Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent has been found out! That’s right. The Man of Steel’s “secret” identity is right there in the 1930 U.S. federal census records for all to see, thanks to some sleuthing by the Fairy Tale Genealogist.
The census enumerator was told Clark was born in West Virginia in 1907, but I was always led to believe his origins were the planet Krypton. [Entry in research log: Note #1. Write to vital records office on Krypton and obtain birth certificate to resolve this conflict. Note #2. Records are unavailable due to the destruction of the planet. Note #3. Obtain adoption file from county where Smallville, Kansas is located for the year he was found in adoptive parents’ corn field.]
There were quite a few Clark Kents in the census records, so how do we know this particular one is our Man of Steel? Well, the “occupation” category on censuses can help us to differentiate between individuals of the same name. Check this out:
And you thought “Man of Steel” meant he could bounce bullets off his chest! I wonder if there was a phone booth handy? And when did the steel mill worker make a career change to journalism? [Note #4. Check Metropolis city directories every year after 1930 for mention of occupation.]
And speaking of journalism, another key record group for genealogists is newspaper records. What can we find about Clark Kent/Superman in newspapers?
Newspaper records can help us fill in life details for individuals that other records can’t. Sometimes they even give us access to their actual thoughts (see Lois Lane’s thought bubbles above). Here we learn that Lois Lane was changed into an infant by “youthening rays”, that Superman’s former flame was Lana Lang, and that he spent his boyhood in Smallville. I’ll admit that comic strips are an unconventional newspaper source, and register fairly low on the reliability-o-meter, but they are the record of choice when researching the lives of super heroes.
Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane, was also a newspaper reporter, so naturally the Fairy Tale Genealogist wanted to find evidence of her work. And here it is:
Looks like Lois Lane spent some time at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi before moving to the Daily Planet in Metropolis.
More and more newspapers are digitized every day, making this record group accessible and searchable. You can also contact local libraries for access to microfilmed newspapers from their area, and either borrow the film through inter-library loan, find a local volunteer, or hire a researcher to look up obits and articles for you. Don’t forget to check out the Library of Congress Chronicling America website to find out when newspapers were published in a given locality, and to see where they can be found in microfilm or digital form. [Research log: Note #5. Look up Metropolis on the Chronicling America website and find microfilm copies of the Daily Planet.]