Native American Genealogy Research
Published January 2, 2009
Prepare Generation Chart | Determine Tribe | Study Tribal Records | Five Civilized Tribes
PREPARE GENERATION CHART
Searching for your Native American ancestor is like other genealogical research — work from the known backward, one step or generation at a time.
Prepare — Learn fundamentals of genealogical research by reading how-to books, taking on-line tutorials, attending lectures and enrolling in classes. You will discover what records are available, where they can be found, and how to use them in your research. Consider joining a genealogical society such as the Ozarks Genealogical Society.
Gather — Interview relatives, asking them for:
- Names of ancestors and their spouses, their brothers and sisters, and all of their children (not just the individuals that are your direct ancestors)
- Dates of births, marriages, deaths and divorce
- The places (town, county, state or province, and country) where these events occurred.
- Information about Indian heritage—tribe, degree of blood, roll numbers.
Study family records looking for clues to these same questions. Be sure to look at all types of records: Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, family Bibles, wills, tax records, military records, photograph albums.
Organize — Beginning with you, complete a generation chart , documenting each parent-child relationship—preferably with a certified birth certificate. This documentation will be necessary if you wish to obtain tribal registration. Prepare a family group sheet for each couple.
These steps are essential for you to place your Native American ancestor in a certain place at a certain time.
- Family History 101: a Beginner's Guide to Finding Your Ancestors by Marcia D. Yannizze Melnyk, c2005.
- Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage by Barbara Renick, c2003.
- Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family's History and Heritage with the Power of the Internet by Pamela Boyer Porter and Amy Johnson Crow, c2003.
- Where to Write for Vital Records (National Center for Health Statistics)
Use the United States Federal Census (beginning with the 1930 census) noting race indicated. All census years are available through Ancestry Library Edition (at Springfield-Greene County Library facilities) and Heritage Quest Online* (at libraries and also by remote access to holders of Springfield-Greene County Library card). Heritage Quest offers option of searching by race for some years.
- 1930 census-takers were instructed to complete schedules differently for those individuals who considered themselves to be Indian. Instead of birthplaces of parents, they were supposed to indicate the tribal affiliation of parents who were Indian. For examples, see census for Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma.
- 1920 census offers clues to birthplaces of parents for those people who considered themselves Indian.
- 1910 and 1900 census required a different form with section “Special Inquiries Relating to Indians” to be used in enumerating Indians living on reservations and those living in family groups outside of reservations. This form asked for tribe (and percentage of Indian and other blood) of each Indian and parents.
- Earlier census (1790-1880) can be used to locate individuals and provide important clues about the family (age, birthplace, migration patterns, etc.). The U.S. Federal Population Census was not taken in Indian Territory or Oklahoma Territory prior to 1900.
If the tribe of your ancestor can be determined from family records or the census, study the history and culture of the tribe. Information about the migration history and naming customs/patterns is particularly important.
If the tribe is not known, study atlases and histories to determine which tribes inhabited the place in which your ancestor lived. Were these tribes in the area at the same time as your ancestor?
- Atlas of the North American Indian by Carl Waldman, c1985 and c2000.
- Cyndi's List — Native American
- Encyclopedia of North American Indians by Frederick E. Hoxie, c1996.
Available online as an E-book .
- North American Indian Tribes (from book by John R. Swanton).
STUDY TRIBAL RECORDS
Start with most recent records!
Various rolls, enrollments and census were taken to determine who was entitled to receive payments authorized by treaties between individual tribes and the United States. These rolls or census will vary for each tribe in terms of when they were taken as well as the type of information gathered.
Each tribe determines the criteria for membership in that specific tribe. Many people chose to live in ways and places that made them ineligible for membership. Therefore, it may be difficult to locate your ancestors in these official records. However, these individuals may be found in other types of records including military, church, school, intruder, newspapers, cemetery and court records. They may also be mentioned in histories of communities published in books or periodicals.
Listed below are selected reference tools for finding and using tribal and other records to locate Native American ancestors. Check library catalogs and online bibliographies for the many other books, microfilm, periodicals and websites available for research.
- American Indians: a Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications
Also available online.
- American Indian Resource Center, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma:
- Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives edited by Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka. 3rd ed., 2000.
- Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians compiled by Edward E. Hill, 1981
- How to Research American Indian Blood Lines
- Our Native Americans & Their Records of Genealogical Value
Bureau of Indian Affairs
1849 C Street NW
Washington DC 20240
BIA Tribal Leaders Directory (pdf)
Mid-Continent Public Library
Genealogy and Local History Department
317 West 24 Highway
Independence MO 64050
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20408
Many records including the Final (Dawes) Rolls and Index to the Guion Miller Applications can be viewed here.
National Archives Southwest Region
502 West Felix Street, Building 1
PO Box 6216
Ft. Worth TX 76115-0216
Oklahoma Historical Society
2100 N Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City OK 73105
FIVE CIVILIZED TRIBES
The "Five Civilized Tribes" are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes who were removed from their homelands in the southeastern United States in the 1830’s and 1840’s to what is now eastern Oklahoma. These five tribes or nations formed Indian Territory which joined with Oklahoma Territory to form the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
In 1893, the Dawes Commission was established to negotiate with the Five Civilized Tribes to abolish tribal governments and to provide for the allotment of land to tribal members. More than 250,000 individuals submitted an application to the Dawes Commission. However, the names of only 101,000 were placed on the The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (also known as the Dawes Rolls) as being eligible for tribal citizenship and given a "roll number." Citizenship required proof of tribal affiliation and residence. Tribal membership in these tribes requires proof of descent from a person on the Dawes Roll.
Copies of the Final Rolls can be viewed in book form, on microfilm or online. See the Checklist for Cherokee Research for further information.
- The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914 by Kent Carter, c1999
- National Archives: The Dawes Rolls (Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory)
- The Five Civilized Tribes by Grant Foreman, 1934.
- Guide to the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes (Access Genealogy)
- A Research Guide to the Five Civilized tribes in Oklahoma: Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole by Vickie L. Herron-Luster, c1997.
- Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal by Rachel Mills Lennon, 2002.
P. O. Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465
918-453-5000; (OK Toll Free) 1-800-256-0671
Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma
PO BOX 1548
Ada, OK 74820
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
PO Drawer 1210 (16th & Locust)
Durant, OK 74702-1210
(580) 924-8280; (800) 552-6170
Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma
PO Box 580 (Town Square)
Okmulgee, OK 74447
Seminole Nation of Oklahoma
PO BOX 1498
Wewoka, OK 74884
* Library card required for use outside the Library
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