Historical Background of the
1890 Special Census of
Civil War Veterans and Widows
The act of March 1, 1889 that established the Census Office in the Department
of the Interior also provided that the Eleventh Census (1890) should include "a special schedule . . . of
those who had served in the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States in the war of the rebellion . . .
and (their) widows . . ."
The act also provided that "a list of names, organizations, and length of service of surviving soldiers, sailors,
and marines, and the widows of soldiers, sailors, and marines" should be prepared and published in connection
with the census.
Because of the difficulties that the regular and special enumerators were expected to encounter in gathering data
concerning the veterans or their survivors, the Census Office secured all possible information in advance of the
enumeration. A preliminary list of the names of 458,677 surviving veterans was compiled from the records of the
Pension Office. Efforts were also made to obtain rosters of all Grand Army of the Republic posts throughout the
country, and requests were made for state rosters, adjutant generals' reports, and other publications likely to
be of value in the work of verifying the special schedules.
The work of the enumerators, which was begun on the first Monday of June
1890, was completed by July 1 of that year. The work of examining, verifying, and classifying the information on
the special schedules was carried on from August 1, 1890 to June 30, 1891. During this period, many thousands of
letters were written to veterans to obtain information not obtained by the enumerators, and inquiries were published
in about 500 newspapers throughout the country in order to elicit responses from veterans overlooked in the enumeration.
An examination of the special schedules indicates that at least part of the data so obtained was added to the schedules
by the Census Office.
Each special schedule consists of four pages, and contains spaces for fifty entries. The upper half of each page
includes the name of the veteran (or if he did not survive, the names of both the widow and her deceased husband),
the veteran's rank, company, regiment, or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service
in years, months, and days. The lower half of each page contains the post office address of each person listed,
disability incurred by the veteran, and under the heading of "general remarks," other information necessary
for a complete statement of the veteran's term of service. Persons who enlisted and served under assumed names,
and afterwards assumed their lawful names, are listed under their real names followed by their aliases. In a few
cases, the names of Confederate veterans were recorded inadvertently.
Despite a good deal of preliminary work in preparing the contemplated
list for publication, the act to provide for the publication of the Eleventh Census, approved February 23, 1893,
did not provide for its completion. The Superintendent of Census suggested, therefore, that the original intent
of the law would be complied with if the schedules containing the records of the service of the surviving veterans,
together with their post office addresses, were transferred to the Commissioner of Pensions. This recommendation
was acted upon favorably by Congress by an act approved April 21, 1894, and the schedules were transferred shortly
thereafter. Under authority of an act approved July 3, 1930, these schedules were transferred to the Veterans Administration
where they remained until their transfer to the National Archives on March 24, 1943.
The special schedules of the states and territories of the United States
were microfilmed by the National Archives in Washington, D. C. in 1948, and are identified as National Archives
Microfilm Publication M123.
The schedules of North Dakota are contained on Roll 59, and the schedules
of South Dakota are contained on Roll 94. The schedules within each state are arranged numerically by supervisors'
districts, and then alphabetically by name of county.
North Dakota 1890 Special Census of Civil War Veterans and Widows
Soldiers, sailors, and marines in North Dakota were enumerated in 41 of the
then existing 56 counties, including: Barnes, Benson, Billings, Bottineau, Bowman, Buford, Burleigh, Cass, Cavalier,
Dickey, Eddy, Emmons, Foster, Grand Forks, Griggs, Hettinger, Kidder, La Moure, Logan, McHenry, McIntosh, McLean,
Mercer, Morton, Nelson, Oliver, Pembina, Pierce, Ramsey, Ransom, Richland, Rolette, Sargent, Stark, Steele, Stutsman,
Towner, Traill, Walsh, Ward, and Wells.
South Dakota 1890 Special Census of Civil War Veterans and Widows
Soldiers, sailors, and marines in South Dakota were enumerated in 59 of
the then existing 78 counties, including: Aurora, Beadle, Bon Homme, Brookings, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Butte, Campbell,
Charles Mix, Clark, Clay, Codington, Custer, Davison, Day, Deuel, Douglas, Edmunds, Ewing, Fall River, Faulk, Grant,
Gregory, Hamlin, Hand, Hanson, Harding, Hughes, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Lawrence, Lincoln,
Lyman, McCook, McPherson, Marshall, Meade, Miner, Minnehaha, Moody, Nowlin, Pennington, Potter, Pratt, Presho,
Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, Stanley, Sully, Todd, Turner, Union, Walworth, and Yankton.