06 April 2012

Have you found your "fantasy" relative in the 1940 census?

It’s been 5 days of access to the 1940 census!  Did you find a “fantasy” relative listed?

Now that we might be a little tired from all that research, this press release received from findmypast.com on the 1st seems like a nice way to close out the “work” week with a bit of 1940 census fun ...

1940 Census: Chuck Norris tops “Class of 1940”
– voted America’s favorite “fantasy relative”

Al Pacino second, Martin Sheen third in IBOPE Zogby poll for findmypast.com – marking the 1940 Census release April 2

Chuck Norris is the most popular American born the year of the 1940 U.S. Census, suggests a national poll done to mark the Government’s release of the 1940 Census records April 2.

The martial artist, actor and action star is the 1940-born American who fellow Americans would most like to discover is a long-lost relative, reveals the poll conducted by IBOPE Zogby for genealogy website findmypast.com.

Al Pacino ranks second in the poll and fellow actor Martin Sheen third, while golfer Jack Nicklaus shares fourth place with musician Frank Zappa. 

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic politician, is the top-ranking woman, ahead of Raquel Welch and Dionne Warwick, and the 1940-born American who Democrats would most like to find is related.

But for Americans as a whole, Chuck Norris, American tough guy, is the landslide winner, polling over double anyone else.

“One of the joys of genealogy can be unearthing ‘trophy ancestors’ or famous relatives you never knew you had”, says Josh Taylor, genealogist and spokesperson for findmypast.com.

Thanks to the release of the 1940 Census records, many Americans will likely be making just such discoveries over the coming months.

“So, we thought we’d give folks the chance to warm up by picking their own ‘fantasy relative’”, explains Taylor. “You’ve heard of Fantasy Baseball; this is ‘Fantasy Genealogy’.”

What’s more, around 40 million U.S. citizens* – including Barack Obama – share Norris’s Irish roots, which means that many more Americans than currently know it, may, indeed, be somehow related to the action star. 

1940 yielded not just a U.S. Census but also a bumper crop of great Americans.

Findmypast.com showed over 2,000 Americans a list of the 10 most famous fellow Americans born during 1940 and asked respondents to imagine they were suddenly to find out, via research into their family history, that they were related to one of these famous figures.

The question was: which one of them would they most like one day to find out was their relation?

“Chuck Norris did not just win”, says Taylor. “He pulverized the field. No-one else came close.”

One in five (19%) respondents picked Norris as their fantasy relative, while fewer than one in 10 picked Al Pacino (9%) in second place and Martin Sheen (8%) in third.

Although more men than women chose Norris, the latter was also the first pick of both genders.

“Perhaps everyone wishes they had a bit of ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ in them”, says Taylor, referring to the role made famous by Norris in the hit TV show of that name.

Carlos Ray “Chuck” Norris was born March 10, 1940, just three weeks before the 1940 Census was taken on April 1. The 1940 Census records will show his hometown of Ryan, Oklahoma as having 1,115 residents, of which he may well have been the youngest.

That means that, unlike most of the other famous 1940-born Americans in the findmypast.com poll, he actually appears in the 1940 Census records.

While born in Oklahoma, Norris also has ancestors from states including Tennessee, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“His ancestry appears to have been a mixture of Irish and Cherokee”, says Taylor. “It’s likely that at least one of his grandparents was of Cherokee descent.

“One of his ancestors was reportedly an Indian agent for William Penn in the first Quaker settlement in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who became unhappy and, according to one source, ‘ran away and lived with the Indians’.”

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