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 U.S. Federal 1890 Census Records

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The U.S. Federal 1890 Census

1890 Census

The 1890 census was begun on 1 June 1890. The enumeration was to be completed within thirty days, or two weeks for communities with populations of more than 10,000.

1890 Census Substitute

When a basement fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. destroyed most of the 1890 federal census, a valuable source of information was lost to researchers of America's past. Ancestry.com, with the aid of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Allen County Public Library, now provides the first definitive online substitute for the missing census. More than 20 million records have been identified for inclusion in the collection and additions will be made regularly as they become available for posting. It will include fragments of the original 1890 census that survived the fire, 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. When completed, this collection will be an unparalleled tool for researchers of American ancestors.

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; whether a soldier, sailor, or marine during the Civil War; and whether Union or Confederate or whether the widow of a veteran; relationship to head of family; whether white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian; sex; age; marital status; whether married during the year; if a mother, number of children and number living; place of birth of the individual and his or her father and mother; if foreign born, how many years in the United States; whether naturalized or in the process of naturalization; profession, trade, or occupation; months unemployed during census year; ability to read and write; ability to speak English; if not, language or dialect spoken; whether suffering from acute or chronic disease (if so, name of disease and length of time afflicted); whether defective in mind, sight, hearing, or speech; or whether crippled, maimed, or deformed (with name of defect); whether a prisoner, convict, homeless child, or pauper; whether the home is rented or owned by the head or a member of the family (if so, whether mortgaged); if the head of family was a farmer, 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, but only the following fragments:

1. Alabama: Perry County (Perryville Beat No. 11 and Severe Beat No. 8).

2.District of Columbia: Q. Thirteenth, Fourteenth, R.Q. Corcoran, fifteenth, S.R. and Riggs streets, Johnson Avenue, and S Street.

3. Georgia: Muscogee County (Columbus).

4. Illinois: McDonough County, Mound Township.

5. Minnesota: Wright County, Rockford.

6. New Jersey: Hudson County, Jersey City

7. New York: Westchester County, Eastchester, Suffolk County, Brookhaven Township.

8. North Carolina: Gaston County, South Point Township and River Bend Township; Cleveland County, Township No. 2.

9. Ohio: Hamilton County (Cincinnati) and Clinton County, Wayne Township.

10. South Dakota: Union County, Jefferson Township.

11. 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.

[Note: Ancestry.com, with the help of the National Archives and Records Administration and the Allen County Public Library is constructing a substitute for the 1890 U.S. Federal Census. Ancestry.com subscribers can search the 1890 Census Substitute.]

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.

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.

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