency

I have a little fun sometimes, and I look up United States Presidents in the census. Don’t try to tell me you haven’t! In fact, I look up a lot of people in the census, not just presidents. This entry isn’t about them though, it’s about the presidents aspect.

Here are some interesting things I’ve learned about past presidents through the census.

  • Even though George Washington didn’t die until 1799 and was president at the time of the 1790 census, I was unable to find him on the census. There were only two George Washingtons that came up in both and FamilySearch searches. One lived in Massachusetts and the other in South Carolina. I’ll forgive our first president though, he was kind of busy at the time. You know forming a government and a little ol’ place called Washington D.C.

Also, am I the only one out there who wishes they could go back in time and just get a peek at Washington D.C. before all those monuments were built? Or maybe to see the White House and Capitol building but have nothing else be there? How strange would that be?

  • Martin van Buren was the eighth president but the first one to appear on the 1850 census, well actually the first president in the chronological list. He was joined in the 1850 census by fourteen other future and current presidents. Including a posthumous Zachary Taylor and his vice president Millard Fillmore.
  • A fun fact is if you happen to come across the presidents, there are usually arrows pointing to them in the margins!

Just from the 1850 census (no other outside influences), I learned that two presidents are the sons of ministers, Chester A Arthur and Grover Cleveland. Two presidents listed their post-presidency occupations as farmers: Martin Van Buren and John Tyler. There were many variations of pre-presidency occupations, Lawyer (Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B Hayes), Farmer (James Buchanan), Congressman (Andrew Johnson), and Army (Ulysses S Grant).

This obviously leads me to the 1940 census and what presidents should be on them. If you don’t keep count like me (because I’m weird), there should be eleven, Herbert Hoover, FDR, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H W Bush. No president appears for the first time in the 1940 census, but a lot of them are becoming of age. So there should be some interesting details to be had!

The president at the time of the 1940 census was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He happens to be one of my Mom’s favorite presidents. Not because she lived during his time, but because she was always fascinated by him as a person. Some celebrities who could possibly be making their first census appearance are Tom Brokaw, Smokey Robinson, Peter Fonda, and Chuck Norris.

Who do you look for in the census as a guilty pleasure?

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