A Reconstruction of the Lost 1890 U.S. Census for Los Angeles County

In 1890, the state of California was only 40 years old, but El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula had already passed its first century mark as a magnet for immigrants from every corner of the United States and around the globe. From the Spanish padres to the Gold Rush, Hollywood, World War II and today, Southern California has been a crossroads, whose history touches millions.

In 1921, the 1890 Federal Census for most of the U. S. was burned -- and a decade later, the remnants were destroyed completely. This has been a critical loss for genealogists and historians everywhere, and particularly for those who research Los Angeles County's past, as the area was growing at a furious clip in the years between 1880 and 1900. The 1890 Project will help bridge that gap by bringing together, in one searchable database, dozens of different types of sources and thousands of individual records.

SCGS Board Member, Beth Uyehara, generated the concept of the 1890 Project. She believed the 1890 Los Angeles Times Newspaper was an excellent source to recreate that decade’s burned Census, especially for those with heritage in Southern California. Some of the original members of the team in early 2003 were Marge Rossini, Paula Hinkle, Louise Calaway, K. Irwin, Dal and Aileen Harral, JoAnna Barnett, Pat Parish, Steve Yung, Tom Dieges, and M. Grove. By 2004, additional sources were added: 1890 Great Register of Voters, Catholic Directory of Membership (1899), 1893/94 Pasadena City Directory, 1890 Los Angeles City Directory, and Monrovia City Property Tax Listings, and others. Libraries were visited in person and online to find data appropriate for the period; a microfilm copier was purchased to accelerate the process.

Next, Bill Tully took the lead on the project and has driven it through the last decade. In 2011, after scanning the microfilms created by the LDS Church, he moved to other churches and schools. Current members of the second team to publish this project include Dwight “Bill” Reilly, Bill Tully, Walt Sturrock, Alice Fairhurst, Diane Adamson, and Megan Lee. This project is a labor of love and created by a patchwork of SCGS members throughout the years who have sought records to replace the genealogical losses of the burned 1890 Census.

The Southern California 1890 Project attempts to fill the hole left by the destruction of the 1890 US Federal Census. A variety of databases were photographed, transcribed, indexed, and made available here. Sources of the data covered a wide variety of categories including:

  • Local census and voter registration
  • Vital records (Birth, Marriage, and Death)
  • Church records
  • Immigration records
  • Jail records

The primary coverage is Los Angeles County in 1890, but individual databases may cover additional geographic areas and date ranges. Dates found could be as early as 1870 or as late as 1940. The goal of the 1890 Project is to account for all of the individuals -- fathers, mothers, children, lodgers, residents and visitors -- who would have been enumerated on the 1890 census. This project is a legacy for all future genealogists and historians of the Los Angeles area. This project is intended to be a living project and as additional data is found it will be incorporated.

1890 Project: Photo Credits

The Southern California Genealogical Society and the Southern California 1890 Project team would like to thank the institutions that provided images used on this site.

The picture of the train used in the top banner and on home page:
Southern Pacific train entering Santa Monica, photCL_555, The Ernest Marquez Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. (More Information).

1890 Project: Links of Interest

The 1890 Census remains a mystery for most genealogists. Here are links that will help you understand more about the Census, and the loss of this important genealogical resource.

"First in the Path of the Firemen" part 1
The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 1 By Kellee Blake NARA Prologue, Spring 1996, Vol. 28, No. 1

"First in the Path of the Firemen " part 2
The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 2 NARA Prologue, Spring 1996, Vol. 28, No 1

"First in the Path of the Firemen" part 3
The Fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 3 NARA Prologue, Spring 1996, Vol. 28, No 1