How to Prove Native American/Indian Ancestry | Ancestry

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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