Friday, June 6, 2014

Darned White House

President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson, White House South LawnWe depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

Darned White House

Last November marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States. Many of us remember exactly where we were when we heard the news.

Some of us also remember the address of the house where he lived and served. Apparently, President Kennedy’s personal secretary, whose office adjoined his, did not. Evelyn Lincoln is listed as the informant on President Kennedy’s death certificate. Note the handwritten correction.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy death certificate

Whether Lincoln’s lapse or a typographical error, the lesson is still the same: death is a stressful time. Death certificates can contain errors. Even the president of the United States is not immune.

Darned historical records!


  1. Evelyn Lincoln provided the information, but she would not have typed the form. It may not have been her error.

  2. I think most people assume that the informant actually reads over the form before signing it. In many cases, I am sure that isn't what happens - they simply assume they are signing to confirm that what they said was true, particularly if the official/undertaker or whoever doesn't prompt them to read it. In any case, the state of mind of the informant at the time has to be considered. The violent, unexpected death of our President was something that turned things upside down for most Americans - I can only imagine how shocking and devastating it was to those closest to him.

  3. Where is the handwritten correction? I can't see it.

    1. There is a one written in front of 600.


    2. They also made a mistake in the cemetery location. Arlington National Cemetery is in Arlington, VA, not Washington, DC.


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