American Indian Genealogy
The Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns keeps no genealogical records or tribal membership rolls or lists. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources keeps no genealogical records or tribal membership rolls or lists. Neither entity can assist in identifying or locating American Indian ancestors or tribes.
The following general information is provided for those interested in American Indian genealogy. In addition, many websites offer genealogical resources. Neither the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns nor the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is able to endorse or recommend specific genealogy websites.
Georgia Department of Archives and History
5800 Jonesboro Road
Morrow, GA 30260
National Archives Southeast Region
5780 Jonesboro Road
Morrow, GA 30260
National Archives Southeast web site: www.archives.gov/southeast to
access the publication "Researching Individual Native Americans at the
National Archives at Atlanta"
East Georgia Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 117
Winder, GA 30680
(accessed through rootsweb.com)
Georgia Genealogical Society
(no permanent office space, support staff, or library)
General Questions about Genealogical Research
Do l need to use a computer?
Yes. The computer is a valuable research tool. Many organizations and individuals have digitized their records, pictures, and files and placed them on the internet’s World Wide Web. The ability to gather records, current addresses, phone numbers, and other vital information makes the computer necessary. Computers and the internet can be accessed at your local public library or local community college.
You will find many genealogical research sites on the internet. The Council does not endorse or recommend any specific sites. Sites are usually private, for-profit, and they charge for their service.
Use a search engine to find helpful web sites. Search engines such as Google are computer programs that search the internet for specific words that you enter. Words and phrases such as “Native American genealogy” or “tracing American Indian Ancestry” are search words.
How do I begin the search for my ancestors?
Start with yourself and current public records rather than Indian records. Public records include those maintained by state and local governments, churches, and schools. Write down all the information you can find about your parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors. Include all vital statistics such as ancestral names, dates of birth, marriages (or divorces) and death, and the places where ancestors were born, lived, married, and died. Your goal is to establish and document the relationships of Indian ancestors and to identify the Indian tribe with which your ancestor may have been affiliated.
Where do I look for information?
The first place to begin is at home. Look in family Bibles, newspaper clippings, military certificates, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, backs of pictures, and baby books. Relatives are good sources of information. Visit or write family members who may have the genealogical information you seek. You may find that someone else in your family is already working on a family history.
Check school, church, and county courthouse records. Do not limit the scope of research to birth, death, and marriage records. At the county courthouse you may find historical and genealogical sources such as deeds, wills, land or other property conveyances. Write to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, usually in your state capital, to request copies of birth, death, and marriage certificates, or divorce decrees. Include the name of the individual, date and place of birth, and your relationship to that person.
State governments did not keep birth and death records until the turn of the century, about 1890-1915, so records on ancestors who were born or died before then will be limited.
Visit the library to gather information about Indians and Indian tribes. A wealth of information exists concerning the history of Indian tribes, tribal cultures, the historic tribal territories, and emigration patterns. Most libraries also have books on genealogical research. These books can give you a good understanding of standard research techniques.
Contact genealogical organizations, historical societies, and other private institutions. For example, look at the Family History Centers that are branch offices of the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). The LDS church is a private institution with a large collection of genealogical documents relating to Indians.
The National Archives in Washington, D.C. has useful genealogical records. The Federal government has taken a census every ten years since 1790. Census records from 1790-1920 are available on microfilm in the National Archives regional branches. There are seventeen branch offices in major metropolitan areas throughout the country. A brochure describing the branch offices is available from:
National Archives and Records Administration
Publication and Distribution Staff (NECO), Room G-3
Eighth St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20408-0001
The National Archives also has military and service related records, passenger arrival records, and other records of value. A free copy of the leaflet “Genealogical Records in the National Archives” is available on request.
The National Archives also has various publications for sale, including microfilms of all censuses. The telephone number for rental and sales requests is 1 -800-234-8861.
The National Archives Internet address is: www nara.gov.
After identifying the tribal affiliation of your ancestor(s), begin research in American Indian records. The Native American collection at the National Archives includes special censuses, school records, and allotment records. For more information concerning the special censuses of various tribes, the National Archives offers:
Microfilm Publication M 1791
American Indian Censuses
The Special Census of Indians, 1880.
Can the Bureau of Indian Affairs Help?
Most BIA offices, including the central headquarters in Washington, DC and area field offices, do not keep individual Indian records. The BIA does not maintain a national registry and does not conduct genealogical research for the public. If your ancestors had land in trust or went through probate, the BIA field offices may have some relevant records. However, the BIA field offices maintain current rather than historic tribal membership enrollment lists. These lists (commonly called “rolls”) do not have supporting documentation (such as birth certificates) for each tribal member.
The BIA no longer has extensive involvement in tribal membership matters. Current Federal policy and case law limits BIA involvement in tribal membership matters unless mandated by congressional legislation, required by the tribe’s governing document, or requested by the tribe. The Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(a) protects current tribal membership rolls and lists maintained by the BIA.
When you contact a BIA field office, be prepared to give the name of the tribe, the name(s) and birth dates of ancestor(s), and relationships. You must provide specific information.
What if I was adopted?
Organizations found on Internet sites can assist you with information about what may be needed. The BIA does not endorse or recommend any sites. You will need to obtain legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in this area.
Where Can I Hire a Researcher?
Researchers are available for a fee. Write to the Board of Certification of Genealogists or the Association of Professional Genealogists to request their listings of genealogical researchers for hire. Their addresses are:
Board of Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington. D.C. 20344
Association of Professional Genealogists
P 0. Box 40393
Denver, CO 80204
Genealogy document adopted from the Cherokee Family Research Center, Cherokee Heritage Center, Tahlequah, Oklahoma