Five Civilized Tribes

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The Five Civilized tribes were the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. They had Freedmen who were former African American slaves of tribal members or descendants of former slaves living among them. Dawes Rolls and Removal records are two of the available records for researching members of these tribes.

Click this button for links to databases, indexes, or sites that help you find an American Indian ancestor by topic or tribe.

History[edit | edit source]

The Five Civilized Tribes consist of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole Indian Tribes.

They became commonly referred to as the Five Civilized Tribes......

These tribes had Freedmen who were former African American slaves of tribal members or descendants of former slaves living among them.

Records[edit | edit source]

Enrollment Records[edit | edit source]

Dawes Commission Enrollment Records.

In 1893 Congress established a commission to exchange Indian tribal lands in the southeastern United States for new land allotments to individuals in Oklahoma. The Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was called the Dawes Commission after its chairman, Senator Dawes. More than 250,000 people applied to this commission for enrollment and land. Just over 100,000 were approved.

The Dawes Rolls are very important for Native American Research for anyone who has native American ancestors who were from the five civilized tribes. The Dawes Rolls were and still are used to determine if people were Native American or not.

The following is a description of the Dawes Rolls from the website:

The Dawes Rolls, also known as the "Final Rolls", are the lists of individuals who were accepted as eligible for tribal membership in the "Five Civilized Tribes": Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles. The Rolls contain more than 101,000 names from 1898-1914 (primarily from 1899-1906). They can be searched to discover the enrollee's name, sex, blood degree, and census card number.

The census card may provide additional genealogical information, and may also contain references to earlier rolls, such as the 1880 Cherokee census. A census card was generally accompanied by an "application jacket". The jackets then sometimes contain valuable supporting documentation, such as birth and death affidavits, marriage licenses, and correspondence. Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership. They usually require applicants to provide proof of descent from a person who is listed on these rolls.

The following site will give you a step-by-step example of what you can find using the Dawes Rolls at the Family History Library. In this example, the name of the person is George Guess and he is from the Cherokee tribe.

To go to this site, click on Dawes Rolls.

See also:

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Content of the Records[edit | edit source]

Enrollment Cards (also called census cards) include residence, roll numbers, names of family members, relationships, ages, sex, degree of Indian, enrollment date, place and number, parents and their enrollment date or plane, spouses, divorces, children or grandchildren. This is one page of information.

Applications for enrollmentinclude name, address, date of letter, file number, date received, subject, and action taken. Letters are with the applications. Applications are usually the most valuable. Sometimes they can contain a hundred pages.

Letter Logs include affidavits, vital records, letters, questionnaires, and decisions mentioning relatives, dates, and places.

Eastern Cherokee or Guion Miller Roll This is a list of Eastern Cherokees who applied for money awarded in 1905 because of a law suit.

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Pompey, Sherman Lee. Genealogical Records on the Confederate Indian Troops FHL book 970.1 P772g and Microfiche 6049323

Removal Records[edit | edit source]

The Indian Removal Act was signed May 26, 1830 by President Andrew Jackson. The Act initiated a policy of removal of American Indians tribes living east of the Mississippi River to land west of the river.

Nation Removal Treaty Years of Emigration Population Before Removal Number Emigrated Deaths Number stayed in Southeast Information of Interest


Chiefs: Nitakechi, Mushulatubbe, Thomas Leflore, and George W. Hawkins

Dancing Rabbit Creek September 27, 1830

Government Leaders over removal:Col. Childress, Maj. William Armstrong, Capt. J. B. Clark, Lt. Stephen Van Rensselaer Ryan, Capt. Jacob Brown, George S. Gaines, John H. Eaton, Wharton Rector, F.W. Armstrong, David Folsom


19,554 including and 6,000 Black Slaves

12,500 2,000-4,000 (Cholera) 7,000 When the tribe reached Little Rock the Choctaw chief stated to the Arkansas Gazette that the removal was a "trail of tears and death"
Seminole Payne's Landing May 9,1832 1832-1842 5,000 and Fugitive Slaves 2,833 - 250-500 Left Florida and crossed the Gulf of Mexico into New Orleans
Creek Cusseta March 24,1832 1834-1837 22,700 +900 Black Slaves 19,600 3,500 (disease after removal) 100s -
Cherokee New Echota December 29,1835 1836-1838 21,500 + 2,000 Black Slaves 20,000 + 2,000 Slaves 2,000-8,000 1,000

Jeremiah Evarts (Missionary)

Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 1831

Worchester v. Georgia, 1832


Chiefs: Chief Sealy, Chief Ishtahotapa

Pontotoc Creek October 20, 1832

Government Leaders over Removal: A.M.M. Upshaw, John M. Millard, W.R. Guy, Joe A. Phillips, and Dr. C.G. Keenan

1837-1847 4,914 +1,156 Black Slaves 4,000 500-800 100s Tribe requested financial compensation of $3 million for their land:

Websites[edit | edit source]

Five Civilized Tribes Genealogy Forum by Voy Forums This board is open for families and tribes of the Five Civilized Nations and others who lived in the Southern Woodlands Cultrue Area (south of Ohio River, east of Mississippi River, tribes of coastal Virginia and the Carolinias north of Cape Fear.) Tribes include: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole as well as Saponi, Monacan, Catawba, Okmulgee, Alabama,Biloxi, Pascagoula, Natchez, Calusa, Apalachee, Houma, etc.

Another page by Voy:

American Indian Genealogy Forum by Voy Forums is a Free Service from Boyager Info-Systems

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

  • Lennon, Rachal Mills. Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes; Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002. FHL Book 970.1 L548t.

References[edit | edit source]

See also: Southern removals chart in Wikipedia.

1. Anderson, William L., ed. Cherokee Removal: Before and After. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8203-1482-X.

2. Ehle, John. Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation. New York: Doubleday, 1988. ISBN 0-385-23953-X

3. Foreman, Grant. Indian Removal: the Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1932, 11th printing 1989. ISBN 0-8061-1172-0 4.Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. Volume I. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8032-3668-9.