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1890 New York City Police Census: Use

A guide to understanding the alternative census conducted in New York City. Guide by Andy McCarthy.

4. Use

The 1890 police census provides more information about the household than a city directory, and is easier to access than NYC voting records.  The police census is often used as a substitute for the 1890 Federal census.  Unlike prior census years, copies of the 1890 Federal census were not furnished to local county clerks’ offices.  In 1921, a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C., damaged a bulk of the 1890 census schedules, which were saved in storage until, in 1933, Congress authorized the damaged pages to be destroyed.  The 1890 Federal census was the first Federal census to include citizenship status, and featured thirty columns of data, versus the six columns in the 1890 police census.  

The columns of information are:

  • Street Name
  • Street Number
  • Name
  • Sex
  • Age
  • If a minor

Having the right AD/ED number points you to the relevant book number and microfilm reel.  However, there is no index or table of contents for the reel; you scroll through the reel until finding the appropriate Election District, which are arranged sequentially, though each page is not identified with the corresponding ED or Book number.  

The census pages for each ED are bookended by:

  • A title page featuring the AD/ED numbers, the police precinct number, and the name and precinct of the enumerating police officer;
  • A small map of the election district.