June 11th, 2013

How to Search for Native American Genealogy Records

Knowledge of general history is crucial if you want to search for Native American genealogy records. One of the primary benefits of gaining such knowledge is that it will guide you to search in the correct time period for your ancestor’s records. An added benefit is that you will be able to nail down a specific geographical location in which to conduct your research. Having these skills will maximize your potential to discover that valuable documentation.

History can also shed light on Native North American culture; their naming patterns, tribal affiliations, and kinship terminology are quite different to those of European cultures. Only when placing them in proper historical context, without added assumptions and stereotypes, will a researcher accomplish true success in their search for Native American genealogy records.

Bibliographies and Native American Genealogy Records

Those researching their Native American heritage will do well to consult the vast array of bibliographies of Native American historical works that are available. Many have been composed by both individuals and institutions who are experts in the field of Native American history. They include works that are cultural and archaeological in nature, and frequently include comprehensive listings of sources and methods for deciphering the information they contain. One such bibliography is The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875-1907 by Donald J. Berthrong.

The research value of these publications is immense, and anyone who seriously wants to search Native American genealogy records should consider them necessary research aids. They can also be found in college and state libraries, large public libraries, and in the possession of selected genealogical and historical societies.

Search for Native American Genealogy Records Using General Histories 

Some of the most useful documentation for tracing Native American ancestors is general and tribal histories. They can tell you the location of tribal villages, hunting and gathering areas, and insight into settlement and migration patterns. Several such histories have been published in recent years, one being North American Indians in Historical Perspective. This book contains nearly five hundred pages of detailed histories of Native American tribes and clans.

Using such publications helps to place your Native American ancestors into a historical context. Once you know the era to research, and the location, you will inevitably find the ancestry records. As a bonus, many footnote sections, reference sections, and biographical notes can link you directly to primary and secondary source materials.

Local histories can help to establish tribal affiliations, another important aspect of how to search Native American genealogy records. Nearly all tribes have some sort of history of their earliest times, and city and county histories may also refer to the earliest Native American inhabitants of the area. Although they might not contain vast amounts of documented data, they can help to identify the original native inhabitants, and therefore must not be overlooked as valuable resources for tracing Native American ancestors.