Most genealogists will react very sad when they are asked about the 1890 census. This is because that historically and genealogically valuable document was lost in a 1921 fire at the Commerce Building where it was kept. Many genealogists, especially beginners, believe there is no substitute for the information lost in this census. While it is true that you cannot replace the information in the 1890 census, you can find out information about your 1890 ancestors in other ways. One of these ways is with the 1890 US Veterans Schedule.
This schedule was an addition to the 1890 census that was done concurrently but kept separate from it. If you have Union veterans from the Civil War, or their widows, in your 1890 family tree, this schedule can tell you a lot about them without the need for the 1890 census records.
The purpose of the schedule was to assist Union veterans in locating people with whom they may have served, for the purpose of building up proof of their service for their pension claims (as people who served with a veteran were usually asked to confirm the service, especially if the original service record was missing, which was common at the time, before digital recordkeeping). Also, some people in Congress were interested in learning about the potential and suspected relationship between military service and longevity and hoped this schedule could provide more insight on that subject.
The Veterans Schedule was intended to be immediately released to the public, unlike a regular census record, which has a seventy-two year waiting period for privacy before being released to the public. It was intended that the schedule be made immediately available to libraries and veterans’ organizations for the schedule’s intended purpose. Sadly, this never happened.
The reason its intended purpose was never carried out was because of a lack of funding and government red tape. However, a little over a million Union veterans and their widows were initially counted, with later additions coming through newspaper ads announcing the schedule and asking veterans and widows to sign up for it.
When you use the 1890 Veterans Schedule, you will find such information on your Union ancestors as their name, rank, company, the name of their regiment or ship, the date they enlisted and the date they were discharged, the length of their service, the branch of their service, their current address as of 1890, whether they were a prisoner of war and where they were held as such, any wounds they sustained during their service, and any disability they incurred from it.
While most of the schedule is intact, some pages of it were purposefully or accidentally destroyed before 1943, during the WWII chaos at the repositories holding government military information. As a result, a few states have pages missing from their schedules or have no schedules at all. These states are all of them alphabetically from Alabama through Kentucky and half of Kentucky. The other states’ schedules are available, and bits from some of the lost states are included at the end of the Washington, D.C. schedule, including a handful of locations in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas (though the entire state schedules are not available for these states… it is still worth a look to see if your ancestor is included in these fragments).