It’s a struggle to know where to start when trying to find Native American ancestors. Here are 10 places to begin your search.
1880 U.S. Census
In 1880, enumerator instructions directed census takers to include Native Americans who were “not in tribal relations” and living among white residents on the general population schedules. They were not to record “Indians not taxed”—that is, Native Americans who were nomadic or lived on government Indian reservations. These individuals were enumerated in a separate census that year. This database contains images of 1880 census schedules.
The census can be found for free at Ancestry.com. Not all services mentioned here on Ancestry.com are free—some may require a subscription to the site. Check your local library to see if they have one for patrons to utilize.
Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940
In 1884, the U.S. Congress authorized an Indian census be taken annually. In 1885, many of the tribes started taking it and continued to do so until 1940. Not all tribes complied. These rolls record the name of the Indian and other information, as well as deaths in previous years—giving date of death. Indian censuses are important because these contain both the Indian and given name of an individual. The later rolls contain more pertinent genealogical data.
Also available online free, but not indexed, most of the rolls done after 1900 are in alphabetical order and were typewritten, making searches easier. Visit AccessGenealogy.com to find them.
1900 and 1910 Federal Population Schedules
The censuses are valuable because two population schedules were prepared—one for Native Americans and one for all other residents. Indians were asked: (1) To what tribe they belonged; and (2) If their mother or father was Indian—if so, to which tribe did their parent(s) belong. In 1900, in states where there were Indian reservations, more questions were asked. Some of the additional information includes: Indian name, nativity, blood, and marital status.
The population schedules can be found at FamilySearch.org.
World War I Draft Registration Cards
In 1917 and 1918, approximately 24 million men living in the United States completed a World War I draft registration card. These cards represent about 98 percent of men under the age of 46. The total U.S. population then was about 100 million so nearly 25 percent of the total population is represented in these records. This database can be an extremely useful resource because it covers a significant portion of the U.S. male population in the early 20th century.
If you had family in the United States at this time, you are likely to find at least one relative’s information within this collection. These records often contain significant genealogical information such as exact date of birth, birthplace, citizenship status, and information on the individual’s nearest relative. Access the cards at Archives.gov.
Tribal Leaders Directory
It provides the name, address, phone, and fax number of 566 federally recognized tribes. There may be an email or website address listed for the tribal entity if it has provided such to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Each tribe is listed in three sections, by the BIA region that provides services, state located in, and in alphabetical order.
Indians in World War II
Native Americans played the same role as many other Americans who entered into World War II. They enlisted, fought in battles, suffered wounds, many were killed, some were captured, and some received medals. This manuscript—available at AccessGenealogy.com—provides stories of these brave men and women who fought during World War II; casualty lists, POWs and KIAs. It also takes a brief look at the important Navajo code talkers role in the war.
Native American History and Genealogy
Check out the links on this AccessGenealogy.com page to such topics as Indian Tribes of U.S., Black Genealogy, Cemetery Records, Census Records, Databases and Military Records.
The Dawes Rolls
This roll lists those accepted between 1898 and 1914 by the Dawes Commission as members of these five Indian tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole. A link to the rolls is available here.
Native Americans in Kansas
This provides a good source for Natives in Kansas between 1837 and 1940. It is available here.
War of 1812 Native American Databases
This list is called “Native Americans Mustered into the Service of the United States in the War of 1812” and was compiled by the New York Adjutant General’s office. It’s available here.
1812 Horseshoe Bend Cherokee Muster Roll
Field and staff of a regiment of Cherokees in the service of the United States against the “Hostile Creeks.” It can be found at CherokeeRegistry.com.
Myra Vanderpool Gormley is credentialed as a Certified Genealogist ? by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (1987-2012), retired (2012).