Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Maybe not Cherokee? - Other Native American Tribes

562 Federally Recognized Indian Nations
Many researchers dive directly into the Dawes records when looking for their Native American ancestors. The record set of “The Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory” most commonly called the Dawes rolls are well known, clearly indexed and readily available. Few researchers even expand to the Guion Miller Roll, 1906-1911 to verify their Eastern Cherokee ancestry (reference NARA microfilm M1773) from Georgia, Alabama, and/or Tennessee. Researchers also commonly overlook the earlier rolls that compiled the Baker Rolls (reference textural records National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), RG 75). When looking for your Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole ancestry these records are paramount. Yet, only five tribes are represented vs. the “562 federally recognized Indian Nations (tribes, bands, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, rancherias and native villages) in the USA.”

Exhaustive Search:  From Alaska to the Atlantic

It is estimated that 229 of the 562 are located in Alaska, leaving 333 federally recognized communities in 33 states of the contiguous USA identified by their cultural and linguistic uniqueness. So if you seeking to verify your Native American heritage, you must go past the ease of the Dawes Records. 

A complete list by state of Federally recognized tribes can be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures website. And when researching in Alaska, don’t limit yourself to the cruise favorite of Ketchican and Icy Strait ports. Yes, in spite of the popular cruise land tour of the Tlingit tribe and Totem Pole Park, you may have to dig deeper for your ancestral Native American bloodline.

3 Research Tips for non-Cherokee Ancestry Records?

RG 75, Registers of Indian Families ca.1901-1902, Book 78
The a3Genealogy top 3 resources for Native American research:  1) National Archives (especially regional branches) 2) Church records 3) Tribal Records.  These records most commonly will provide the researcher with both a Native name and the more familiar family name.  Hint: these records are rarely indexed and must be reviewed page by page.  But with cross referencing and patience, you may not only ferret out your ancestor, but uncover generations of names and ages.

1)      The National Archives holds removal records, tribal enrollment records, land allotment records and more. We have had great success at the KC-NARA when researching Midwest tribes. One of our most recent successes was while researching the Omaha/ Winnebago Tribe, NE and the Ho Chunk, Wisconsin tribe, located in Record Group 75. Beginning with the List of Winnebago Families That Became Citizens of the United States, April 1871 and cross referencing Maps, Atlases and Drawings, Records of Land Allotted to Members of the Ponca Tribe of Native Americans and Records of Flandreau, Santee Sioux Indians Who Took Homesteads, 1883, we were able to uncover an elusive client ancestor.  These records were held at the KC- NARA.  But other cases have been solved using similar records in Louisiana and Georgia.
RG75, Winnebago Agency, Annuity Payrolls, 1857-1926

2)      Christian missionaries made it their “calling” to convert Native Americans. The conversion often was the first record using both a Native name and the adopted family name. We have located these in church records from Catholic, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian records, to Baptist and Methodist.  Others have touted Mennonite, Monrovian and the Reformed Church records also being helpful.
3)      With data, dates and names in hand, communication researchers will want to expand their search using additional tribal records. This may require communication with the tribal historian. We suggest paying attention to tribal specific Land Tract books and any Heirship card files, but many more records may be available.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers


  1. In New England, state and local records, especially from the colonial era, are the best source of records regarding Native people.