Researching Your Ancestry
Purpose of Membership and Enrollment
Individuals seek tribal affiliation for a variety of reasons - the preservation of culture and traditions, financial aid for college, health care benefits…Tribes are sovereign nations, therefore, requirements for tribal enrollment are determined by the individual tribe and usually set forth in the tribal constitution and ordinances.
Sources of Information
The following information has been gathered from a variety of sources including information provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian, 9th edition, by Barry T. Klein, Todd Publications, NY, copyright 2000.
It is suggested that when making contact with organizations or individuals you do so in writing so they have a copy of the information you are looking for in front of them when responding. Keep a copy for yourself so you have a copy of who you have contacted and received a response from. Remember to include your name, phone number with area code, complete mailing address, and e-mail address if applicable. This is particularly important when requesting information via e-mail since many peoples' aliases are not their name.
On Your Own
Do not begin your research in Indian records. Start with yourself and work backward. If you're not currently a member of a tribe, research should begin in public, non-Indian records. Vital information includes names, dates, and places. Check government offices, churches, schools, hospitals, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, baptism records, bibles, local cemeteries, town records, tribal records, military records, public and university libraries, newspapers, etc. Civil records such as deeds, wills, and property conveyances may also be helpful. You may be able to access these items directly from the source (such as a birth certificate from the State Vital Records Office), or online through sites such as geneology.com, and ancestry.com. Obtaining these documents may or may not have a fee connected to them.
Also look to your family. Look for family diaries, letters, scrapbooks, pictures, and baby books. Talk to older relatives who may have information that will probably be lost when they pass on. Other family members may be working on your family history as well, check and work with them. Facebook and other social media sources can be a valuable tool in your search, as you may find other family members you don't know looking to connect.
Public and university libraries are good sources of information on specific Indian tribes as well as information on how to do genealogical research. Information regarding private genealogical organizations may be available as well.
Sources of Contact
The State Bureau of Vital Statistics
Usually located in the State capitol, the SBVS can provide copies of birth certificates and other legal documents if you provided them with the name, date, place of birth and your relationship to that person. Be aware that records may be limited (generally governments did not keep birth and death records until the turn of the century.)
The Bureau of the Census Federal Center
Attn: Ethnicity and Ancestry Branch
Suitland, MD 20233
Google Native Ancestry in the website itself.
The Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
www.genhomepage.com—there are several links on this site. Under North American Genealogical Research link there is an extensive list under the American Indian link. There are also researchers available for a fee listed under the Commercial Services link. Two specifically list Native American research - CW Enterprise, which does research at the National Archives in Washington, DC and American Genealogical Consultants.
www.familysearch.org—Free family history software is available on this site.
www.museum.gov.ns.ca/musdir/dartmouthfamilyhistorycenter.htm—This is the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints facility. Lists the address. Call to verify hours.
The National Archives Records and Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MN 20740-6001
The Native American collection contains special censuses, school, and allotment records as well as information on how to order military records. Request microfilm publication (M1791) titled American Indian Censuses, The Special Census of Indians, 1880. A brochure describing the branch offices as well as the free leaflet Genealogical Records in the National Archives is available upon request.
Bureau of Indian Affairs
1849 C Street, NW - MS 4141 - MIB
Washington, DC 20240-0001
Web site: www.doi.gov/bia/ancestry.htm
List of Federally Recognized tribes: 70 Federal Register, No. 226, page 71194-71198 which is available at most libraries or on the World Wide Web at www.nara.gov "Federally Recognized Native American Tribes", November 25, 2005.
Although most BIA offices do not keep individual Indian records and the BIA does not maintain a national registry or database you can try sending your birth certificate, your Indian parent and grandparent's birth certificates (if not, their names and approximate birth dates) to the BIA Regional or Area Office that covers the region where your tribe/family is from. If any of your ancestors were on the census rolls or there was a land conveyance, they may be able to provide information about your tribe(s) and your percentage of Indian blood. General information can be accessed by going to their website at www.bia.gov and clicking on the How Do I Trace Indian Ancestry button on the left sidebar or going to the Improving the Quality of Life - Native Americans - Tracing Ancestry section. They do not conduct genealogical research for the public.
Professional researchers are available for a fee. Further information regarding this service may be obtained by writing to the addresses below.
The Board of Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington, DC 20044
The Association of Professional Genealogists
P.O. Box 40393
Denver, CO 80204-0393
Blood Quantum and Certificate of Indian Blood
Blood quantum refers to the amount of Indian blood you possess as determined by the number of generations of Native people you descend from. This system of laws was enacted by the US government as a way of defining membership in a Native American tribe and eligibility for financial and other benefits. Although this system was used starting in 1705, it was not widely used until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Although tribes are sovereign nations and define their own enrollment criteria, many tribes continue to use the minimum 1/4 Indian Blood criteria for enrollment purposes.
When seeking to enroll in a tribe, contact the tribe directly to obtain their enrollment criteria. The tribe may have records from which they can determine your blood quantum, or you may need to obtain a Certificate of Indian Blood, which may possibly be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regional or agency office which services the area your tribe is from (see www.bia.gov for contact information.) Send a copy of your birth certificate, copy of your Indian parent's birth certificate, and a copy of your Indian grandparent's birth certificate to the BIA as stated above. If any of your ancestors were on any of the old census rolls from the late 1800's-early 1900's, they may be able to provide you with a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB). This doesn't always work and sometimes the offices are unable to complete your request due to volume. You may also have contacted the wrong office. Contact the office where your tribe is from (if known), or the office where your family originally came from. You may also descend from two or more tribes from different parts of the country. You may want to contact both BIA offices.
DNA Tests to Prove Ancestry
Until recently, blood tests to determine ancestry showed markers on your DNA that indicated that a person likely descended from Native ancestry, not tribe or blood quantum. We have heard that in some cases, specific tribes have been determined. Our office does not have any further information on this subject. Blood tests can be obtained by requesting one from your physician.