Native American History and Genealogy

Native American History and Genealogy serves as a comprehensive guide for those starting their research into Native American ancestry. This guide includes valuable information on available record types: Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies and reservations, census, church, and military records, as well as schools, annuity, allotment, treaties, removal records, archives and libraries, cultural groups, and forts. With this extensive range of topics, individuals can gain a better understanding of the history and culture of Native Americans and locate valuable resources to aid in their genealogy research endeavors.

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

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and its various offices generated numerous records, many of which have been preserved by the National Archives of the United States and its regional archives. Several of these records are currently being digitized and indexed by internet websites and commercial companies, facilitating access to valuable information for researchers.

Apart from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, other jurisdictions, such as churches, schools, hospitals, and more, also recorded information about American Indians. These jurisdictions may contain valuable records of individual Indians that warrant further study. Therefore, exploring a variety of sources is essential to conduct thorough research on Native American ancestry.

Essential Links

Indian Tribes of the United States

AccessGenealogy offers an extensive cross-reference of our tribal pages, allowing for a more streamlined research experience. Previously, we provided a comprehensive list of resources for each tribe in the United States. However, we have now shifted to a cross-reference system, where these resources can be found directly on the tribal pages. This approach enables us to focus on providing more accurate tribal spellings while still directing you to the relevant tribal page.

Each tribal page includes a description of the tribe, information on the villages where the tribe resided, details about the gens and clans, culture, religion, and references to other works available on our website. By utilizing this comprehensive resource, researchers can access a wealth of information about Native American tribes and their histories.


Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico

The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico serves as a comprehensive resource for researchers seeking information on all tribes north of Mexico, including the Eskimo, as well as those tribes affiliated with those in the United States south of the boundary. The handbook’s scope is as broad as its function necessitates, aiming to provide a brief description of every linguistic stock, confederacy, tribe, subtribe, or tribal division and settlement known to history or tradition. Additionally, the handbook delves into the origin and derivation of every name discussed, along with every other appellation that could be learned.

AccessGenealogy has utilized this invaluable resource to develop the Native American section of our website. We believe that this comprehensive information is essential to Native American researchers and serves as the foundation of our tribal descriptions. With this information, we have built a rich resource for individuals seeking to explore the culture and history of Native American tribes.


The Indian Tribes of North America

Swanton’s The Indian Tribes of North America is a seminal work of Native American ethnological research from the early 20th century. This manuscript was published in 1953 in Bulletin 145 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, providing a comprehensive breakdown of all known Indian tribes by location (state). AccessGenealogy’s online presentation of Swanton’s work offers state pages, providing users with a brief history of the tribe or referring them to a more in-depth ethnological representation of the tribe and its place in history.

These ethnological descriptions typically include various names by which the tribe was known, general locations of the tribe, village names, a brief history, population statistics for the tribe, and notable connections with other tribes or groups. With this rich and detailed information, researchers can gain a better understanding of the culture, history, and traditions of Native American tribes across North America.


Free US Indian Census Rolls 1885-1940

AccessGenealogy offers free access to all of the 1885-1940 Indian census rolls along with their corresponding images. The majority of these rolls, dated after 1900, were typewritten and organized alphabetically, simplifying the process of locating your ancestor. However, earlier rolls were often handwritten and the quality of the film may be poor at times.

Beginning in 1930, the rolls included additional information such as the degree of Indian blood, marital status, ward status, place of residence, and other relevant details. This comprehensive information can be immensely valuable to researchers seeking to uncover their Native American ancestry. With AccessGenealogy’s extensive collection of Indian census rolls, researchers can gain a better understanding of their ancestors and the history of Native American communities.


Indian Treaties Acts and Agreements

The collection of Indian treaties, acts, and agreements represents a significant historical record of federal and state treaties made with various Indian tribes. Even today, treaties remain a critical tool for the American government to engage with other nations. The United States recognized many Native American tribes as distinct nations and negotiated treaties with them to express friendship, purchase land, or establish terms of peace following a conflict.

These treaties offer a unique and vivid history of each tribe and often contain lists of names of the individuals who signed them or were otherwise involved. AccessGenealogy has made a diligent effort to include these lists of names as attachments to the treaties, providing researchers with valuable insights into their ancestors and their roles in these important historical agreements. With this comprehensive collection of Indian treaties, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of Native American history and the complex relationships between tribes and the American government.



History of the Indian Tribes of North America

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.


Indian Schools, Seminaries, and Asylums

In 1878, the United States government implemented a policy of assimilation for Native American people with the goal of integrating them into mainstream American society. To achieve this, the government established first day schools and boarding schools to educate Native American children. This policy involved separating children from their families and placing them in government-run boarding schools, with the aim of Americanizing them while distancing them from their traditional families and cultures.

This collection of data aims to provide comprehensive details on the Native American children who were institutionalized and sometimes died in these schools. It includes information such as their names, tribal affiliations, ages, and other relevant data that can help identify these children and their families. By shining a light on this dark period of American history, AccessGenealogy aims to provide a fuller understanding of the devastating impact of the government’s assimilation policies on Native American communities.


Free Native American Databases

The following are genealogy databases specific to Native American research. Also make sure to check the list for both “new” and “featured.”

  1. 1817 Cherokee Reservation Roll
    A listing of Cherokees claimants applying for a 640 acre tract in the East in lieu of removing to Arkansas. This was only good during their lifetime and then the property reverted back to the state. This is only an index of applicants, in most instances the people listed here did not receive the reservation they requested.
  2. 1880 Cherokee Census
    This is a transcription of the index for Schedule One and includes all nine districts. This index can be found on microfilm through the LDS organization on microfilm #989204. National Archives also has a microfilm index for this census. It is found on Roll # 7RA07. The transcription presently has data for only the following districts: Canadian, Cooweescoowee, Flint, Illinois and Saline. We are still presently transcribing Delaware, Goingsnake, Sequoyah, and Tahlequah Districts.
  3. 1924 Baker Roll
    The final roll of the Eastern Cherokee, prepared by United States Agent Fred A. Baker, pursuant to an act of the 68th Congress, (43 stat., 376), June 4, 1924. Before preparation of this roll, the Act required that all land, money, and other property of the Tribe be transferred to the United States for final disposition. Termination of the Tribe as a government and political entity was the ultimate goal. After termination efforts failed, the Tribe continued to use the 1924 Baker Roll as its base roll. Descendants of those persons of the original Baker Roll are enrolled on the Baker Revised Roll, providing they meet the membership requirements of the Tribe.
  4. 1954 Proposed Ute Rolls
    The 1954 Proposed Ute Rolls contains 2 rolls, the Full Blood Roll and the Mixed Blood Roll of the Ute Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah. These are the PROPOSED rolls, and do not signify that the individuals listed upon it actually received any distribution under Title 25, Chapter 14, Subchapter 28, U.S. Code.
  5. Armstrong Rolls
    Search and understand the Armstrong Rolls as they relate to your Choctaw ancestor. Each Choctaw head of a family being desirous to remain and become a citizen of the States, shall be permitted to do so, by signifying his intention to the Agent within six months from the ratification of this Treaty, and he or she shall thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of six hundred and forty acres of land, to be bounded by sectional lines of survey; in like manner shall be entitled to one half that quantity for each unmarried child which is living with him over ten years of age; and a quarter section to such child as may be under 10 years of age, to adjoin the location of the parent. If they reside upon said lands intending to become citizens of the States for five years after the ratification of this Treaty, in that case a grant in fee simple shall issue; said reservation shall include the present improvement of the head of the family, or a portion of it. Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but if they ever remove are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity.
  6. Dawes Commission Case Files
    The information found is relevant to the specific card/case number used to identify each Dawes Packet. This is an index of the census card, and not a complete index of the Dawes Packet. But it should give you an idea of the people who may be mentioned inside the packet.
  7. Dawes Rolls – See Final Rolls
  8. Drennen Rolls
    First census of the new arrivals of 1839. This was the first enumeration of Indians after the Trail of Tears, many believe that this roll is a list of those who were on the Trail.  At this time no evidence has been found to prove that information. The Drennen roll is a per-capita payment made to Cherokees living in the west who removed as a result and after the Treaty of 1835 Article 9. The roll was prepared by John Drennen and contains the payee’s name, Cherokee district and then family group.
  9. Final Rolls Index
    This is the index to the names of individuals entitled to enrollment on the rolls of the various tribes comprising the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Each index entry gives an enrollee’s name and final roll number. After a person’s enrollment category and final roll number have been determined, the final rolls can be searched to discover the enrollee’s census card number. Not all roll numbers mentioned in this index, have a corresponding person mentioned in the Dawes Roll.
    • Search the Final Rolls
      The Dawes Roll (Final Rolls) is a list of those members of the Five Civilized Tribes who removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the 1800’s and were living there during the above dates. If your ancestor was not living in Indian Territory during 1898-1914 they will not be listed on the Dawes Roll! Only those Indians who RECEIVED LAND under the provisions of the Dawes Act are listed. It also lists those Freedmen who received land allotments as provided for in the Dawes Act. These pages can be searched to discover the enrollee’s name, age, sex, blood degree, type, census card number and roll number. Check the headings in each column. Type denotes whether the record is from a Dawes card.
  10. Guion Miller Roll
    The Guion Miller Roll index includes the names of all persons applying for compensation arising from the judgment of the United States Court of Claims on May 28, 1906, for the Eastern Cherokee tribe. While numerous individuals applied, not all the claims were allowed. The information included on the index is the application number, the name of the applicant, and the State or Territory in which the individual resided at the time the application was filed. The name being there does not mean the person was admitted.
  11. Kern Clifton Rolls
    In 1896-1897 the Kern-Clifton Roll was created to fill in the omissions of the Wallace Roll. Genealogists not finding their Cherokee ancestor in the Kern-Clifton Roll, should search the Wallace Roll to insure that this ancestor was not one of those originally identified by the John Wallace census. This census of the Freedmen and their descendants of the Cherokee Nation taken by the Commission appointed in the case of Moses Whitmire, Trustee of the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation vs. The Cherokee Nation and the United States in the Court of Claims at Washington, D. C., the said Commission being composed of William Clifton, William Thompson and Robert H. Kern, the same being made from the testimony taken before said Commission in the Cherokee Nation between May 4th and August 10th, 1896.
  12. McKennon Roll
    In 1896-1897 the Kern-Clifton Roll was created to fill in the omissions of the Wallace Roll. Proposed Legislation for the Full-blood and identified Choctaws of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama: Memorial Evidence and Brief published I believe in 1913.
  13. Old Settlers Roll
    A listing of Cherokee still living in 1851 who were all ready residing in Oklahoma when the main body of the Cherokee arrived in the winter of 1839, as a result of the Treaty of New Echota (1835). Approximately one third of the Cherokee people were Old Settlers and two thirds new arrivals. The 1851 payroll lists Old Settlers (Cherokees who moved to Indian Territory prior to December 1835) entitled to participate in a per capita payment. There were 3,273 persons enumerated on this roll which is arranged by Cherokee district and grouped by family. Some persons who did not reside in the Cherokee Nation are listed as “Non-residents.” Three thousand, two hundred and seventy three Cherokees were enrolled and each received two hundred, seventy dollars and ninety five cents. The “Old Settlers” filed a protest against the sum. The Supreme Court decided that the original “Old Settlers” or their heirs would receive an additional one hundred, fifty nine dollars and ten cents per share in the 1896 “Old Settler” payment.
  14. Wallace Roll
    The Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen in Indian Territory was created due to the citizenship of many ex-slaves (freedmen) being disputed by the Cherokee Tribe. To the freedmen, the ability to establish their status was important, not only for the sharing of the Cherokee lands, but also the payments and annuities the Cherokee Tribe was to receive in the future. A series of investigations were conducted by John W. Wallace, 1889-1890; Leo E. Bennett, 1891-92; Marcus D. Shelby, 1893; James G. Dickson, 1895-96; William Clifton, William Thompson, and Robert H. Kern, 1896-97. These investigations resulted in the Cherokee Freedmen Rolls known as the Wallace Roll, and the Kern-Clifton Roll.

Recent Native American Genealogy

Indian Wars of New England

To the student of Indian history of the early New England period the catalog of the librarian would allow one to infer that the ground had been already preempted by Mr. William Hubbard and some other well-known writers upon the tragedies of the early New England days, whose labors are more famous for being a quaint reflection of the times than for comprehensive treatment of the subject at hand. Without Mr. Drake’s labors, allied to those of Church and Belknap, the earlier story would be a meager one. It is to these authors one goes with assurance and infinite satisfaction,…

Disbursements to Cherokees under the Treaty of May 6, 1828

Abstract of disbursements and expenditures made by George Vashon, Indian Agent for the Cherokees west of the Mississippi, under the stipulations of the Treaty with said tribe of 6th May, 1828, between the 16th September, 1830, and the 31st December, 1833. In total this list represents 390 Cherokee families and 1835 individuals who each received 25.75 as part of their payment under the 5th article of the treaty of 6th May, 1828.

The Native American History of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee Basin

The Lake Okeechobee region contained some of the most sophisticated indigenous cultures that ever existed north of Mexico. Its towns built large earthworks and ponds in the shape of the ceremonial scepters carried by leaders in the Southeastern Ceremonial Mound Culture, but they were built several centuries before the Southeastern Ceremonial Mound Culture appeared elsewhere. Its engineers constructed several hundred miles of canals and raised causeways to interconnect the towns. They even built locks to enable cargo canoes to bypass rapids. Yet despite all this cultural precociousness, so far there is no evidence that the people of South Florida ever…

Mayaimi People

The Mayaimi People lived around Lake Okeechobee from at least 300 BC to until around 1700 AD. ((“Mayaimi People.” Wikipedia.)) Their ancestors probably lived in the region as early as 1000 BC, because some village sites show continual cultural development from that era forward. The Mayaimi were the progenitors of the Glades Culture. During the period from around 200 AD to 1150 AD, the ancestors of the Mayaimi lived in a sophisticated society of many towns that were interconnected by canals and raised causeways. ((“Mayaimi People.” Wikipedia.)) They built ceremonials mounds, complex earthworks, ball courts, ornamental ponds and earthen effigies.…

Tekesta People

The Tekesta were an indigenous maritime people, whose primary villages were near the mouths of rivers along the Atlantic Coast of what are now Miami-Dade, Broward and southern Palm Beach Counties. ((Hann, John H. (2003). Indians of Central and South Florida: 1513-1763. University Press of Florida; pp. 139-141.)) At certain periods in the past, they also occupied the Florida Keys, but Calusa artifacts outnumber those of Tekesta in Florida Key archaeological sites, 4:1. This suggests that most of the time, the Keys were occupied by people related to the Calusa. The Tekesta were closely allied to their immediate neighbors to…

The Miami Circle

The Miami Circle was discovered in 1998 during excavation for the construction of a luxury condominium at Brickell Point in Downtown Miami near the Miami River and Biscayne Bay. ((“The Miami Circle.” Wikipedia.)) The developer, Michael Baumann, tore down an existing apartment complex in 1998. Prior to initiating construction of the new tower, he was required to retain archaeologists to carry out a brief field survey the site by the city’s historic preservation ordinance. However, Baumann did not do this until pressured by the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Division Director, Bob Carr, pressured him to do so. The survey was actually…

The Calusa People

During the 1500s and early 1600s, when Spanish explorers were first making contact with the indigenous inhabitants of the Florida, they made contact with a powerful nation on the southwest coast between Charlotte Harbor and Cape Sable. ((MacMahon, Darcie A. and William H. Marquardt. (2004). The Calusa and Their Legacy: South Florida People and Their Environments. University Press of Florida; pp. 1-2.)) The first contact was made in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon, when he landed at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida. His landing boats were attacked by Calusa war canoes, lined with round shields.…

Big Gopher and Boynton Mound Complexes

The immensely rich archaeological heritage of South Florida is little known outside the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula. Perhaps least known are the large town sites east of Lake Okeechobee. Several have been studied by professional archaeologists and the large town sites are all now protected by some form of public ownership. The 143 acre Big Mound City and 12 acre Big Gopher Archaeological Zones are located in central Palm Beach County, Florida. ((“People of the Water.” Historical Society of Palm Beach County. Web Site.)) They are ten miles east of Canal Point, in the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management…

Big Mound City Archaeological Zone

Big Mound City archaeological zone
Native American History and Genealogy 2
Big Mound City is the only site from the Belle Glade culture on the National Register of Historic Places. ((“The Early History of the Corbett Wildlife Management Area.” Friends of the Corbett Wildlife Management Area web site.)) It was added in 1973 as an example of a Calusa ceremonial complex, but is now understood to have originally been constructed by the same ethnic group that built the Ortona and Wakate towns – probably ancestors of the Mayaimi. Even though its earthworks are about 1000 to 1500 years older than those of…

Muspa Culture, Key Marco and other Platform Villages

A cluster of islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida, immediately south of Naples, FL and southwest of Lake Okeechobee once held numerous mounds and town sites. Know as the Ten Thousand Islands Region, it contains the villages and mounds of an unidentified Archaic Period people, the Muspa Culture and the Calusa People, who absorbed the Muspa. The Muspa or Thousand Islands Culture in recent years has been considered a division of the Lake Okeechobee-Glades Culture. ((MacMahon, Darcie A. and William H. Marquardt (2014). The Calusa and Their Legacy: South Florida People and Their Environments. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of…

Wakate – Guacata Town

Around the year 900 AD, the provinces of the Calusa, Mayaimi and Tekesta in southern Florida merged into one political entity that was the scale of a nation. ((Johnson, William G. (1992.) “Part II: Archaeological Contexts: Chapter 11. Lake Okeechobee Basin/Kissimmee River, 3000 B.P. to Contact.” Florida’s Cultural Heritage: A View of the Past. Tallahassee, Florida: Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State: pp. 81-90.)) Almost immediately, the same styles of pottery were being produced in all three provinces, and the Mayaimi town of Wakate (Guacata in Castilian) began to grow rapidly. This archaeological zone is also known as…

The Chontal Maya or Putun Maya

The presence of crescent shaped temple mounds in the Florida Peninsula strongly suggests cultural contacts with Maya ethnic groups, who worshiped the goddess, Ixchel. Very few Florida archaeologists have been willing to suggest publicly that Florida, Mesoamerica and South America had direct cultural contacts. Those who did, were all ostracized by their peers. However, the linguistic and architectural evidence is overwhelming for contacts between illiterate Maya merchants and the indigenous peoples in Georgia – which is north of Florida.

Maya Cultural Traditions at the Ortona Archaeological Zone

One of the several arguments that Southeastern archaeologists have used to dismiss a direct cultural connection between the Southeastern United States and Mesoamerica is that architecture of the respective regions was different. The architecture of the largest and most sophisticated Maya cities WAS more sophisticated and larger scaled than in towns in the Southeast, but the same architectural elements could be found in both regions. The Mesoamerican pyramids were really earthen mounds veneered with stone in some civilizations, left as clay stuccoed mounds in others.

Use Of Tobacco Among North American Indians

Tobacco has been one of the most important gifts from the New World to the Old. In spite of the attempts of various authors to prove its Old World origin there can be no doubt that it was introduced into both Europe and Africa from America. Most species of Nicotiana are native to the New World, and there are only a few species which are undoubtedly extra- American. The custom of smoking is also characteristic of America. It was thoroughly established throughout eastern North and South America at the time of the discovery; and the early explorers, from Columbus on,…

Mississippian Symbolism at the Ortona Archaeological Site

Archaeologists working at the Ortona site in the late 1990s and early 2000s were astounded to find “landscaping” in the shape of the scepters carried by the Maya elite in the Yucatan Peninsula. Both a mound and a ceremonial pond were over 100 yards/meters long. The discovery has great significance for the understanding of how cultural ideas traveled around the Caribbean Basin and North America, prior to the arrival of European explorers.

The Urban Development Pattern of Ortona Archaeology Site

In the early 2000’s, the Ortona site was studied by archaeologists from several southern Florida universities under the direction of Archaeologist Bob Carr, Executive Director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc. ((The Archaeological and Historical Conservancy Website)) The Ortona Archaeological Zone received a flurry of publicity from articles in several major newspapers around the United States. It was designated a county park then promptly forgotten by most members of the archaeological profession. ((Ortona Indian Mounds Park)) The park is open to the public, but is poorly maintained and contains very little information that would enable the public to understand…

Ortona Archeological Site

Ortona is an enormous 500 acre+ town site and ceremonial complex, located on the Caloosahatchee River, west of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida. It is located on the southern edge of Glades County. The modern name for the site is Italian and was given by early real estate speculators. Archaeologists currently do not know what the citizens of this community called it.Ortona’s primary period of occupation was 300 AD- 150 AD, but (probably) Calusa People continued to occupy the site up until the 1600s. The period of greatest growth was between 500 AD – 800 AD, after which Wakata (to…

Ancient Lake Okeechobee Regional Transportation System

North Americans just don’t usually think of their indigenous peoples as having sophisticated, regional societies, public works or long distance trade. Perhaps the Hollywood portrayals of Plains Indians has created too much of a stereotype. Mexicans and Central Americans, of course, take pride in their pre-European heritages. They are not surprised when they hear that the Mayas built some canals or that the Purepeche interlaced Michoacan with roads.Archaeologists currently believe that the indigenous peoples of Florida did not have beasts of burden. Several types of dogs were kept for hunting, companionship or meat, but no evidence of them pulling loads…

The Architecture of Fort Center Archaeological Site

The Fort Center Mounds archaeological site was the first ancient Native American community near Lake Okeechobee to be studied thoroughly by contemporary, professional archaeologists. It was the last major archaeological project for Archaeologist, William Sears. ((Memorial for William Hulse Sears (1909-1996) Society for American Archaeology.)) For at least two decades, many of Sears’ peers dismissed his interpretation of the site as being “off the wall” and considered him a kook. However, in recent decades work by other archeologists have confirmed his interpretation and pushed back the occupation of Fort Center even further.One of the most unusual examples of Native American…

Fort Center Archaeological Site

Fort Center was a large ceremonial complex on Fisheating Creek in the northern edge of Glades County, FL that was constructed during the Belle Glade Culture. ((Sears, William H. (1994). Fort Center: an Archaeological Site in the Lake Okeechobee Basin. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida.)) The visible earthworks occupy an area that is about 1 mile long and ½ mile wide. Fort Center is currently believed to be the oldest center of Belle Glade Culture. ((Sears, William H. (1994). Fort Center: an Archaeological Site in the Lake Okeechobee Basin. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida; p. 184.)) However, with…

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