Southeastern United States Indian Research

Last Updated on July 21, 2020 by Dennis

We are pleased to present the work of Jacqueline A. Matte, Historian and author of They Say the Wind is Red.

Historical Overview of Southeastern United States Indian Research

During the period of Indian Removal beginning in 1831 extensive records were generated through the turn of the century when Southeastern Indians were uprooted from their homelands in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.  They were taken west of the Mississippi River in what is now Oklahoma.  These records relate to treaties, trade, land claims, removal to Oklahoma, allotments, military affairs, military service and pensions, trust funds, and other activities.  The following books, available in most libraries, provide the most useful background for understanding the Removal Era:

  1. Cotterill, R. S.  The Southern Indians:  The Story of the Civilized Tribes before Removal.  Norman:   The University of Oklahoma Press, 1954.
  2. Debo, Angie.  The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic.  Norman:  The University of Oklahoma Press, 1934.
  3. Debo, Angie.  A History of the Indians of the United States.  Norman:  The University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.
  4. Foreman, Grant.  Indian Removal.  Norman:  The University of Oklahoma Press, 1932.
  5. Foreman, Grant.  The Five Civilized Tribes.  Norman:  The University of Oklahoma Press, 1934

Research for American Indian ancestors begins just like any other search for ancestors; you have to begin with what you know now.  Prepare your ancestor charts beginning with yourself.  Include all names, nicknames and any other identifying information on each person. In addition to the sources listed below, be sure to check the more traditional resources: local and state records, census records, land records, court cases, probate records, church and school records. Be sure to check the Internet for Southeastern Indian sites.  Several are listed below.

Check these rolls first:

1.  Guion Miller Roll 1906-1909, Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims.  RG 123, M-685.  Last round up of the Eastern Cherokees; Roll 1 has an Index of names.  Use it to get the application number.  Rolls 2-6 have cards in numerical order.  The cards indicate whether the application was accepted or rejected.  If you see a notation on the card to a volume and page reference, that means there will be something in the miscellaneous testimony on Rolls 7-11.  Roll 12 has copies of earlier enrollments, from 1850, 1851, and 1884 rolls.  The earliest census for the Cherokee is the 1835 Henderson Roll, on T-498.  Many of these rolls have been transcribed and are available in most large libraries.

The beauty of the Miller roll is that Native Americans of many tribes applied just after the turn of the century, when many of your grandparents were living.  This is especially true for Creeks.  A man named John Beck enrolled everyone he could in South Alabama and Northwest Florida, for a % of the “Indian money.”  All were rejected under Case No. 1139 because they were not Cherokee.  Many Choctaw were rejected for the same reason.  The actual applications are in numerical order in microfilm roll M-1104.
The applications usually give you four generations, applicant and children, plus grandparents and great-grandparents, with birth and death dates; place of birth and address.
Also, for Creeks, a roll was taken in the 1950s of the Descendants of the Creek Indians, East of the Mississippi River, called “the Head of Perdido, Friendly Creek Indian Band.”  A copy of this is in the Mobile Library—Local History Division.  Some names are in English, but most are phonetically spelled Creek names.  Lists are arranged by towns.

2.  Dawes Commission Roll – Index to Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory. 1898-1914. Contains records on Oklahoma tribes and Mississippi Choctaws who lived in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.   M-1186 Index.

The index is broken down by tribe, and then by categories of relationship (Cherokee by blood, by marriage, minor, etc.).  Go to the tribe you are researching and category to look up the name.  The index is not strictly alphabetical–there are many instances of names out of order, and whole sections of index added at the end of a section.  Once you have located the name in the index you will see an enrollment number by the name.  Go to the second part of Roll 1 for the final roll.
There you will find the same arrangement of tribes and categories.  Look for the number.  Once you find the number and the name, it will tell you the age and sex of the person, and give another number.  This number is for the census card.  Look up the census cards on rolls 2-93.  They follow the same arrangement of tribe and category, then number.  The census card shows all the people in the same family, who applied.

The actual applications are in M-1301.  They are filmed here in the same arrangement: by tribe, category, and census card number.  You can get many kinds of information from the applications whether they were accepted or rejected.

3.  Records Relating to the Choctaw Net Proceeds Case.  The Choctaw Net Proceeds Case derived from claims of individual Choctaw Indians arising from their removal to Indian Territory under the provisions of the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek.  The term “net proceeds” refers to money remaining from the sale of the ceded land in the East after necessary expenses had been deducted.  Most records are still in individual file folders in the National Archives.  Related records are in Court of Claims General Jurisdiction Case File 12742 in Records of the U.S. Court of Claims, Record Group 123.  Microfilmed copy of this case is located at Samford University Library, Special Collections.
These records contain testimony taken in 1838 as well as in later years that give the ancestors from whom the claimant descends; some depositions are written in the Choctaw language.  Plus, the early testimony tells who attended the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, what village they are from, who their leader was and why they were never registered.

Muster Rolls of Choctaw Indians who fought in the Creek Wars are available at the Alabama Department of Archives & History.  They are photocopies from the National Archives.  Again, the problem for researchers is that the names are phonetically spelled Choctaw.  Some of the captains had English names, so if you know who they fought under, you may be able to determine if your ancestor is listed.  (See Public Information Subject File: Alabama at War, 2nd Creek War–SG 13379.)

4.  Choctaw Roll of 1830 Armstrong Roll.  This is available in Gales & Seaton’s American State Papers, Public Lands, vol. 7.  Indexed.  Document No. 1230, 23d Cong:1st Sess.  “In Relation to the Location of Reservations under the Choctaw Treaty of the 27th of September, 1830.”  This gives names, locations, and number in family, some names are in English, most are phonetically spelled Choctaw names.


Baker, Jack D.  Cherokee Emigration Rolls.  (Emigration Rolls, 1817-38)   Relates to:  (M-685, Roll 12 Records Relating to Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller, 1908-1910, contains Old Settler Roll, 1851, Drennen Roll, 1852, Chapman Roll, 1852, and Hester Roll, 1884.)

Blankenship, Bob.  Cherokee Roots.  Cherokee, NC: the author, 1978.  This work contains enrollment Records of the Cherokee Nation, 1834-1924.

Bogle, Dixie.  Cherokee Nation Births and Deaths, 1884-1901. Owensboro, KY: Cook & McDowell Publications, 1980.  Names are abstracted from the newspapers Indian Chieftain and Daily Chieftain.

_________.  Cherokee Nation Marriages, 1884-1901. Owensboro, KY: Cook & McDowell Publications, 1980.  This is an alphabetical surname list of names abstracted from the newspapers Indian Chieftain and Daily Chieftain.

Goss, Joe R. ed.  A Complete Roll of All Choctaw Claimants and their Heirs.  Goss reprinted index to the U.S. Court of Claims under the existing treaties between the United States and the Choctaw Nation. In order to be useful, you must know the Indian name and the English name.

Hampton, David Keith.  Cherokee Reservees.  (From NARC M-208: Records of the Cherokee Indian Agency in Tennessee, 1801-1835, 14 rolls.  (Birmingham Public Library has microfilm).

Harper, Josephine L.   Guide to the Draper Manuscripts.  Madison:  The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983.

Hoskins, Shirley.  Cherokee by Blood. vol. 1-  Chattanooga, TN:  The author, 1982-.  This is a surname listing of persons who made applications to the U.S. Court of claims, 1906-1909. (Guion Miller Roll)

Kirkham, E. Kay.  Our Native Americans and Their Records of  Genealogical Value.  2 vols.   Logan, UT:  Everton Publishers, 1980-1986.

Matte, Jacqueline Anderson.  They Say the Wind Is Red:  The Alabama Choctaw Lost in their Own Land.  Greenberry Publishing, 1999.

McClure, Tony Mack.  Cherokee Proud: A Guide for Tracing and Honoring Your Cherokee Ancestors.   Somerville, TN: Chunannee Books, 1997.

Mooney, Thomas G.  Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry:  A Basic Genealogical Research Guide. Tahlequah, OK:  Cherokee National Historical Society, Inc, 1987.

Southerland, Henry deLeon, Jr. and Jerry Elijah Brown.  The Federal Road through George, the Creek nation and Alabama, 1806-1836.  Tuscaloosa, AL:  The University of Alabama Press, 1989.              Describes locations and people who lived along the Federal Road (Three-notched Way) which divided the Creek nation and includes maps.

Starr, Emmet.  History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore and Old Cherokee Families and Their Genealogies.  Oklahoma City, OK: The Warden Company, 1921; reprint, Millwood, NY:  Kraus Reprint Company, 1977.  This history contains names of Cherokee families and their genealogies.

Strickland, Ben and Jean.  Records of the Choctaw Trading House, 1803-1824. 2 vols.  Moss Point, MS:  The authors, 1984-1990. Abstracted and indexed records of NARC microfilm T-500.  Contains many names of people who traded skins at the trading houses at St. Stephens until 1816 when it was moved to Demopolis.

Woodward, Thomas S.  Woodward’s Reminiscences of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, contained in Letters to Friends in Georgia and Alabama.  Montgomery, AL:  1859.  Stories of Indians and events of the Creek Wars.  Not indexed, but available in most libraries and worth the time to locate names of early Creeks and inhabitants of south Alabama.


Chronicles of Oklahoma.  Many stories, names, places and general understanding of events can befound in these indexed volumes.  They are available in most large libraries.

SouthEastern Native American Exchange (SENA).  This is a quarterly publication dedicated to the research of Native American history and genealogy.  It is in most libraries and is available for $20 by subscription from Jacqueline Hines, Editor, P.O. Box 161424, Mobile, AL  36616.

CATALOGS OF MICROFILM AND GUIDES available from National Archives

Hill, Edward E., comp.  Guide to Records in the National Archivesof the United States Relating to American Indians.  Washington, DC: 1981 National Archives Microfilm Resources for Research:  A Comprehensive Catalog.  NARC, Washington, DC.  To order, call sales department 1-800-788-6282.

American Indians – A select catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications.

Military Service Records  – Records of Volunteer soldiers who Served in the War of 1812. Record Groups 94 & 407, pp. 31-39.

Hill, Edward E., comp.  Preliminary Inventories: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Vol. I and II, Washington, DC: 1965, Record Group 75.  Describes records generated by Bureau of Indian Affairs, many of which have not been microfilmed and can only be seen at the National Archives.

Yoshpe, Harry P. and Philip P. Brower, comps. Preliminary Inventory of the Land-Entry Papers of the General Lad Office.  No. 22, Washington: 1949.  Choctaw Scrip – Certificates issued pursuant to Acts of Aug. 23, 1842, and Mar. 3, 1845, in satisfaction of claims of heads of Choctaw families under the treaty of Sept. 27, 1830, made at Dancing Rabbit Creek



2 thoughts on “Southeastern United States Indian Research”

  1. I’m not sure who wrote this.. but your history of the Perdido Friendly Creek Indian Band is wrong. We are not descendants of the Creek Nation East of the Mississippi.. that was the name of the Tribe BEFORE it became Creek Nation East of the Mississippi.. As a matter of fact the Tribe’s Historical name was Headepadea Friendly Creeks.. We are NOT a Band, Eddie Tullis made it a Band beginning November 1, 1982 after the two Federal Rolls went in and began changing the names on the two rolls to replace everyone who he marked as dead and never submitted Death Certificates for anyone on the Base roll to the Secretary of Interior.

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