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Native American Genealogical Research

Native American Genealogical Research

A growing number of Americans with a Native American background are beginning their research in genealogy. Many are interested as a matter of historical pride. Others do so to qualify for a variety of federal and state government programs geared specifically to descendants of Native Americans. Researchers doing Native American Genealogy will face some unique challenges which are documented below, but you will still follow the same research and information gathering steps as with any other type of genealogical research.

Researchers will encounter many unique situations when researching their Native American ancestors. The social traditions, naming customs, and family relationships varied widely among the different tribes. Normally, the first step in research involves studying the history and social customs of the tribe in question. Had Native Americans been treated as normal citizens and the same efforts made to keep Indian vital and historical records as a matter of policy, the information available to researchers would be more complete. Efforts have finally been made, albeit after the fact, to gather the surviving records and make them accessible to researchers.

The basic genealogical sources about Native Americans through 1830 are church and land records. At various times several different religious groups have worked among the various Native American tribes. Records of the Quakers, Moravians, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) can contain useful information compiled by their mission agencies and individual missionaries. Between 1850 and 1887 the federal government pursued a determined policy of forcing Indians off their historical homelands and into remote reservations. This movement actually began in the 1830's, but efforts were directed more on a state or regional basis; with limited assistance from federal authorities.

Census records are sometimes helpful for the Indian Reservation Period. As the Indians were forced on to reservations, the government began making efforts to monitor their activities. This led to a more concerted effort to keep track of individual people by names. The documents from this period will include school documents, census records, and annuity rolls. The period between 1887 and 1930 is known as the Allotment Period. During this period, land was allotted to individual Indians who met certain criteria or were considered more "civilized" by the whites. These same people were considered traitors by their fellow Indians and were often ostracized. Government land grants to individual Indians generated allotment records and family registers. These government files also contain vital statistics, health records, court claims, and wills.

The term "American Indian" emerged as an ethnic category during the period of European settlement. The native peoples here in North America had their own names for themselves. The Native Americans living here at this time used terms like Abenaki (people of the dawn), Catawba (people of the river), or Cayuga (people of the marsh) as tribal names. Sometimes, the tribal name that a particular tribe is known as in modern times originated from the name given by their enemies, allies, or the early European trappers and traders. The Iroquois (poisonous snakes) were so named for their fierceness. The Mohawks (cannibals or wolves) were so named because of their ruthless and vicious fighting styles. Christopher Columbus called the Taino people he first Native American Genealogical Research--Page 2

encountered in 1492 " una gente en dios", a people living in God.

Centuries of intermarriage between tribes and marriages with African, Asian, and White -Anglo spouses have clouded the definition of who is an Indian. Along the Atlantic seaboard region during the colonial era, intermarriages between Indians and English, Spanish, French, German, Irish, Portuguese, African, Dutch, and Italians were not uncommon.. In most cases, those who intermarried with these non-Indian groups were ostracized. As the Indian population dwindled, it became more common. The long term result of these intermarriages has made Indian ethnicity a complex issue.

According to 1990 census figures, almost two million Americans described themselves as Indian. Each tribe has its own criteria for membership. The degree of Indian blood one can claim is often the determining factor in applying for tribal membership. Usually at least one parent must qualify as a full-fledged tribal member for the children to become tribal members. Some tribes require applicants to prove their decent from one of the tribe's matriarchs. Still other tribes require proof of bilateral descent through both parents.

Tribal recognition is necessary for federal recognition, yet not all tribes are federally recognized. Over 300 tribes have federal recognition. Most are located west of the Mississippi River. This number does not include more than 200 Alaskan reservations or villages which have received federal recognition. These tribes all exist as their own political entities. Tribes that are not recognized still function with their own internal political and social structure. Some are incorporated within their own state legal system which is similar to the federal system. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, followed by decisions of the Indian Claims Commission, accelerated the need for careful determination of Indian identity. It also marked the reversal of federal policy which in previous decades stressed forced assimilation and allotment practices intended to "civilize" Indians while suppressing their cultures and stealing their lands. The Indian Claims Commission was established in 1946 to enable tribes to file their grievances for long-standing broken treaties and stolen lands. This process would allow them to seek legal land claims and receive monetary compensation. In some cases, these claims were eventually settled. In most, the Indians' claims were dismissed or the compensation was for only a small portion of the original grievance.

Indian Records At The National Archives

Records from various federal and state agencies, including materials from the various field offices of the Bureau Of Indian Affairs, have been deposited with the National Archives. These records cover mainly the period between 1830 and 1940. They include:

1) Lists of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and other miscellaneous Indian tribes which were forced to move Westward during the 1830-1846 period. Each entry on this list usually contains the name of the head of the family, number of persons in the family by age, Native American Genealogical Research--Page 3

sex, description of property owned before removal, and dates of departure from the East and arrival in the West.

2) Annuity Payrolls, 1841-1940. These records show for each person in a family the Indian or English name, age, sex, and relationship to the head of the family, and sometimes to another enrolled Native American. Rolls sometimes contain supplementary information, such as the names of persons who died or were born during the previous year. The National Archives will conduct a search of these payrolls provided you can furnish the following information: the Indian's name (preferably both the English and Indian name), the specific tribal affiliation, and the approximate date of association with the tribe.

3) Eastern Cherokee Claim Files, 1901-1910. These usually contain the applicant's name, residence, date and place of birth, name and age of spouse, names of father, mother and children, and related genealogical information. For a search of the claim files, it is critical for you to identify some or all of the following: name or claim number of the claimant, age when the claim was filed, name of spouse, and names of parents or children.

Most National Archives records deal with the Indian tribes that were able to maintain their tribal status. Subjects would include: lists relating to Indian removal, annuity pay rolls, annual tribal census rolls of Indians who were under the Bureau's jurisdiction and lived on reservations, records and claims pertaining to the Eastern Cherokees, estate files and files from the Carlise Indian School. It should be noted that the census rolls from the Bureau Of Indian Affairs are unrelated to the regular federal decennial census schedules. If your Indian ancestor fought with federal troops, a military record, claim for veteran's benefit, or bounty land grant application may exist. The National Archives military records section has a separate alphabetical file for each veteran who served prior to 1870.

Records on Native Americans can be borrowed through the National Archives Library System. However, because of time constraints, the largest concentration of American Indian genealogical materials is housed at the Fort Worth, Texas branch. The staff of the National Archives and its branches can no longer perform detailed research for individuals. If you want access to records, you must either write and request forms for initiating a search (you must provide all information requested on the form), visit the Ft. Worth National Archives Branch, or borrow the microfilmed records by contacting your local LDS Family History Library branch which is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. Researchers in Lee County also have the option of borrowing through both of the following genealogical organizations: Bonita Springs Genealogical Club or the Lee County Genealogical Society. Both groups utilize the American Genealogical Lending Library in Bountiful, Utah.

Census Records And Native Americans

Census records covering the years 1790 through 1850 included Native Americans only if they lived in settled areas, were taxed, or renounced their tribal affiliation. These censuses did not Native American Genealogical Research--Page 4

specify their race. In most states, the Native Americans who renounced their tribal affiliations were lumped in with whites if they were living in white sections, or black if living with black residents. Indians who retained their tribal loyalties, lived on reservations, or who roamed as nomads over unsettled tracts of land, and did not pay taxes, were not counted in the federal censuses.

Beginning with the 1860 Federal census, the category of Indian (taxed) was added. The 1870-1910 censuses included the category of Indian, whether taxed or not, but no Indians living on the reservations were actually counted in the federal censuses until 1890. Since most of the 1890 census information was destroyed by fire, the 1900 federal census is the first census that will allow researchers to trace an ancestor who lived on a reservation.

Oklahoma Historical Society

The Oklahoma Historical Society has the largest collection of Indian Tribal records outside of the National Archives. These materials pertain mainly to the five Civilized Tribes--Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. The Society also has many printed census rolls and other secondary source materials on the 65 tribes which made their way to Oklahoma. The records in the Indian Archives collection are not complete. At the present time, no comprehensive index for all documents is available. To conduct a thorough search, a researcher must be prepared to allocate a great deal of time. The mailing address for the Oklahoma Historical Society is: 2100 N. Lincoln, Oklahoma City, OK 63105. Genealogical questions requiring extensive research cannot be answered by mail. The Society does maintain a list of researchers who will perform searches on a fee basis.

Addresses Of Selected Native American Information Sources

American Indian Studies Center Library, 3220 Campbell Hall, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

Arizona Library, Archives and Public Records, Genealogy Library, 1700 West Washington, State Capitol, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

Bureau of Indian Affairs-Muskogee Agency, 4th Floor, Federal Building, Muskogee, OK 74401.

Church of Jesus Christ-Latter Day Saints, LDS Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.

Cherokee Names and Facts, P.O. Box 525, Cherokee, NC 28719.

Cherokee National Historical Society and Registration Office, P.O. Box 515, Tahlequah, OK 74464.

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Delaware Osage, Shawee and Kaw: Kansas State Historical Society, 120 West Tenth Street, Topeka, KS 66612-1291

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Qualla Boundary, P.O. Box 455, Cherokee, NC 28719.

Indian Nations Press, Mrs. Charlene Hook, 812 May Building, Tulsa, OK 74103.

Museum of the Cherokee Indians, U.S. 441, P.O. Box 770-A Cherokee, NC 28719.

National Archives, Ft. Worth, Texas Branch, P.O. Box 6216, Ft. Worth, TX 76115.

Newberry Genealogical Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago, IL 60610-3394.

Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Archives Division, 2100 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

Poarch Creek Indian Heritage Center Library, P.O. Box 633, Wetumpka, AL 36092.

Southwest Missouri Indian Center, 322 E. Pershing Street, Room A, Springfield, MO 65806.

Recommended Readings On Native American Genealogy In Fort Myers-Lee County Library:

American Indians: A Select Catalog Of National Archives Microfilm Publications. Washington, DC: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1984. Genealogy Ref. 016.3058 Uni. This comprehensive listing is divided into civilian and military records. It is a good guide to what holdings do exist, but it constitutes only a portion of the records available.

Bentley, Elizabeth Petty County Courthouse Book. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1990. Ref. 347.02 Ben. Contains detailed information on the 3,351 county courthouses in the United States, with addresses, phone numbers, and record holdings.

Bierer, Bert W. Indians And Artifacts In The Southwest. Columbia, SC: Bierer Publications, 1980. Ref. 975 Bie. Covers archaeological findings on the tribes in the Southwestern States.

Brown, Virginia Pounds The World Of The Southern Indians. Birmingham, AL: Beechwood Books, 1983. Juvenile 970.4 Bro. Circulating book which gives the reader a basic social and historical overview of the Southern tribes.

Bullen, Adelaide K. Florida Indians Of The Past And Present: Why The Seminoles Survived. Delray Beach, FL: Southern Publishing, 1965. Florida 970.3 Bul. This book gives a historical and contemporary portrait of the Seminole Indians.

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Champagne, Duane ed. The Native North American Almanac. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1994. Ref. 970.1 Nat. This is a comprehensive reference source covering all aspects on Native American in the United States and Canada. It covers demographics, history, education, law, and social life.

Cody, Iron Eyes Indian Talk: Hand Signals Of The American Indians. Healdsburg, CA:
Naturegraph Publishers, 1970. Juvenile 970.1 Cod. This easy to read book illustrates the basic hand signals that were common among the early Native American tribes in North America.

Confederation Of American Indians Indian Reservations: A State And Federal Handbook. Jefferson, NC and London, ENG: McFarland & Co., 1986. Ref. 970.1. This book gives a brief history of the Indian reservation system, and gives a complete narrative description for each located in all 50 states.

Everton, George B. Handybook For Genealogists: United States Edition. 8th Edition. Logan, UT: Everton Publishers, 1991. Genealogy and Adult Reference 929.1 Eve. Contains information on what materials are available for research on the following subjects: (1) state and county histories; (2) vital records; (3) census records; (4) maps; (5) lists of libraries in each state; (6) addresses for county courthouses.

Filby, P. William Directory Of American Libraries With Genealogy And Local History Collections. Wilmington, DE : Scholarly Resources, 1988. Genealogy Ref. 026.929 Fil. Contains information on libraries and their holdings related to genealogy and local history.

Furtaw, Julia ed. Native Americans Information Directory. First Edition. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1993. Ref. 970.1 Nat. This directory is a comprehensive guide to resources for and about the indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada, including the Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Metis, Inuits, and Hawaiians. It gives detailed information on tribes and native communities, organizations, museum and library collections, government agencies and programs geared to Native Americans, research centers, educational programs (scholarships, fellowships and loans available for Native Americans), broadcast media, and publications and publishers.

Handbook Of North American Indians. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. Ref. 970.1 Han. This is considered one of the most scholarly works in the field of Native America history. It embraces the best of the earliest works on the subject then brings it together with historical and contemporary facts.

Hoxie, Frederick E., ed. Encyclopedia Of North American Indians. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. Ref. 970.1 Enc. Contains historical information on more than 150 tribes in North America, past and present. Data covered includes early history and development, social life and customs, tribal governmental structure, and related topics..

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Joseph, Alvin M. 500 Nations: An Illustrated History Of North American Indians. New York, NY: Knopf, 1994. Ref. 970.1 Jos. An illustrated companion to the documentary film on Native Americans produced by Pathway Productions.

Kavasch, E. Barrie Student's Guide To Native America Genealogy. Phoenix, AZ: Orxy Press, 1996. 929.1 Kav. This is a circulating how-to book which serves as an excellent beginners guide to American Indian research. Contains bibliographical references and abstracts, addresses for major archives, libraries, and governmental sources.

Kemp, Thomas Jay International Vital Records Handbook. 3rd Edition. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994. Ref. 929.1 Kem. As the title implies, this book contains forms and vital statistics information for all 50 states. Forms can be photocopied. Narratives for each state will discuss records availability or each type of record.

Klein, Barry T. ed. Reference Encyclopedia Of The American Indian. Sixth Edition. West Nyack, NY: Todd Publications, 1993. Ref. 970.1 Ref. Gives complete information on the following subjects: reservations, tribal councils, federally recognized tribes, government agencies, Indian schools, Indian health services, national associations, state and regional associations, communications, specific educational programs for Native Americans, and related topics.

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Ethnic Genealogy: A Research Guide. Westport, CN: Greenport Press, 1983. 929.1 Eth. This is a circulating self-help book. Chapter seven deals specifically with American Indian research. In spite of its age, this book is still considered to be an excellent source for ethnic studies.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Publishing, 1997. Genealogy Ref. 929.1
Szu. Chapter 14, pages 521 through 574 are dedicated to a comprehensive review of American Indian research and resources available for researchers. Several types of records are displayed throughout the chapter with explanations to assist researchers in finding the information they need.

Waldham, Carl Who Was Who In Native American History: Indians And Non-Indians From Early Contacts Through 1900. New York, NY: Facts On File, 1990. Ref. 970.1 Wal. Contains biographical information on major figures who have influenced American Indians and their relationship with the United States.

Compiled by Bryan L. Mulcahy, Reference Librarian, Ft. Myers-Lee County Library, 7/29/98.

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