Famous Historical Figures and the Census

This is part 2 of a very American double-header!

Have you taken the 2020 census yet? I did a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised by how short it was. I remember it being very long and detailed in 2010, with questions like, “Do you carpool to work? If so, how many people are in your car pool?” Why does the government need to know that much information about me. I still don’t know the answer to that but nevertheless census records are really fascinating.

Ancestry.com recently highlighted this census record of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was actually filled out at the White House:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s census

I found the records of two well-known people in the census data to share with you.

The first census is John Wilkes Booth, best known for being the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, just after the Civil War. Booth murdered Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, and fled on horseback into Virginia, where he was killed 12 days later by federal troops. Well, unless you believe the theory that Booth survived and died in 1902 or thereabouts.

John Wilkes Booth, 1865

In 1860, Booth was already a famous actor. In 1860, he had no idea that with five years, he would be infamous and reviled by Americans. The soon-to-be-infamous actor was just 22 and was already well-known. Booth was a famous stage actor, or as he put it, a Tragedian– one who performs tragic roles in the theater. He was living in Philadelphia, with his mother and siblings. His brother, Edwin, also a tragedian, lived at the same address.  Fortunately, another person living at the address listed his occupation as a Comedian, and hopefully balanced things out a little!

The 1860 census in Philadelphia (John Wilkes Booth highlighted)


The other record I found was Theodore Roosevelt’s 1900 census. Roosevelt had no idea what the next two years held for him. He was the governor of New York in June 1900. Eight months later, he would be the vice-president of the United States. And seven months into the second  McKinley administration, the president was assassinated, catapulting Roosevelt into the presidency. (Who knows what great things will happen to you in the next 15 months?)

Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s home

But in 1900, Roosevelt was not exactly bored and waiting for something to happen. He was living in Oyster Bay with his second wife, Edith Kermit Roosevelt. Their house was called Sagamore Hill and in addition to the couple, it was also home to their six children and seven full-time employees.

Theodore Roosevelt’s 1900 census

The census is a unique snapshot in time!

2 thoughts on “Famous Historical Figures and the Census

  1. I love reading your posts. Sometimes it’s neat how much different things were then, and yet how much is kind of the same, too. What a beautiful home! Their handwriting reminded me of my father-in-law’s as he took great pride in his penmanship.

    Liked by 2 people

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