A common source of frustration for genealogists, both amateur and professional, is the 1890 census. In 1921, a fire broke out in the basement of the Commerce Building located in Washington, D.C. This building is where the census records were stored. Very few of the records survived.
The lack of an 1890 census can make things extremely difficult for those tracing their genealogy. Ancestors born after the 1880 census were often married and/or living on their own by the time the 1900 census was completed. Determining their parents or siblings can be problematic.
There are a few alternatives for those tracing their genealogy through this time period. However, they may not always work for you. While not all states did so, several states enumerated their citizens in 1885 and 1895. City directories are another option. Some of these have been saved and often reside in local libraries or historical or genealogy societies. The Family History Library has microfilmed some as well.