Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives

The Dawes Rolls
(Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory)

What's Online in this Section: What's Not Here:
  • Lists of people accepted between 1898 and 1914 by the Dawes Commission as members of these five Indian tribes: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole
  • Steps on how to search for someone in the Dawes Rolls online
  • Ideas for further steps you can take in your Native American research.
  • Information about any tribes other than the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole.
  • Many descriptions from the census cards, and the majority of census card images.
  • Information about applying for tribal membership. (See links provided on Step 5: What You Can Do Next.)



Step 1: Introduction


About the Dawes Rolls

  • The Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. It is commonly called the Dawes Commission, after its chairman, Henry L. Dawes.

    Tribe members were entitled to an allotment of land, in return for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing Federal laws. In order to receive the land, individual tribal members first had to apply and be deemed eligible by the Commission.

    The first application process for enrollment began in 1896, but was declared invalid. So the Dawes Commission started all over again in 1898. People had to re-apply in order to be considered, even if they had already applied in 1896. The resulting lists of those who were accepted as eligible became known as the Dawes Rolls. Their formal name is the "Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory". The Commission accepted applications from 1898 until 1907, with a few additional people accepted by an Act of Congress in 1914.

Why Search the Dawes Rolls?

The Dawes Rolls, also known as the "Final 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. The census card may provide additional genealogical information, and may also contain references to earlier rolls, such as the 1880 Cherokee census. A census card was generally accompanied by an "application jacket". The jackets then sometimes contain valuable supporting documentation, such as birth and death affidavits, marriage licenses, and correspondence.

Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership. They usually require applicants to provide proof of descent from a person who is listed on these rolls. (Contact the tribes directly for enrollment information).

Before You Start

Before you can effectively use the online index to find a person in the Final Rolls, you need to know:

  • Your ancestor's name
  • The name of the person's tribe

If you know the individual's name and their tribe:
Proceed to Step 2: Check to see if the person's Census Card is described online.



If you do not know the person's tribe: you can look for clues in the 1900 Census:

  • For those Indians living in predominantly Indian areas, there were special Indian schedules in the 1900 Census identifying one's tribe and parent's tribes. For those Indians living among the general population, only one's color or race was designated, such as Indian or white, etc.
    Note: For the 1900 Census, start with the Soundex Index. You may first want to read background on the Soundex indexing system.

  • If your ancestor's tribe is not identified in the 1900 Census, once you find where your ancestor was living, you can consult books such as The Indian Tribes of North America, by John R. Swanton, for information on the tribes living in each state. Other good sources are A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, by Muriel H. Wright, and The Indians of Texas, by W.W. Newcomb, Jr., for tribes in those areas. Read more.

  • Online copies of the 1900 Census are available through the subscription-based Ancestry.com (unlimited free access to Ancestry from all NARA facilities). Limited parts of the 1900 Census have been transcribed by volunteers and are online on the USGenWeb website.
    The NARA website does not have census records online, but you can search or browse the census catalogs online, so you can find microfilm roll numbers that you can then purchase or find in a NARA facility or local library.

Next Step

If you know the individual's name, and he or she belonged to one of these tribes: Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, or Seminoles, you can now proceed to Step 2: Check to see if the person's Census Card is described online.

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