Unique 1890 Census

Herman Hollerith patented the system of punch cards in 1889, used it for his PhD at Columbia and used it for the Census Bureau in 1890. His company, through a series of mergers, became IBM. A plaque to him was erected by IBM on the C&O Canal at 31st Street, NW, in Georgetown, D.C.

True, much of the original 1890 US Federal Census was lost in the early 20th century, but it is interesting to see what type of questions For the first time, officials decided to gather data on a separate schedule for each family. Families answered questions about race, immigration and naturalization, the number of children born and living, and questions relating to those who served during the Civil War. It was also the first census to use punch cards and electrical tabulation system.

There was also a special census done titled ‘Special Schedules’ which provided information on mortality, crime, pauperism, benevolence, the deaf, blind, insane and about transportation used and insurance policies.

In 1942, officials found a damaged bundle of 1890 census records from Illinois that escaped destruction. In 1953, they also found fragments of records from Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia. These rediscovered records comprise just a tiny fraction of the 1890 census, leaving 99.99 percent of the original records lost forever.

It had been between a practice that 1790-1880, copies of federal census records were required to be filed in county clerks’ offices. Unfortunately, the rules were changed and this was not required for the 1890 census.

If you had ancestors in 1890 in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas, there may be some fragments available. The records of only 6,160 of the 62,979,766 people enumerated survived the fire. Ancestry.com has surviving fragments that consist of 1,233 pages or pieces. Also using FamilySearch.org, you can check the fragments of the 1890 census.

Some of the information you might find include if they married, how many children they had, places of birth for the individual and their parents, their occupation, if they spoke English (if not what language), if there is a mortgage on the home, and especially important if the person had been a prisoner, homeless child, sickly, or crippled.

Photos: January 1921 Fire; punch cards for 1890 and
Example of 1890 Census page in N.C.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

US Federal Censuses

Tips on Census Searching

1885 State Censuses

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