Genealogy Research,  How To Trace Your Family Tree

The 1890 Census – How To Research the “Genealogy Black Hole” Part 1

[Note: This is Part 1 of a 2 part series on the 1890 census.]

The 1890 census is referred to as the “black hole” of genealogy research.

How many of you have “lost” track of your ancestors because the 1890 census did not survive the Commerce Department fire of 1921?

I’m waving my hand wildly over here!

A bit of genealogical trivia first…..

The 1890 census did not burn. It received significant water damage during the fighting of the fire.  The records then sat and sat and sat….. Well, water, paper and time are not a good combination. The 1890 census was ruined.

Back to our research….

The loss of the 1890 population census does not have to stall your genealogy research.

Remnants and fragments of the 1890 census did survive.

According the the Nation Archives (NARA), fragments of the 6 parts of the census surviving include

  • Parts of the population schedule – Over 6100 individuals in 10 different states can be found.
  • Schedules of Union Soldiers and their widows
  • Schedules for the Oklahoma territories
  • Selected Delaware African Americans
  • Statistics on Lutheran Congregations
  • Statistics on the United States – derived from the 1890 census for reports to the government

The first four types of the surviving 1890 census are the most useful to genealogists.  The statistic reports will not help you as a genealogist to advance your research, but may be of historical interest.

Details of what is included in each section above are found on the NARA website.

Where Do You Find These 1890 Census Remnants?

The surviving population schedules and the Civil War Veterans schedules can be found on (free) and on ($).  Check your local library for free access to the library edition of  All you will need is your library card.

The 1890 population census from Cleveland County, North Carolina.

1890 Census Sample Cleveland Co
Sample of 1890 Census for Cleveland County, NC

Notice the unique layout of the census record.  It has a very different look from other census records.  Personally, I think it is easier to read. Overall, the 1890 census asks similar questions to the other census years.

If you find your ancestor in the 1890 population schedule, take note of line 8.  The individual was asked if he/she had married within the year.  This is another source for a marriage date.  Line 9 asks females the number of children born and number of children living.  This is another source for finding previously unknown children.

The Civil War Veterans census of 1890.
Sample of 1890 Civil War Veterans schedule
Sample of 1890 Civil War Veterans schedule

This is a sample of the Civil War veterans of White County, Tennessee. The schedule also included widows of  Civil War veterans.  If you find find your ancestor here, be sure to take note of the disease and remarks sections. Interesting information and clues can be found here. From above, veteran James E. Watson lost his left eye.

Veteran Charles N. Blake is listed as “gone from the state” in the remarks section, yet, he is listed in the schedule for White County.  You now know where Charles was not in 1890 and that he did live in White County, TN at one time.

Selected Delaware African Americans

1890 List of African Americans in Delaware

This is a sample of African Americans listed living in Delaware in 1890. Names and location are indicated. This can be a significant resource for African American researchers.

This 1890 census schedule is found on and on microfilm from

Schedules for the Oklahoma territories

1890 OK sample
Sample of 1890 Schedule of the Oklahoma Territories

This is a sample of the 1890 schedule for Oklahoma County, OK.  It is a bit difficult to read, but if your ancestors lived in Oklahoma in the 1890’s, you want to check this resource.  If you have trouble deciphering it, PicMonkey is a great resource. [Read more about that here.]

I do understand that for many of us, our ancestors will not be found in the surviving 1890 remnants. But….we are genealogists and and owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to be thorough in our search.

For those of you who do not find your ancestors in the 1890 census remnants, the next post is for you!  We will be talking about how to find our ancestors in the 1890’s even without the census.

The 1890 census is not quite the “black hole” of genealogy research we think it is. Research what survived this week, then come back for the next installment.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you decide to purchase a product/service. This does not cost you extra. Be assured I only recommend products/services that I use and think you would like too.

Have you searched the 1890 census remnants?  Have you found an ancestor in these remnants? Leave a comment below and share your finds.

You might also be interested in: 

Pin for future reference!

We often experience frustration when our genealogy research stalls at the 1890 census. We must use other "out of the box" strategies to successfully find our ancestors in 1890.
Spread the love


  • Kathryn Watts

    Your genealogy articles are awesome. I’ve been doing genealogy for some time now and I don’t think I’ve read one of your articles where I haven’t gleaned something new. I have pinned so many genealogy resources on Pinterest, I was afraid I was going to lose your articles among the others, I just had to start a new category – “Genealogy – Are You My Cousin?”, just for your posts :). Thanks for all your articles!

    • Joy Carter

      Very interesting. Your article is the first time I learned why the 1890 census is not so available as others. I just thought maybe I’d done some thing wrong in my search, and maybe I’d find it the next time.

  • Dianna K Shirley

    I agree with Kathryn’s comment. I always look forward to reading your posts and I Pin them all! I have been dabbling in genealogy for over 15 years, but I always get something out of every one of your posts. Thank you so much!

    • LisaL

      Thank you so much, Dianna! I appreciate you pinning the posts, too. I’m always excited to find other genealogy pinners on Pinterest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *