1940 Census: Chuck Norris tops “Class of 1940”

April 2nd 2012

– voted America’s favorite “fantasy relative”

  • Norris tops “Fantasy Genealogy” poll to find 1940-born American we’d most like to discover is a long-lost relative
  • Al Pacino second, Martin Sheen third in IBOPE Zogby poll for findmypast.com – marks 1940 Census release April 2
  • Norris “greatly flattered” by the news. He “treats fans like family”.
  • Fantasy Genealogy is the new Fantasy Baseball.

Santa Monica, CA; Monday, April 2 2012:  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 more than double anyone else.

Norris is “greatly flattered” by the news, says his publicist, Jeff Duclos. “He treats his fans like family. I'm sure that's a big part of this vote and for people seeing him as a kindred spirit."  

“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 his home town 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’.” 


Question: The Americans named below were all born in 1940. Imagine that you were suddenly to find out via research into your family history that you were related to one of them. Which ONE of them would you MOST like to discover you were related to?

Table: “Fantasy Relatives”: The Top Five From “The Class of 1940”


1940-Born American



Chuck Norris



Al Pacino



Martin Sheen



Jack Nicklaus



Frank Zappa


  • Martin Sheen was actually the most chosen in the eastern U.S. (13%), while Chuck Norris dominated in the other three regions – west, south, and especially the Central/Great Lakes region, where 27% chose him to be their long, lost relative.
  • Democrats were most likely to say they would like to be related to Nancy Pelosi (14%), the former Democratic Speaker of the House, while one in three (33%) Republicans and one in five (22%) independents chose Chuck Norris.
  • The following Americans were all born in the first three months of 1940, just in time for them to appear in the 1940 Census.

Jack Nicklaus (January 21)
Katharine Ross (January 29)
Peter Fonda (February 23)
Tom Brokaw (February 26)
Chuck Norris (March 10)
Nancy Pelosi (March 26)
James Caan (March 26)

*  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_American
11.9% (36.3 million) of the US population are Irish and a further 1.2% (3.5 million) are Scots-Irish. This totals approximately 40 million US citizens, or 13.1% of the population. Source: 2008 American Community Survey.

Methodology: IBOPE Zogby International conducted an online survey of 2,126 adults. A sampling of IBOPE Zogby International's online panel, which is representative of the adult population of the US, was invited to participate.   Slight weights were added to region, party, age, race, religion, gender, education to more accurately reflect the population. The margin of error is +/- 2.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.  The MOE calculation is for sampling error only.

About findmypast.com

findmypast.com is a proud participant in the 1940 US Census Community Project and the new US addition to the global network of findmypast family history websites, with over 18 million registered members worldwide and over a billion genealogical records dating back to 1200.

From early April 2012, visitors to findmypast.com will be able to browse 1940 US Census images and find out more about their American family tree.  

A full launch of findmypast.com will happen this summer. This will provide US customers with an extensive set of US records, in addition to a vast overseas collection, including a billion English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Australian and New Zealand records, plus millions of pages from the British Library's newspaper collection.

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