Posted in National Archives, Native Americans, Research tips

Native American Research Out West

“Navajo Medicine Man”, Edward S. Curtis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
I guess this post could be more aptly named, “Native American Research at your nearest National Archives regional facility,” but would you have have dosed off? I nearly did just writing it.

I have mentioned in other blog posts my love for the National Archives website, and today I noticed they have really pumped up the section on Native American research, so I thought I would give you an idea of what you might find.  I hope you will want to venture farther and explore the links there, as there are some fascinating records to be found.  And if you don’t have any Native American ancestry, don’t stop reading here!

If your ancestors made their way Out West, the chances are very high their lives intersected with the native population (land ownership issues, water rights, commerce, schools, employment, etc.), and this generated records. Some of the most valuable genealogical records I have for my non-native Arizona and New Mexico ancestors come from records held by the BIA, or Bureau of Indian Affairs, or Record Group 75 at NARA (the National Archives).

Here are some screen shots to get you started in Native American records on the NARA website:

NARA Indian records 1
Click “Research Our Records” on the home page

NARA Indian records 2

Research a Specific Topic, then choose Ethnic Heritage and American Indian Heritage

NARA Indian records 3

NARA Indian records 4

NARA Indian records 5

Right now your only options are “An individual or family” or “Treaties or past laws”, but I am anxious to see the completion of other categories.

Notice, too, the left column where you can go directly to relevant record groups.  Each link takes you to a page with more links and information on how to find and use valuable records such as school records, rolls, BIA records, and more.

NARA Indian records 6

Clicking on “Researching an individual or family” will bring you to a page with more helps, and a link to “Learn more about researching an individual and family in American Indian records,” but notice, too the link to “Learn about specific tribes in each state.”  This brings up a very helpful page, with help for navigating RG 75, and links to BIA records arranged by state:

NARA Indian records 8

If you do find a record you would like to search, there are several ways of accessing it if you are not planning a visit to the repository where it is held.

First, see if it has been microfilmed and if copies exist at the Salt Lake Family History Library (you can rent it and have it sent to your local Family History Center). Look for the film on WorldCat and see if it is held in another repository that might participate in inter-library loans.

If it is not on microfilm, or even if it is, email the National Archives  location where it is housed and ask a reference librarian if there are look-up services for this record group.  If not, and you are reasonably sure it will yield results for you, hire a researcher to go onsite. The records of the National Archives are rich and varied, and if your ancestors headed Out West you could have some very rewarding research ahead of you.


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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