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Up a Tree?

Published on Wed, 04/17/2019 - 10:22am

Have you always heard that you have Native American ancestors in your family tree? Figuring out if that is true may be challenging since there are 573 federally recognized tribes―not including Alaska Native tribes. One of the first things you will need to do is determine what parts of your family stories are true. That is where genealogy research comes in. Although taking a DNA test may seem like a shortcut, it cannot replace research.

A DNA test can tell you if you have Native American heritage, but it will not tell you which tribe. You will need to begin like any other genealogist by gathering names, dates, and places and then finding your ancestors in census and vital records. Then you will need to examine your family tree to see if there are reasonable connections to a Native American tribe.

The Midwest Genealogy Center has some great resources to help with your Native American research. A new collection of Aaron Carapella’s Tribal Nations maps from the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico can help you determine what tribes were living in the area where your ancestors lived. Fold3’s Native American collection contains records such as Indian Census Rolls and Dawes applications.

If one of your ancestors may have belonged to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, or Seminole tribes, sign up for the class Native American Research: The Five Civilized Tribes on Wednesday, April 24, at 2:00 p.m. You can also use MGC’s topical guide, Native American Research Guide for Five Civilized Tribes: Step-by-Step, or browse through our records on microfilm to help you with your research. With all these great resources, you will no longer be up a tree (or the wrong tree)!

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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