Fun with Presidents in the 1940 Census

by Amy Johnson Crow

Posted on November 6, 2012

Choosing a president is serious business, but finding them in the census is fun! Just like everyone else in the United States, presidents - present, past, and future - have their information recorded in the census. As we wrap up Election 2012, let's take a look at few presidents and see what the 1940 census has to say about them. You might be surprised!

In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt was right where you would expect him: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. Along with the President and First Lady were a personal secretary, a cousin (Elizabeth Henderson), a governess, and four servants.

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If FDR's 1940 census entry was what you would expect, his predecessor's entry might not be. Herbert Hoover doesn't give a clue that he had been President of the United States. Living in Palo Alto, California, former First Lady Lou Hoover stated that they lived in the same house in 1935 and that his profession was "mining engineer."

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Who would have guessed in 1940 that Gerald R. Ford, Jr. would someday be President? The 26-year-old in East Grand Rapids, Michigan was a public school football coach. That's not a typical career path for the nation's top office!

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Harry Truman's entry in the 1940 census, on the other hand, does show his political career. He listed his occupation as "Senator, United States." However, either he or the census taker did not follow the instructions on how to answer where he lived in 1935. If a person lived in the same house they did in 1935, they were to answer "same house"; if they lived in a different city, they were supposed to list that. The Truman household's entry in Independence, Missouri: "Same house, Washington, DC."

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Dwight Eisenhower also has an unusual entry in the 1940 census. Rather, he has unusual entries - he is listed twice, both at Fort Lewis in Pierce County, Washington. One time, he is listed with the soldiers on the base. The other time, he is listed with his wife, son, and maid. (In fairness to the enumerator, Ike's listing with the soldiers was crossed out, but it is still very legible.)

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It just goes to show that even when researching presidents, you never know what you're going to find in the census! Curious about your family in the 1940 census? You can search it for free at Archives.com/1940census!

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