Tracing Native American Family Roots

How to Use This Guide

Note that some websites charge fees to view records. Searches may be done for free, but the authors of a website may ask you to subscribe to a service or pay a fee before you can view the information you have found, in which case you may want to explore how you can otherwise obtain the information for free.

The websites highlighted below are organized into several groups, but many provide a wide variety of resources. (Some are mentioned more than once.) Therefore, explore what the web sites have to offer, beyond what has been highlighted on this web page. The list below does not represent a complete list of all genealogical resources available.

Finally, your local libraries can be a helpful source of information. Often public libraries have a collection of genealogical materials. Ask your local librarians what books and help guides are available to you. Ask if your local library and the community you live in provide workshops on genealogical research. Good luck with your research!

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Beginning Your Research

A Guide to Tracing Your American Indian & Alaska Native Ancestry
This guide by the Department of the Interior provides a general overview of questions related to genealogical research and tribal enrollment. It will answer basic questions you may have on these topics.

A Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry - Department of the Interior
This guide discusses how to begin genealogy research. The DOI also provides information about organizations that conduct genealogy research for a fee, records the Bureau of Indian Affairs has and does not have, helpful family and government documents, tribal enrollment, benefits and services of being an enrolled member of a tribe, Cherokee Indian ancestry, and a link to a directory of tribal leaders.

Tracing American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Ancestry
This page will help you trace your American Indian or Alaska Native ancestry and provide you with information about tribal services, tribal contacts, and genealogical research. Some frequently asked and common ancestral search questions will also be answered within this page. Includes a link to Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood Application and Instructions.

Genealogy - Office of Indian Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs
Information about genealogy and enrollment from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Genealogical Research, Benefits and Services, Tribal Enrollment, Cherokee
A Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry by the Department of the Interior.

Tracing Native Ancestry
NICWA receives hundreds of inquiries each year from people seeking instruction on how to confirm their Native American heritage. This article is intended not only for them, but also for service providers who may encounter similar questions from the communities they serve.

Trace Your Native American Roots
Frankie Davis, President of American Ancestors research firm, gives an overiew of the genealogical search process and resources that are specific to Native American ancestry research.

Starting Genealogy and Family History Research - National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
NARA explains what types of information are needed for genealogy research and highlights books that focus on the research process and document collection. Genealogical societies are mentioned as are articles and books that focus on research problem-solving. The web page also describes records that are available from NARA.

Tracing Your Indian Roots - Oklahoma Legal Services
Find the link on the left side menu called "Tracing Your Indian Roots" and click on it. This guide focuses mainly on Oklahoma tribes but also provides ideas about genealogy resources such as oral histories, newspaper indexes, and manuscript collections.

Dear Myrtle's Genealogy Lessons
To access lessons about doing genealogy research, scroll to the bottom of this web page and type "lessons" (without the quotes) in the search rectangle.

Genealogy Research
From the National Tribal Justice Resource Center, this web page includes excerpts from the Department of Interior Genealogy Guide (see below) and a mixture of links to directories and other resources and guides.

Genealogy Today
This site provides a variety of "how to" guides on topics such as starting research, organization, using wills, researching female ancestors, and library resources. Guides are linked in the middle and right side columns. The site also offers several newsletters.

Help for Researchers
This web page is provided by The USGenWeb Project - "…volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States" ( The help section discusses definitions of primary and secondary sources, document preservation, genealogy computer programs, census records, and land records, among other topics.

Ultimate Beginer's Guide to Genealogy
This guide provides many practical tips.

Midnight at the Internet Cafe - Genealogy
Written for the Central Colorado Library System, this site provides gateways to genealogy research, tutorials, and census information, among other help aids.

How-to Guides & Tutorials
Provides help with writing a family member's biography, organization and computer programs, using vital records, and tips for beginners, among other information. Archived versions from the Internet Archive.

PeopleFinders People Search: Genealogy Resources
This guide provides links to 30-plus sources for your research.

RootsWeb Guide
This guide explains how to begin research and describes a multitude of records that can be used in genealogy research, such as adoption records, court records, land records, newspapers, etc. The authors offer a special lesson for Native American researchers,

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Tribal Genealogy Resources

Some tribes have information about genealogy research and enrollment at their web sites. Other non-tribal web sites provide genealogy information and resources that are specific to various tribes. The web sites below provide directories of web sites about specific tribal genealogy information.

To find web sites of specific tribes, you also can consult the library's Directories web page or Tribal Law Gateway. Note the sections called Directories and Internet Research. Or, search the Internet for a tribe's web site. For instance, using Google (, search using keywords such as part of the tribe's name.

Access Genealogy
This web page has several features. On the right side in the menu bar is a link to "Native American Nations" that provides historical information about tribes. In the middle of the page are links to agencies with genealogical information by state. There also are a variety of links to resources such as genealogy databases (with access information), censuses and rolls, and histories and biographies. Note the link to information about how to search rolls (middle section of the web page).

Index of Native American Genealogy Resources on the Internet
Some of the links provided on this web page are specific to certain tribes or geographic areas.

Native American Genealogy Resources - by Tribe
This web site connects people to genealogy web sites specific to various tribes. Web sites focus on the history of a tribe or genealogy projects, and some are tribal web sites that provide genealogy information.

Native Americans - "Specific Tribal or Nation Resources" and "USGenWeb Project"
These two sections of this web page (toward the bottom) connect people to resources of specific tribes, which include some tribal web sites. But other sections of this site also link to resources that are tribe-specific, such as "Mailing Lists, Newsgroups, and Chat."

RootsWeb Guide - Native American
This lesson guide for Native American researchers also includes several links to tribe-specific mailing lists and web sites.

Vital Records - Native American Directory
This web site offers a search feature by tribe. Each tribal section contains contact information for genealogical records or information and links to online and other resources (some are advertised as free and some are advertised for sale). If professional researchers or volunteers are available to research information on a particular tribal association, that information is provided also. Topical links on the left side of the web page provide details about using various types of records, such as immigration, social security, and military materials.

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Lists of Web Sites

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet - Native American
Here, researchers can find links to a variety of genealogical resources on topics such as volunteer researchers, computer programs, records, wars, and chat groups.

Finding Your Native American Ancestors
Included is information about the National Genealogical Society, which advertises books on Native American genealogy, communication tools for researchers such as a newsletter and "webring," and links to biography resources, among other information.

The Genealogy Page - National Archives and Record Administration (NARA)
A section toward the bottom of the page highlights "Native American Records." This section mostly contains links to web sites of census rolls. NARA also provides publications for sale and information about workshops offered at various regional locations. At the bottom of the page is a list of genealogical associations and resources with links to those web sites.

Genealogy Today: For What's New in Genealogy
This web site states that it can be used by amateur and professional genealogists. Numerous research tools are linked, some of which are focused on particular stages of genealogy research.

Index of Native American Genealogy Resources on the Internet
This web page contains a compilation of links to genealogical resources including those specific to tribes, geographical areas, wars, time periods, censuses, and message boards for those involved in research.

Native American Ancestry
Includes resources by state.

This web page provides links to search engines and databases, genealogy web sites, message boards and Email discussion lists, and help resources.

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Specific Types of Records

United States Genealogy Sleuth (see Internet Archive: )
This site organizes lists of links by types of records, such as cemetary sites, military, vital records, surname records, newspaper obituaries, and land records. Some web sites are fee-based. This site, by ProGenealogists, was featured in the Scout Report (February 1, 2002),

Vital Records Information - United States
This web page provides links to the vital records offices in each state and information about how to obtain copies of vital records and the possible costs involved. Note the links to information about birth, death, marriage and divorce records. There is also an ancestor search function that may require paying a fee to view records.

Obtaining Birth and/or Adoption Records
In most States, adoption records are sealed after an adoption is finalized. The adopted person, birth parents, and adoptive parents must follow procedures established by the State to obtain identifying confidential information from the adoption records, but they may be able to obtain nonidentifying information from the agency that arranged the adoption. This section contains resources that address accessing adoption records (including original birth certificates and other vital records) in each State and obtaining adoption records for an intercountry adoption.

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Genealogy Publications

Genealogy Today
Presented like a web magazine, this site features news articles and research tips. Links to databases are provided, and users can subscribe to newsletters. Columns feature information about genealogy web sites, among other topics. The web site authors also provide a special section for Native Americans that features book advertisements,

DNA Genetic Testing

Why DNA tests are no substitute for genealogy research by Lynn Serafinn. Trentino Genealogy. (January 14, 2019)

"There is no DNA Test to Prove you are Native American" by Linda Gedes. New Scientist. (February 5, 2014)

"Genetic Testing Clashes between Biological and Cultural Tribal Identity" by Roshni Iyer. 2016.

What is the best DNA Test? by Genealogy Explained. Compares several commercial DNA tests and includes a section: "What's the best test for Native American ancestry?"

Books & Articles

Alder, Harry. Tracking Down Your Ancestors: Discover the Story Behind Your Ancestors and Bring Your Family History to Life. Oxford: How To Books, 2002.

Byers, Paula K. Native American Genealogical Sourcebook. New York: Gale Research Inc., 1995.

"How Do I Legally Prove Native American Ancestry?" Henry Louis Gates Jr., 2017.

Kavasch, E. Barre. A Student's Guide to Native American Genealogy. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1996.

See also two books for sale through the National Genealogical Society (mentioned at the "Finding Your Native American Ancestors" web page).

Native American Genealogy - State Historical Society of Missouri

This web site provides short pieces of information about what is contained in the National Archives and what was included in early censuses. A section called "Books and Reference Sources" provides a bibliography of genealogy materials.

In addition, many of the other web sites mentioned above contain information about publications or links to publications.

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The National Indian Law Library specializes in providing Indian law research assistance and does not have genealogy expertise. We cannot help you trace your Native American roots. We hope this guide will help you get started.

See also...

the NILL resource page on tribal enrollment.