DNA testing can also help you connect to Native American relatives by identifying the segments of your chromosomes that match those of your Native American matches.

Dawes Rolls

Although the Dawes Rolls weren’t created with genealogists in mind 130 years into the future, they can still be a valuable resource. They are people approved as members of the Five Tribes by the Dawes Commission and received land allotments. The Dawes Rolls are a great jumping-off point because they contain much helpful information and can lead you to other records that may help your research.

The first step is determining which tribe your ancestor was a member of. This can be done by searching the 1900 census, starting with the Soundex index, or by going through the individual enrollment cards (first collected alongside their “application jackets”).

You should be able to find a great deal of helpful information on the Dawes Rolls, including names, dates of birth and death, parents, siblings, children, spouses, occupations, and more. These records can be found on the National Archives website or at the LDS Family History Library branches. If you don’t have access to these resources, you can also look for information on your ancestors in current and historical records at home. This can include personal journals, diaries, scrapbooks, letters, and even the backs of photos.

Census Records

Even though the census records are secondary sources, they can give clues to help in the Native American ancestry search. It is essential to compare and contrast the information in the census with other U.S. record types located during the preliminary (background) research. If the information in the census matches other record types, you can consider it reliable and enter it into a family pedigree chart and family group records.

If you are still looking for an ancestor in a census, try searching for them by their surname instead of the given name and look at other ways the name could be spelled. The enumerator may have written the name down, how it sounded, or how it was pronounced, especially for immigrant families. Also, try searching using the site’s search tools that use wildcards (? and *) to substitute for letters that aren’t known.

You should also check state census records, as some were not indexed at the federal level. Using the search tools on genealogy websites, identify which state’s census record set your ancestor was a part of and browse the record images. Another tool is to browse by enumeration district (ED), which provides a more specific location of your ancestor in the census. This is available on several online genealogy data sites.

Tribal Records

Various resources are available to search your ancestry, including government and private repositories and local libraries. Valuable information can also be found in newspapers, military service records, birth and death certificates, family bibles, personal journals, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, the backs of pictures, and other similar documents. Additionally, it is essential to interview family members and search their homes for valuable clues.

Once you establish that you have a lineal ancestor who was a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe, you can pursue tribal enrollment. To do this, you must document your ancestor’s tribal affiliation through birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce records, school records, estate and claim and allotment records, and other official documents about the tribe.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs website features a comprehensive collection of official documents to help you research your Native American roots. It includes annual tribal census rolls, lists relating to Indian removal, school records, claims and allotment records, and more. The website also includes a directory of tribal leaders and links to other agencies that provide genealogical information. A helpful feature is the separate list of tribal registries by state that allows you to search by name. This will help you narrow your search to specific tribes.

Church Records

If you are unsure of your Native American ancestry or have not yet found proof, don’t give up. You can search for clues to your heritage in several places, including state and local records, schools, churches, and courthouses. You can also consult with family members, who may have information that will help you in your quest to discover your ancestry.
Often, local and public records contain the most helpful information. Those sources include school enrollment, church records, property conveyances, and deeds. These records can contain information regarding your ancestor’s name, spouse, children, and birth and death dates.

Another information source is searching for your ancestors in the online archives provided by the Library of Congress. It contains thousands of documents such as Revolutionary War-era maps, Civil War photographs, and slave narratives that will help you better understand your ancestors’ history and put your research in context.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has a web page that contains a list of tribal leaders and contact information for genealogical researchers seeking access to tribal records. It also provides a search feature by tribe, lists resources and publications available for sale, and links to genealogical websites. There are also several “how to” guides for research on the site, including topics such as writing your family history and combining traditional genealogical methods with DNA testing.


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