So you’re a Johnson

It’s a mighty clan, outnumbered only by the Smiths.

Meet some members worth claiming as kinfolk and a few bodacious black sheep

By Robert M Yoder

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If your name is Johnson, you bear the second most popular of all American family names – outdone only by Smith – and you belong to an extremely strong club. Johnsons, if they got to feeling exclusive, could form a state of their own with as big a population as many states can boast or establish a city of Johnsons perhaps the size of Los Angeles or Philadelphia, though not so large as Brooklyn. They could call it Johnson City, but the Post Office Department wouldn’t like that: there are three Johnson Cities as it is.

Not even the 63 Johnsons in the Census Bureau in Washington know how many Johnsons there are, except that they cover many a yard of microfilm in the Census records. You can get a strong inkling of the number, however, from Social Security records:

  • At the latest 1955 count, they listed 1,117,453 Johnsons.
  • Social Security has 26 1/2 tons of Johnson cards; 147 miles of flexoline strips.
  • It has 27,350 William and Bill Johnsons to keep straight.
  • Mary is the favorite name for girls.

Johnsons can prove anything they want to about Johnsons – including a tendency to success. It takes almost 14 pages of Who’s Who to list Johnsons eminent for one thing or another. Their attainments range from majority leader of the United States Senate — that’s Cousin [President] Lyndon from Texas — to being “the ideal boy next door.” That’s a phrase applied by feminine admirers to Cousin Van of the movies.

There are more Johnsons than appear on any list, of course, because a good many Johnson girls marry Johnson boys. This decreases the visible supply of Johnsons, but only shortly – after which there are additional Johnsons. Showing a nice solidarity, furthermore, by clamoring for the Pablum made by Cousin D Mead Johnson, president of Mead Johnson & Company of Evansville, Indiana.

One Johnson who married a Johnson caused brief confusion in the Social Security office at New London, Conn. She had written, in applying for a card, that her father and mother were both Johnsons. It was assumed this was a slip of the pen. Not at all, said Mrs Johnson.

“I was born a Johnson,” she replied, “baptized by the Rev John Johnson, confirmed by the Rev Henning Johnson, married by the Rev Henning Johnson to Alrik T Johnson at 5 Johnson place. Witnesses were Anna and George Johnson. My mother’s name was Anna Johnson, and she married Ivar G Johnson. Her sister married Mentz Johnson. My own sister married Raymond Johnson.”

The office manager wrote her again, asking if he could publish this tale. Sure, said Mrs Johnson, and on thinking it over, she recalled that her godfather was Charley Johnson and her godmother, Hedvig Johnson. Her minister, she added, was the Rev Donald Johnson.

This would have occasioned no surprise in the Social Security offices in Santa Monica, Cal, and in Mobile, Ala. They are run by Johnsons – John H out west, and Martin J down south, who was chosen “Mobilian of the Year” for 1954.

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About this story

Source publication: Woman's Day

Source publication date: October 1955

Filed under: 1950s, Celebrities & famous people, Family & parenting

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