1890 - 11th Population Census of the United States

Enumeration began on June 2, 1890, because June 1 was a Sunday. January 10, 1921, a fire in the Commerce Department building, Washington, DC, resulted in the destruction of most of the 1890 census. See the National Archives 1890 Census. According to 1890 United States Census on Wikipedia [April 2014], Some 25% of the materials were presumed destroyed and another 50% damaged by smoke and water (although the actual damage may have been closer to 15–25%). The damage to the records led to an outcry for a permanent National Archives. ... Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933, and the surviving original 1890 census records were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935.

1890 Overview at United States Census Bureau.

Census Instructions

The decennial census has always required a large workforce to visit and collect data from households. Between 1790 to 1870, the duty of collecting census data fell upon the U.S. Marshals. A March 3, 1879 act replaced the U.S. Marshals with specially hired and trained census-takers to conduct the 1880 and subsequent censuses.

During the early censuses, U.S. Marshalls received little training or instruction on how to collect census data. In fact, it was not until 1830 that marshals even received printed shedules on which to record households' responses. The marshals often received limited instruction from the census acts passed prior to each census. 

Beginning with the 1880 census, specially hired and trained census-takers replaced the U.S. marshals. Door-to-door census by temporary census-takers was the primary method of conducting the census until the U.S. Census Bureau began mailing questionnaires to households in 1960.

As more and more households received and returned their questionnaires by mail, the role of census-taker changed. Today, the majority of households are counted by mailed questionnaires. Census-takers visit places frequented by transient households (shelters and soup kitchens, campsites, etc.) and households that do not return their mailed questionnaires (during the "Nonresponse Follow-Up" phase of the census). As a result, the "Instructions to Enumerators" provided here include the congressional acts U.S. marshalls reviewed during the early census, specially-published instructions for door-to-door census, and lastly, guides used for the limited number of personal interviews conducted during nonresponse follow-up operations.

Copied from the Census Intructions at the United States Census Bureau that has the 1890 Instructions.


  1. 1890 "Veterans Census" at the United States Census Bureau.
  2. Availability of 1890 Census at the United States Census Bureau.
  3. Use the Fort Wayne City and Allen County Directories to find working adults and compensate for the missing 1890 census.
  4. Ancestry.com blank 1890 census form
  5. Ancestry.com Search 1890 United States Federal Census Fragment Index
  6. FindMyPast.com Free US Census 1890
  7. Use Steve Morse Census Search Tool for any census
  8. "First in the Path of the Firemen" The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1 by Kellee Blake and Part 2 from Spring 1996 National Archives Prologue Magazine now on their Genealogy Notes blog.
  9. Photo of fire results posted January 10, 2017 on United States Census Bureau on Facebook.
  10. Some local records may exist for other counties such as LaGrange County, Indiana Public Library lists they have their 1890 census records
  11. The Forgotten Federal Census of 1885 Can Be Found Online for Free discussed on Family History Daily blog
  12. Thousands of 1890 Census Records DO Still Exist: Here’s How to Find Them for Free records remain from all states alphabetically from Kentucky through Wyoming discussed on Family History Daily blog.
  13. 1897 Shirley (Woodburn) Local Census at ACGSI.org
Back to top

Page updated: October 12, 2018