I’ve had that thought a time or two (hundred) times while doing research! I’m sure the key to nearly all my family’s genealogy questions lay in the ashes of that missing census that went up in flames in 1921 or in the remnants that were destroyed in 1934-35. Yes, destroyed by the Department of Commerce! You can read about that here.
Yet, some of that 1890 US Federal Census is still available to us today. Saved from fiery ruin and an ill-advised decision of a Commerce Department worker, is most of the Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows or maybe better known as the 1890 Veterans Schedule.
This additional or “special census” was requested by the Pension Office. The intent of this supplementary schedule was to help Union Civil War veterans find fellow soldiers to aid them in filing for a pension. A compatriot’s affidavit could help verify regiment, service, injury, etc. The plan was to compile the information from this “special census” and place the printed volumes in local libraries for veterans to access. In addition, the supplemental census figures would help the Pension Office in determining the number of yet to be filed claims.
As the Eleventh Census of the United States was recorded a question regarding Civil War service was included on the general population schedule. If the respondent was a Union veteran or widow of a veteran, a notation was made on the general census record and the enumerator pulled out the Veterans Schedule and asked a few more questions.
The information on this Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows can be invaluable - maybe even brick wall shattering! The top part of the schedule lists the veteran soldier’s name, rank, regiment, enlistment and muster out dates. I find it particularly helpful that the soldier’s length of service is included, such as 1 year, 9 months, 28 days or as in my ancestor’s case 10 months, 18 days.
The bottom part of the schedule includes any additional remarks by the veteran or widow. It could list injury, disability and all sorts of additional information. I’ve gotten several gems from these extra remarks, like a veteran’s admission to a soldiers home or, regiment broke up, even deafness and piles. Imagine telling an enumerator that was a result of your battlefield experience!
What’s equally important is that enumerators, for the most part, ignored their instructions that only Union veterans were to be recorded. Many, many Confederate veterans are included in this schedule as well as veterans from other conflicts like the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.
The only “catch” to this great resource is that almost all of the records for Alabama through Kansas and about half of Kentucky are assumed to be destroyed. I know, if my veteran lived in those states I’d be bummed too but there still are a number of records to research if your ancestor’s home state came later in the alphabet.
So, don’t forget to check the Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows otherwise known as the 1890 Veterans Schedule as you continue your research. You can find this valuable information on FamilySearch.org (for free) or on Ancestry.com if you have a subscription.
Good luck in your research!
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