Native American genealogy research can be both challenging and rewarding. Interest in discovering Native American roots is high and many people have family stories about such a connection, but proving that link can be difficult.

Gather information

The first step of sound genealogical research is coming to the project with all the information you can.

  1. Write down what you already know about the family history and its Native American link.
  2. Interview all living relatives for additional information. This is especially important not only because of the emphasis on oral genealogies among Native American cultures, but also because some families were secretive about such a connection. Remember that some of these stories may have changed over time, but they can still offer clues useful in your search for supporting evidence.
  3. Begin to gather documents of proof from family sources.

Document your family line

You want to be certain that you are related to the person you are researching, so continue gathering proof documents for each generation of your family line from yourself back to your suspected Native American ancestor. Online databases and the resources of genealogical libraries, historical archives and public record offices can all be useful in completing this task. It is important to identify your ancestor by name, locality of residence, and time period, and to note the names of other famiy members. A newspaper obituary or a brief article on the family in a local history may provide other important biographical details. Once you have this information, you are ready to search for the relevant tribe.

Find the Tribe

The majority of records created on Native Americans are filed by tribe. To be successful, you must search records of the correct tribe. Without any evidence concerning your ancestor's tribal affiliation, knowing exactly where they lived will help you determine if contact with Native Americans was possible. Study the history of the Native American presence in the area to determine which tribes lived nearby in the appropriate time frame. There are many resources available in The Genealogy Center to assist you in that effort.

Understanding the Tribe

Knowing about the history of relatons between the United States Government and the Indian Nation of interest, as well as about relevant laws and treaties, will help you understand what records were created and why. A tribal history or one of the following books, available in The Genealogy Center, would be a good place to start.

  • Native American Genealogical Sourcebook (970.1 N2115 reference)
  • Indian Tribes of North American (970.1 Sw2i)
  • Handbook of Indians North of Mexico (970.1 H66hi)
  • From Abenaki to Zuni: A Dictionary of Native American Tribes (970.1 W83f)
  • Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. (970.1 W83f)

Culture also affected the records created. Gaining insight into the traditions, religion, and culture of the people will help you understand their records.

  • Search for your tribe in the ACPL catalog
  • The FamilySearch Wiki provides helpful information on a variety of tribes including culture, treaties, removal, official tribe websites, and more. FamilySearch Wiki

Native American records

The Genealogy Center has an extensive collection of printed and microfilmed Native American records available including reservation censuses, and applications and enrollments for various tribes. Additional records may be borrowed on microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, or found online through the links provided on the gateway site.