United States Native Races
Many families have traditions of American Indian ancestry. Some have supporting evidence which validates their traditions. Others, unfortunately, are unfounded. The following steps will help you be more effective in your search:
Identify a specific time period and locality for your ancestor, if at all possible.
Identify the tribe. Once you know the general area where an ancestor lived, you can usually identify the tribe he belonged to. Two references that describe where the tribes resided are:
- Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America, 1952, reprint. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1974. (FHL book 970.1 Sm69b No. 145.)
- Waldman, Carl. Atlas of the North American Indian. New York, New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985. (FHL book 970.1 W146a.)
Local and statewide histories may also be helpful in identifying tribes in the area.
Study the history of the tribe. You will need some background information about the tribe, such as migration patterns, marriage and naming customs, and affiliations with government agencies or churches. Because some tribes moved several times, records about them may be in many locations. Most large libraries have some state or tribal histories of American Indians.
Determine what records were created for that tribe, and where they are available. There are many records that are unique to American Indians. However, they vary by tribe, time period, locality, and governing agencies. The majority of these records were created by the federal government or one of their agents. Two excellent guides for locating and describing federal records are:
- American Indians: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications. 1984 edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995. (FHL book 970.1 Un3a; fiche 6125472.) Revised ed. 1998 FHL book 970.1 A3a 1998)
- Hill, Edward E. Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1981. (FHL book 970.1 H551g.)
Many of these records and others created by local agencies are listed in the Family History Catalog:
- Look in the Subject Search under the name of the tribe, such as CHEROKEE, or under INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA - [STATE].
- Look in the Place Search under UNITED STATES - NATIVE RACES or [STATE] - NATIVE RACES.
These records may also be available in state and local libraries, archives and societies.
There is also a six-part series containing information on researching Native Americans. The first article of the series can be accessed United_States_Native_Races_Part_1_-_How_Do_I_Find_Records_about_My_Ancestors here.