1 Reply Latest reply on Oct 5, 2021 2:03 PM by Rebecca Collier

    How to determine if distant relatives were Cherokee?

    Lisa Lohrman Newbie

      How can I find out if distant relatives were Cherokee? Family members migrated from Tennessee to Arkansas. Some census records show them as white. Family members thru the years have said they were Cherokee but were told to keep it quiet. Not sure how I can find out the correct information. Any ideas to help? Thank you.

        • Re: How to determine if distant relatives were Cherokee?
          Rebecca Collier Ranger

          Dear Ms. Lohrman,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          We suggest that you begin by talking to your various family members, especially the more senior ones, and ask them questions so you can gather names, dates, places, and stories. With that information in hand, you may begin to gather records about these family members and the places associated with them. In addition, the NARA Native American Heritage webpage, NARA Resources for Genealogists webpage, and the FamilySearch Research wiki for Indigenous Peoples of the United States Genealogy may be useful.


          When embarking on Native American genealogy, please note that the records in the custody of NARA often only detail those living on the reservations or being administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If an ancestor was Native American and left the reservation or did not have interaction with the United States Government as such, they will not be recorded in NARA’s records and tracing their genealogy may be difficult.


          If they lived on a reservation, they would have been counted on the Dawes and Indian Census Rolls. We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the Applications for Enrollment in the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898 - 1914 (also known as the Dawes Rolls) in the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Record Group 75) that may include your family members. Most of these records have been digitized and are available using the Catalog. For more information about the non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at Fort Worth (RM-FW) at ftworth.archives@nara.gov. We suggest that you review the NARA web page for Dawes Rolls as an overview of how to research that resource.


          We also located a series titled Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940 (M595) in the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Record Group 75) that may have a listing of Cherokees in Arkansas. For more information about these records, please email the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) at archives1reference@nara.gov.


          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RM-FW and RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!


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