Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives


Researching an Individual or Family

Family and goods in wagon. White Earth Res., Minnesota, 1934
National Archives Identifier 285179

Learn more about researching an individual and family in American Indian records
Learn about specific tribes in each state..
Questions about current topics such as benefits, adoption children, semi-current status of trust land and unclaimed funds related to American Indians should be directed to one of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Offices.

Federal documents related to American Indians at the National Archives can include information about tribal members, federal officials, Indian agents, military personnel, teachers, nurses, and laborers. Some records may even reference a person who was involved in Indian affairs because of his/her geographic proximity to a tribe or agency, such as a minister, medical doctor, or social worker.

Consider these key questions to help you identify what information you are seeking:

  • Do you know their name(s)?
  • Do you know the tribe of the individual or family?
  • Do you know roughly where and when the individual or family lived?

Keeping these questions in mind will frame how to proceed and which records will be most beneficial to your research.

Learn more about researching an individual and family in American Indian records

As with all research the most effective strategy involves identifying the known and unknown facts about the individual or family.

Types of Records Topics in Records People Found in Records:
  • Censuses
  • Correspondence
  • Enrollments
  • Financial
  • Leases
  • Maps
  • Reports
  • Resolutions
  • And more!
  • Birth and death
  • Marriage and Divorce
  • Health
  • Land and property
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Inheritance
  • And more!
  • Tribal members
  • Employees
  • Religious ministers
  • Teachers
  • Legal professionals
  • Social workers
  • Medical personnel
  • And more!

Locating the records can prove tricky due to the continual changes in reservations, tribes, and geographic areas; these records are located at National Archives offices throughout the country. National Archives resources and records can be identified using our Online Catalog (OPA). OPA is a description tool to help you learn about the records and resources available; it is not a name-search index. However, some of the most commonly requested documents have been digitized, including: Indian Census Rolls, Dawes Records, and Guion Miller Rolls.

Note: There are many original records and microfilm publications not yet digitized. Learn about what has been digitized by our partners.

Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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