Presidents in the 1950 census

Okay, so despite my earlier claims, I did end up looking at the 1950 census on day one. Of my twelve living ancestors, I found seven immediately upon searching, and another two after browsing their specific town of residence; I was unsuccessful in locating the remaining three (one couple, one widow) after browsing their towns, both of which had several addresses listed “not at home.” All in all, I spent about twenty minutes looking for ancestors. Overall, I am impressed with the advances of OCR technology giving genealogists a much better start this time around than ten years earlier.

As I have frequently posted on U.S. presidents, I decided to see which past, present, and future American presidents I could find in the 1950 census. The National Archives has a neat page showing all the enumerations of American Presidents through the 1940 census, and will likely update it with the 1950 census at some point. With the release of the 1950 census, every American president “should” be on a publicly released census, except for Barack Obama (born 1961), who was living in Indonesia in 1970, so would likely not appear in a U.S. census until 1980 when back in Hawaii.

So, for the 1950 census, who did I find?

31st President Herbert Hoover, the only former president still living, was enumerated as a 75-year-old widower, occupation speaker and government employee, living in New York, New York at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (page 19).

34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower (with his wife Mamie), with the occupation of President of [Columbia] University, also living in New York, New York (page 6).

39th President Jimmy Carter, serving in the armed forces, living with his wife and son in Honolulu, Hawaii (page 9).

40th President Ronald Reagan, aged 39, divorced and living alone with the occupation of actor in motion picture studios, in Los Angeles, California (page 8).

41st President George H.W. Bush, aged 25, as a salesman in oil field equipment, living in Compton, California (page 39) (although not with his wife and two children, including 43rd President George W. Bush, perhaps as the family moved to Midland, Texas that year; I could not find the latter three Bushes).

42nd President Bill Clinton, aged 3, then under his birth name of “Jefferson W. Blythe,” living with his maternal grandparents in Hope, Arkansas (page 39).

44th President Donald Trump, aged 4, living with his parents and four siblings in Queens, New York (page 9).

45th President Joe Biden, aged 7, living with his parents and two siblings in Scranton, Pennsylvania (page 7).

I was unable to find 35th, 36th, and 37th Presidents (John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon); perhaps they will be found soon as indexing improves. I “sort of” found 38th President Gerald Ford in Washington, D.C. (page 6). Aged 36, a representative of the State of Michigan, he is listed with his wife Elizabeth and son Michael. However, the three are crossed out with the notation “As this is the family of a U.S. Congressman it was transferred to 1CR’s for enumeration in his home district,” which I assume would be back in his home of Grand Rapids, Michigan, although I was unsuccessful in locating the Ford family there.

So, who is left? Sitting president Harry S. Truman! Since at least 1820, all sitting presidents were enumerated in Washington, D.C., except for William McKinley in 1900, enumerated in his home of Canton, Ohio.[1] In Danielle Cournoyer’s earlier post on the 1950 census, she included the photograph of the Truman family filling out in the 1950 census. However, as noted by the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, this picture was taken while the Truman family was vacationing in Key West.

Since at least 1820, all sitting presidents were enumerated in Washington, D.C…

The census enumerator in this photograph, Mrs. Eileen M. Nolte, the wife of a Navy warrant officer aboard the U.S.S. Gilmore, was counted in in Key West (page 3, with herself as the enumerator). Danielle browsed the enumeration district in Washington, D.C. for the White House. On the last page of the enumeration district 1-251 for Washington (page 7), Harry and Bess Truman’s daughter Margaret is listed at the White House, as a person not assigned to a dwelling unit, but her name is crossed out.

The White House was under renovation in 1950, and Blair House is where the Truman family was living that year. My colleague Lindsey Fulton browsed the enumeration district for Blair House, and on top of page three it is noted “all census representation about Blair House was being taken care of at Key West. This means no information about house.” However, my colleagues and I have so far been unable to find the Truman family in Key West, either, or even back at their home in Independence, Missouri. This search has even attracted attention from folks at the Truman Library and Harry S Truman National Historic Site, who have so far been likewise unsuccessful! Where’s Harry at?!

*

ETA: Thank you to readers Stephen Morse, Margaret, and Steve Barnhoorn for providing links to three of the presidents I was unable to find:

35th President John F. Kennedy, aged 33, as a congressman, living with his sister in Washington, D.C. (page 15).

36th President Lyndon Johnson, aged 42, as a senator, living with his wife and two daughters in Washington, D.C. (page 9), although the family is crossed out and noted as “occupied by non residents.”

37th President Richard Nixon, aged 37, as a congressman, living with his wife and two daughters in Whittier, California (page 5).

See my colleague Lindsay Fulton’s post on the continuing quest to find sitting 33rd President Harry Truman, leaving just three-year-old 43rd President George W. Bush!

Note

[1] In the 1800 census, President John Adams was counted in Quincy, Massachusetts, created from Braintree (his place of birth). As the 1790 census was lost for Virginia, President George Washington was probably enumerated there in his home state rather than the temporary capitals in New York or Pennsylvania. James Madison was probably the first sitting president enumerated in Washington, D.C.; the original census records of 1810 for the District of Columbia are lost.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

12 thoughts on “Presidents in the 1950 census

  1. Finding presidents in 1950 census, it may be Harry S. Truman was at his “ Little White House “ now a Historic Landmark, in Key West, that can be toured by visitors. The home is furnished as much as possible as he liked it! I visited the home in 2017, if in middle of military complex then, it wouldn’t be accessible.

    1. No period after Truman’s middle initial as it doesn’t stand for anything.
      (Harry S Truman)

  2. Richard Nixon was enumerated at his home in Whittier. He and his family are on Sheet 4, lines 15 to 18, Enumeration District 19-1961, Whittier, Los Angeles, California

  3. Lyndon Johnson was in Washington, DC, at the time of the census. The entry for his household was marked through as “non-resident”. The address was 4921 30th Pl NW which was in enumeration district 1-583. The Johnsons are on Sheet 8, lines 10-15

  4. Tuck this away in your 1970 Census File (with hopes we can still see the computer screen in twenty years): Barack Obama, his mother, and sister may be listed with his maternal grandparents, the Dunhams, presumably in Hawai’i. Americans who work abroad are usually domiciled someplace in the U.S. When our son was working overseas for several years after college graduation, he always maintained a domicile with us in California, because that is where he could vote. I would send him his ballot by International Express Mail, and he would drop it off at the local U.S. Embassy to be counted.

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