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Where To Look For Ancestral Information


There are several places that you may be able to find information regarding you AI/AN Ancestry.

  1. At Home - The first place where you can begin to do your genealogical research is at home. Valuable information can be found in newspaper clippings, military service records, birth and death records, marriage licenses, divorce records, family bibles, personal journals, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, backs of pictures and other documents. Your relatives and family members may also be a great resource for you, check to see if they can share information with you, or answer any questions you have.

  2. Local and State Level - It is often helpful to check town, school, church, and county courthouse records for information. Historical and genealogical information also can be found in other civil records at local courthouses such as deeds, wills, land or other property conveyance documents. Additionally, local newspaper may have important information regarding an ancestor. To obtain a vital statistic record, you must contact the department, bureau or office that handles vital statistics records for the state where the event took place. Each state has its own rules for who may request a vital statistics record and its own process for requesting one (including any fees it may charge). State vital statistics records offices may be found using the internet.

  3. Public Libraries and Other Repositories - Visiting the local library is a very good starting point for gathering facts about AI/ANs and their tribes. A wealth of information exists concerning the history of tribes, tribal cultures, historical tribal territories, and tribal migration patterns. Most libraries also have books on how to do genealogical research to gain an understanding of basic research techniques.

  4. Federal Level (NARA) - The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the repository for all federal records. The records it holds and the information it provides are very useful to anyone interested in genealogical research. One example is census records, which are a very good source of information for persons trying to locate and identify their ancestors in the United States. In the 19th century, the BIA, which was established in 1824, carried out census counts of American Indians living on reservations. NARA has Federal census records from 1790 to 1940, including BIA American Indian census records. NARA also has military service records, passenger arrival records, and other records of value to persons involved in genealogical research including the Dawes Roll if you are researching ancestry from any of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma.

  5. Records Concerning AI/AN - If you have identified your ancestor’s tribal affiliation, now you can proceed to begin researching records about the tribe. The American Indian records collection at NARA includes special censuses, school records, and allotment records. For more information concerning the special censuses of various tribes, NARA offers: Microfilm Publication M1791, American Indian Censuses, “The Special Census of Indians, 1880”.

  6. BIA Offices - BIA regional offices (and agencies may be additional sources of information on an ancestor if:

  • your ancestor’s estate was probated through the bureau because he or she had land in trust with the bureau and/or received income derived from federal Indian trust lands and/or assets,

  • his or her name appears on a tribe’s base membership roll, a copy of which rests with the regional office or agency that services the tribe, or

  • his or her name appears on a judgment distribution roll developed as part of the settlement of a tribal claim against the United States.

The BIA, however, does not maintain current or historic records of all individuals who possess some degree of AI/AN blood. The BIA holds current rather than historic tribal membership enrollment lists, which do not hold the supporting documentation of the members listed. When you contact a BIA regional office or agency, be prepared to give the name of the tribe, the name(s) and birth date(s) of your lineal ancestor(s), and your relationship to such ancestor(s). The Tribal Leaders Directory includes contact information for all BIA regional offices and agencies.

Tracing American Indian and Alaska Native Ancestry | Indian Affairs (

A Guide to Tracing American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry - Office of Public Affairs-Indian

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