The 1890 census results are difficult to research. Many of the Federal census records were destroyed in a fire that took place at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC on January 10, 1921.
There are still bits and pieces that remain. However, of the 62,979,766 people, only the records for 6,160 have survived.
Unique Features of the 1890 Census
Although only a fragment of the population schedules remain, there are some useful parts of this census that have survived, including schedules of Union Civil War Veterans or their widows, Oklahoma territorial schedules, a list of selected Delaware African Americans, and Statistics on Lutheran Congregations.
Historical Considerations of the 1890 Census
The Industrial Revolution – Collected during the heart of the Industrial Revolution, the 1890 Census was the first to be tabulated by machine. The data was collected on separate punched cards that could be fed into a machine for processing. This dramatically reduced the amount of time needed to tabulate the data. The total population was published in only 6 weeks.
Support for National Archives – At the time of the 1921 fire that destroyed most of the census records, there was no central agency to protect federal records. Each government department was in charge of its own documents. The loss of the 1890 census records was one of the influencing factors in that led to the creation of the National Archives and Records Administration in 1934.
States Covered in the 1890 Census
Click to View Sample from US 1890 Census of Washington D.C.
There have been attempts at filling in the missing information from the 1890 census. For example, Ancestry.com features an 1890 Census Substitute, which may be in helpful to your research. You may also find additional information in the following sources: