Many Americans are curious to know more about their Native American heritage but they don’t know where to begin looking for information. In this article I will give you several resources to help you begin your LDS family search to find your Native American ancestors.
Here are a few reasons why you may believe that you are part Native American:
You have living relatives who are members of an Indian tribe. Through the years, family stories have been passed down through the generations proclaiming that you have a relative whose parents, or grandparents came from one Indian tribe or another.
You may have a picture of a relative who looks to be Native American. You have been given an Indian artefact, by a relative, which has been passed from generation to generation.
You have done some genealogical research, and discovered several Native American Ancestors. You have had your DNA tested, and the results show that you could possibly be of Native American descent.
When conducting your LDS family search, there are some important factors to consider. Native American Heritage should be considered a myth, unless the family stories that were told by your senior relatives can be proven as fact. Many Native Americans tried to blend with white people, and they may be listed as white in their genealogical records, because they suffered severe persecution when the white settlers came to the United States. With this being said, it can be very difficult to find any record of your Native American ancestors in any official documentation.
Starting Your Search
Here are some suggestions to help you start your LDS family search for your Native American ancestors. It is recommended that you compile a family tree of all your ancestors, making sure to cite your sources properly so that others may check your sources to prove that your information is true. Take the time to interview members of your family and ask if they have any stories to tell about their Native American relatives from years gone by. Check the message boards that list surnames, for any Indian sounding last names. Search for tribal names such as Cherokee, Navajo, or any other tribes you might have been descended from.
When you talk to your family members find out what tribe they were descended from if at all possible. Although there are over five thousand Indian tribes throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada, only 500 of these tribes that are federally recognized still live in the U.S. today. However most of the original tribes no longer remain in existence as tribal units. The remaining Native American tribes that are recognized by the federal government have been divided into much smaller clans. The first thing to do is to identify one of many ancestors who you believe may have been of Native American descent. If you know where this ancestor lived then you can possibly discover from which tribe he or she came. Most tribes moved to different areas during the course of their lives while others resided in many different areas at once.
Most of the Indian tribes in the United States were forced to live on reservations in what is now known as Eastern Oklahoma. There are two more excellent resources for finding your Native American ancestors, and these are obituaries from local newspapers, and local county records. Check your local newspapers and public record offices for details about your ancestors.
Using Government Records
If you choose to view government records as part of your LDS family search to find your Indian ancestors, there are a few things you must know before you begin digging through these records. Tribes that are recognized by the federal government have several requirements to qualify as a member of a Native American tribe one of which includes being a blood relative of a member who is listed on a tribal roll. A base roll is defined by the U.S. Department of the Interior as the original list of members as documented in a tribal constitution or other tribal records. Since there are hundreds of thousands of names listed on these rolls, don’t assume that a person with the same name as yours is an ancestor. Check his or her tribal card to find out if he/she is actually an ancestor or just another person with a similar name as your families.
If you want more information about your Indian heritage, check with the Indian Affairs Bureau (BIA). The BIA has census records with listings of members of Native tribes from 1885 to1945. The BIA also maintained other records such as school records, and much more. However, if you live out on the West coast, you can find the California judgement roles from 1932, 1952, and 1972. Other Western states have their own set of records listing tribal members. You can view many of these family records by visiting the Family History library in Salt Lake City UT, and the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC.
If you are still not having much success finding your Native American ancestors, you may want to hire a professional genealogist to help you with your search. Although this type of research is difficult even for professionals, if you request the services of a person who specializes in Native American research, you may have better success in finding out more about your Native American Heritage.