Native American History and Genealogy is a guide to beginning Native American research, available records types, Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies and reservations, census, church, military records, schools, annuity, allotment, treaties, removal records, archives and libraries, cultural groups, and forts.
Several approaches could be taken to locate information about a potential American Indian ancestor.
- If the name of the tribe with which the ancestor was associated is known, a researcher should study the history and culture of that tribe and locate the records created by various records jurisdictions for that tribe. See: Indian Tribes of the United States
- If the tribe is not known, a more logical approach would be to determine the tribes associated with the locality or localities where the ancestor resided. In this case, sometimes only the state is known. Occasionally a county of residence is known. In either case, the records of that locality should be searched until the association of the ancestor is established or at least strongly suspected. See: The Indian Tribes of North America
- If a residence close to a reservation or a Bureau of Indian Affairs agency is known, the history of the reservation or agency and the location of records they generated could be studied. See: Indian Reservations in 1908
Many records were created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and their various offices. Many of those records have been preserved by the National Archives of the United States and its regional archives. Many of the records are being digitized and indexed by internet websites and by commercial companies.
There are also other jurisdictions that recorded information about the American Indians, including churches, schools, hospitals, and others. Each of these jurisdictions may have records of individual Indians and should be studied.
An extensive cross reference to our tribal pages on AccessGenealogy. What was initially a large exhaustive list of resources found at AccessGenealogy for each tribe in the United States is being converted into a cross reference for the tribal pages themselves. The list of resources for each tribe being now found on the tribal page. In this way, we can concentrate on providing more obscure tribal spellings while still directing you to the appropriate tribal page. On the tribal pages you will find a description of the tribe, villages which the tribe was known to reside, gens and clans, culture, religion, as well as references to other works found on our website. This is a large work in progress, and you’ll see much movement of information in the coming months.
The scope of the Handbook is as comprehensive as its function necessitates. It treats of all the tribes north of Mexico, including the Eskimo, and those tribes south of the boundary more or less affiliated with those in the United States. It has been the aim to give a brief description of every linguistic stock, confederacy, tribe, subtribe or tribal division, and settlement known to history or even to tradition, as well as the origin; and derivation of every name treated, whenever such is known, and to record under each every form of the name and every other appellation that could be learned. For AccessGenealogy, this is the basis of our tribal descriptions from which we’ve grown the Native American section of our site. We simply believe it to be indispensable to the Native American researcher.
Swanton’s The Indian Tribes of North America is a classic example of early 20th Century Native American ethnological research. Published in 1953 in Bulletin 145 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, this manuscript covers all known Indian tribes broken down by location (state). AccessGenealogy’s online presentation provides state pages by which the user is then either provided a brief history of the tribe, or is referred to a more in-depth ethnological representation of the tribe and it’s place in history. This ethnology usually contains the various names by which the tribe was known, general locations of the tribe, village names, brief history, population statistics for the tribe, and then connections in which the tribe is noted.
All of the 1885-1940 Indian census rolls with their images can be accessed for free from AccessGenealogy. For the most part, these rolls dated after 1900 were done in alphabetical order and were typewritten – this should help make finding your ancestor much easier. The earlier ones though were often done in handwriting and the film quality can be very poor at times. Beginning in 1930, the rolls also showed the degree of Indian blood, marital status, ward status, place of residence, and sometimes other information.
Indian Treaties, acts and agreements represent a large collection of federal and state treaties with the various Indian tribes. Treaties are still used today by the American government between itself and other Nations. The United States treated many of the Native American tribes as individual Nations, and produced treaties with them for the purpose of expressing friendship, purchase of land, and treaties which were signed after a War between the United States and that tribe. Treaties provide a vivid history of a tribe and often have lists of names included in them or as attachments to them. When we find these, they are included with the treaty.
Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs, Embellished with one Hundred Portraits, from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington. Thomas L. McKenney, of the Indian Department, Washington, and James Hall, Esq., of Cincinnati, produced one of the most artistic renditions of Native Americans to be printed. The usage of 100 portraits from the Indian gallery in the War Department provided a visual reference into the style of dress and personal appearance of many leaders of tribes. The biographical sketches and anecdotes should give you an overview into the life of each Indian and their relevance to their tribal affiliation and American culture.
Beginning in 1878 the goal was to assimilate Indian people into the general population of the United States. By placing the Indian children in first day schools and boarding schools it was thought this would be accomplished. Federal policy sanctioned the removal of children from their families and placed in government run boarding schools. It was thought they would become Americanized while being kept away from their traditional families. This collection of data focuses on providing the details – names, tribal affiliation, ages, and other data to specifically identify the Native children who boarded, institutionalized, and sometimes died in these “schools.”
Architect Richard Thornton is a member of an alliance of Creek, Choctaw and Seminole scholars, who over the past seven years have been intensely studying the heritage of the Muskogean peoples. The following articles written by him, most of them exclusively for AccessGenealogy, advance the findings of this group and Richard’s personal studies. These articles take a look at the Muskogean peoples like none other that can be found online. To study their heritage, and not to have at least read his writings, is to assume that we already know everything about this people. Sometimes history isn’t what we’ve been told!