African American Genealogy and Spirituality in the U.S.

Trace your American Indian Ancestry

U.S. Department of the Interior:

Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry:

Tracing Native American Family Roots:


Varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies. Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking.

Read more: 

"I got Cherokee in me"

Oh how many times have we heard this! Anyone with a bit of lightness to their pigment, less nap in their curl, or from an area where there are a concentration of Native American will say this.  Let's get it straight people. With the advances of genealogy, it's very easy to find out if those traits are from good ole White blood, lighter-skinned Africans, or ...Native American.  Do your research!  In this section I will provide help in locating records and then interpreting those records so that you will be able to not only confirm your Native American Ancestry, but perhaps determine which "tribe" from which your ancestry derives. 

Second-largest U.S. Indian tribe expels slave descendants

(Reuters) - The nation's second-largest Indian tribe formally booted from membership thousands of descendants of black slaves who were brought to Oklahoma more than 170 years ago by Native American owners.

The Cherokee nation voted after the Civil War to admit the slave descendants to the tribe.

But on Monday, the Cherokee nation Supreme Court ruled that a 2007 tribal decision to kick the so-called "Freedmen" out of the tribe was proper.

The controversy stems from a footnote in the brutal history of U.S. treatment of Native Americans. When many Indians were forced to move to what later became Oklahoma from the eastern U.S. in 1838, some who had owned plantations in the South brought along their slaves.

Some 4,000 Indians died during the forced march, which became known as the "Trail of Tears."

"And our ancestors carried the baggage," said Marilyn Vann, the Freedman leader who is a plaintiff in the legal battle.

Officially, there are about 2,800 Freedmen, but another 3,500 have tribal membership applications pending, and there could be as many as 25,000 eligible to enter the tribe, according to Vann.

The tribal court decision was announced one day before

absentee ballots were to be mailed in the election of the Cherokee Principal Chief.

"This is racism and apartheid in the 21st Century," said Vann, an engineer who lives in Oklahoma City.

Spokesmen for the tribe did not respond when asked to comment.

The move to exclude the Freedmen has rankled some African American members of Congress, which has jurisdiction over all Native American tribes in the country.

A lawsuit challenging the Freedman's removal from the tribe has been pending in federal court in Washington, for about six years.

As a sovereign nation, Cherokee Nation officials maintain that the tribe has the right to amend its constitutional membership requirements.

Removal from the membership rolls means the Freedmen will no longer be eligible for free health care and other benefits such as education concessions.


Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000

Since the 1870s Native Americans have been recorded in the Federal Census.  the Census Bureau published a document called "Measuring America, The Decinnial Census from 1790-1990", it is a very helpful publication for those researching Native American ancestry. The document is very detailed and over 100 pages, so this is for the serious researcher/genealogist.

Census Schedules

You can find more information on Native Americans such as Census schedules and other records (benefits applied for), etc. at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC. (Be prepared to spend the entire day).  It not only have records, but also enrollment cards for the Five civilized Tribes (which are Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole).  Go the NARA's website, type in "Native American", "Indian", or type in any of the tribe names, and you'll get a wealth of links to research (be prepared to spend an entire day here as well).


Dawes Census

If you know specific names of relatives that you think may have been in the Oklahoma region during the "Trail", there were Census rolls prepared by the Dawes Commision in 1893.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs holds these records.

"The Dawes Rolls are the lists of individuals who were accepted as eligible for tribal membership in the "Five Civilized Tribes": Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles. (It does not include those whose applications were stricken, rejected or judged as doubtful.) Those found eligible for the Final Rolls were entitled to an allotment of land, usually as a homestead.

The Rolls contain more than 101,000 names from 1898-1914 (primarily from 1899-1906). They can be searched to discover the enrollee's name, sex, blood degree, and census card number." (1)

You can find information on the National Archives website:

***many Freedmen or Slaves of Indians who were freed after the civil war, were kept off the rolls ***

 (1) The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Genealogist/Family Historians,  Dawes Rolls, accessed March 5, 2007


Interesting Facts

  • The 1870 census is the first census to use "Indian" in the color/race field (it could have been put as mulatto in previous).
  • In 1930 census mixed (Black and Indian) were reported as "Negro" unless the percentage of Indian blood was dominant OR the person was considered to be Indian by others in the community. Whereas, people mixed (White and Indian) were listed as Indian unless for the same reasons above.
  • In the 1860 slave schedule - it acts as partial Indian census, at least for the number of Indians who were slave owners.*This enumeration appears at the end of the slave schedule for Arkansas.
  • In 1880 the Census Bureau instructed enumerators to take a special census of Indians on or near reservations (These can be found on five rolls - microfilm M1791).
  • The 1900 and 1910 census also have a special Indian census - every family composed of primarily Indian was to be reported - but Indians living in predominantly white or black households were to be included in the general census. These schedules can be found at the END of the county or district where the census was taken.
  • There are two National Archives microfilm publications that contain the Indian enumerations. *I found this link -
  • The largest collection of Indian Records can be found at:
  • National Archives: ; Forth Worth Texas: ; Oklahoma Historical Society: ; and Western HIstory Collection at the University of Oklahoma in Norman:

*source: The Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook by Emily Anne Croom