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1890 U.S. Federal Census

The census of 1890 was taken, under the supervision of Robert P. Porter,1 according to an act of March 1, 1889, and modeled after that used for the 1880 Census. The enumeration began on June 2, 1890, because June 1 was a Sunday. The census employed 175 supervisors, with one or more appointed to each state or territory, exclusive of Alaska and Indian territory. 2

A significant portion of the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, DC on 10 January 1921. The records of only 6,160 of the 62,979,766 people enumerated survived the fire.3

Population Census Items

General schedules destroyed.

Supplemental schedules for Union veterans of the Civil War and their widows.1

First in the Path of the Firemen

Of the decennial population census schedules, perhaps none might have been more critical to studies of immigration, industrialization, westward migration, and characteristics of the general population than the Eleventh Census of the United States, taken in June 1890. Continue...

Historical Forms and Questions

In 1890, the Census extended its scope to cover its subjects in greater detail. Supplemental forms were collected on farm, home and private corporation mortgages to survey debt. Census Bureau employee Herman Hollerith developed punchcards and tabulating machines to increase efficiency and reduce human error. Hollerith later went on to found IBM. View sample forms
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    1 Availability of Census Records About Individuals, U.S. Census Bureau Web Site,

    2 Census of Population and Housing, U.S. Census Bureau Web Site,

    3 The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).


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