Native American genealogy — Track down your truth

Many of us grew up hearing stories that our families have Native American ancestry. Have you ever done research to find out if it’s true? November is Native American Heritage month, so it’s the perfect time to track down the truth in your family tree.

Here are a few resources to get you started.

Research and DNA—Not one or the other

DNA tests are popular, but a DNA test alone is not enough. Because autosomal DNA is randomized or shuffled every time it’s handed down to a child, you could come up positive for Native American ancestry while your brother does not (or vice versa). If you get a positive DNA match for Native American ancestry, great! You have an exciting starting place. If you don’t, that it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have Native American ancestry. It could mean you didn’t inherit that “bit” of DNA. Find tips on what to look for when you choose where to buy your DNA test.

Specialized resources for Native American genealogy 

The National Indian Law Library has pulled together a great starter page for beginning researchers–a must-visit! You’ll find links to resources, book recommendations and tribal resources.

If you know what tribe you are looking for, you’re off to a great start. If you are unsure what tribe your ancestor was affiliated with, you need to establish the geographical location of the ancestor and research what tribes lived or still live in that area. You’ll find a full list of federally recognized tribes on the Federal Register Notice of Indian Entities from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Visit the BIA home page to access information on federally recognized tribes, contact information for your region’s BIA office, and contact information for tribal leadership.

Another good place to start is the National Archives, which holds information on Native Americans from 1774-the 1990s. You’ll find resources that can help you search for an individual or family, treaties and geography.

FamilySearch is a fantastic, free tool that you can access from anywhere. Build a family tree, connect with other users, and access millions of records online. Visit the FamilySearch Wiki to getting started with Native American genealogy.

Get fired up for family research and visit the Baker Genealogy Center at your library to dig in and access expert help.

Exclusive screening of Te Ata and Q&A with the screenwriter, Nov 28, 6:30pm

The film is based on the inspiring, true story of Mary Thompson Fisher also known as Te Ata, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. She first performed during a time when displays of Native American culture were prohibited in the U.S. Born in Indian Territory, and raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata’s journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a U.S. president, European royalty and audiences across the world. Produced by the Chickasaw Nation, Te Ata features an all-star cast and has been nominated for several awards since it debuted at festivals earlier this year. Join the Facebook event to add this event to your calendar.

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit, and to connect readers with great books. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.