Seattle Genealogical Society

Seattle Genealogical Society

Seattle 1890 Project

The Seattle 1890 Project

The purpose of the Seattle 1890 Project is to create a “replacement” for the missing 1890 US Census for what is now the City of Seattle. All of the 1890 Census for Washington was lost in a 1921 fire in Washington D.C., creating a void in the census records of many of our ancestors. We know from the extant summary counts that there were at least 45,000 people living in Seattle at the time of the 1890 US Census. Our goal is to identify every man, woman and child living with the current City of Seattle boundaries on May 2, 1890 and to locate their residence on a map of the city.

Begun in fall 2011, the Project first completed a cleaning/correction of the Washington State Archives transcription of the 1889 Washington Territorial Census for the four Seattle City Wards and the separately enumerated places of Dwamish, Fremont, Green Lake, and Smiths Cove. We also added the enumeration of Ballard to these records. The 1889 Territorial Census, taken in the summer of 1889, serves as the foundation for our 1890 surrogate census, since it lists EVERY resident of Seattle in the summer of 1889. Unfortunately, it doesn’t locate them geographically (other than precinct).

After completing the 1889 Census transcription in summer 2012, we looked for a source that would help pinpoint the locations of these residents. We looked on the shelves of the SGS Library and found the 1891 Seattle City Directory. Canvassing for this directory occurred in the summer of 1890. Once again the Washington State Archives provided us scanned images to work from and a “skeleton” transcription. Many of the data elements—such as occupation and address—were simply missing in the transcription, so we again had a major cleaning/correction project on our hands. As of summer 2013, we are still working on completing this project and can use some more help.

Other potential sources for information on Seattle area residents in 1890 identified include the following:

  • School District Census, 1896-1932
  • Registers of School Teachers and Officials,1890s-1950s
  • Territorial District Court, 1853-1889
  • Probate
    • Indexes, 1853-1977
    • Case Files, 1853-1971
  • Marriage License Register, 1866-1917
  • Record of Marriages, 1888-1926
  • Index to Recorded Marriage Certificates, Index, 1889-1946
  • Register of Voters,
    • Ballard, 1891-1893
    • Seattle 2nd and 4th Wards, 1884-1940
  • Assessment Rolls, beginning in 1862 (incomplete)--after 1900 every 5th year
  • General Recordings Index, 1853-1971
  • Birth Registers, 1891-the fall of 1907 on microfilm
  • Death Registers, 1891-the fall of 1907 on microfilm
  • Medical and Dental Registers, 1882-1910
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1893
  • Anderson’s City of Seattle property map, July 1890
  • local Seattle newspapers for 1890 [content analysis of every proper name]

We have been working with students enrolled in an advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) course at the University of Washington to create a detailed digital map of Seattle in 1890 and to help us locate all of the residents for whom we have addresses on that map.

If you would like to help with the Seattle 1890 Project, please contact project director Chuck Richards as sgs1890@gmail.com.  Thank you.