Research Notes

All is NOT lost… thousands of records for 1890 Census DO still exist

All is not lost with the 1890s census. Sherri Onorati points to some wonderful resources to find your ancestors from that period.

familyheirlooms

The 1890 census is often thought to have been completely destroyed by an early January 1921 fire, but that is not exactly correct. An estimated 25 percent of the census was destroyed and another 50 percent did suffered fire, smoke and water damage. But the real cause of its demise was not a fire, but rather the lack of care.  After the fire occurred, preservation wasn’t high on the list of tasks of the current census director, Sam Rogers. After the fire was out and the first responders left, Rogers wouldn’t allow anyone to touch the1890 census until insurance adjusters had examined the overall damage.

The census was basically “forgotten” and set aside while the questions of the fire’s origins were being debated and investigated. Meanwhile, the still soggy, “charred about the edges” original and only copies of the 1890 schedules remained in ruins. At the end of January, the…

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