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A Guide To Beginning Native American Research

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One of the most frequently asked questions is "How do I get started trying to find out about my Native American ancestor." The simple answer is that you start with 'yourself.' Begin acquiring the documented information on yourself if you do not already have it. From there you proceed to your parents and then your grandparents, etc. Documented information includes legal certificates of birth, marriage, divorce and death. Other documented sources include Bible records, printed matter such as county histories, censuses and court records of deeds, wills, custody records, tax records and many others. There are certain items needed that will help you keep your information accessible for work while making it obvious what information you need to fill the blanks.

Two major forms will be used from the beginning. These are the pedigree form and the family group sheet. The aim is to obtain basic information on each married couple and/or family group until the dates of the married couples precede 1920, the date of the most recent available census record. In order to reach this time period, we begin with ourselves. Our birth certificate must list the date of our birth, name of our parents(ages in some states,) and of course the county and state of birth. If we are married, we should have a copy of our marriage certificate. Most of us have a number of other identification documents such as drivers license, social security number, insurance cards, military discharge papers and voter registration to mention a few. These are the items we list for documentation. We will want to have copies of these to put into a file or into a plastic sleeve within a notebook. This is our proof!

There are also a number of available computer programs that can be used that will produce the pedigree charts and family group sheets. The characteristics of these may be explored according to individual needs and desires.

Much of our family information may be obtained by interviewing relatives and family members. It is advisable to arrange special times to talk to family members about what they may know and what documentation they have. Begin with the oldest living family member. This may evolve into a number of different interviews. Our elders whose minds are still sharp are like walking encyclopedias. Remember to be patient and allow the person plenty of time to collect their thoughts. There may be a tremendous amount of information stored and it takes time for it to surface.

Step 1: Gathering basic supplies

Pedigree Chart

Family group sheet

Step 2: Gathering and organizing information.

Information on self

Information on parents

Information on grandparents

Step 3: Pedigree Charts: Understanding the form

The form begins with you as #1. Your father is # 2 and your mother is#3. All the branches from your father are his ancestors. All the branches from your mother are her ancestors. . All the men have even numbers and all the women have uneven numbers. The first chart with you on it will be chart #1. When one surname line progresses beyond chart 1, it is extended to the chart number by that person's name. That chart may be renumbered for the continuation of that chart. On this chart, #1 would become #16 and replace # 1 on chart 2, #24 would replace #1 on chart 10, #30 would replace #1 on chart 16. The chart would then renumbered ---the father twice the number of the child and the mother twice the number of the child plus one. Record Dates: Day Month (abbreviated) Year Ex: 20 Sep 1997 (Use 3-letter abbreviations)

Step 4: Family Group Sheets

Become familiar with form Fill out a form for each married couple and their children Record Dates : day Month (abbreviated) year Ex: 14 May 1997 (Use 3-letter abbreviations)

Step 5: Listing sources and documentation

Vital records - note where this record can be found and in whose possession the copy can be found. Ex. A: "#2 on chart #1 - born - Vital Statistics, Nashville, TN - certificate in possession of John Doe." This shows where you obtained the proof of information under born citing location of the birth cert. for #2 who would be the father of #1(you) on the chart. Ex. B: "#1 on chart #1 - married - Probate Court, Memphis, TN - certificate in possession of #1(you)." This shows where you obtained the proof of information under married citing the marriage cert. for #1 who would be you on the chart. Ex. C: "#7 on chart #1 - died - Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Oklahoma City, OK - certificate in possession of #1 (you)." This shows where you obtained the proof of information under died citing location of the death cert. for #7 who would be the maternal grandmother of #1(you) on the chart.

Step 6: Other Records and materials

Family Bibles - List as "Jones Family Bible in possession of Mrs. Cynthia Jones of Sumner Co., TN Printed sources - Remember your old term papers in school and use the proper form such as: Ex A: "Caroline T. Moore, Abstracts of Wills of Charleston District South Carolina, and Other Wills Recorded In the District, 1783-1800. Privately Published. C1974. Several reference manuals are available to refresh your memory. You may either purchase one of these or check your local library to see which they have.

Step 7: What to do during the "in between times" and in between lessons

Read books and magazine articles to familiarize yourself with the historical background of the area. Read books on tribes of the area. Read all about their customs, their trials and exploits. Keep an open mind and read about the good deeds and the bad deeds. Learn all you can!


Land, Deed and Property

Lesson II

As we proceed with our pedigree charts, we find that many of the records that we need to provide us with essential information are located in the office of the Probate Judge. Georgia is a state that has in the past referred to this office as the judge of the Ordinary. In Charleston, South Carolina deed and land records are located in the Office of Mesne Conveyances. Regardless of the term that might be used in different states, the type of information remains the same. There are deed, property and land records, will and estate records, marriages, divorces, orphan court records and miscellaneous other records. These are public records and should be available to anyone. Some locations put minor restrictions on researchers. It is best to ask about policies related to copying the records. Even though we might not agree with their policies, we must respect them. They are the custodians responsible for these records.

Be aware that the genealogical value of the various records will vary from one to the other. Do not ignore any record because it appears to have a minimum informational value. One record cannot be sufficient to complete your pedigree. Each record fits in its own place to complete the picture. Putting together the clues or bits and pieces gives us a certain satisfaction like being an amateur detective. Even detectives must do their background work.

Why do we need the vital records? Vital records of birth, marriage, and death provide us with information other than specific dates of these events. They each, at the least, give us the county and state where the particular event occurred. Birth records are unlikely to be found prior to the 1900s. Over the span of lives of our five generations we are trying to achieve, we are beginning to see a pattern of dates and locations. Suppose we have acquired the vital records and now have our pedigree chart back four generations prior to ourselves. We have found our ancestor in a specific location in a southeastern state.

Questions to be answered in this location:

What year was this county created? It is important to know the date the county was created and from what territory it was created. If it was cut from another county, you may also have to check the records in the parent county. How do I find this information? The Everton Co. has published "The Handy Book for Genealogists" This book contains maps along with all this information. You may purchase your own copy to use at home or use a copy found in most libraries with genealogy departments.

Is there a deed in this county for the ancestor? If not, go back to your census records to see if he/she was living in the household of someone else. Check the "Tract Book" to see if the land was originally assigned to your ancestor. If you locate a deed of property in a certain county, you might want to purchase a county "highway" map (This is not to be confused with a road map. This map contains townships and ranges.) These maps are usually available in the tax collector's office. With this map you can pinpoint the actual location of the deed. Is it close to present county lines? It is often worth the trouble to check records in the neighboring county or counties.

Did I trace this land back to previous owner or to the original assignment? If your ancestor is listed as the original owner, how did he obtain it? If he was full blood Indian, was he assigned this land as part of a treaty? A good example of this can be seen for the Cherokees of north Georgia in Don Shadburn's book, Cherokee Planters In Georgia, 1832-1838, Pioneer-Cherokee Heritage Series, c. 1989. Many of the plats are reproduced in this book. All persons on the 1832 Creek census received an allotment of land. Allotments of other tribes in other states are similar. Many can be found in the American State Papers. Redskins, Ruffleshirts and Rednecks: Indian Allotments In Alabama and Mississippi, 1830-1860 by Mary Elizabeth Young, Univ. of Ok. Pr., 1961 covers areas of the Choctaw and Chickasaw.

What are the other means of obtaining the recorded land for half-breed and white ancestors? These will include military land warrants/patents for military service, land lotteries of Georgia or similar instruments of record. The same Handy Book for Genealogists from Everton Publishers will provide this information for your particular area. The Federal Government often issued land warrant (or guarantee) for military service. These warrants were then brought by that individual to the "Federal Land Office" for a specified number of acres. After the Federal Government granted land to individuals, it may or may not be recorded on the county level in the probate court. It might, instead be recorded in the General Land Office, a division of the National Archives. Bounty Land Warrants, Military Land Warrants and Military Bounty Land are all the same thing. The awarding of these came under Acts of Congress and the Acts of Congress may be consulted as well.

What am I looking for and what do these terms mean? Deed of Gift - deed for a gift of land (real property), slave or personal property sometimes given to a prospective bride or groom. Deed of Trust - deed whereby real property is placed in hands of one or more persons (trustees), to secure repayment of a money/loan or as stated within the deed.

Fee Simple - land in which the owner has the whole property without any condition attached to the "tenure" of the land.

Freeholder - landowner holds these lands in his own right.

Grantor - seller or person granting/selling land to someone.

Grantee - person receiving or purchasing the land.

Patentee - person that is given or granted a patent.

Quitclaim or Warranty Deeds - the release of ownership/interest in a piece of property given by the seller to the purchaser.

Range - range lines run north and south beginning at the principal meridian and are drawn every six miles both east and west of the principal meridian. Each division running north and south (six mile interval) is called a range. See example.

Township - are parcels of land that are divided into thirty-six "sections." They divide section into six mile parcels containing 640 acres. Sections are then subdivided according to system designated by the Government and used by the land surveyors. Examples are shown of both the township & section.

Look for additional information that I refer to as "choice bits" and the "unique." Read through the whole record even though it might be boring and difficult. Sometimes we will be rewarded with statements like "land originally granted to my grandfather, William Smith" or "the same land I received from my father, James Smith's estate." Remember! Indians left deeds and wills, too. They also fought under U.S. troops in wars such as the War of 1812, Florida Wars, and World War I to note a few.


Lesson III

Pedigree and family group charts have progressed backward to the point of identifying ancestors that were alive between 1880 to 1907. It is now the time to do a little "homework." First, we want to check to see that we have obtained birth, marriage and death records (if deceased) for each person/married couple we have located. Make copies of these records. Place the originals in a safe place and then file the copies in your notebook next to the family group sheets. If vital records are not available, census records, pension records, etc., and substitute census, church or family Bible records.

By this time, relatives or older family friends have been consulted according to family legends concerning Indian roots. The next step is to make a three column list (providing there is more than one) of those ancestors that may have Native American ancestry. In the first column, place the name of the person and their date of birth. In the second column, give the place where they are located during the period 1880 - 1907. The third column is for the date (possibly of a document you found) that establishes them in this location.

Were they living in Oklahoma during this period? If they are, then they may be found on the Dawes Rolls. The next step is to actually consult the Dawes Rolls to see if they were. There are approximately ninety-six rolls for the Five Civilized Tribes under the National Archives Microfilm Series M1186. Roll number 1 is the "index." It is divided into many sections for each tribe and very few are alphabetized. Therefore it is a lengthy process. Once you locate an ancestor on one of these rolls, you have an "enrollment number."

The enrollment number is identifying number for Native Americans. Just as each person now has a social security number, Native Americans obtained an identifying number on the Dawes Rolls.

Now that you have the identifying ROLL number you are able to write the National Archives in Washington to request any information from their correspondence files on your ancestor. They will bill you. A similar letter could be sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. By writing the National Archives Branch in Ft. Worth, TX and requesting the enrollment card file of your ancestor you will receive that information as well. The Ft. Worth branch has a number of miscellaneous documents that were filed with the enrollments. These may include marriage, divorce, adoption, name changes, or other miscellaneous information, The cost at Ft. Worth is $10 plus $.50 per page over six.

If you did not locate your ancestor on the Dawes roll, then you must dig deeper in many different types of documents both locally and nationally. Perhaps the person you are checking is not actually of Indian blood. You might then want to check the "intruder lists." This person may actually have been white but living in Indian Territory. Many of these men married Indian women. You may be looking for the wrong name. Also, Indians changed their name without too much regard for the trouble it would cause future researchers or descendants. While checking the rolls, numerous examples may be found in attached notes. It usually shows that their first enrollment was around 1896/7 and their name appears as either an Indian name or with an unfamiliar spelling. In the 1900/7 enrollment, the name appears to be more recognizable and more Anglicized.