Tracing your Civil War ancestors can present many challenges. For those seeking veterans who fought on the Union side of the conflict, the 1890 Special Census of Veterans can be very useful for documentation purposes. The information contained on the surviving schedules supplies personal information for the veteran and widow when applicable, and identifies the unit and/or regiment of service.
While most of the 1890 census was destroyed, the bulk of what survived is the veteran’s information. Over 75,000 of these special schedules exists for 34 states alphabetically from Kentucky (about 50%) to Wyoming, plus part of the District of Columbia and select ships and naval yards. Unfortunately, the schedules of other states were destroyed.
The returned schedules showed a count of 1,099,668 Union survivors, and 163,176 widows. While these figures for the surviving states are impressive given the circumstances surrounding what happened to the rest of the census, many veterans who should have been listed were overlooked. If your ancestor was living and was counted, the schedules should provide enough information to locate his National Archives service and pension records.
The schedules provide the following information:
1. Veterans name and name of widow if applicable 5. Length of service
2. Rank 6. Post office address
3. Company, regiment or vessel 7. Nature of disability
4. Dates of enlistment and discharge
Census takers were instructed to list the widow’s name above the name of the deceased veteran and fill out the record of his service, but list her present post office. The disability question was included because many veterans claimed disability pensions under an 1862 act The General Remarks often provide anecdotal and meaningful information.
The NARA microfilm M123 Schedules Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 1890, 118 rolls, contain the extant schedules. There is no comprehensive index, but indexes for most states have been published. While most of this information is available on websites, such as Ancestry.com and Library Edition, Family Search, and Fold3, additional follow-up research might include the microfiche series Civil War Unit Histories: Regimental Histories and Personal Narratives published by University Publications of America. Parts 2-4 specifically cover Union units.