Does your family lore include tales of Native American roots? Whether you’re part of a tribe and looking for more information or want to track down a distant ancestor who may have been a Native American, there’s good news. There are a number of different resources and strategies that can help you verify whether you had a native ancestor and learn more details about their life. While it’s one of the more complex areas to research, with a bit of planning and knowledge it’s often possible to gain some insights. Here are some tips on how to get started.
Collect lore and available documents
For many, the search for Native American ancestors begins with a family story or legend. It may be that the ancestor in question was far back in history and may be best connected with through documents. However, it’s also possible that he or she lived more recently. Start with what is known. Interview your relatives and collect as many details as possible. In particular, focus on gathering information that will help you determine tribal affiliations.
Tribal affiliations are particularly helpful for tracking down records, and learning more about the life your ancestor may have lived. It’s important to remember that Native American groups have had a complicated and sometimes volatile history since colonists arrived, up to and including the forced removal of entire nations. Your research may take you further afield than you expect. Starting with details, documents, and insights you already have can help greatly focus and simplify the research process.
Once you’ve determined what tribe your ancestor may have been affiliated with, it’s time to develop an understanding for the context of the tribe’s history. What geographic areas did they live in, and during what time period? Some groups were nomadic. Others migrated as a result of colonization or were relocated due to government actions. A tribe’s location in 1700 might be vastly different than in 1900. The more you learn about the history, the more effectively you’ll be able to find and vet records. Another helpful source may be groups that interacted with specific tribes– missionaries, trappers, settlers, and Indian agents, among others. Historical context can help you ferret out these more elusive sources.
Finding an individual ancestor
Your best chance for finding records of your specific ancestor will be determining where their lives may have intersected with government records or church records. Did he or she marry within a church? Attend a government school? Take part in some other element of broader society? A number of obstacles may prevent you from finding detailed records: native tribes didn’t keep written records for much of their history. Records have been lost or damaged. Some Native Americans didn’t identify themselves as Indian for any number of reasons, or belonged to tribes that were too small or remote to be dealt with by the federal government.
There are a number of good resources that can help you learn more about specific tribes. Look for research centers at nearby universities and information maintained by modern tribal members. Access Genealogy’s Native American History and Genealogy can be a helpful starting point. Ancestry.com also has a large Native American Collection. The United States Indian Census Rolls and Dawes Commission Records may provide another resource.
Are you interested in learning more about your heritage? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation. Learn more about how our experienced team of professional genealogists can help you find information about your Native American roots.
Many genealogical researchers are looking for ways to share their love of family history with their families during the holiday season. Whether you’re trying to kindle the spark of interest in family members or looking for creative ways to satisfy their curiosity, there are a number of avenues to consider. Here’s a closer look at some of our favorite strategies for sharing your work with loved ones during the holiday season.
Human beings are visual creatures. Even people who are overwhelmed with dates or a pile of documents will often show interest in family photographs. Images of your ancestors can be interesting for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they look like your current family members; or perhaps the antiquated clothing and context opens up interesting avenues of discussion. Many genealogists choose to celebrate the holiday by creating ornaments for loved ones that showcase photographs. Displaying photographs during family events or even making copies for everyone is also a thoughtful gesture.
If you’re in possession of family heirlooms, you’re very lucky. These could be books, such as a family bible; jewelry that might include wedding rings or period items like mourning jewelry; or even practical items like farm tools. Family heirlooms have the benefit of being tactile and physical reminders of the people that came before us. Sharing these items – by talking about their provenance or simply putting them on display during a family get-together over the holidays – can encourage your relatives’ interest.
Many people associate genealogical research with traditional family trees. While a great deal more goes into fleshing out the story of how your ancestors lived and worked, a family tree is an easy place to start the discussion. If you share your entire family tree or even just a specific branch, a copy of the family tree can be a treasured gift that’s shared for generations to come.
Heirloom inspired gifts
Sometimes, genealogical researchers uncover bits of heirlooms that at first seem unusable: a wedding dress that’s beyond repair, for example, or some broken china. Today, crafty researchers are finding ways to remake these items into usable jewelry or other items. A wedding dress is encased in a glass necklace; broken china easily becomes stylish cufflinks. These gifts can be appreciated for their beauty, and enjoyed for their greater significance and connection to the past.
Family history presentation
If you’re sharing your family history with a larger group, consider hiring a genealogist to prepare a family history presentation. A presentation might focus on an overview of your ethnic history; an exploration of specific events from your ancestors’ lives; or even talking more about the time periods and locations that are of interest. Each presentation can be customized to your specific needs, and conducted during a family gathering such as a reunion.
Sharing your family history research is a wonderful gift to give to your loved ones; it can be done in numerous ways. Think about what resources you have on hand and explore different ways to use them to engage your family. Contact Price and Associates today to learn more about how a professional genealogical researcher can help in your family history quest. They can even help you by finding the meaning and origin of family surnames.
Occasionally, genealogical researchers find ancestors who are a complete mystery. It’s almost as if the specific ancestor doesn’t want to be found! They could have been on the move, lived during a time with limited record keeping, or legitimately have kept a low-profile for a wide variety of reasons. Encountering these situations is both frustrating and a fascinating puzzle to untangle. If you’re struggling to track down an ancestor who seems to have lived the equivalent of their time period’s “off the grid”, there are a number of techniques you can use to help track them down.
Start with what you do know
It sounds obvious, but begin the search by documenting what you do know. Any scrap of information may prove useful. A name, a date of birth, an intimation about where someone was born, a relative’s name, or an occupation or religious affiliation may be the detail that leads to a break in your research. Start by gathering all the information that’s available. Being systematic and organized will ensure that you don’t miss a critical detail that could ultimately help you track them down as you move further into the process.
Employ the circling technique
Often, dead ends occur when you’re hunting directly for an ancestor. Endless searches for a specific name prove fruitless. For example, one individual searching for her great-grandfather knew his name and birth city. Unfortunately, it turned out that several individuals sharing that common name had been born in the same year in his town. Without more information, it was impossible to distinguish them apart and then follow their lives forward. Yet in her case, once she uncovered his sister’s name she was able to ultimately follow the trail back to the original target. Understanding that ethnic groups often settled together, that families may have lived near each other, and even details about lifelong friends or neighbors can be enough to help you look at a research problem in a whole new way.
Look outside the usual record types
Another technique that researchers employ with some success is changing the order that they’re viewing records. For example, if you always bound your search by locating the birth and death certificates first, it may be useful to work on finding other sources of information. Does searching marital records, immigration records, military records, the archives of fraternal orders, or even prison records yield potential leads? Have you tried searching other available family trees online or looking for newspaper mentions? While you’ll ultimately need to source, document and verify everything, changing your research technique can help you find promising leads.
Work with a professional genealogist
A dead end in your research is the perfect situation to work with a professional genealogist. A professional genealogist has years of experience formulating research strategies and tackling the toughest research problems. He or she will be able to work with you to determine what you already know, to develop a research plan that takes advantage of available sources, and generally bring a fresh perspective to the table. While it’s not always possible to track down every ancestor, many researchers are happy to learn that their family’s stories are not lost to the ages.
If you’re struggling to solve a complex family history challenge, contact Price & Associates today. Our professional genealogical researchers will help you determine how best to move forward with your search.
The role of the genealogical research library is sometimes called into question. Many of the most important records that researchers rely on are available online and comprehensive databases help researchers quickly make connections. But it’s helpful to remember that numerous genealogical collections haven’t been digitized yet. Whether they’re extensive niche collections or records stored at the local level, it’s useful to researchers to understand how to prepare for a visit to a genealogical research archives. Here is a quick guide to help you get started.
Have a clear research agenda
Many of today’s genealogical libraries offer access to digital databases and other resources that are difficult to access on your own. But the vast majority of these libraries rely (at least in part) on old-fashioned systems of indexes, stacks, card catalogs, and microfiche. As a result, visits tend to be more successful when you have specific guidelines on what you’re looking for. For example, you might be hoping to locate the birthdate or marriage records of a specific ancestor.
The more specific you can be about what you need and the more supporting information you bring with you, the easier it will be for the archivists or librarians on site to help you. Consider batching your requests and having several different potential records or questions in mind for a visit, in case you run into a dead end. The more questions you’ve mapped out in advance, the best chance you have of a successful genealogical archive visit.
Confirm logistics before you visit
Digital genealogy offers the convenience of looking up records anytime and anyplace. But a visit to a genealogical library requires more planning. Find out where the records you’re looking for are being stored. In many cases, a city or state archive may divide records into different physical locations by year or by type. All the birth records for your state, for example, may be housed in different buildings with the only differentiating fact being a specific cutoff year. Call ahead to confirm the locations.
Some archives require that you make an appointment or come during specific research time windows. Others charge fees for ongoing research privileges, individual visits, librarian assistance, or to make copies of records, so clarify costs in advance and know whether you need to have cash available. Onsite assistance can often dramatically reduce the time you have to spend looking, but may require an advanced appointment.
Planning a visit to a genealogical research library can help expand your research horizons significantly. But it’s not always easy to get started. Do you need assistance navigating a records search as part of your genealogical research? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation and to discuss how our team can assist with visits to any genealogical research library.
Learning about your ancestors’ citizenship and naturalization through genealogical research is fascinating. When did your family come to America’s shores? There are many ways to learn this information, from immigration records to mining family lore. But another important question that many beginning researchers miss is when and if your immigrant ancestors became naturalized. Naturalization is the process where someone formally becomes a US citizen. Here is a closer look at how to navigate naturalization documentation.
One of the most important concepts to understand about naturalization is that of derivative citizenship. The idea is simple: between 1790 and 1922, citizenship was automatically given to the wife of any man who became a US citizen. The same provisions were automatically made until 1940 for minor children below age 21. Unfortunately, the names or demographic details of wives and children were not always recorded – either in the requests for naturalization that were filed or in the subsequent government records. If your ancestor was an immigrant female that married an already naturalized male, she automatically received citizenship and there are unlikely to be specific records of that.
Records varied widely
1906 was a game changing year for naturalization. In September of that year, the Basic Naturalization Act streamlined the naturalization process and centralized that authority with the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. Today that branch of the government is known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS). Before that date, records of naturalization could be handled by any court including local, county, state, federal, criminal, or marine. Further, no uniform forms or process was used. After the Basic Naturalization Act, the vast majority of petitions were managed in federal court.
The revised process was more uniform
After 1906, the revised process for naturalization became more uniform and followed a predictable pattern. Luckily for genealogical researchers, this streamlined the paper trail as well. The first step was to file first papers, or a Declaration of Intention, usually soon after arrival in the United States. The final filing from the petitioner was made after residency requirements had been fulfilled, and this was also known as the formal Naturalization Petition. If the application was approved, a Certificate of Naturalization would be issued.
Sometimes the census holds a clue
If you’re having trouble tracking down specific records, check the Census. In 1870, the Census has a column for non-native males over the age of 21 who had been naturalized. A checked box would indicated naturalization prior to that year. Between 1900 and 1930, the census asked for the naturalization status and used abbreviations including Na. (naturalized), Pa. (paperwork file), and Ai. (alien resident). Sometimes language barriers, lack of education on the topic, or other motives may have encouraged people to self-report incorrect information on the census however.
Challenges with naturalization records
Besides the issues described above, researchers often find a number of other challenges with naturalization records. One is that the initial papers may have been filed in a different court than where the naturalization was granted, as your ancestor migrated. The result could be a trail that runs cold. Other issues include errors – whether honest mistakes or purposefully fudged details for whatever reason – on the court paperwork. Applicants have been known to change everything from name to date of birth to dates and locations of arrival for any number of reasons.
Still, even with all the flaws in our naturalization process record keeping, finding these rare glimpses into the steps your ancestors took to become citizens can be deeply rewarding. If you’re interested in learning more or want professional genealogical assistance, contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation.