"First in the Path of the Firemen" The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1 By Kellee Blake
"The extant record is scanty on storage and possible use of the 1890 schedules between 1922 and 1932 and seemingly silent on what precipitated the following chain of events. In December 1932, in accordance with federal records procedures at the time, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers no longer necessary for current business and scheduled for destruction. He asked the Librarian to report back to him any documents that should be retained for their historical interest. Item 22 on the list for Bureau of the Census read "Schedules, Population . . . 1890, Original." The Librarian identified no records as permanent, the list was sent forward, and Congress authorized destruction on February 21, 1933. At least one report states the 1890 census papers were finally destroyed in 1935, and a small scribbled note found in a Census Bureau file states "remaining schedules destroyed by Department of Commerce in 1934 (not approved by the Geographer)."(25) Further study is necessary to determine, if possible, what happened to the fervent and vigilant voices that championed these schedules in 1921. How were these records overlooked by Library of Congress staff? Who in the Census Bureau determined the schedules were useless, why, and when? Ironically, just one day before Congress authorized destruction of the 1890 census papers, President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone for the National Archives Building.."
Even after the outcry in 1921, thirteen years later the Census Bureau destroyed the remaining 1890 schedules.
In 1942 the National Archives accessioned a damaged bundle of surviving Illinois schedules as part of a shipment of records found during a Census Bureau move. At the time, they were believed to be the only surviving fragments.(26) In 1953, however, the Archives accessioned an additional set of fragments. These sets of extant fragments are from Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia and have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M407 (3 rolls). A corresponding index is available as National Archives Microfilm Publication M496 (2 rolls). Both microfilm series can be viewed at the National Archives, the regional archives, and several other repositories. Before disregarding this census, researchers should always verify that the schedules they seek did not survive. There are no fewer than 6,160 names indexed on the surviving 1890 population schedules. These are someone's ancestors. ..."
I can only presume that this is still your thread.
I am a Historian and Archivist in Yavapai County in northern Arizona, and there is a way of sorts of "reverse engineering" and resurrecting a "census" of sorts from 1890 through creative extrapolation via other channels, because if nothing else, we are a nation of rather redundant record keepers—and very, very good ones at that.
During the entire nineteenth century, every American county registrar from California to Maine and from Key West to Ketchikan kept two sets of books—but not related in any way to accounting. They kept what were known as the General Registry and the Great Registry. The General Registry was compiled and maintained by the Registrar/Recorder’s office, listing the names of, primarily, registered voters. This was, by and large, to discourage voter fraud. The Great Registry, for all intents and purposes, was the pre-telephone, “phone book”, however, sans addresses, too.
What it t listed were the individual adult residents of any respective county by name, age, sex, country or state of nativity, date and place of naturalization (if applicable), and, most importantly, then-current town or city of residency. They were compiled every five- to ten years, rendered into these large, casebound, holographic, deeds-like books, and were sometimes compiled concurrent with the decennial federal census as a matter of convenience.
The only items missing from some of the Great Registries as opposed the Federal Census were the current marital status, spouse, children, nativity of parents, gainful occupation, mailing addresses, known levels of formal education, whether you owned or rented, and race.
Once you have discovered your respective county Great Registry, all you have to do, then, is to obtain the specific book of protocols from the Census Bureau for the 1890 General Census, which then called out and enumerated both the Supervisorial Districts and Enumeration Districts’ ranges by city or town, and you’ll have a pretty-good 1890’s Census. Our Yavapai County Great Registry Book #2 subsection for the city of Prescott, where I live, is 143 pages long and I am transcribing it on a daily basis for our local museum and archives.
It won’t be the best, it won’t be the bona fide General Census for 1890, but it’s better than what we have now.
Bill, This is GREAT information. I am sure everyone will benefit from your post!!
Thank you so much for sharing.