Monday, December 20, 2010

Wantabes and Outalucks

Searching for Indian Ancestors in Federal Records

By Kent Carter
Director, National Archives, Fort Worth Branch

Every year, the staff of the Fort Worth Branch of the National Archives gets thousands of letters from people all over the United States who are trying to prove that an ancestor was an Indian. These researchers comprise what must be one of the largest "tribes" in North America, the Wantabes. People wantabe an Indian for a variety of reasons but most are not successful in their efforts to find proof and thus join the ranks of another very large "tribe", the Outalucks. Many people fail in their genealogical research because they are not familiar with the records of the Federal government which relate to the American Indian. Hopefully, the following information will help researchers avoid becoming an Outaluck.

As with most genealogical research, the best results are obtained by beginning with yourself and working your way backward in time. It is virtually impossible to begin with Pocahontas and Captain John Smith and work your way forward. With the exception of Emmett Starr's Old Cherokee Families and a few similar works, there are very few published genealogies of famous Indians. There is no computer that will provide you with a list of all Geronimo's descendants.

Interviewing family members, especially at picnics and reunions when they may be in a good mood and willing to talk, often provides enough basic information about names, places of residence, and approximate dates of birth and death to allow you to begin the search.

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