Here is a thought that may not have occurred to you while your work on your family tree. You might have an ancestor who was born June 1, 1880, the date of the US Federal Census for 1880 and for whatever reason, died the June 1, 1900 US Federal Census. Yes, they would have been on the June 2, 1890 US Federal Census, but a reminder, most of that census was destroyed in a fire in 1921, before it was released to the public. So no copies, microfilm, written copies, etc to be had of 1890.
The same problem can occur within a ten year period of when the Federal Censuses are taken. A child born 1871, not on the 1870 census, but died in 1878, so not on the 1880 census. However with the missing records of 1890, there is a 20 year gap – major problem!!
The story behind these three censuses, so important in family research. In the 1880 census there was a U. S. population total of 50,189,209; with 39 states along with the newest state, Colorado since 1870 along with 12 territories in the count. In the 1890 census there was a population of 62,947,714 individuals from now 42 states with the addition of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington along with 7 territories. This ‘lost’ census also listed if a person was a homeless child, a prisoner, and those who were veterans of the Civil War. The data was tabulated by machine for the first time using the Hollerith keypunch machine. Instead of taking 7 to 8 years to complete the tabulation, the 1890 census was finished in one year. It was the Jan. 10, 1921 fire, where about 99% of the 1890 census were totally or partial destroyed which was located in the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. Only 6,160 names could be fully read along with census information. The only other source available are some state censuses during the 1890s and the census of Union veterans and widows which provides some information. In the 1900 census the population had grown to 76,212,168 in 46 states, addition of Utah along with 6 territories including the Indian territory were in the count. The 1900 census was the first time the birth month and year was written on each individual.
So you need to look for any clues of a person in a family between 1880 and 1900 who may have really existed, but no one had a record, especially the census. Look at any records written in the family Bibles, check the local hometown city records for births/deaths, even a marriage. Check surnames in the town cemetery, and don’t discount a person just because you didn’t know about them. Look at those dates of birth-death, could the person be part of a lost census? Review any family portraits, group photos, is there someone that fits the age range (zero to age 20) that you do not have on the family tree? Go the local hometown newspapers and city directories, a wealth of information there. Might have been a newspaper article of a tragic accident to a child, youngster or young adult and that person should be part of the family chart.
If you happen to find such a lost ancestor, make a special effort to learn and record as much information about them as possible.
Photo: Hollerith keypunch card for tabulation of the 1890 Census.< Return To Blog