ADVERTISEMENT

5 Clues You May Have Native American Ancestry

By Diane Haddad

Jump to:

1. An I or In designation appears in the “race” columns for an ancestor in the 1860 and later US censuses.
2. A proven blood relative is named on an Indian reservation census or a tribal enrollment.
3. A genetic genealogy test indicates you have DNA markers associated with American Indian ancestry.
4. Family stories and papers tell of American Indian ancestry, and your ancestors lived in areas where they would’ve come into contact with Indians.
5. An ancestor lived in Indian Territory by 1900.
Related Reads

Many families have handed-down stories about American Indian ancestors, but how can you know for sure? Learn everything you need to confirm, research and understand your Native American heritage.

Many families have passed down stories of Native American ancestors, and genealogists who grew up hearing them cherish these stories as part of their identities. This interesting article explains why such family tales are so common, and why folks will fiercely defend their American Indian roots even in the absence of concrete evidence. 

Many families have handed-down stories about American Indian ancestors. Learn how to Trace Your Native American ancestry with this free eBook download.

Sometimes, though, the tales hold a grain of truth. If you suspect your family has American Indian heritage—perhaps your Grandmother spoke often of her Indian blood—here are five clues that should prompt you to investigate further:

1. An I or In designation appears in the “race” columns for an ancestor in the 1860 and later US censuses.

The 1860 census was the first to identify Indians living in the general population. See this National Archives web page for more on Indians in the federal census.

Return to top

2. A proven blood relative is named on an Indian reservation census or a tribal enrollment.

You can search censuses for 16 tribes in Ancestry.com collection Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959. Ancestry.com and Fold 3 also have annual censuses taken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. On Fold3, these censuses are free to access through Nov. 15, along with the rest of its American Indian records. 

You can browse annual Indian censuses for free using the links on Access Genealogy.

Tribal enrollment, including the Dawes rolls and Guion-Miller rolls, were used to distribute land in Indian Territory.  Many of the resulting records are part of Ancestry.com’s American Indian collection. The Oklahoma Historical Society has indexes to the Dawes Rolls and other resources.

Return to top

3. A genetic genealogy test indicates you have DNA markers associated with American Indian ancestry.

The absence of these markers doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have American Indian ancestry. It’s possible an American Indian is far back enough in your family tree that you didn’t inherit the person’s DNA.

Return to top

4. Family stories and papers tell of American Indian ancestry, and your ancestors lived in areas where they would’ve come into contact with Indians.

It’s important to know the history of the places you’re researching.

Return to top

5. An ancestor lived in Indian Territory by 1900.

This raises the possibility that your ancestor was a member of a tribe that was removed to Indian Territory, which once encompassed most of what’s now Oklahoma. 

Return to top

Does your family lore tell of an American Indian ancestor? Use these essential resources to trace your family’s tribal ties.

Get the most out of Ancestry.com when searching for American Indian Records with these detailed tips and guidelines.

If you have documented your Cherokee ancestors and you’d like to apply for Cherokee Nation citizenship, here’s how to do it.
Understand how to read the Dawes Rolls to find your Native American heritage.
{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}