Using the 1890 Civil War Veterans Census

Yes, you read the title correctly. The 1890 census. The one that was almost entirely destroyed. Although the vast majority of the population schedule is gone forever, there is a part that mostly survived: the 1890 Special Schedule of Union Veterans and Their Widows (AKA “the 1890 Civil War Veterans Census.”)

About the 1890 Special Schedule of Union Veterans

This census schedule was taken at the same time as the “regular” part of the census (the population schedule that we normally use.) The good news is that it didn’t sustain nearly the damage that the 1890 population schedule did. The bad news is that it didn’t survive completely unscathed. Schedules survive for about half of Kentucky through Wyoming, plus the District of Columbia. There are also a handful of pages for California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, and Kansas. The images are available on Ancestry and FamilySearch.

1890 Civil War Veterans Census, Bourbon County, KentuckyWhat It Contains

The record itself is on one page, but it is in two parts: the top half of the page and the bottom half. The top half of the page includes the veteran’s name (and the name of his widow, if applicable), his regiment or ship, and the dates he served. The bottom half lists his post office, disability incurred in the service, and remarks. Let’s take a closer look. Here is part of the top half of the page in Paris, Bourbon County, Kentucky:

1890 Special Schedule of Union Veterans and Their Widows, Bourbon County, Kentucky
1890 Special Schedule of Union Veterans and Their Widows, Bourbon County, Kentucky. (Click to enlarge.)

Line #5 shows John Throckmorton, a 1st Lieutenant in the 5th Vol. Cavalry. (Whether this was the 5th Kentucky Cavalry or the 5th US Cavalry is unclear.) On line #6, we have Fannie Naugle, widow of Frank Naugle of the 4th Ohio Cavalry. (Note that she’s living in Kentucky, but her husband served in an Ohio unit.) Line #7 shows Samuel Stephens, who served in both the 10th Kentucky Infantry and the 40th Kentucky Infantry. Line #11 is an oops. The schedule was just supposed to include Union veterans and widows, but James Fee’s name was crossed out later with the note “Con Sol” — Confederate Soldier. Tip: Even if your ancestor was a Confederate, it doesn’t hurt to take a look in this schedule! 1890-bouron-co-ky-bottom Use the line numbers to match up the two halves of the record. John Throckmorton from line 5 was shot in the left elbow and thrown from a horse. Samuel Stephens on line 7 was “ruptured in right side” and “drawing a pension.”

Why You Should Take a Look

With the destruction of the 1890 population schedule, we need to examine every record we can to fill in the gap between 1880 and 1900. These schedules put our ancestors in a specific place at a specific time. Plus, they give us great leads for further research.

Posted: October 7, 2015.

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  • Yes, the 1890 is an excellent place to learn about a veteran’s unit information, which will shorten the search for a common name (James Williams) among the many pension files and compiled military service records.

    Occasionally I’ve been surprised to see the notation of service on the 1910 US Census — at the far right, where the officials liked to scribble codes. Confederate as well as Union service appears there.

    • Yes! That column in 1910 is so overlooked. UA and UN for Union Army and Union Navy; CA and CN for Confederate Army and Confederate Navy. Every clue helps!

  • I knew the my dad’s grandfather served in the NW Indian Wars and then worked for the Army at Ft Vancouver for the rest of his life, but not in the Civil War so that box is not noted in 1910, but because he lived in Oregon, I was able to get his military records, as his unit was noted in 1890 Veterans’ Schedule.

  • Even if your ancestor or other relative did not serve in the Union army, it can’t hurt to check this census. I discovered quite by accident that a step-g-g-g-gf was listed (he was added later, with no unit given,) even though he did not serve in the Union army. He was from Massachusetts (though he first enlisted in NYC) and served in the U S army from 1840 to 1850, which brought him to Texas, but during the Civil War, he served in a Texas frontier “Home Guard” unit, which was a branch of the CSA, but had nothing to do with the actual war itself. I also got his date of birth through a similar quirk: in an 1867 voter registration list, a section intended for only naturalized citizens asked how, when, and where the men were naturalized. Some, though not all, who were born in the U S (and this was clear because an earlier column asked each registrant’s nativity, in his case Massachusetts,) were still included in the “Naturalized” section, with his responses being “by coming of age”, “April 5, 1836”, and “State of N Y”. I love it when some record-keeper’s failure to follow instructions gives extra info, such as a census listing the number of children born to a widowed MAN, which error I have seen several times in different places.