Searching the National Archives for NA Records
Author: Carolyne Gould
Published on: July 6, 2000 at Suite101.com
Two of the first names that come to mind when the topic of discussion is tribal rolls, are "Dawes" and "Guion Miller." While both are records usually associated with the Cherokee Nation, these records also include information on members of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes -- also known as the "Five Civilized Tribes."
The main depository for these and several other tribal records is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), home-based in Washington, D. C. The NARA groups their records by number and one we are interested in is Group No. 75 which contains most of the records related to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Other records of interest to our research include Group 279 which covers records of the Indian Claims Commission; Group 48, records of the Secretary of Interior; and Group 49, Old Land Office records, to name just a few.
Most of the main tribal records are physically stored at the National Archives Southwest Region in Fort Worth, Texas. The NARA has begun to digitize these records and place many of them on line for use by researchers, historians and genealogists. The records can be found at the NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL) at https://www.archives.gov/ and include the following:
Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Fibe Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory
Index to the Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Fibe Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory
Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen in Indian Territory, 1890
Kern Clifton Roll of Cherokee Freedmen, January 16, 1867
1896 Citizenship Applications
One of the benefits of the NAIL records is that once you have searched the site and come up with an application and/or census number for your ancestor, a form is available online to order copies of those records -- just print it out, attach your fee and mail it in. In the case of the Index to the Final Rolls, the cost is $10 per census card.
The NAIL Dawes Commission rolls include 64,177 applications that have been digitized into 10,8874 PDF files, each with multiple names and references. All 634 pages of the Final Rolls have been digitized as well as the 343 pages of the index to the Guion Miller Rolls. There is also complete documentation on the Wallace and Kern-Clifton rolls. Once you get to the site, be sure to click on the link to Search Hints for Genealogical Data in NAIL at https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/catalog-guide, which provides a step-by-step guide for searching the site. You WILL want to check this out. Trust me on this. If you enter the term "indian census," NAIL will most likely return only one "hit." Using the term "Indian Census Rolls" will get you more than 74,000 hits. I know of cases where surnames were entered and no hits were returned, simply because the correct roll information was not included in the search. You'll find the search form at https://www.archives.gov/ and when you use it, be sure to check the box that requests "digital records only." It will speed your search for these particular types of records.
Remember, the records in NAIL are not complete. It is a work in progress so you will want to bookmark the site and return occasionally to see if the records you have been searching for have been added.
Searching the NARA records requires the same caveats that always seem to apply to records regarding Native Americans. I know of cases where enrolled members were not on the Dawes or Guion Miller Rolls. There have also been reports of NARA records showing an application being turned down when, in fact, the person's application was indeed approved. For other lists that may harbor your ancestor's name, be sure to check out my Native American Genealogy section.