Alternatives for the 1890 Census

The Federal Census is taken every 10 years, but it also contains a number of inaccuracies and isn’t an infallible source. But it one of the “staples” of genealogy records and can come in very handy.

Photo of the fire damage found on the US Census website

The biggest dilemma from the Census records is the 1890 US Census. Most of the 1890 census’ population schedules were badly damaged by a fire in the Commerce Department Building in January 1921. (For more information about the fire, the National Archives published an article, “First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census,” in its Spring 1996 Prologue)  The US Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933, and the surviving original 1890 census records were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935. (Source: Wikipedia)

Some of the new questions that were on the 1890 US Census were about immigration/naturalization and US Civil War Service for Veterans and widows. There is 21 year gap between 1880 and 1900, that leaves a lot of empty years. A 16 year old in 1880 would be 36 years old in 1900. So I’ve collected alternatives or substitutions for the 1890 US Census.

  • State Census; (The following states held a census in 1885: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan (1884), Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Michigan also conducted an 1888 Civil War Veteran’s census. The following states held a census in 1895: Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan (1894), Minnesota, New Jersey, New York (1892), and Wisconsin.)
  • 1890 VETERANS Schedule.
  • State Vital Records; Birth, Death, Marriage
  • Old Newspaper Records.
  • Military Records.
  • Cemetery Records.
  • Town & County Directories.
  • School Records.
  • Institutional Records; Hospitals, orphanages, prisons or asylums
  • Church Records; Baptisms, burials, parish directories, etc.

With a combination of these records you can piece together where your ancestors were in 1890.


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