Saturday, September 27, 2008

Native American Genealogy Research Primer

Begin by organizing your research. Check family records, including vital records, photograph albums, journals, Bibles, and letters. Write down as much as you know, including names of extended family members (aunts, cousins, in-laws). Sometimes, a big break-through isn't with the name you're researching, but comes from finding a relative. Record where they lived. Next, decide which branch of your family tree you want to research. If you find information on other lines, record those, but stick to researching the branch you have chosen to trace. Look for a specific record or event, such as the death or marriage of an individual. If you are just beginning and have little background information, you may wish to start with a census, particularly the Indian Censuses.

Research Steps for Getting Started
  • Start with yourself and work back to the Native American ancestor you're researching.
  • Record pertinent dates, including births, deaths, and marriages.
  • Include locations each person lived. If you have the date of any move, record it and the names of family members who moved.
  • Choose just one ancestor to research.
  • When you get to your Native American ancestor, determine their tribe.
  • Study the tribal history to get a feel for their culture and where they lived.
  • Learn what their migratory patterns were, if any.
  • Study naming patterns.
  • Some tribes were connected to specific churches and government agencies. Not all tribes have the same records. It is, therefore, imperative that you have a basic understanding of how your tribe was documented.
  • Choose a time period, such as 1870-1875. Concentrate on locating them and related documents for those years, only. Move on once you've found records or have determined that they aren't available. There may be years when no documentation of a Native American exists.
  • Some tribes, such as the Ojibwa, are considered citizens of both the United States and Canada. Therefore, understanding recordkeeping in both nations is useful.

Finding the Records of a Life

There are two major repositories that are especially helpful to a native peoples researcher in the United States. One is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The other is the LDS, either their online resources or libraries.

You may also wish to check your local library for the materials they have. Most have a family history section with some records stored. They may also assist you in interlibrary loans on tribal histories, family and town histories, as well as census and enumeration materials from the NARA. Likewise, state and regional historical societies often have local tribal histories.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

The NARA hosts regular genealogy workshops in Washington, D. C., and in its 13 regional facilities. Topics include Native American research. Click here to check the calendar.

The NARA lists the records they have available for research. These include Indian Bounty Land Applications, Indian Census Rolls from 1885 - 1940, the Dawes Commission, including an article on the enrollment of the Creeks, and an Index to the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (Dawes). There are many more tools for Native American researchers, including archival photographs.

The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes was an act of Congress signed into law by President Garfield in 1893. Beginning in 1898, individuals were granted citizenship in one of five tribes based on specific criteria. The tribes involved were Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, Cherokee. The categories for enrollment as citizens of a particular tribe were:
  • Citizens by Blood.
  • Citizens by Marriage
  • New Born Citizens by Blood.
  • Minor Citizens by Blood.
  • Freedmen, who were slaves once owned by Indians.
  • New Born Freedmen.
  • Minor Freedmen.

Additionally, Delaware tribal members adopted by Cherokee were admitted to the Cherokee nation under another category. Modifications to the criteria were made in 1905 and 1906. Enrollments were recorded on various types of cards, which have been preserved on microfilm. The microfilms are available through the NARA.

Click here to browse the NARA's index of records specific to native peoples.

Ancestry's Dawes Commission Index, 1896
and Dawes Commission Index, 1898-1914
are by subscription. Try them with Free Trial
before you subscribe.

I do recommend the free Ancestry article, The Dawes Commission: Getting Organized

Federal Census and Enumerations

In addition to population counts and studies available at the Native American Census Project, other censuses are of particular use to genealogists.

  • 1930 Census.
    Native Americans were enumerated with the rest of the nation. However, instead of listing father's nation of birth, the census taker asked the percentage of father's native ancestry. A mother's tribe replaced her country of birth.

Later Day Saints Resources

We highly recommend you conduct an online search of LDS, both for the surname and for records. Check reference materials and who else is researching your lineage. Contact your local LDS temple to see if they have a library or where the nearest facility is. Ask how to go about using the facility and ordering records, microfilms, and microfiche.

There are two areas of the LDS web site that should be utilized by Native American researchers. In Subject Search, search by tribe or Indians of North America using the state where your ancestor lived. Also search in the Locality Search under the United States - Native Races or under the state of origin - Native Races.

A Growing Resource

The USGenWeb's Native American Census Project aims to provide data online for free. Each section explains what will be found. Part of the NARA's Dawes Commission microfilms are now online. Although not all materials have yet been transcribed, it is well worth browsing through. If you have to time to volunteer to work on this project, it will be appreciated.

Any family historian should check the USGenWeb for the numerous free online databases. Browse by state. Check the archives for specific record types. Read and post on the message boards.


The Dawes Commission and the Allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914 was authorized by President Garfield in 1893. The report includes birth and death records, as well as other significant documentation of native people. The publication contains an explanation of how to organize your research to make the most effective use of this important source for those of Native American ancestry.

Indian Tribes of North America, by John R. Swanton, is considered a definitive study and is recommended by experts in the area of Native American research.

Atlas of the North American Indian, by Carl Waldman, is a crash course on Native American history, including pre-historic times. Illustrated with 110 maps.

More Tips

Local histories, diaries, and town records often recorded the names of Indians in their areas.

During the 1600s and 1700s, Native Americans were sometimes enslaved in both the South and New England. Slave sales, slave owners wills and journals may offer clues.

Native Americans moved back and forth between Canada and the United States. You may wish to check Canadian records, if you believe this may be the case in your family tree.

Check publications of the DAR and Society of Mayflower Descendants. Both have lineages that include documented Native Americans. Furthermore, articles in their magazines sometimes look at the relationship between settlers and tribes. In spite of past insensitivites and misunderstandings, both organizations are committed to providing a true and accurate glimpse at early American life and culture. Both offer college scholarships for individuals of Native American ancestry. The DAR supports schools committed to educating impoverished Native American children. Both can be a source of much needed information for researchers.

Explore local history organizations, including the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.

Every United States citizen has a Social Security Number. The death indexes are a tremendous resource for every genealogist. Social Security Death Index
is a free database, regularly updated.

RootsWeb General Search
is another free and often useful tool, especially for those just starting their family tree.

Indian Census Collection

Native American Genealogy Links

American Indian Tribal Directory
American Indian Heritage Foundation (AIHF) lists each nation and its location.

Civil War in Indian Territory
Information about Joseph G. Moore, who served in the Choctaw Chickasaw Mounted Rifles. Also includes names and details about other Native Americans who fought either for the Union or Confederacy.

Cyndi's List - Native American
Links to Aboriginal and Native American resources.

Genealogy - Tracing Roots
Native Web Resources large list of sites devoted to Native American and First Nations' heritage, including African Natives.

Index of Native American Genealogy Resources on the Internet
List of possible research sites to find your ancestors. Native American orientation.

Indian History, Bigoraphy and Genealogy - Pertaining to the Good Sachem Massasoit fo the Wampanoag Tribe and His Descendants with Appendix
By Ebenezer Pierce. This is a free online transcription of this tome, first published in 1878.

Native American Genealogy
State Historical Society of Missouri explains in detail some resources for those researcing their tribal roots.

Native Americans and African Americans, 1780-1820 in Deerfield, MA, and Surrounding Areas
This is the essay supporting a teachers' lesson plan. However, it is pertinient to New England researchers of Native and African American heritage.

Native Americans in the Civil War
A small collection of articles and biographies.

Native American Genealogy
Comprehensive site with numerous awards. Principle focus is on Cherokee nation, but others as well. Updated frequently.

Native American Indian Genealogy Webring Homepage
Search the web using this web ring devoted to Native American family history. Instructions for adding personal pages to the web ring.

Native American Resources at the NARA
An index of relevant articles and records available online or at the National Archives and Records Administration facilities.

Native American - USGenWeb Census Project
A work in progress, this site is attempting to make available census data and enumerations pertaining to Native Americans.

New England Indians
This site index leads researchers to significant writings about the Native Americans of the region.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Surviving The Salem Witch Trials - The Bishop Family

Much has been written about the Salem Witch Trials, that infamous time in American history. The fear of the occult and the subsequent trials were commonplace during the 17th century. How else could the people explain weird weather, earthquakes (one of which occurred around 1690 in Essex Co., MA, and is recorded in the History of Amesbury, Massachusetts), lunar and solar eclipses, and strange illnesses. Mankind had not yet achieved a scientific basis for understanding natural phenomenom or disease.

I read in a passage about my ancestor, Samuel Dunham, that he was ex-communicated a couple of times. One time was around 1690 for saying, "a pox upon your house and puck," to one of his neighbors. Fortunately, the curse wasn't taken seriously. Rev. Mathers attributed it to Old Sam's alcoholism, stating in his journal, "Sam Dunham is an old drunk."

Another of my ancestors, Joseph Ballard of North Andover, however, blamed witchcraft for his wife's death from female problems. His accusation sparked the Andover branch of the 1692 witch hunt. Ballard brought the "afflicted girls" to the village for examination in July of that year. One of those accused, Nehemiah Abbott, was a cousin to the Abbotts that his granddaughter would marry a few years later.

The panic that followed the accusations in northeastern Massachusetts forever changed America's perception of the judicial system and religion's role in government. It also marked the end of Puritanism as a major religious force.

Of the many men and women accused, the Bishops were one that moved on, creating a new life for themselves in a different part of colonial Massachusetts. Ironically, generations later, descendants of Joseph Ballard and the Bishops would become related through marriage.

The Bishops

Some years ago, the Carpenter Museum of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, published a biography of Edward and Sarah Bishop in its newsletter. We use that as reference, together with web sites about the Salem Witch Trials to provide you with an account of the Bishop family's life after the witch trials and the events.

Edward Bishop operated an inn in Salem Village, now known as Danvers. He had problems with the law in 1685, twice being charged with running an unlicensed establishment, profaning the sabbath, selling liquor illegally, and abusing swine. They were not well liked by the Puritan community. The anomosity between the two factions peaked on April 21, 1692, when a group of citizens filed complaints of witchcraft against nine of their neighbors, including Edward Bishop, his wife Sarah Bishop, and Sarah's step-mother, Sarah Averill Wildes. They were arrested and imprisoned.

On July 1, 1692, Edward and Sarah Bishop testified against Mary Warren, also imprisoned. Why they did so is a mystery. However, if they had hoped they would be granted a lesser sentence or be freed, their plan didn't succeed.

Both Sarahs went on trial July 2. Their accuser was the Bishop family minister, Rev. John Hale of Beverly. Mrs. Wildes was accused of bewitching her two step-sons in 1676, resulting in their deaths. She was convicted and hanged on July 19th. Sarah Bishop remained in jail.

In August 1692, Edward and Sarah escaped to New York. Sarah's sister Phoebe Wildes Day, was accused and arrested in September.

The Bishops remained in New York until the spring of 1693, at which time they moved to Rehoboth, Massachusetts, near Providence, Rhode Island. The center of Rehoboth at that time is now Rumford, Rhode Island. Fifty years earlier, a schism within the Puritan church at Hingham drove many to Rehoboth. Perhaps the Bishops felt the residents of that place would be more tolerant of them, in spite of the family's lack of commitment to the Puritan church and of their notorious involvement in the witchcraft trials. In any case, the Bishop family prospered.

By 1706, Edward Bishop had received a license to serve strong drinks and established an inn in what is now East Providence. He purchased a good deal of land and served as a juror in 1705. The innkeeper was not without his legal problems, though. In 1707, he lost his license to serve liquor. Evidently, Bishop corrected the problem as it was reissued in 1708.

Bristol County Probate Court References

On May 11, 1711, Edward Bishop made a will, which was probated May 28 of that year. It was witnessed by Deacon Samuel Newman, Moses Read, and Daniel Carpenter.

Edward named the following individuals in his will:
  • Sarah Bishop: Wife. Executor.
  • Edward Bishop: Eldest son.
  • Samuel Bishop: Son.
  • William Bishop: Son.
  • Jonathan Bishop: Son.
  • Joseph Bishop: Son.
  • David Bishop: Son.
  • Benjamin Bishop: Son, adding, "if he lives to come home."
  • John Bishop: Son.
  • Ebenezer Bishop: Son.
  • Priscilla Day: Daughter.
  • Sarah Jorden: Daughter.
  • Samuel Day: Son-in-law.
  • Edward Day: Grandson, under age 21.
  • John Day: Grandson, under age 21.

Sarah Bishop died in 1725. Bristol County Probate Records Vol. 5, p. 157, records that the Court appointed Samuel Bishop of Attleboro the administrator of his late mother's estate. She died intestate. The appointment was dated September 4, 1725.

Bristol County Probate Records, Vol. 5, pp 224-225, references the division of the estate of Mrs. Sarah Bishop of Rehoboth on February 15, 1725/6 between her children, namely:

  • Edward Bishop, eldest son.
  • Samuel Bishop, second son.
  • Jonathan Bishop, third son.
  • William Bishop, fourth son.
  • David Bishop, deceased.
  • John Bishop, fifth living son.
  • Ebenezer Bishop, sixth son.
  • Priscilla Day, daughter; wife of Samuel Day.
  • Sarah Jorden, youngest daughter.

The committee members were Abiah Carpenter, John Robinson, and Daniel Carpenter.

David Bishop died sometime before or near the time of his mother Sarah Bishop's passing. Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Court records (Vol. 5, p 199) indicate that on December 21, 1725, Samuel Bishop of Attleboro was appointed guardian of the children of David Bishop, late of Ashford, Hartford County, Connecticut, namely:

  • Rachel Bishop, over age 14.
  • John Bishop, over age 14.
  • Ebenezer Bishop, over age 14.
  • David Bishop, over age 14.
  • Rebecca Bishop, under age 14.
  • Mary Bishop, under age 14.

Samuel Bishop died sometime between the writing of his will on June 6, 1726 and its probate filing on August 16, 1726. The witnesses were Isaac Bucklin, Ebenezer Robinson and Noah Carpenter. Samuel Bishop named the following as benefactors to his estate:
  • Mary Bishop: Wife.
  • Samuel Bishop: Son and Executor.
  • Daniel Bishop: Son.
  • Joseph Bishop: Son, under age 21.
  • Benjamin Bishop, "under age."
  • Edward Bishop.
  • Gideon Bishop.
  • Thomas Bishop, under age 16.
  • Mehetibel Carpenter, Daughter.
  • Mary Follet, Daughter.
  • Hannah Bishop, Daughter.
  • Sarah Bishop, Daughter.

Samuel Bishop directed his son and Executor, Samuel Bishop, to "...bind out my three sons namely: Benjamin, Edward & Gideon to good trades."

Samuel Bishop may be the same Samuel Bishop of Attleboro, Massachusetts, who wrote a will, dated October 19, 1739 and probated June 17, 1740. An Elizabeth Bishop was named his wife. Samuel Bishop, his son under age 21, and daughter Mehitbel Bishop were named, along with "...the Child unborn My Wife Now Goes With..." Witnesses were Timothy Tingley, Benjamin Day, and Noah Carpenter. Wife Elizabeth was named Executor by her husband. (Vol. 9, pp 434-436).

The source for the probate records is from Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1687-1745 by Peter Rounds, available online at Ancestry. Free Trial

Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1687-1745

Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1745-1762

Salem Witches

A listing of over 200 individuals accused of witchcraft in New England betwen 1647 and 1697. These are only accusations that went to trial. Not limited to Salem, Massachusetts, some trails were in Andover and other Massachusetts towns, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine. Ancestry database. Name searches are free. Free Trial


Salem Witch Museum - The award-winning, official website for the institution located in Salem, Massachusetts. Includes location, telephone number, and information for group tours. An educational section is available for those wishing to learn more about the trials. Take the 1692 virtual tour.

Chronology of the Trials - Documents the events from the first accusations through the pardons. Visit the Memorial page for snapshots of the headstones dedicated in 1992.

University of Virginia - Salem Witch Trials - Comprehensive site with historical maps, legal proceedings, written observations of the hysteria, information on the Salem and Andover witch hunts.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - University of Missouri - Kansas Law School - Cronology, arrest and death warrants, complete witchcraft papers, and much more. Some educational material seems suitable for high school students.

Discovery School - Salem Witch Trials Lesson Plans (Grades 9-12).

Salem Witch Trials Books | U.S. | Canada (Francais) | UK | /