Native American Genealogy Is Still Problematic

August 25, 2015  - by 

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.

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.

Related Articles:

Getting Started with American Indian Genealogy

Native American Discovery

Native American Census Records

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Comments

  1. Question – previous to the last paragraph there is a small list. What is the third one ? This is what it is…..com, subscription but available for free at LDS Family History Libraries and many public libraries. What is com, ?
    Thank you.

  2. Sorry. Something must have gone wrong when this was formatted. The information in the paragraph being questioned is more correct as follows: 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; Ancestry.com, subscription but available for free at LDS Family History Libraries and many public libraries; and Access Genealogy (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native), free.

  3. There is a lot of confusion and duplication in the Cherokee lineages because people seem to “inventing” the names or selecting the most obscure nickname to suit themselves. This is not only disrespectful but is creating multiple versions of family groups. There are several recognized genealogy sources that can be used for common spelling and name reference.

  4. I was adopted when I was 4 years old. I have found my birth family and they say I am part Cherokee on both my mothers and fathers side. I also have papers from Child services that have me listed as part Native American. However, when I try to track any of the members I can’t get far at all on my father’s side since I don’t have much information on his family. On my mother I have a hard time finding anything on my great grandmother who was full blooded Cherokee since she pasted for white she left home and never looked back. I have her maiden name but that is all. I don’t know if the first name for her was her real name or a nick name. Mae could be Mary or short for something else. Any ideas on where I can go or even a Genealogist I could contact for help. It was in Ohio state. She was suppose to be on a res in West Virginia when my great grandfather met her and married her.

  5. Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole (Five Civilized Tribes) – we developed a process/tool for LDS descendants of Native Americans on the Dawes Rolls to view their ancestor’s Dawes Census Cards, Dawes Applications, Land Allotment records, and other Indian Territory records using a combination of FamilySearch and Ancestry plus a way to quickly tie those records to individuals on FamilySearch.
    http://www.mormoncharts.com/855/5-civilized-tribes/cherokee-choctaw-chickasaw-creek-seminole-genealogy-records-1/