Primary Sources: 1890 Census
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Consider These Questions


1. Why do you suppose the government wanted an enumeration of surviving Civil War soldiers and widows?

2. Why did the categories on the forms change over time, and what do those changes tell us about the specific times that each of the forms came from?

3. Compare and contrast: What are the key important similarities and differences between the forms?

4. What is your overall sense about the likelihood of achieving accuracy on these forms for counting and gathering data about the population?


(11 1/2" x18", printed on both sides)


Supervisor's District No.____________________

Enumeration District No._____________________

Eleventh Census of the United States,

Name of town, township, precinct, district, beat or other minor civil division




Street and No:_________________; Ward:_________________; Name of Institution:___________________________;

Enumerated by me on the _____ day of June, 1890.     ___________________________________________,


A.— Number of Dwelling-house in the order of visitation.


B.— Number of families in this dwelling house.


C.— Number of persons in this dwelling house.


D.— Number of Family in the order of visitation.


E.— No. of Persons in this family.









Christian name in full, and initial of middle name.





Whether a soldier, sailor or marine during the Civil War (U.S. or Conf.), or widow of such person.



Relationship to head of family.



Whether white, black, mulatto, quadroon, ocotoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian.






Age at nearest birthday. If under one year, give age in months.



Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced.



Whether married during the census year(June 1, 1889 to May 31, 1890)



Mother of how many children, and number of these children living.




The statistics of population and other special data concerning persons residing in institutions will be taken by institution enumerators; that is, some official or other trustworthy person connected with the institution, who will be appointed specifically for the purpose.

This plan of enumeration will not be extended to all institutions, but the appointment of special institution enumerators will be determined partly by the size of the institution and partly by its nature.

For those institutions where this plan of enumeration is to be carried out the enumerators for the districts in which such institutions are located will have no responsibility.

Each enumerator will receive in advance of the enumeration due notification from the supervisor for his district as to the institutions which are not to be taken by him. It should be the duty of the enumerator, however, if there is any institution in his district, whatever may be its size or character, to satisfy himself by personal inquiry of the officer in charge whether a special institution enumerator has been appointed, and if not, to proceed to enumerate the population as in the case of all other houses visited by him. On the other hand, if a special institution enumerator has been appointed for it, then it has been withdrawn from his district, and he will leave it to be enumerated by the special institution enumerator.


All soldiers of the United States Army, civilian employees, and other residents at posts or on military reservations, will be enumerated in the same manner as has been provided for institutions, by the appointment of a special resident enumerator; and in all such cases where the district enumerator has been so notified such posts or military reservations should not be included as part of his district. For posts not garrisoned, and any other posts not so withdrawn, the district enumerator will make the necessary inquiries, and if no special enumerator has been appointed he will include the residents of such posts as a part of his district equally with other elements of the population.

In a similar way all sailors and marines stationed on vessels, and at the United States navy-yards, as well as resident officers, with their families, will be specially enumerated, and need not be taken by the district enumerator if, upon inquiry or by notification, he knows that such special provision has been made.


The law provides that the Superintendent of Census may employ special agents or other means to make an enumeration of all Indians living within the jurisdiction of the United States, with such information as to their condition as may be obtainable, classifying them as to Indians taxed and Indians not taxed.

By the phrase "Indians not taxed" is meant Indians living on reservations under the care of Government agents or roaming individually or in bands over unsettled tracts of country.

Indians not in tribal relations, whether full-bloods or half-breeds, who are found mingled with the white population, residing in white families, engaged as servants or laborers, or living in huts or wigwams on the outskirts of towns or settlements, are to be regarded as art of the ordinary population of the country, and are to be embraced in the enumeration.

The enumeration of Indians living on reservations will be made by special agents appointed directly from this office, and supervisors and enumerators will have no responsibility in this connection.

Many Indians, however, have voluntarily abandoned their tribal relations or have quit their reservations and now sustain themselves. When enumerators find Indians off of or living away from reservations, and in no wise dependents upon the agency or Government, such Indians, in addition to their enumeration on the population and supplemental schedules, in the same manner as for the population generally, should be noted on a special schedule (7-917) by name, tribe, sex, age, occupation, and whether taxed or not taxed.

The object of this is to obtain an accurate census of all Indians living within the jurisdiction of the United States and to prevent double enumeration of certain Indians.

Where Indians are temporarily absent from their reservations the census enumerators need not note them, as the special enumerator for the Indian reservation will get their names.


The first thing to be entered at the head of each schedule is the number of the supervisor’s district and of the enumeration district in which the work is performed. These numbers must be repeated for each family enumerated, and where additional sheets are used these numbers are to be carried to those sheets, as already stated.


Be careful to enter accurately the name of the city, town, township, precinct, etc. and distinguish carefully between the population of villages within townships and the remainder of such townships. The correct enumeration of the population of these minor civil divisions is especially important, and is of interest in the presentation in the printed reports of details concerning these small bodies of population. So far as possible, also, the population of small unincorporated villages and hamlets should be separately reported. Also enter at the head of each schedule, in the spaces provided therefor, the name of the county and State or Territory in which the minor subdivision is located. In cities the street, street number, and ward should be entered in the proper spaces and in those cities where special sanitary districts have been established for the purposes of the census enumeration the letters used to designate them should be added in some convenient space at the head, of each schedule and encircled thus: (A), (B), (C), etc., according to the special letters used to distinguish these sanitary districts.


Whenever an institution is to be enumerated, as, a hospital, asylum, almshouse, jail, or penitentiary, the full name and title of the institution should be entered, and all persons having their usual place of abode in such institution, whether officers, attendants, inmates, or persons in confinement, should then be entered consecutively on the schedules as one family. If, as sometimes may be the case, a sheriff, warden, or other prison official may live in one end of the prison building, but separated by a partition wall from the prison proper, his family (including himself as its head) should be returned on a separate schedule, and should not be returned on the schedule upon which the prisoners are entered. Where the officers or attendants, or any of them, do not reside in the institution buildings, but live with their families in detached dwellings, no matter whether the houses are owned by the institution or located in the same grounds, they should be reported on separate schedules, but should be included as a part of the work of the special institution enumerator, where one is appointed, and should not be left to be taken by the district enumerator. It may happen also that some of the officers or attendants may reside wholly outside of the institution precincts, either in rented houses or houses owned by the institution, or by themselves, and in such cases they should be enumerated by the district enumerator and not by the special institution enumerator. The tour of duty of the special institution enumerator should not extend beyond the boundaries of the institution grounds, but should include all those persons and inmates whose usual places of abode are clearly within the territory controlled by the institution.


A.–Number of dwelling house in the order of visitation.

In the space against the inquiry marked A is to be entered the number of the dwelling house in the order of visitation. The object of this inquiry is to ascertain the total number of dwelling houses. A dwelling house for the purposes of the census means any building or place of abode, of whatever character, material, or structure, in which any person is living at the time of taking the census. It may be a room above a warehouse or factory, a loft above a stable, a wigwam on the outskirts of a settlement, or a dwelling house in the ordinary sense of the term. A tenement house, whether it contains two, three, or forty families, should be considered for the purposes of the census as one house. A building under one roof suited for two or more families, but with a dividing partition wall a separate front door for each part of the building, should be counted as two or more houses. A block of houses under one roof, but with separate front doors, should be considered as so many houses, without regard to the number of families in each separate house in the block. Wholly uninhabited dwellings are not to be counted.

B.–Number of families in this dwelling house.

The inquiry marked B calls for the number of families, whether one or more, in each dwelling house. Where there is more than one family in a dwelling house, this inquiry should be answered only on the schedule for the first family enumerated and omitted on the schedules for the second and subsequent families enumerated in the same house, to avoid duplication of results; the space on the schedules for the second and subsequent families should be filled, however by an X, as not being applicable. An example of this character is given on the printed sheets illustrative of the manner of filling schedules.

C.–Number of persons in this dwelling house.

The inquiry marked C calls for the number of persons in each dwelling house, and where there is more than one family in the house the answer should represent the total number of persons included in the several families occupying the same house. Where there is but a single family to a house, the answer to this inquiry should e the same as for Inquiry E. Where there is more than one family in a dwelling house, this inquiry, as in the case of Inquiry B, should be answered only on the schedule for the first family enumerated.

D.–Number of family in the order of visitation.

In answer to the inquiry marked D enter the number, in the order of visitation, of each family residing in the district. The fact that more than one family is often found in a house makes the family number exceed, necessarily, the house number, as called for by Inquiry A.

The word family, for the purposes of the census, includes persons living alone, as well as families in the ordinary sense of that term, and also all larger aggregations of people having only the tie of a common roof and table. A hotel, with all its inmates, constitutes but one family within the meaning of this term. A hospital, a prison, an asylum is equally a family for the purposes of the census. On the other hand, the solitary inmate of a cabin, a loft, or a room finished off above a store, and, indeed all individuals living out of families, constitute a family in the meaning of the census act.

By "individuals living out of families" is meant all persons occupying loft in public buildings, above stores, warehouses, factories, and stables, having no other usual place of abode; persons living solitary in cabins, huts, or tents; person sleeping on river boats, canal boats, barges, etc., having no other usual place of abode, and persons in police stations having no homes. Of the classes just mentioned the most important, numerically, is the first, viz: those persons, chiefly in cities, who occupy rooms in public buildings, or above stores, warehouses, factories, and stables. In order to reach such persons, the enumerator will need not only to keep his eyes open to all indications of such casual residence in his enumeration district, but to make inquiry both of the parties occupying the business portion of such buildings and also of the police. In the case, however, of tenement houses and the so-called "flats" of the great cities as many families are to be recorded as there are separate tables.

A person’s home is where he sleeps. There are many people who lodge in one place and board in another. All such persons should be returned as members of that family with which they lodge.

E.–Number of persons in this family.

The answer to this inquiry should correspond to the number of columns filled on each schedule, and care should be taken to have all the members of the family included in this statement and a column filled for each person in the family, including servants, boarders, lodgers, etc. Be sure that the person answering the inquiries thoroughly understands the question, and does not omit any person who should be counted as a member of the family.


1. Christian name in full, initial of middle name, and surname.

Opposite to the inquiry numbered 1 on the schedule are to be entered the names of all persons whose usual place of abode on the 1st day of June, 1890, was in the family enumerated.

The census law furnishes no definition of the phrase "usual place of abode;" and it is difficult, under the American system of a protracted enumeration, to afford administrative, directions which will wholly obviate the danger that some persons will be reported in two places and others not reported at all. Much must be left to the judgement of the enumerator, who can, if he will take the pains, in the great majority of instances satisfy himself as to the propriety of including or not including doubtful cases in his enumeration of any given family. In the cases of boarders at hotels or students at schools or colleges the enumerator can by one or two well-directed inquiries ascertain whether the person concerning whom the question may arise has at the time any other place of abode within another district at which he is likely to be reported. Seafaring men are to be reported at their land homes, no matter how long they may have been absent, if they are supposed to be still alive. Hence, sailors temporarily at sailors’ boarding or lodging house, if they acknowledge any other home within the United States, are not to be included in the family of the lodging or boarding house. Persons engaged in internal transportation, canal men, expressmen, railroad men, etc., if they habitually return to their homes in the intervals of their occupations, will be reported as of their families, and not where they may be temporarily staying on the 1st of June, 1890.

In entering the members of a family the name of the father, mother, or other ostensible head of the family (in the case of hotels, jails, etc., the landlord, jailer, etc.) is to be entered in the first column. It is desirable that the wife should be enumerated in the second column, and the children of the family proper should follow in the order of their ages, as will naturally be the case. The names of all other persons in the family, whether relatives, boarders, lodgers, or servants, should be entered successively in subsequent columns.

The Christian name in full and initial of middle name of each person should be first entered and the surname immediately thereunder, as shown in the illustrative example.

2. Whether a soldier, sailor, or marine during the civil war (United States or Confederate), or widow of such person.

Write "Sol" for soldier, "Sail" for sailor, and "Ma" for marine. If the person served in the United States forces add "U.S." in parentheses, and if in the Confederate forces add "Conf." in parentheses, thus: Sol (U.S.); Sail (U.S.); Sol (Conf.), etc. In the case of a widow of a deceased soldier, sailor, or marine, use the letter "W" in addition to the above designations, as W. Sol (U.S.), W. Sol (Conf.), and so on.

The enumeration of the survivors of the late war, including their names, organizations, length of service, and the widows of such as have died, is to be taken on a special schedule prepared for the purpose, as provided for by the act of March 1, 1889, and relates only to those persons, or widows of persons, who served in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States in the late war. The inquiry concerning the survivors of both the United States and Confederate forces is made on the population schedule so as to ascertain the number now living and the number who have died and have left widows.

3. Relationship to head of family.

Designate the head of a family, whether a husband or father, widow or unmarried person of either sex, by the word "Head;" other members of a family by wife mother, father, son, daughter, grandson, daughter-in-law, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, servant, or other properly distinctive term, according to the particular relationship which the person bears to the head of the family. Distinguish between boarders, who sleep and board in one place, and lodgers, who room in one place and board in another. If an inmate of an institution or school, write inmate, pupil, patient, prisoner, or some equivalent term which will clearly distinguish inmates from the officers and employees and their families. But all officers and employees of an institution who reside in the institution building are to be accounted, for census purposes, as one family, the head of which is the superintendent, matron, or other officer in charge. If more than one family resides in the institution building, group the members together and distinguish them in some intelligible way. In addition to defining their natural relationship to the head of the institution or their own immediate family, their official position in the institution, if any, should be also noted, thus: Superintendent, clerk, teacher watchman, nurse, etc.


4. Whether white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian.

Write white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian, according to the color or race of the person enumerated. Be particularly careful to distinguish between blacks, mulattos, quadroons, and octoroons. The word "black" should be used to describe those persons who have three-fourths or more black blood; "mulatto," those persons who have from three-eighths to five-eighths black blood; "quadroon," those persons who have one-fourth black blood; and "octoroon," those persons who have one-eighth or any trace of black blood.

5. Sex.

Write male or female, as the case may be.

6. Age at nearest birthday. If under one year, give age in months.

Write the age in figures at nearest birthday in whole years, omitting months and days, for each person of one year of age or over. For children who on the 1st of June, 1890, were less than one year of age, give the age in months, or twelfths of year, thus: 3/12, 7/12, 10/12. For a child less than one month old, state the age as follows: 0/12. The exact years of age for all persons one year old or over should be given whenever it can be obtained. In any event, do not accept the answer "Don’t know," but ascertain as nearly as possible the approximate age of each person. The general tendency of persons in giving their ages is to use round numbers as 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, etc. If the age is given as "about 25," determine, if possible, whether the age should be entered as 24, 25, or 26. Particular attention should be paid to this, otherwise it will be found when the results are aggregated in this office that a much more than normal number of persons have been reported as 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, etc., years of age, and a much less than normal at 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, 31, etc.


7. Whether single, married, widowed, or divorced.

Write single, married, widowed, or divorced, according to the conjugal condition of the person enumerated. No matter how young the person may be, the conjugal condition, if "single," should always be stated.