1890 Census

1890 Census Destruction

The 1890 Census was the first U.S. Census to use Herman Hollerith’s electrical tabulation system, a method by which data representing certain population characteristics was punched into cards and tabulated. The censuses of 1790 through 1880 required all or part of schedules to be filed in county clerks’ offices. Unfortunately, this was not required in 1890, and the original (and presumably only) copies of the schedules were forwarded to Washington.

On January 10, 1921, a fire in the Commerce Department building in Washington, DC, resulted in the destruction of most of the 1890 census. That census might have been more critical to studies of immigration, industrialization, westward migration, and characteristics of the general population than any other census. United States residents completed millions of detailed questionnaires, yet only a fragment of the general population schedules and an incomplete set of special schedules enumerating Union Veterans and widows are available today.

Only 6,160 persons are included in the surviving fragments of the general population census schedules for 10 states and the District of Columbia, and they are very useful to researchers. To learn more about surviving records visit: http://www.archives.gov/research/census/1890/1890.html

Another interesting site concerning the 1890 census is:

http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1996/spring/1890-census-1.html

With little information available from the 1890 census, alternative sources are city directories, county directories, and tax records.