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No 1890 US Federal Census - Now What?

1890 U.S. CensusThere was a U. S. Federal census taken across the country in 1890.  Unfortunately, in January 1921, most of the stored records for the 1890 census were severely damaged in a fire at the Commerce Department Building in Washington, D. C.  A few portions of a hand-full of Federal censuses representing a few states survived the fire. The census before 1890 was done in 1880 and the one after 1890 was done in 1900, both of which are fine.  The question arises of what can help a family researcher bridge that gap of 20 years between 1880 and 1890?

One of the best sources are the many state censuses completed between 1880 and 1900.  Some were done 3 to 5 years after the 1880 Federal census and some between 1893 and 1897, before the 1900 census. These can be of great help in identifying family members, their ages, heads of households and occupations.  The types of questions on any of the state census were as varied as the individual states.  Then, of course, some states never completed a state census of their residents during those twenty years.

So which state do you check?  Begin with where you located your ancestral branch in 1880.  Also go back to 1870 and 1860 Federal censuses for locations.  Even if an ancestor moved they may have return to a native state at some point.  Once you have narrowed in on a location, see if a census was done in that state between 1880 and 1900 — see the list below. If you can not locate a relative in such a state census, try some of the neighboring states.

A family may well have moved in 1888 from Michigan to Kansas or Minnesota and by 1900 moved back to Michigan. The censuses done in the Alaskan Territory covers eight different years between 1880 and 1900 – a true wealth of information.  Maybe a relative was part of the Alaskan Gold Rush of the 1890s?

Another useful source is the 1890 Veterans Census.  This special census represents nearly  75,000 Union veterans and widows of Union veterans in 1890.  Yet, there are also many Confederate veterans and those soldiers from earlier American wars who are on this 1890 special census.

Do a ‘Google’ search by placing the state name along with the phrase ‘state census’ plus the specific year, to see what is available online.  Also check the Family History Centers (online Family and the individual state archives to see what is available for any particular year between 1880 and 1900. This is just one method to find where your ancestors were in America during the late 1800s.

The states with their own state census (if not listed, they had no state census for the last twenty years) between 1880 and 1900:

Alaska Territory – 1881, 1885, 1887, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894 and 1895

Arizona – 1882

Colorado – 1885

Florida – 1885 and 1895

Hawaii Territory – 1890 and 1896

Indiana – 1883 and 1889

Iowa – 1885 and 1895

Kansas – 1885 and 1895

Michigan – 1884, 1888 and 1894

Minnesota – 1885 and 1895

Nebraska – 1885

New Jersey – 1885 and 1895

New Mexico Territory – 1885

New York – 1892

North Dakota – 1885

Oklahoma – 1890

Oregon – 1885 and 1895

Rhode Island – 1885

South Dakota – 1885 and 1895  (with limited information)

Tennessee – 1891

Washington – 1881, 1885, 1887, 1889, 1891, 1892 and 1898

Wisconsin – 1885 and 1895

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