1890 U.S. Census
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The 1890 census began on 1 June 1890. The enumeration was to be completed within thirty days, or within two weeks for communities with populations of more than 10,000. The official census population count was 62,979,766.
Questions Asked in the 1890 Census
The surviving 1890 schedules provide the address, number of families in the house, number of persons in the house, and number of persons in the family. Individuals are listed by name and the schedules indicate whether or not each person was a soldier, sailor, or marine during the Civil War, and whether Union or Confederate; or whether the person was the widow of a veteran. The census called for each person’s relationship to the head of the family; whether he or she was white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian; his or her sex, age, and marital status, and if married, whether he or she was married during the year; if a mother, it asked the number of her children and number living. It also asked for each person’s place of birth, and that of his or her father and mother. If and individual was foreign born, the schedules indicate how many years that person had been in the United States at the time of the census, and whether he or she was naturalized or in the process of naturalization. Additionally, it asked for the person’s profession, trade, or occupation; the number of months unemployed during the census year; his or her ability to read write, and speak English (if not, his or her language or dialect is listed); whether the person was suffering from acute or chronic disease (if so, it gave the name of disease and the length of time afflicted); whether he or she was defective in mind, sight, hearing, or speech; or whether he or she was crippled, maimed, deformed (with the name of defect), a prisoner, a convict, a homeless child, or a pauper; and whether the home was rented or owned by the head or a member of the family (if so, whether mortgaged). If the head of the family was a farmer, it asked if he or a family member rented or owned the farm, and, if mortgaged, the post office address of the owner.
Other Significant Facts about the 1890 Census
Most of the original 1890 population schedules were destroyed or badly damaged by a fire in the Commerce Department in 1921. Records enumerating only 6,160 individuals—less than one percent of the schedules—survived. Unfortunately, no complete schedules for a state, county, or community survived. Only the following fragments are available:
- Alabama: Perry County (Perryville Beat No. 11 and Severe Beat No. 8).
- District of Columbia: Q. Thirteenth, Fourteenth, R.Q. Corcoran, fifteenth, S.R. and Riggs streets, Johnson Avenue, and S Street.
- Georgia: Muscogee County (Columbus).
- Illinois: McDonough County, Mound Township.
- Minnesota: Wright County, Rockford.
- New Jersey: Hudson County, Jersey City.
- New York: Westchester County, Eastchester, Suffolk County, Brookhaven Township.
- North Carolina: Gaston County, South Point Township and River Bend Township; Cleveland County, Township No. 2.
- Ohio: Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Clinton County, Wayne Township.
- South Dakota: Union County, Jefferson Township.
- Texas: Ellis County, J.P. no. 6, Mountain Peak, and Ovila Precinct; Hood County, Precinct no. 5; Rusk County, Precinct no. 6 and J.P. no. 7; Trinity County, Trinity Town, and Precinct no. 2; Kaufman County, Kaufman.
See the following indexes to these schedules:
- Index to the Eleventh Census of the United States. National Archives microfilm M496.
- Nelson, Ken. 1890 Census Index Register. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1984.
- Swenson, Helen Smothers. Index to 1890 Census of the United States. Round Rock, Tex.: the author, 1981.
Research Tips for the 1890 Census
Because it is well-known that the 1890 census records were destroyed by fire, few researchers think to check the index to the remaining schedules. (See “Census Indexes and Finding Aids,” on page 185.)
Special 1890 schedules enumerating Union veterans and widows of Union veterans of the Civil War are sometimes useful as a substitute for the missing 1890 population schedules. (Also see “Non-Population Schedules and Special Censuses,” on page 196.)
For a state-by-state listing of census schedules, see The 1790–1890 Federal Population Censuses: Catalog of National Archives Microfilm. For boundary changes and identification of missing census schedules, see Thorndale’s and Dollarhide’s Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790–1920.
The 1890 Census Substitute
Ancestry.com, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Allen County Public Library produced an online substitute for the missing census. More than 20 million records were identified for inclusion in the collection, and additions are made regularly as they become available for posting. It includes fragments of the original 1890 census that survived the fire damage, special veterans schedules, several Native American tribe censuses for years surrounding 1890, state censuses (1885 or 1895), city and county directories, alumni directories, and voter registration documents. You can access the census substitute at Ancestry.com.