Round logo for The Computer Church -- a collection of rare computers and vintage documents that catalog the history of computing

The Computer Church
Home       Visit      Contact Us      About Us      Volunteers      Donate      Collection List      Donors

Overview       Card Codes       Occupation Codes       Birthplace Codes       Why Take a Census?

1890 Census: The Meaning of the Hollerith Card Codes

Viewed from today, the 1890 census contained quite a few oddities. It was the first, and only, census that attempted to count the number of Civil War veterans who were still living.

Another notable difference was the governments approach to race, especially for Blacks. When asking about race, the government used W for caucasion, B for Negro, Mu for Mulatto (one black parent and one white parent), Qd for Quadroon (one black grandparent and three white grandparents) and Oc for Octoroon (one black great-grandparent and seven white great-grandparents). That category system was never used again in the US Census. The government also counted Indians, In, but not all Indians. The Census only counted "civilized Indians" and that was defined as those Indians who payed taxes!

The level of education that we see nowadays was not common in 1890. The census taker had codings for those who could read, those who could write and those who could do both.

Hollerith Card: This is a reader card which showed the coding for each potential punched hole.
Hollerith Card: This is a reader card which showed the coding for each potential punched hole.

Hollerith Card: This is a color-coded key for the meaning of the codes used on the 1890 Hollerith Card.
Hollerith Card: We have color-coded this example card so that you can decipher what the codes meant. See the chart below and match the colors or the field codes.
  • You can see the two letter Occupation Codes here. How many of these occupations are gone due to technological advances?
  • You can see the two letter Birthplace codes here. There were only 42 states in 1890. We were a country of immigrants then and some of the foriegn countries no longer exist.


Field 1

Civil War Veterans

CM, CL, CS††††† Marine, Sailor, Soldier

UM, UL, US†††† Marine, Sailor, Soldier

Confederate Army

United States Army

Field 2

Relationship (family)

Hd†† Head of Household

Wf†† Wife

MbMember of family

O†††† Other

Field 3


Jp††† Japanese

Ch†† Chinese

B†††† Negro

W††† White

In†††† Civilized Indian (taxpaying)

Mu†† Mulatto

Qd††† Quadroon

Oc†††† Octoroon

Field 4


Male or Female


Field 5 & 6

Your Age

Combination of numbers

Un†††† Unknown

0††††††† if under 1 year old

Mo†††# of months if a baby

Field 7

Conjugal Condition

Dv††††† Divorced

Un††††† Unknown

Wd†††† Widow/Widower

Sg†††††† Single

Mr††††† Married more than 1 year

CY†††††† Married this year

†††††††††††††† (in the Census Year)

Field 8

# of Children born

Up to 19 children


Field 9

# of Children alive

Up to 19 children


Field 10 & 11

Your birthplace

Combination of upper case letters

and lower case letters

St††††† birth was in state of residence

Un†††† Unknown

Field 12


Two Letter Country Codes


Field 13


Two Letter Country Codes


Field 14

# of years in the US



Field 15

Citizenship for Foreign-born

Al††††† Alien

Na†††† Naturalized citizen

Pa††††† First Papers submitted

Un†††† Unknown

Field 16 & 17


Combination of upper case lettersand lower case letters

NG††† Not Gainfully employed or

††††††††† in School

Field 18


1-12Months unemployed




Field 19


OK†††† Can read and write

W††††† Can read but not write

R††††††† Can write but not read


1-9††† Number of months in school

0††††††† Not in school

Field 20

Language Spoken

Un†††† Understand English?

En††††† English

Ot†††††† Other

Ft†††††† Fatherís language

Mt††††† Motherís language


Field 21


Fh†††††† Farm Hired (Rented)

FM††††† Farm Owned (w/ mortgage)

Ff†††††† Farm owned Free and clear

X†††††††† Does not apply

Hh††††† Home Hired (Rented)

Hf†††††† Home owned Free and clear

Hm†††† Home Owned (w/ mortgage)


Far Left Side


State, county, city,local divisions and

Enumerator District