Genealogy: 1890 U.S. federal census tutorial

1890 masheadBy Barry J. Ewell

This is a comprehensive tutorial for researching the 1890 U.S. federal census. You will be introduced to what I have used and shared with thousands to successfully find generations of family. Begin by learning how to use the census as a foundation to effective research, identify, map, and follow family through generations.

The tutorial will expand your knowledge and skills of how to conduct an exhaustive search to find genealogical and Family History records, repositories, resolve research problems and connect with resources researching similar lines.

The tutorial is divided into the following sections:

  • 1790-1940 U.S federal census resources
  • Introduction to 1890 U.S. federal census
  • Search the census substitutes
  • Search the 1890 census schedules
  • Expand your census research with military records
  • Defining the U.S. federal census
  • How to use the 1890 U.S. federal census
  • Questions asked on the 1890 census

1890 resourcesClick on any of the following years and you will be taken to that years’ census tutorial:


  • U.S. census learning aids. Throughout the 1890 U.S. federal census tutorial find links to resources that I have specifically prepared to help you. In addition, I have written and assembled 190+ articles and resource aids to provide you a more in-depth understanding of the census research process.  I have tried to cover every possible question and angle that you are likely to face in your U.S. census research.  I would encourage you to use the resources often.  The category headings are as follows:
    • 190+ U.S. federal census articles and resource aids
      • U.S. federal census tutorials
      • Census and genealogy forms
      • Census research skills
      • Follow ancestors through the census
      • Researching names in the census
      • Defining ancestor age
      • Expanding census research to other resources
      • Expand your census research with military records
      • Census research best practices

1890 introductionThe following are a few of the details that are important to understand about the 1880 U.S. Federal census:

1890 Census MapNumber of persons included in the 1890 census: 69, 979, 755 people were enumerated in the United States.

1890 census day:  June 1, 1890
1890 census duration: 1 month
1890 census geography:

  • States and territories enumerated: 42 states and six territories where included in the census.
  • New states: The newest state included the in 1890 census were North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington
  • Territories included: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Alaska, Oklahoma and Indiana
  • The available states include: The 1890 census was destroyed/damaged by fire in 1921.  Less than 1% survived covering 6,160 individuals.

Surviving population schedules:

  • Alabama
    • Perryville Beat No.11 (Perry County) and Severe Beat No.8 (Perry County)
  • District of Columbia
    • Q Street, 13th St., 14th St., R Street, Q Street, Corcoran St., 15th St., S Street, R Street, and Riggs Street, Johnson Avenue, and S Street
  • Georgia
    • Columbus (Muscogee County)
  • Illinois
    • Mound Township (McDonough County)
  • Minnesota
    • Rockford (Wright County)
  • New Jersey
    • Jersey City (Hudson County)
  • New York
    • Brookhaven Township (Suffolk County) and Eastchester (Westchester County)
  • North Carolina
    • South Point and River Bend Townships (Gaston County), Township No. 2 (Cleveland County)
  • Ohio
    • Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Wayne Township (Clinton County)
  • South Dakota
    • Jefferson Township (Union County)
  • Texas
    • J.P. No. 6, Mountain Peak, Ovilla Precinct (Ellis County)
    •  Precinct No. 5 (Hood County)
    • No. 6 and J.P. No. 7 (Rusk County)
    • Trinity Town and Precinct No. 2 (Trinity County)
    • Kaufman (Kaufman County)

Search the census substitutes
Because the 1890 census is mostly lost it will be important to look to other resources that can help you build a family profile for this time period.  See the articles:

Search the 1890 census schedules
The 1890 census included the population and several other schedules taken usually at the same time. There are resources online and in print that provide more detail on these schedules and how to use them in genealogy research.  I always suggest that you check

  • Veterans Schedule. In 1890 there was a  special  schedule crated for Union Civil War veterans which also includes many Confederate veterans.  You will find the following type of information: name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, dates of enlistment and discharge, length of service, residence, disability, and remarks.  Muchofthe1890censuswas destroyed by fire. Nearly all of the records for the states of Alabama through Kansas and western half of Kentucky were lost. . Of those states that have been lost there are few schedules that exist and they are:
    • California – Alcatraz
    • Connecticut – Fort Trumbull
    • Connecticut – Hartford County Hospital
    • Connecticut – U.S. Naval Station
    • Delaware – Delaware State Hospital for the Insane
    • District of Columbia – Lincoln Post #3
    • Florida – Fort Barrancas
    • Florida – St. Francis Barracks
    • Idaho – Boise Barracks
    • Idaho – Fort Sherman
    • Illinois – Cook County
    • Illinois – Henderson County
    • Indiana – Warrick County
    • Indiana – White County
    • Kansas – Barton Count

The schedules for the remaining half of Kentucky and the states of Louisiana to Wyoming are available. Actual remaining schedules are from: The remaining half of Kentucky and the states of Louisiana to Wyoming are available.  Actual states include: Half of Kentucky, and Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Indian Territory, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, US ships and navy yards, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

1890 militaryEven though there is no information in the 1890 census that identifying veterans of war, there are still men living who served in one or more military wars and conflicts.  The records available for these men vary but can yield important clues and knowledge about the veteran and his family.

  • Pension applications. Search for pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows, and other heirs. The pension applications usually provide the most information and can include supporting documents such as marriage, birth, and dead records/certificates, pages from family Bibles, family letters, dispositions of witnesses, affidavits, discharge papers and other supporting documents. Even if you ancestor did not receive a pension, look to see if his pension request was denied.
  • Bounty lands. Bounty land applications also are related wartime service. The federal government provided bounty land for those who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and Indian wars between 1775 and 1855. Bounty lands were offered as incentive to serve and as a reward for service. Bounty land was claimed by veterans or their heirs.

Search for these military records:

Early Indian Wars 1815-1858. Look for military records of men serving in the Early Indian Wars who are age of 55+ in the 1890 census. These men would have been born prior to 1835. See the article:

Mexican War 1846-1848. Look for military records of men serving in the Mexican Wars who are ages of 57+ in the 1880 census.  These men would have been born prior to 1832. See the article:

Civil War 1861-1865. Civil War 1861-1865. Look for military records of men who would be serving in the U.S. Civil War who are between the ages of 40 and 90 in the 1890 census.  These men would have been born in 1850 and earlier.  Keep in mind that many young men lied about their age and served with their father, brother (s), or other family members.  If your ancestor lived in the Union or Confederate states that they served in their army.  If your ancestor lived in the Union or Confederate states that they served in their army.  Many men who were in the Union served in the Confederacy. And there are many men from the South that served in the Union Army. Make sure that you search for all male members of the family (i.e., father, sons, brothers, uncles, and nephews.)  The Civil War enlistment card will give you clues of your ancestor’s location and place of residence. See the articles:

Researching military headstones. Military headstones have evolved through time. See the following articles for details:

1890 Defining
A census is a government-sponsored enumeration of the population in a particular area and contains a variety of information — names, heads of household (or all household members), ages, citizenship status, ethnic background, and so on. Here are some different types of census records you are likely to come across in your research.

U.S. federal census is also called a population schedule. Federal census records provide the building blocks of your research, allowing you to both confirm information and to learn more. Compiled in the United States for every decade since 1790, census population schedules are comprehensive, detailed records of the federal government’s decennial survey of American households. Information from the schedules is used by the federal government for demographic analysis.

The schedules themselves, of interest primarily to genealogists, contain the personal information of the survey respondents. To protect the privacy of the people whose names appear in each schedule, census records are restricted for 72 years after the census is taken and are not available to researchers during that time.

1890 Using
I’ve effectively used the 1890 census to conduct find and use the following information:

  • Identify head of household
  • Identify members of household by name
  • Identify relationships—surnames of married daughter, mother-in-law, cousins, other relatives
  • Determine how many children in a family
  • Indicate that wife may not be mother of kids
  • Identify ages of individuals by name
  • Begin to establish family relationships (e.g., spouse, children, siblings, parents)
  • Identify people of color: White (W), Indian (I) American Indian, Black (B), Japanese (J), Chinese (C), Mulatto (M), Guadroon, and Octoroon
  • Begin to identify possible remarriages and step relationships
  • Determine immigration details
  • Locate and identify birthplaces
  • Identify occupations
  • Locate and identify real estate
  • Find information in various schedules
  • Identify spelling variations
  • Locate and identify family in other census substitute records (e.g., probate inventories, tax lists)
  • Locate and identify children not yet known
  • Locate and identify possible parents
  • Locate and identify possible children not listed in later censuses
  • Differentiate between families of the same name
  • Locate and identify possible neighbors who might be family
  • Give clues to genetic symptoms or diseases

• See the article: Build a family profile

1900 questions 2
The following are the questions found in the 1890 United States Census.

Col. A: Number of Dwelling-house in the order of visitation

Col. B: Number of families in this dwelling-house
Col. C: Number of persons in this dwelling-house
Col. D: Number of Family in the order of visitation
Col. E. No. of Persons in this family

Col. 1: Christian name, in full, and initial of middle name
Col. 1: Surname

Col. 2: Whether a soldier, sailor, or marine during the civil war (U.S. or Conf.) or widow of such person.

Col. 3: Relationship to head of family

Col. 4: Whether white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian
Col. 5: Sex
Col. 6: Age at nearest birthday. If under one year, give age in months.

Col. 7: Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced.
Col. 8: Whether married during the census year (June 1, 1889 to May 31, 1890.)

Col. 9: Mother of how many children, and number of these children living.

Col. 10: Place of birth
Col. 11: Place of birth of Father
Col. 12: Place of birth of Mother

Col. 13: Number of years in the United States.
Col. 14: Whether naturalized.
Col. 15: Whether naturalization papers have been taken out.

Col. 16: Profession, trade, or occupation
Col. 17: Months unemployed during the census year (June 1, 1889, to May 31, 1890).

Col. 18: Attendance at school (in months) during  the census year (June 1, 1889 to May 31, 1890).
Col. 19: Able to Read
Col. 20: Able to Write
Col. 21: Able to speak English. If not, the language or dialect spoken.

Col. 22: Whether suffering from acute or chronic disease, with name of disease and length of time afflicted.
Col. 23: Whether defective in mind, sight, hearing, or speech, or whether crippled, maimed, or deformed with name or defect.
Col. 24: Whether a prisoner, convict, homeless child or pauper

Col. 25: Supplemental schedule and page

Col. 26: Is the house you live in hired, or is it owned by the head or member of the family?
Col. 27: If owned by head or member of family, is the house free from mortgage incumbrance?
Col. 28: If the head of the family is a member, is the farm which he cultivates hired, or is it owned by him or by a member of the family?
Col. 29: If owned by head or member of family, is the farm free from mortgage incumbrance?
Col. 30 If the home or farm is owned by head or member of family, and mortgaged, give the post-office address of owner.

To Enumerators—The inquiries numbered 26-30, inclusive, must be made concerning each family and each farm visited.