Researching Your Ancestry
Every one of the 573 federally recognized Tribes and 300 state recognized and other non-recognized Tribes have their own laws regarding membership or citizenship. While the Association cannot provide individual assistance on genealogy research, we have provided some information for individuals who are interested in learning more about their ancestry. Below are some bits of information, tips, and contacts that we hope will help those individuals in their search.
Sources of Information
Individuals seek Tribal affiliation for a variety of reasons. Tribes are sovereign nations, therefore, requirements for Tribal enrollment are determined by the individual Tribe and are usually set forth in the Tribal constitution and other Tribal laws and customs.
Please be aware that having Tribal ancestry does not necessarily entitle you to federal or other funding. Because Tribes are their own sovereign nations, each Tribe has its own laws regarding entitlements, just like a state or county has its own laws.
DNA studies will not give you information that you are connected with a specific Tribe and often is not able to give you information on a specific region within North and South America. A DNA study may only give you a percentage number, and will not assist you in claiming membership or citizenship with a particular Indian Tribe.
In fact, DNA tests cannot prove your race. Read this article. You will need to do your own genealogy and historical research to connect you with your Tribal history.
You can inquire with the Tribe you are affiliated with directly. Most have contact information available on the web. 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.
Sources of Contact
On Your Own
Bureau of Indian Affairs
1849 C Street, NW - MS 4141 - MIB
Washington, DC 20240-0001
List of Federally Recognized Tribes and their contact information can be found on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.
Note: 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.
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
Search the phrase Native Ancestry in the website itself.
The Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Web sites:
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.
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.
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