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Native American Genealogy
Our staff in the Department of Anthropology receive many inquiries on how
to conduct genealogical research on Native American ancestry. The following
text has been compiled by our staff to assist you in locating sources of
information. Please note that the Smithsonian Institution does not conduct genealogical research. We have no specialists in that area nor anyone particularly knowledgeable about Indian census or Indian tribal rolls.
The Office of Tribal Enrollment, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mail Stop 2614-MIB, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20245 (http://www.bia.gov/), provides information on tracing one's Indian ancestry and the requirements to qualify legally for membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe.
If the name of the tribe to which your ancestor belonged is known, the National Archives and Records Service, 8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C., may be able to help you. They have on file census rolls and other Indian records identified by tribe, band, or tribal group dating from 1830-1940. The National Archives will search the records if given the name of the Indian ancestor (English and Indian names) and the name of the tribal group along with the approximate date associated with the tribe. They also provide information on other sources for genealogical inquiry. Visit their website at: http://www.archives.gov/research_room/genealogy/index.html
If the name of your Indian ancestor's tribe is not known, then you must conduct genealogical research in the manner that is usual for cases where Indians are not involved. You must attempt in the process to determine the tribal group in order to apply to the sources described above. If you cannot find the tribal name, but have attained from such research a quite precise location and period from which your Indian ancestry derives, then possible tribal identification may be determined by reading standard sources on Indian history and local history. These sources can help you find out which Indian tribes(s) or group(s) were in that region at that date. Given that information, you will still, of course, need the name of your Indian ancestor in order to locate the person in records arranged by tribe.
Among the sources for genealogical research are: records of birth, baptism, marriage, and death, which may be found in churches, town, city, county, or state clerk or records unit. County or state historical societies and archives, newspaper archives, and libraries should also be consulted.
Local sources for independent genealogical research include:
Recommended reading on tracing one's ancestry:
Doane, Gilbert H., and James B. Bell. Searching For Your Ancestors; The How
Frazier, Patrick, and the Publishing Office. Many Nations: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States. Library of Congress, 1996.
Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd ed. Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000.
Eales, Anne Bruner, and Robert M. Kvasnicka. Guide to Genealogical Research
Guide to Records in the National Archives of the United States Relating to American Indians. Edward E. Hill, compiler. National Archives, 1984. Reprint of 1981 ed.
Kavasch, E. Barrie. A Student's Guide to Native American Geneaology. New ed.
Linder, Bill R. How to Trace Your Family History: A Basic Guide to Genealogy.
ANTHROPOLOGY OUTREACH AND PUBLIC INFORMATION, DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION