How do you research your native American ancestry, when all you have is old family stories, but no records?

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    Welcome to the site, user309. We are all working together to learn how to write great questions in the Q&A format. Please consider limiting the scope of your question to a problem you face. As written, the scope of researching "native American ancestry" from "old family stories" is overly broad to me. In the alternative, if you are facing this problem, please share the specifics.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 13:50
  • Has anyone checked that user309 is not running for the US Senate? How do you spell Elizabeth Warren.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 3:49
  • It's a wide question, but not overly wide, I think. It's a relevant and useful question. Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 6:53
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    While this doesn't answer your question, I would like to point out that Native American personal names will strain, if not break, the capabilities of most software products. They have no general structure and so their components cannot be categorised as surname, family-name, given-name, etc. They also change through the life of the person, e.g. an infant name, adult name, war name. I would like to know how researchers with this type of family history cope at the moment.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 10:14

4 Answers 4


Where your family lived will help identify the possible Native American tribe/clan, bearing in mind that forced migrations affected where these tribes lived at different times. For example, Nanjemoy, Maryland, is named for a tribe that lived in that area when Europeans began to settle.

Some steps you can take:

  1. Identify a location
  2. Identify a time period
  3. Research Native American tribal distribution for that area and time.
  4. Find records; early on they are likely to be church, legal, and property records.

I would first consider having the autosomal DNA test done to see if you have Native American blood. I grew up with the stories and so did my parents yet I have no Native American blood even though my Mother and her older sister and aunts looked like they were Native Americans.

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    Paula's suggestion is a good one, although it depends on how far back the alleged Native American ancestor was in the tree, and which line the ancestor was on. Please see genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/52/… for more information.
    – efgen
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 15:48

The Dawes Commission, commissioned in 1883 by the U.S. Congress, consisted of around 250,000 Native American tribes-people applying for membership; whereof, the Dawes Commission enrolled just over 100,000. An act of Congress on 26 Apr 1906, closed the rolls on 5 Mar 1907. Of further note, an additional 312 persons were enrolled under an act of U.S. Congress, approved 1 Aug 1914.

The link provided below may assist you with furthering your Native American research.



"How do you research your native American ancestry, when all you have is old family stories"

You don't, unless the stories are very specific (ancestor's name, or exact place on pedigree). You just narrow down which branch and research that line as you would any other. Child leads to parent. If you hit a dead end, search for distant cousins in that line and see if they have the same stories.

A friend always bragged about her great-grandmother being full-blood Cherokee. I did a little research, and found the great-grandmother was full-blood Irish. But I never told her:)

  • +1; "... full-blood Cherokee. I did a little research, and found the great-grandmother was full-blood Irish."
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 0:16
  • Have you ever searched the Dawes Roll Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 14:50

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