City directories are a valuable source, especially for the period around 1890 when most federal census enumerations are not available. The volumes provide names of individuals, churches, cemeteries, businesses, and some occupations. Some directories show racial and/or marital status as shown in the example from Quincy, Illinois. What clues have you found in city directories?
Did your ancestor serve in the military during the Civil War? If so, have you located him or his widow in the 1890 Union Veterans and Widow Schedule? Returns for states beginning with letters A through K were destroyed, except for some Kentucky enumerations, as shown in this example. See http://www.archives.gov/research/census/publications-microfilm-catalogs-census/1790-1890/part-08.html#ky
Did your ancestors reside in an area where the 1890 census survived? Here is one of the surviving fragments from that enumeration and a link to some information about this census. http://www.archives.gov/research/census/publications-microfilm-catalogs-census/1790-1890/part-08.html
How many newspapers were published in the counties where you ancestors lived? Were there any schools or churches where they may have been educated or worshiped? Was there any criminal activity where you ancestors resided? For the answers to these and other questions, check the Social Statistics schedule, another type of “nonpopulation” schedule available for some areas from 1850 through 1880. Here is a sample page from Mobile County, Alabama, 1860. Hope everyone can read it. It is available via Heritage Quest/Ancestry.
The industrial schedule is one of the “nonpopulation” schedules of the federal census. Shown here is a sample from the 1850 Mobile County, Alabama, enumeration. Max. Dubroca, a free man of color, appears on line 3. He operated a steam-powered saw mill and employed an average of 10 male employees. Have you found your ancestors in this schedule?
I am a professional genealogist specializing in tracing the lives of African Americans. I earned my Ph.D. in history from the University of Alabama.