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     A Guide to Research Resources

1890 Veteran Census

Special Enumeration of Union Veterans & Widows

Although many of the records were destroyed in a basement fire in 1921, there are nearly seventy-five thousand special 1890 schedules enumerating Union veterans and widows of Union veterans.  The pension office requested a special enumeration to help Union veterans locate comrades to testify in pension claims and to determine the number of survivors and widows for pension legislation.

The Pension Office prepared a list of veterans' names and addresses from their files and from available military records held by the War Department.  Census takers asked the subject if he had been "a soldier, sailor, or marine during the civil war (United States or Confederate) or widow of such person." If so, they wrote "Sol" for soldier, "Sail" for sailor, and "Ma" for marine, with "U.S." or "Conf." in parentheses.  The letter "W" was added to these designations if the enumerated was a widow.  If the veteran or widow responded "yes" to Union service, the enumerator filled out the veteran’s schedule. 

The top half of each page lists name, rank, company, regiment or vessel, date of enlistment, date of discharge, and length of service. The lower half contains the post office address, any disability incurred in the service, and general remarks. The question on disability was included because many veterans claimed pensions, under an 1862 act, based on service-related disabilities.  Entries in the "General Remarks" section often provide helpful information and sometimes amusing information. 

Although intended only for Union veterans and their widows, there are several instances where information on Confederate veterans has been recorded.  Some schedules consist almost entirely of Confederates, especially in the schedules of Southern states.  The Confederate names are sometimes crossed out or marked as errors, but the information is usually readable.

Listings for widows can also provide helpful information.  The widow's name is listed above the name of the deceased veteran, and remarried widows were also listed with their new surname.  Dependent mothers are sometimes listed.

These schedules often contain a wealth of information. They frequently list diseases, woundings, and details of deaths.  Many list information on the battle or circumstances in which a death or disability had been incurred. Occasionally, the schedules will include a brief summary of an individual's military career.

The schedules were arranged and stored in bundles, generally alphabetically by name of state or territory, and numbered sequentially. In 1930 custody of the schedules passed from the Pension Office to the newly formed Veterans Administration, where they remained until accessioned by the National Archives in 1943 as part of Record Group 15. All of the available schedules have been microfilmed.

There is no comprehensive index to the 1890 special enumeration, but indexes to some states or specific areas have been prepared by various publishing companies and private groups.  Most of these indexes are compiled by state, and available copies can be located with an Internet search.  For unindexed counties, a page by page search can be time-consuming, but the results are often well-worth the effort. 


National Archives:

NARA Microfilm Publication M123, Schedules Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1890. (118 Rolls) Record Group 15]

Microfilm can be rented, purchased or viewed at the following NARA facilities.
NARA, (Washington, DC)
NARA's Central Plains Region (Kansas City, MO)
NARA's Great Lakes Region (Chicago, IL)
NARA's Mid Atlantic Region (Philadelphia, PA)
NARA's Northeast Region (Boston, MA)
NARA's Northeast Region (New York City, NY)
NARA's Northeast Region (Pittsfield, MA)
NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Anchorage, AK)
NARA's Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle, WA)
NARA's Pacific Region (Laguna Niguel, CA)
NARA's Pacific Region (San Bruno, CA)

For ordering information, click here!

Other Sources:

Microfilmed schedules can also be found at most genealogical libraries and
Family History Centers

Schedules can also be viewed online at


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For More Information:
First in the Path of the Firemen
National Archives Prologue, Spring 1996, Vol. 28, No. 1
The fate of the 1890 Population Census, Part 2

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