Ask any serious genealogist “What is one of the most important set of records you wish you could still access?” Without hesitation, many would answer the 1890 US Federal Census!
The United States Federal Census is mandatory according to our Constitution (Article I, Section 2) and requires we count US residents whether or not they are citizens. The first census was taken in 1790, soon after the successful completion of the Revolutionary War. By 1890, taking the US Federal Census was something we had done for 100 years and during this census, the federal government tried something new. Each family was enumerated on a SEPARATE SHEET OF PAPER! It is the ONLY time the US Census was done in such a manner.
Here is the twist on this information: On January 10, 1921 there was a fire at the Commerce Building in Washington, D. C. and nearly ALL of the information from the 1890 US Federal Census was lost. Gone. KAPUT! Irretrievable. The records of only 6,160 people out of 62,979,766 total residents of the United States survived! Finding anyone you know in these fragments is probably more rare than winning the mega millions lottery.
I can’t count the number of times I am tracking someone I’m researching and I get to the point where I need the 1890 census only to grimace, pound my fist and shout UGH! Today, however, I came across genealogical GOLD! Eureka! In searching for an ancestor by the name of Roxie Laney Morrow Stevens, up pops the 1890 Census. Ancestry is VERY GOOD, but this stopped me in my tracks. How could they have made such a simple error? There IS NO 1890 census that survives. Well, Ancestry IS GOOD! There are small fragments of the 1890 Census left!
These are the ONLY surviving fragments of the 1890 Census and you’ll see in bold face type – ILLINOIS – MCDONOUGH COUNTY: MOUND TOWNSHIP! In all the genealogical world, McDonough County has ONE township that survived the fire!
District of Columbia—Q, S, 13th, 14th, RQ, Corcoran, 15th, SE, and Roggs streets, and Johnson Avenue
Georgia—Muscogee County (Columbus)
Illinois—McDonough County: Mound Township
Minnesota—Wright County: Rockford
New Jersey—Hudson County: Jersey City
New York—Westchester County: Eastchester; Suffok County: Brookhaven Township
North Carolina—Gaston County: South Point Township, Ricer Bend Township; Cleveland County: Township No. 2
Ohio—Hamilton County (Cincinnati); Clinton County: Wayne Township
South Dakota—Union County: Jefferson Township
Texas—Ellis County: S.P. no. 6, Mountain Peak, Ovila Precinct; Hood County: Precinct no. 5; Rusk County: Precinct no. 6 and J.P. no. 7; Trinity County: Trinity Town and Precinct no. 2; Kaufman County: Kaufman.
I feel like I’ve found gold. This may be the ONLY time I get to enumerate an ancestor from the 1890 census.
Above, you’ll find the picture of the fragment of the 1890 US Federal Census for Mound Township, McDonough County, Illinois which holds the information about my ancestor, Roxie Laney Stevens, on it. Too Cool!
Pardon me while I geek out today. The rest of the world is excited that football has returned during a pandemic. I’m excited there is a FRAGMENT of the 1890 census left for me!