When I say 90’s technology I am not talking about the move from floppy disc to CD-Roms, I am talking about the cutting edge technology that was employed in 1890 to create the Eleventh Census of the United States. With the influx of literally millions of immigrants in the late 1800s, there was a need to advance the way in which census data was collected. The 1880 census took nearly 8 years to tabulate. The more people living here the more time it would take census collectors to walk door to door collecting the names, ages, and occupations of those living in the country, and the more time it would take to count it all up. Something had to be done.

A young man named Herman Hollerith brought the automation of a punch card system to the 1890 census when he invented the first Hollerith Electrical Census Counting Machine. And honestly, the elaborate wooden cabinet with its dials and levers was a pretty advanced invention. Here is an article, by Mark Howells, all about how it functioned which originally appeared in the March/April 200 issue of Ancestry Magazine: http://www.oz.net/~markhow/writing/holl.htm

But unfortunately you will not be able to check out the results of Mr. Hollerith’s invention. No, the 1890 census no longer exists. Many U.S. genealogy researchers will tell you that it perished in a fire. Well, not really, only a portion of it was lost in a fire; approximately 25%. Another 50% suffered smoke and water damage. So where is the other 25% – oh, the Library of Congress destroyed it in the 1935.You can read more about it here: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1996/spring/1890-census-1.html , http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1996/spring/1890-census-2.html

Are you shocked and dismayed? Don’t be. The destruction of Government Documents happens everyday. More shock and dismay?? Oh, stop it. Of course they got rid of it. The census had served its purpose and its remnants were not in good condition. The census is taken to determine the proportional distribution of the seats in the House Representatives to the states based on their populations. It just happens to be a an excellent genealogical research tool after the fact but that is not its intention.

You can’t even see the census data from individual respondents as a research tool until it is 72 years old. That is done to protect the personal information of U.S. citizens. The 1940 census will not be available until April of 2012. The aggregate data regarding the population is made available as soon as it is tabulated; but an individuals data takes a wait.

Every census from 1790 to 1930, except for the 1890 census of course, is available at no cost from Nation Archives facilities and many libraries through online resources. If you want to find out how you can access these records for free, this web page from the National Archives is a good place to start.: http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/census/research.html

And this you want to know how to get started, I highly recommend reading this web page: http://www.1930census.com/census_101.php

But if you want to look at the 1890 census, again, you’re out of luck.