Alternative Resources for the 1890 Census


Our discussion last month covered the devastating loss of the 1890 Census. However all is not lost, there are some alternative resources that can be used such as, City Directories, Tax records, Military Records, Local Histories, and State Census Records to name just a few of the additional sources that can be explored.

City Directories are an excellent resource, especially if you know what city your relative lived in at that time. They are published every year and there are thousands of them on that can be browsed. In addition, you can go to your favorite Search Engine and type in City Directory and dozens of sites pop up. If you are looking right here in Jamestown, just call (484-4170) or come to the Fenton History Center. If you are looking in Warren County, contact the Warren County Historical Society at (814)723-1795. For City directories in other areas you can either try or contact the local history center in the city that you are researching.

When using a City directory you will want to look at the Table of Contents as a starting point. This will give you a complete list of the municipalities covered as well as the topical sections such as businesses, hospitals, schools, churches, organizations, etc. All city directories list the residents alphabetically. Most entries include the surname, first name and/or initial, home address, often the occupation and sometimes the address of their place of employment. By using the street that they live on you can use the street index to see who else lives near them. You might want to locate a map of the city and research the names of the cross streets near them. In many cases people of similar ethnic backgrounds settled near each other. Cousin Joe might live just around the corner.

If you are fortunate to live in a state that conducted a State Census, it may have just what you are looking for. For a complete list of the states that did conduct a State Census just type the words “State Census” into your favorite search engine. New York State conducted their State Censuses in the years 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925.

Tax records are another document that can provide a great deal of information. These can be found at the state and local level. Many of the older ones are digitalized and available on-line. Some are in local Historical societies and many are located at the county seat where you might be researching.

As you can see all is not lost with the 1890 census. It just takes a bit more persistence and creativity. Hall House, the Fenton History Center’s new location for its research library and archives will be the topic of my column next month.