Tuesday, April 1, 2008

1890 Census Recovered!

April 1, 2008, Provo, UT — The Ancestry Insider is pleased to announce on this special day the recovery of the Eleventh Census of the United States (1890).

The 1890 Census was previously thought to have perished by fire(1). In March 1896 the census had its first brush with fire, which destroyed many of the non-population schedules. The population schedules were reported to be in "fairly good condition." (7)

Fire damage from the 1921 fire
Damaged records from the 1921 fire.
Photo courtesy NARA.

On 10-January-1921, fire took another punch at the 1890 census. This time the fire destroyed 25% of the schedules and damaged another 38%, leaving about 37% undamaged. (12) The records were moved from the basement of the Commerce Building to a storage warehouse.

After 1922 history becomes sketchy regarding the disposition of the census. In 1932 it surfaced in an inventory of items proposed for destruction, which Congress authorized in February 1933. No definitive record exists concerning its destruction. While a small scribbled note purports the destruction of the 1890 census in 1934 (25), at least one report states the census was still extant at the beginning of 1935.

It was shown in 1942 that the census had at least partially survived when some Illinois schedules were discovered during a Census Bureau move. (26) Further portions were discovered in 1953 (M407).

Complete Recovery

Exactly 20 years ago, on 1-April-1988, the National Archives Ruined Census Schedule Transfer Imaging Company (NARCISTIC) was founded with the express goal of tracking down the remaining portions of the 1890 Census. The company had just about given up all hopes of accomplishing its goal when it discovered a little known branch of the Department of the Interior. Curators at the Institutional National Secret Archives for the Non-Existent obtained special permission for NARCISTIC researchers to search its extensive Spanish-American war collection. About this time last year NARCISTIC researchers discovered mislabeled boxes containing the 1890 Census population schedules, but INSANE External Secrecy Policy prevented announcement of the momentous discovery.

For the last year INSANE personnel have digitized and indexed these priceless records. The Ancestry Insider's familiarity with E.S.P. led to his discovery of the project. While E.S.P. prevents direct disclosure by INSANE staff members, it does not prevent the Insider from accessing INSANE websites, allowing the general public to search the complete 1890 Census for the first time!

Search the 1890 Census

To search the 1890 census, enter a name below and click Search.


(1890 U.S. Federal Census Courtesy INSANE. All Rights Reserved. Copyright April 1, 2008.)


  1. Aha! I thought I detected a touch of humor in your post.

  2. You got me. It took me a couple of reading before I caught on and then I rolled on the floor with delight. I'll post this at the family center this evening.

  3. Not very original or creative, is it?

  4. The 1890 census is why I am sure time travel will never be invented. Because if it ever is invented, I am sure that some genealogist would want to use it to travel back in time to prevent the fire from happening.

  5. I sent this to the New Mexico Genealogical Society Board. I can't wait to see their reaction. - Robert Baca, possible soon to be ex-president of NMGS.

  6. That's about as good of a gag as the "gmail custom time" that had a similar time travel theme. See http://mail.google.com/mail/help/customtime/index.html for a good laugh. Note how part of the testimonials are cut off on the right hand side since it is just an image posted to the page.

  7. Chad,

    Actually there is no need to invent time travel, because it already exists. I'm writing this on April 2nd to indicate this is not a joke.

    Steve Miller sang it best: "Time keeps on slippin', slippin' into the future." We travel forward in time, naturally.

    Happy Dae.

  8. Thank you all for your kind comments. I've quoted some of you in a followup tonight called April Fools Followup.

    -- The A.I.


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