Starting Native American Research

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Other Beginners' Guides

This is one of four pages of American Indian beginners' guides:

Native American research and Indian genealogy is unique when compared to other types of genealogical research. Most of the records available for researching Native American ancestry or Indian ancestry and genealogy are derived from records of the U.S. Government.

Oglala He-Dog in 1875
Census and enrollment records. The early Indian rolls and Native American censuses, applications and enrollment cards, annuity and allotment records, etc., resulted from Indian claims against the United States. To obtain benefits awarded by the U.S. Court of Claims, Indians and Native Americans were required to prove their Native American ancestry and quantum blood requirements (i.e., percentage or degree of Indian and Native American blood required) pertaining to a particular tribe. Once their Native American ancestry was proved, these Native American Indians were entitled to land allotments or annuities awarded by the U.S. Court of Claims.

Catalog searches. An abundance of resources are available by going to the FamilySearch Catalog and putting in the name of the tribe you are researching in a Keyword search. If you know where your Native American ancestors lived, you can also put in the place name under Place and see what vital records are available in the particular area. There is information contained within most states guides for Native American records.

Google searches. A Google search can be conducted for [“specific tribe” genealogy] where specific tribe is replaced by the tribe name [e.g. Ute].  This may also identify some specific records that can be searched.

BIA Agency records. Today, most of the North American Indian Tribes and Native Americans have organized Indian Agencies for the purpose of administering the claims and subsequent court rulings in favor of the American Indians.

Five Civilized Tribes. Following is a list of the major rolls, which contain genealogical information, such as roll numbers, names, relationships, etc. Most of the listed rolls are included in the book Cherokee Roots by Bob Blankenship (970.3 C424bL volumes 1-2).

  1. The Final Dawes Roll (1898-1914): The Five Civilized Tribes removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) (Index film number 962,366 Item 1, Final Rolls 908,371 Item 2)
    Orphan Book page
  2. The Guion-Miller Roll (1909): A list of descendants of the original Eastern Cherokee (North Carolina), some 100,000 applications are included (film number 847,749 Item 4 and book 970.3 C424gmr)
  3. 1817 Reservation Roll: A list of Cherokees who did not remove to Oklahoma but who signed application for land in the eastern United States.
  4. 1817-1835 Emigration Rolls: A list of Cherokees who agreed to move west, first to Arkansas Territory and then on to Oklahoma.
  5. 1831 Armstrong Roll: This roll was done in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, listing Choctaws living in those states (film number 1,033,933)
  6. 1835 Henderson Roll: A list of Cherokees living in Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina and removed under the 1835 Treaty of New Echota (contains 16,000 names) (film number 833,322 or 847,743 Item 1)
  7. 1848 Mullay Roll: A list of Cherokees who remained in North Carolina after the others in 1838 (contains 1,157 names) (film number 847,743 Item 2)
  8. 1851 Siler Roll: Act of Congress in 1850 forced the United States government to make payment to some members of the Eastern Cherokees (contains 1,700 names) (film number 847,743 Item 2)
  9. 1851 Old Settler Roll: A list of Cherokees in Oklahoma still living in 1851 (film number 830,420)
  10. 1852 Drennen Roll: A census of the new arrival known as the “Trail of Tears” group (film number 830,445 and book 970.3 C424dr)
  11. 1852 Chapman Roll: A list of those Cherokees who actually received payment based on the names on the Siler Roll (film number 847.743 Item 2 or 830,445 and book 970.3 C424cbc)
  12. 1855 Cooper Roll: A list of Choctaws remaining in Mississippi and Louisiana.
  13. 1869 Swetland Roll: A list of Eastern Cherokee and their descendants still living in North Carolina in 1848 and removed to Indian Territory (film number 847,743 Item 2)
  14. 1883 Hester Roll: A list of the Eastern Cherokees in 1883 who were still in the east, contains ancestors, age, Indian name, and English names (film number 847,743 Item 2 and book 970.3 C424cb indexed)
  15. 1908 Churchill Roll: Lists only those members certified as Cherokee, includes the degree of blood and lists those rejected (film number 847,749 Item 1)
  16. 1924 Baker Roll: Assumed last roll of the Eastern Cherokee. The Revised Baker Roll is the “base roll” for membership in the Eastern Band of Cherokees today (film number 847,744 Item 1)
National Archives I in DC

National Archives. The National Archives publishes a catalog of all its holdings relating to Indian records, which can be searched for the specific records you will need to research your particular tribe. It is a good place to start. Most libraries have this catalog, or a copy can be ordered from any branch of the National Archives. Records are listed by nation (tribe), so it's a good idea to first find out which nation your ancestor may have been a member of. Look at the nations that were living in the area where your ancestor was born at that time.

Oklahoma Historical Society. Another terrific source for researching the Five Civilized Tribes is the Oklahoma Historical Society, 2100 North Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4997. This Society is committed to preserving Oklahoma's history and maintains a large library of documents, manuscripts, etc. They also publish a catalog of their holdings, which can be ordered by contacting them at the above address.

Additional sources include the 1932 Hopi and Navajo Census (book 970.1 B675h volumes 1-2), New York Iroquois Indian Censuses (CD-ROM 2927 volumes 1-3), Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations (film number 1,670,887), and African-Cherokee Connections (CD-ROM 2928).

The following resources are also available in the Family History Library:

  • Georgia. By W. H. Wolfe (film 1,698,069 Item 5)
  • The Cherokees. By Russell Thornton (Book 970.3 C424tr)
  • Abstract of Cherokee Claims. (Book 970.3 C424ac)

The Cherokee Heritage Center, P.O. Box 515, Tahlequah, OK 74465-0515, is the Headquarters for the Cherokee Nation and can be reached by telephone at 918-456-6007 or via their E-mail at Their website is

An additional Internet link is

Online Native American Indian Genealogy Records & Databases Including Links to Dawes Commission Records & Indexes for Individual Tribes

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