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Census Rolls on Microfilm

Author: Carolyne Gould
Published on: July 19, 2000 at


As we discussed in a prior article, annual census rolls were taken of individual tribes by government agents, usually under the auspices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Last week's article addressed searching some of those census rolls online through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) office. Although all rolls are not yet online, the NARA does maintain the original records for all the government rolls. They are available on microfilm and many large libraries make their copies of these rolls available through inter-library loans. You can also obtain a copy on loan through many Family History Centers throughout nation.

The census data was gathered each year and the quantity of information will vary with each record. All include names, either English, Native American or both; age and/or date of birth, sex, the person's relationship to the head of household, and a roll number. Beginning in 1930, (and in some cases even earlier), many censuses also designate the person's degree of aboriginal blood, their marital status, and often the place of residence.

The key to using these microfilm rolls is to know which one you want to look at. The best method I've found is to identify the geographical area you are searching, which should also help you identify the name of the agency that made the original record. Using historical records as a resource, as described in prior articles, will also help identify the tribe you are researching. The main census rolls of the Cherokee Nation are described in detail in the article on searching NARA records online. A list of microfilm rolls for the tribes named below may be found on my NATIVE AMERICAN CENSUS RECORDS record page.

  • Apache

  • Arapaho

  • Caddo

  • Cheyenne

  • Cherokee in North Carolina

  • Chippewa

  • Comanche

  • Delaware

  • Fox

  • Iowa

  • Kansa or Kaw

  • Kaw

  • Kickapoo

  • Kiowa

  • Lac Courte Oreilles

  • Lac du Flambeau

  • Miami

  • Missouri

  • Modoc

  • Munsee

  • Otoe/Oto

  • Ottawa

  • Osage

  • Peoria

  • Ponca

  • Potawatomi

  • Quapaw

  • Sauk

  • Seneca

  • Shawnee

  • Wichita

  • Wyandot


Family History Centers are located throughout the nation. They are sponsored by the Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints), but one does not need to be a member of the church in order to use the centers. From the center, one has access to almost all the extensive genealogical research records maintained in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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