Heavily involved in Native American genealogy, Corey Smallcanyon spoke at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy presentation. He stated that Native American genealogy can be bubble bursting. That is, while the conference highlighted many new technologies and ever more accessible resources, Native American genealogy remains arduous, time consuming, and very manual in approach.
Records may be retained by several agencies and in several sorts of repositories. Bureaus of Indian Affairs (federal and state), the Department of Interior, the Department of War, the Bureau of the Census, populations schedules, cemeteries, newspapers, libraries and tribal houses and other venues may generate, may have generated, or may house vital and important records. In many cases, however, they are not digitized and may be accessed only by visiting the venue at which they are located.
The core of Native American history is growing. Thanks in part to grants from philanthropist Doris Duke, thousands of Native American oral histories have been collected at select universities across the country: University of Arizona, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of New Mexico, University of Oklahoma, University of South Dakota, and University of Utah.
When searching Native American genealogy, be aware of the following guidelines:
- Learn the ancestor’s name. The name may have changed from record to record. For example someone with the name “Runs With Wolves” could get recorded as the shortened, Wolfrunner.
- Learn the ancestor’s tribe. If a possible tribe is mentioned, assume it is correct unless proven otherwise; or if no tribe is mentioned, assume your ancestor is not Native American, unless proven otherwise.
- Learn approximately when and where your ancestor lived.
- Realize that state records, such as adoption records, might not contain information about the subject’s tribe.
There are some electronic resources that might be helpful. Smallcanyon, a Navajo who is a part-time history teacher at Utah Valley University’s Watsach campus, suggests websites like.
- Internet Archive (https://archive.org), registration required but free access
- Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com/), subscription
- com, subscription but available for free at LDS Family History Libraries and many public libraries
- Access Genealogy (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native), free
Perhaps, in time, more Native American genealogy will become available. Until that time, researchers may find it an arduous, but not impossible task to locate many of their ancestors. Patience, determination, and travel will be key to successful Native American Research.
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