How to Prove Native American/Indian Ancestry | Ancestry


hi everybody
Crista Cowan here with another episode of one question with the barefoot
genealogist this week’s question is a question that we get asked a lot a lot
of people have family stories or even some documentation or pictures that lead
them to believe that they have Native American or Indian ancestry and the
question is how do you prove that now I was just reading some statistics and you
know you know how statistics go but the statistic was that if you had ancestors
in the United States as early as the 8th the early 1800s round 1800 1810 that
there is a 50% chance that at least one of your ancestors is Native American
that was something that I didn’t know before I started preparing for this I
had done some some Native American research and so I know some of the tips
and tricks and some of the ins and outs but um that was kind of an interesting
tidbit for me now one of the premier resources for Native American and
information even currently today is the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they have a
website that website is BIA Bureau of Indian Affairs gov and I just pulled a
little something off their website that I want to share with you because I think
it’s kind of interesting they said Adam here’s why people want to know about
their ancestry some people want to become enrolled members of a federally
recognized tribe others just want to verify a family tradition whether it’s a
belief fact or fiction passed from generation to generation and that they
descend from American Indian either in their distance or recent past while
others just want to learn more about the people they descend from and then they
talk about the process of doing genealogy and we’ll talk about some of
that today and then they say this and I love this they say when people believe
they may be of American Indian ancestry they immediately write or telephone the
nearest Bureau of Indian Affairs office for information that is not the
place to start but many people think that the BIA retrieves genealogical
information from a massive National Indian registry or comprehensive
computer database this is not true so with that little bit of an introduction
let’s just dive in to a few quick tips and then some resources that are
available for you at least as much as we can do in fifteen or twenty minutes and
to help you verify your Native American ancestry now just like with any jenny
ology research the best place to start is with what you know and work your way
back in time if you’re brand new to genealogy of course that means starting
with yourself collecting information about your birth and marriage collecting
information about your children and their birth and then moving back to your
parents and working your way back through time that way one of the things
that you want to do if you’re interested in learning about Native American
ancestry is just pay pay really close attention to some of those clues as you
go through that process that may help you later on names there are some very
unique names to Native American culture if you see those cropping up in your
family history that’s certainly something to take note of so that so
that you have that readily available birth places and we’re going to talk a
little bit about place here in a minute but birth places and residences and then
race and race is going to show up on a lot of documents you just have to look
for it sometimes it’s on the census marked is just a little W in one of
those columns we sometimes skip over not always our Native Americans marked with
an eye or an IND for Indian and sometimes they were listed as white so
don’t make that definitive decision based on that race that you see on a
document but certainly use that as a clue now the number two thing you’re
going to want to do once you have researched back from yourself to the
generation that you think or that your family story says is the Native American
ancestor or where it comes into the family you’re
going to want to learn a little bit about the geographic areas where
different Indian tribes lived and then compare that with where your ancestors
lived so um of course um I like many people
have stories in my family of Native American ancestry and when I started
overlaying where different Indian tribes lived at different times and where my
family lived at those same times there was a little bit of a disconnect and so
on one of the lines that we thought maybe had some Native American ancestry
and it hasn’t been proven yet or certainly not the tribe that it was
rumored to be part of because that tribe was not anywhere near that place
let me just use one example and and the rest of the examples that I’m going to
use today are all from your questions so if you asked a Native American question
specifically using names and information that I could look into pay attention I
may use your family as an example here so um one well first you need to know
that right now in the United States there are over 550 federally recognized
American Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives and they are currently on over
200 or about 280 reservations in the United States so lots and lots of
different possible tribes lots and lots of different possible locations but I’m
just going to use this example which is probably the most well known example and
that’s of the Five Civilized tribes the Five Civilized tribes were the Seminole
the Cherokee the creeks the Chickasaw and the Choctaw um and those tribes as
in 1830 there was an Act passed in government the Indian Removal Act some
of you may be familiar with the Trail of Tears and the history behind that and
basically what it meant was that those tribes one at a time were removed from
their native lands into Indian territories
west of the Mississippi so we’re going to look specifically at the Choctaw as
an example the Choctaw were the first tribe to be removed they were removed of
starting in about 1830 1831 it’s interesting to note they’re living
here you can see in Mississippi and Alabama and when the when they were
removed about 17,000 of them moved up here to Indian Territory into this Chuck
this area that was designated for the Choctaw about 6,000 of them actually
stayed in Mississippi and Alabama and a lot of them that stayed they were
harassed there was a lot of persecution and so many of those who stayed in
Mississippi and Alabama tried to mask their Indian heritage now certainly
that’s a broad generalization but it was a very common practice you would need to
research your specific family a little bit more to see if that was the case for
them but a lot of the Native Americans from the Choctaw tribe that stayed in
Mississippi and Alabama and there like I said there were about 6,000 of them
started assimilating more with the white culture and identifying more converting
into you know Baptists and Presbyterians religions and going to school in
education in the white culture if they could because of the persecution that
they endured when they stayed some of them of course maintained their identity
as a Native Americans and that’s fantastic and there’s some records we’ll
look at that will help you find them again then 17,000 of them were removed
as part of that Trail of Tears into into Indian Territory now like I
said this is just one example of one tribe just to give you an idea of how
unknowing and understanding the history will help you find your family so again
you’re going to want to pay attention to where your family was in the records you
do have available and you know were they living in this
area of Indian territory or were they living in this area of Mississippi and
Alabama during the appropriate time period so pay attention to those things
you can see there are a lot of resources available I have used this map on many
occasions as a matter of fact I have family that still lives in some of these
places this is a map of where those civilized tribes were removed too and it
was set up for them as Indian Territory officially in 1834 and then in 1890 as
more white settlers moved west the Oklahoma Territory was carved out of out
of the land that had been allotted for them and then in 1907 Oklahoma which
included Indian Territory became a state and so there are still a lot of Native
Americans living in the state of Oklahoma because of this but but again
there’s some assimilation that occurred because of that progression through time
1834 when they became the Indian Territory 1890 when the Oklahoma
Territory was carved out and in 1907 when it became the state of Oklahoma so
that’s just one example of the way in which you can you can see if you’re the
tribe that you think you’re affiliated with is in the same time and place that
your family would have been there and and like I said just one example of that
okay the third thing is once you determine or have a general idea of
tribal affiliation now there are some Native American records that you can
search Native American records specifically before that you’re going to
be doing your searches just like you do all your genealogy searches vital
records census records school documents family bibles any kind of personal
information that you can glean just like you would do any other kind of
genealogical research but do have some extra resources available
for Native American records there are tribal enrollment records and these are
typically typically managed by the tribe and I’ll show you some resources to go
find those and from about 1827 to now they still keep those records there
there are land allotment records available so when they were given their
allotment of land as part of as part of removal and that lands oftentimes they
would list who in the family that land passed to so that those records were
kept from 1856 to about 1935 then there is a specifically an Indian census and
that is from 1885 to 1940 and then those removal records and then begin in some
places as early as 1815 and go through about 1850 so those are the records kind
of the general records that are available specifically for Native
American research let me show you how to find a few of those things on
ancestry.com so when you’re on the main search screen
here okay and if you scroll down to the bottom of the search screen we have this
little box called collection priority if you don’t see that box you might want to
check and see if this show advanced is checked just click it it opens up your
box bigger and now you should have this collection priority as an option now
you’ll notice you can set your collection priority based on
geographical region so if I was interested in US records I could set it
to the United States check show only records from these collections and then
that’s the only records I would see I wouldn’t see records from England or
Canada when I was doing a search for US records one of the options also however
is an ethnic delineation and Native American is one of the three
delineations you can make there so that you can surface those records closer to
the top okay that’ll make sense here in a minute I
hope so I’m just going to do a quick search here and I’m going to go directly
to the 1900 census actually now when you are searching in a specific database one
of the things you can do if you check the search form is enter a race or a
nationality so the 1900 census is one of those
records where that was recorded so I could actually type in Indian mark that
exact and click search and I will only have records returned where the last
name is award and their racial delineation has been marked as Indian
you’ll see there’s only three hundred and ten of them in the United States and
I can actually come in then and look at one of these records now I’m going to go
all the way into this record because there’s something a little unique about
Indian records on this particular census you see this top part up here looks just
like the 1900 census but when Native Americans were being enumerated there
was an additional set of inquiries special inquiries it says relating to
Indians I would suggest you read the instructions so that you’re familiar
with why they were asking those questions and what those questions were
that they asked them and then you’ll see information about what tribe they
belonged to and if they knew and I don’t there’s some controversy with some
people about why this is or isn’t important but if they knew and not all
of them did what what percentage Native American blood they had anyway those are
just kind of the questions that they asked again read these instructions so
that you know what the information is that you’re looking at there okay that’s
one resource the other resource is my famous card catalog ok again for those
of you who are new to this hover over search scroll all the way down to the
bottom and click on card catalog I love it I use it every day
ok once you’re in there what I would recommend doing is in this keyword box
type the word Indian and see what comes up this is one of those exploratory
experiments now we always sort the card catalog by popularity which you’re
welcome to do or you can sort it by database title or size or whatever
that’s up to you okay but as you scroll through these what you’ll discover is
some really unique data sets we’ll look at a couple of them specifically but um
you know look through that list see if something catches your attention if you
want to filter it further by location you can come over here and click on USA
and then say for example your Native American ancestry is from the state of
Michigan rather than from the southern United States you can narrow it down
that excuse me you can narrow it down that way and see what databases come up
based on location so that’s a little exploratory option for you I mentioned
earlier that one of the premier resources for Native American ancestry
is the Indian census was taken from 1885 to 1940 okay and you can just come in
here and put in your family name or as much information as you know it’s just
like searching any other census when you click search you’ll get your search
results and again if you remember these are all from examples that people sent
me so I did a little research and if Mary Kathy Lawrence there she is if she
is your ancestor here she is okay and you can see there’s information here on
the index you can also click through to the image and what you’ll see is these
lovely type documents this is a 1926 census and so it was beautifully typed
here you’ll see their numbers their indian names if they have an english
name that was included and these relationships in these households and
date of birth and gender so again terrific terrific resource to get you a
little bit closer to verifying that Native American ancestry
the next database I want to show you is commonly called the Dawes roll what the
Dawes roll was is in in the late 1800s there was an enrollment and this was
considered the final enrollment for the Five Civilized tribes it was named Dawes
after the Commissioner I think at the time who who handled it or oversaw what
you can see on any database if you scroll down is exactly what information
was included in the records so you can see the the way that the information was
recorded and what some of those initials or acronyms stand for so that when
you’re looking at that document you know what it is and you’ll also see what some
of the things that were indexed were so that you know the different ways that
you can search so I suggest always reading these database descriptions
before you jump in and just start searching now one of you wrote in and
you were looking for a Miller family a Lucinda Miller there she is okay um so
Lucinda Miller she was born about 1830 at the time of the census are the
enrollment she was 72 years old she was enrolled in 1902 and she’s listed at her
tribal affiliation is listed as Cherokee and she is Cherokee by blood as opposed
to by marriage and let’s see I found her on here earlier it’s a lot of names I’m
not going to take the time to do that now but again this resource is fantastic
because so many of the people in the Five Civilized tribes were included in
this enrollment so that’s a great resource last couple of resources I want
to share with you before we run out of time this is a small collection but it
actually helps solve one of your questions one of you is asking about a
man named William English now that sounds like a very white man named not
doesn’t sound very very Indian and so there was some question about
you know could this man have been Native American and with the limited
information that I had and I was able to look at this and I think that I have the
right person and according to this let’s see the scroll up on the page I think to
find him it may have gone the wrong out I went the wrong direction we are going
to see that up here we have William English he lists that he is an auto
Indian he lists his allotment number where he’s living and then just like any
other will it’s fantastic he lists and his relative so his wife and then if we
were to go to the next image here he lists his children and and I think
there’s even a daughter too listed there with their married names so fantastic
resources because they were given property by the government that
allotment many of them had wills or created wills so that that property
remained in their family so that’s a great resource there’s also what you’re
going to find in the card catalog lots of little books like this where it’s
just somebody created a book based on the records that they had researched
this one happens to be the ward family right and so I can come in here and I
can look for Timothy Ward and it will show me here’s you know information
about wards who applied to become part of the Cherokee Nation as a matter of
fact I think this Timothy Ward his application was rejected and but it
lists him and all of his children and why his application was rejected which
at the time was because he didn’t have enough Indian blood in him but what that
leads us to know then is that he did have some right and so you know you’re
on the right track as you go through that so sometimes you come across little
gems like this and there are several of them in that card catalog that is about
all we have time for today it always just seems to go so fast doesn’t it but
one of the things that I just want to remind you of again is start with what
you know and work your way back become familiar with the different
tribes in the areas where your family lived and then you can start looking at
the different records that are available for those particular tribes keep those
questions coming and we get we’re getting great questions and I know both
Ann and I enjoy reading through them and brainstorming ideas for how to put
together presentations that will help you hopefully you find these helpful if
you do and leave a comment or send us an email and both about what you like and
what you don’t like and what your additional questions are so that we can
continue to answer them every week hope everybody has a fantastic week and have
fun climbing your family tree no matter which direction you’re going

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