Native American Genealogy
"Finding your Cherokee Indian Princess"
By Lisa South - Certified Genealogist
Native American Genealogy Research
Finding that Cherokee Indian princess your grandma told you was somewhere
in your family tree is going to be harder than you thought. In fact,
it won't be possible - because the Cherokee nation did not have princesses!
Erroneous family traditions and the limited number of records can make
Native American genealogy daunting, but there are things you
can do to increase your success.
Start by understanding that a family story of Indian heritage is not
reason enough to dive right in to Native American genealogy.
You should continue traditional research until you can show that your
ancestors were Native American and then find out to which tribal group
they belonged. To jump into Native American genealogy without
the tribal name would be like jumping into European research without
knowing which country to focus on. There are several good reference
books that can help. A good one to start with is the eight-volume set,
Biographical and Historical Index of American Indians and Persons Involved
in Indian Affairs, from U.S. Dept. of Interior records, G.K. Hall and
Co., 70 Lincoln Street, Boston, 1966. 8 Volumes.
Also understand that if your Native American ancestor did not live
on a reservation, you should conduct your research the same as any other
non-Indian research. But if they did live on a reservation, following
the steps below will increase your chances of success with your Native
American genealogy research.
As with any genealogy research, your first step is to gather
as much information as possible from your family members. Next, determine
tribal affiliation and study the historical background of that tribe.
Learn about its naming customs, kinship systems, and migration patterns.
Note which agencies were involved with that particular tribe and which
churches proselyted among them. With this knowledge, you can then extend
your search to include records kept by those agencies and churches
So how do you locate the records? Your best source will usually be
the local agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but you will
also want to check the area office of the BIA. Next, find out what records
are available in The National Archives. It is the largest single holder
of Indian records. And remember to check the National Archive Regional
repositories. Search the church records that were actively doing
missionary work and check private collections in Universities and historical
societies. Search the libraries in the areas that the tribes lived.
The Oklahoma City Library has a large collection of records for the
Five Civilized Tribes (a confederation of specific Cherokee, Chickasaw,
Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes.)
While searching for your Native American ancestor can be particularly
challenging, finding your place within this rich heritage will make
it well worth the effort.
Of course, it is possible that another genealogist has already discovered
and documented your family connection to Native Americans within OneGreatFamily.
Put our Better Way to Search, work and discover the work already
completed by other genealogy enthusiasts on your family tree.