Native American History and Genealogy is a guide to beginning Native American research, available records types, Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies and reservations, census, church, military records, schools, annuity, allotment, treaties, removal records, archives and libraries, cultural groups, and forts.
Several approaches could be taken to locate information about a potential American Indian ancestor.
- If the name of the tribe with which the ancestor was associated is known, a researcher should study the history and culture of that tribe and locate the records created by various records jurisdictions for that tribe. See: Indian Tribes of the United States
- If the tribe is not known, a more logical approach would be to determine the tribes associated with the locality or localities where the ancestor resided. In this case, sometimes only the state is known. Occasionally a county of residence is known. In either case, the records of that locality should be searched until the association of the ancestor is established or at least strongly suspected. See: The Indian Tribes of North America
- If a residence close to a reservation or a Bureau of Indian Affairs agency is known, the history of the reservation or agency and the location of records they generated could be studied. See: Indian Reservations in 1908
Many records were created by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and their various offices. Many of those records have been preserved by the National Archives of the United States and its regional archives. Many of the records are being digitized and indexed by internet websites and by commercial companies.
There are also other jurisdictions that recorded information about the American Indians, including churches, schools, hospitals, and others. Each of these jurisdictions may have records of individual Indians and should be studied.
An extensive cross reference to our tribal pages on AccessGenealogy. What was initially a large exhaustive list of resources found at AccessGenealogy for each tribe in the United States is being converted into a cross reference for the tribal pages themselves. The list of resources for each tribe being now found on the tribal page. In this way, we can concentrate on providing more obscure tribal spellings while still directing you to the appropriate tribal page. On the tribal pages you will find a description of the tribe, villages which the tribe was known to reside, gens and clans, culture, religion, as well as references to other works found on our website. This is a large work in progress, and you’ll see much movement of information in the coming months.
The scope of the Handbook is as comprehensive as its function necessitates. It treats of all the tribes north of Mexico, including the Eskimo, and those tribes south of the boundary more or less affiliated with those in the United States. It has been the aim to give a brief description of every linguistic stock, confederacy, tribe, subtribe or tribal division, and settlement known to history or even to tradition, as well as the origin; and derivation of every name treated, whenever such is known, and to record under each every form of the name and every other appellation that could be learned. For AccessGenealogy, this is the basis of our tribal descriptions from which we’ve grown the Native American section of our site. We simply believe it to be indispensable to the Native American researcher.
Swanton’s The Indian Tribes of North America is a classic example of early 20th Century Native American ethnological research. Published in 1953 in Bulletin 145 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, this manuscript covers all known Indian tribes broken down by location (state). AccessGenealogy’s online presentation provides state pages by which the user is then either provided a brief history of the tribe, or is referred to a more in-depth ethnological representation of the tribe and it’s place in history. This ethnology usually contains the various names by which the tribe was known, general locations of the tribe, village names, brief history, population statistics for the tribe, and then connections in which the tribe is noted.
All of the 1885-1940 Indian census rolls with their images can be accessed for free from AccessGenealogy. For the most part, these rolls dated after 1900 were done in alphabetical order and were typewritten – this should help make finding your ancestor much easier. The earlier ones though were often done in handwriting and the film quality can be very poor at times. Beginning in 1930, the rolls also showed the degree of Indian blood, marital status, ward status, place of residence, and sometimes other information.
Indian Treaties, acts and agreements represent a large collection of federal and state treaties with the various Indian tribes. Treaties are still used today by the American government between itself and other Nations. The United States treated many of the Native American tribes as individual Nations, and produced treaties with them for the purpose of expressing friendship, purchase of land, and treaties which were signed after a War between the United States and that tribe. Treaties provide a vivid history of a tribe and often have lists of names included in them or as attachments to them. When we find these, they are included with the treaty.
Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs, Embellished with one Hundred Portraits, from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington. Thomas L. McKenney, of the Indian Department, Washington, and James Hall, Esq., of Cincinnati, produced one of the most artistic renditions of Native Americans to be printed. The usage of 100 portraits from the Indian gallery in the War Department provided a visual reference into the style of dress and personal appearance of many leaders of tribes. The biographical sketches and anecdotes should give you an overview into the life of each Indian and their relevance to their tribal affiliation and American culture.
Beginning in 1878 the goal was to assimilate Indian people into the general population of the United States. By placing the Indian children in first day schools and boarding schools it was thought this would be accomplished. Federal policy sanctioned the removal of children from their families and placed in government run boarding schools. It was thought they would become Americanized while being kept away from their traditional families. This collection of data focuses on providing the details – names, tribal affiliation, ages, and other data to specifically identify the Native children who boarded, institutionalized, and sometimes died in these “schools.”
Architect Richard Thornton is a member of an alliance of Creek, Choctaw and Seminole scholars, who over the past seven years have been intensely studying the heritage of the Muskogean peoples. The following articles written by him, most of them exclusively for AccessGenealogy, advance the findings of this group and Richard’s personal studies. These articles take a look at the Muskogean peoples like none other that can be found online. To study their heritage, and not to have at least read his writings, is to assume that we already know everything about this people. Sometimes history isn’t what we’ve been told!
Founded in 1883-84, the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School was one of the first, large off-reservation boarding schools established by the Federal government for the education of American Indian students. It offered academic and vocational training to children of tribes across the United States. This dataset comprises an historical collection of manuscripts and records pertaining to the school and its pupils.
The Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians is a work of over 300 pages and is an original contribution of the highest value to ethnography. Its title affords but an imperfect idea of its scope; for, in addition to an elaborate description of the Kiowa calendars, the author gives us, in 106 pages, a sketch of the tribe including its documentary history, a list of western military and trading posts, an extensive glossary of the Kiowa language, and other items of information which lead to a thorough understanding of the calendars.
Free Inhabitants in “The Creek Nation” in the County “West of the” State of “Akansas” enumerated on the “16th” day of “August” 1860. While the census lists “free inhabitants” it is obvious that the list contains names of Native Americans, both of the Creek and Seminole tribes, and probably others. The “free inhabitants” is likely indicative that the family had given up their rights as Indians in treaties previous to 1860, drifted away from the tribe, or were never fully integrated. The black (B) and mulatto (M) status may indicate only the fact of the color of their skin, or whether one had a white ancestors, they may still be Native American.
The Mohawk Valley in which Sir William Johnson spent his adult life (1738-17 74) was the fairest portion of the domain of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. In this valley William Griffis had lived nine years, seeing on every side traces or monuments of the industry, humanity, and powerful personality of its most famous resident in colonial days. From the quaint stone church in Schenectady which Sir Johnson built, and in whose canopied pews he sat, daily before his eyes, to the autograph papers in possession of his neighbors; from sites close at hand and traditionally associated with the lord of Johnson Hall, to the historical relics which multiply at Johnstown, Canajoharie, and westward, — mementos of the baronet were never lacking. His two baronial halls still stand near the Mohawk. Local traditions, while in the main generous to Johnson’s memory, was sometimes unfair and even cruel. The hatreds engendered by the partisan features of the Revolution, and the just detestation of the savage atrocities of Tories and red allies led by Johnson’s son and son-in-law, had done injustice to the great man himself. Yet base and baseless tradition was in no whit more unjust than the sectional opinions and hostile gossip of the New England militia which historians have so freely transferred to their pages.
By the treaty of Washington Apr. 19, 1858, the Yankton Sioux ceded all their lands in South Dakota, excepting a reservation on the north bank of Missouri river, where they have since remained in peace with the whites. Rev. Jerome Hunt and the St. Paul’s Catholic Indian Mission of the Yankton Tribe of the Sioux Indians, at Fort Trotten, published the S’ina sapa wocekiye taeyanpaha (short name of Eyanpaha) for at least the years of 1896-1912 in the Yankton Sioux native language and in English. This newspaper, who’s English translation of it’s name means the Catholic Sioux Herald was published for the Yankton Sioux residing on the reservation about Fort Trotten. Many of the issues from this newspaper have been retained and are presented below. Some of these are labelled as “supplements.” You’ll have to scrounge around a little to find articles in the English language, but they do exist.