Naming Patterns

Here is another article I found on naming patterns. Sorry, no source details.
Naming Patterns
Ever wonder if your family had any important family names?

Our ancestors in Ireland had a very strong tradition for naming the eldest children in each family. It’s really interesting to see this naming pattern in your own family tree, but it’s especially valuable to know for family history research.

This naming pattern was most prevalent from around the late 18th century to the middle of the 20th.

Here’s the gist of it:

• The eldest son would be named after his paternal grandfather

• The second son would be named after his maternal grandfather

• The third son would be named after his father

• The fourth son would be named after his father’s oldest brother

The amazing thing about this naming pattern is how closely it was followed across levels of Irish society and in different religious denominations. It’s very likely your family followed this tradition pretty closely. Knowing this can explain recurring names throughout your family tree and can help you when trying to decide if an ancestor you found fits in.

There was also a similar naming pattern for girls, although it wasn’t followed as closely as it was for boys. As time went on, naming fashions came to be the reason for girls names, first among wealthy families and then more increasingly among everyone.

This could be motivated by the simple fact of maiden names – once a girl would marry, her original family name would be lost. Perhaps this caused families to place less emphasis on female naming traditions.

How to use this for family history research

While you might be tempted, knowing this pattern doesn’t mean you should rush to fill in missing branches of your family tree just because you have a clue to someone’s first name.

One of the main challenges of Irish genealogy is not having anything at all to begin your search. That’s where understanding this naming pattern can help. It’s not enough to give you definitive evidence of an ancestor’s name, but it’s a great place to start looking.

If you’ve hit a brick wall or are feeling totally lost, try to estimate some names based on this pattern. It will narrow your search results tremendously, and while it isn’t guaranteed to turn up evidence of your ancestors, it could be the beginning of a trail that leads to an amazing discovery.

For instance, if you’re researching a family with the last name of Murphy (the most common name found in our Irish Catholic parish registers from County Cork, you’re going to have a lot of names to search through. But if you know that your Irish immigrant ancestor’s first name was Patrick, you now have a place to start – his grandfather may have been Patrick Murphy. Still a common name, but it’s a starting place.

While this won’t give you the answer in and of itself, it could help you find their household. You may discover that someone with that name occupied a household with other family names you are certain are correct. Even knowing that, you’ll still need more direct evidence linking your ancestry to that person, but the path will be easier if you’ve got a good hunch a certain member fits.

This naming pattern can also explain when you find seemingly duplicate baptism records from the same family. Some families thought names to be so important that if a child with one died, it would be re-used on the next born child.

When you see something like this in our Catholic Parish Records, it usually indicates the death of the older child, and tells us that this name was particularly important to the family. This was both a way to honor and remember the deceased child, while still keeping the ever important family naming tradition alive.

This naming tradition might still exist in your family to this day. Do they keep the tradition alive? If not, go check out your family tree – you may notice which names were the most important.

Choctaw “Newborn by Jeff Bowen

Choctaw “Newborn” Series, by Jeff Bowen
– This is the third series of transcriptions by Mr. Bowen pertaining to the enrollment of “Newborn” members of the Five Civilized Tribes under the Dawes Act. (Previous series have covered Cherokee and Seminole Newborn.) The Applications for Enrollment of Choctaw Newborn, Act of 1905, National Archive film M-1301, Rolls 50-57, are found under the heading of Applications for Enrollment of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes. These applications contain considerably more information than stated on the census cards found in series M-1186. The governing 1905 statute (H.R. 17474) defined Choctaw Newborn as “infant children born prior to September twenty-fifth, nineteen hundred and two, and who were living on said date, to citizens by blood of the Choctaw . . . .” It also authorized the Department of the Interior to enroll and make allotments to such children based on applications received on their behalf no later than May 2, 1905.
– The Choctaw–as well as the Chickasaw allotments–were likely some of the most sought after properties in Indian Territory. There was supposed to be a 25-year restriction on the sale or lease of any Indian lands so as to ensure that the owners wouldn’t be swindled; however, the presence of huge asphalt and coal deposits in both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Districts elicited pressure from private interests to purchase the lands. On April 26, 1906, President Roosevelt signed the Five Tribes Bill removing some of the restrictions from the sale of all inherited land but continuing to prohibit full-blooded Choctaws from selling their land for 25 years.
– Mr. Bowen’s faithful transcriptions of the Choctaw applications provide the names of the applicants and their relatives, as well as the identities of doctors, lawyers, midwives, and others. Applications for Enrollment of Choctaw Newborn, Act of 1905, now spans fifteen volumes. The series is expected to reach twenty volumes when concluded.


The John Guthrie Family Of Virginia

The John Guthrie Family Of Virginia

The name of Guthrie is an ancient one in the history of Scotland. The name of Guthrie was often corrupted among the English to “Guttery, Guttreg” or “Gutteridge”. An old tale without substance gives an alternative derivation for the name. One of the early Scottish Kings had taken shelter, along with two attendants, in a fisherman’s hut. The King, knowing his attendants would be hungry, asked the fisherman to prepare two fish for them, but the fisherman offered to feed the king as well and “gut three”; and so, the legend insists, the name stuck.

The lands known as Guthrie are in Angus. Squire Guthrie is the first of the name on record in Scotland, appearing in 1299. In this same year, the Laird of Guthrie was sent to France to invite Sir William Wallace to return to Scotland. Sir William Wallace did return.

It appears that the family got the Barony of Guthrie by charter from David II. In 1446 Alexander Guthrie of Guthrie acquired the lands of Kincladrum and became baillie of Forfar.

In 1457 Sir David Guthrie of Guthrie was armour bearer to the king and captain of the guard. In 1461 he was appointed Lord Treasurer of Scotland. In 1468 he obtained a charter to build a castle at Guthrie which is still standing; until very recently, this was the residence of the chiefs. He was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Scotland in 1473. David increased the estate of the family, as well as founded a collegiate church at Guthrie. In 1513, his son, Alexander, died at Flodden. 1.

The estate of Guthrie passed through cousins until John Guthrie, Bishop of Moray, became chief in 1636. He was the eleventh chief.

The Guthries held the Barony of Guthrie by Charter from King David II; but they were men of rank and property long before the reign of James II.

Alexander of Guthrie and his spouse, Marjory, obtained the lands of Kilkandrum in the Barony of Lower Leslie, and Sheriffdom of Forfar by charter from George, Lord Leslie, of Leven, the Superior, dated 10 April 1475.

“Alexander and Marjory had three sons, David, James, and William, of whom the eldest, Sir David Guthrie, Baron of Guthrie, was Sheriff of Forfar in 1457. He held the station of Armour Bearer to King James III, and was constituted Lord Treasurer of Scotland in 1461; in which post he continued until 1467, when he was appointed Comptroller of the Exchequer.”2. In 1469 he was made Lord Register of Scotland; and in 1472, he was one of the ambassadors on the part of Scotland, who met those of England on 25 April in that year at New Castle, and concluded a truce until the month of July, 1473. In 1473 he was made Lord Chief Justice of Scotland.

The Reverend James Guthrie, was a minister at Stirling and was executed for his writings in Edinburgh 1 June 1661. James was described by Oliver Cromwell as “The short man that would not bow.” Chambers in his History of Eminent Scotsmen, says:

“James Guthrie, the Martyr, one of the most zealous of the protesters as they were called during the religious troubles of the seventeenth century, was the son of the Laird of Guthrie. He became teacher of philosophy, and was much esteemed, as well for the equanimity of this temper as for his erudition.”

Most American Guthries can trace their lineage to pre-Revolutionary War immigrants from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Ireland was a stepping stone for many of our ancestors. James I, who assumed the English throne in 1603, ventured a plan to colonize the Emerald Isle with loyalist settlers from England and Scotland. The Scots saw this as an opportunity to both improve themselves economically and to follow their Presbyterian faith without interference from the Church of England. The resulting prosperity of the former Scots became their downfall.

To better understand why our immigrant ancestors followed the migratory trails they did, it is important to understand the political and religous conflicts of the times; therefore, the following is a brief outline of those times:

English merchants saw the new industry as a threat and enacted the Navigation Acts of 1650, 1660, 1663, and 1696. These acts were British regulations designed to protect British shipping from competition. These acts said that British colonies could only import goods if they were shipped on British-owned vessels and at least 3/4 of the crew of the ship were British.

England believed that the mercantile system was an explanation of the world economy, that wealth was finite, and that with a limited amount of wealth to be had in the world, any trade between countries accrued wealth in the direction of the trade advantage. In general, there was a belief in England that the colonies were a source of raw material for England’s manufacture, and an outlet for finished English goods. In other words, the colonies existed to benefit the mother country. Thus, it became important for England to limit the amount of trade coming and going from the colonies. In order to protect that trade, England found it increasingly necessary to legislate the terms of trade, starting with the Navigation Act of 1651, during Cromwell’s reign or “Protectorate.” This law kept Dutch ships out of the English colonies, and was a reaction to the closing of Dutch claims to New Holland, or New York as it would become known.

This first of the Navigation Acts coincided with the growing success and development of the various colonies themselves. As early settlements grew into expanded communities, immigration increased, commercial development became successful, and the need to reign in the colonies began to be felt in England. The growing prosperity of the colonies was a signal to England that in order to protect their long-term mercantile interests, there grew a need to monopolize trade with the colonies. This was the theory, anyway. England had less need for fish, wheat and lumber produced in the colonies, and the colonies expanded their trade to other European countries without significant English intervention. On the other hand, England was very much interested in controlling other exports from the colonies. The next Navigation Act of 1660 required that all imports TO the colonies had to first pass through England and be taxed.

The North American coastline could not be patrolled effectively, being rather long and providing many natural ports of entry and exit. The Navigation Act of 1663 was circumvented routinely by smugglers, much to English chagrin. Colonists encouraged illegal imports, and often shipped their raw materials to other European ports to avoid England’s desired monopoly. This necessitated the Navigation act of 1673, which required two things. First, all goods leaving colonial ports had to pay an export duty before departure, ensuring collection of tax before goods left the country. Second, it provided for customs agents to reside in the colonies to collect those duties. The importance of the Navigation Acts is that they provided a legal framework and precedent for controlling trade with the colonies that lasted until the Revolutionary war, a hundred years late.

To control Ireland, The Staple Act of 1663 was enacted to prohibit direct Irish exports for most goods. In 1699 this was expanded to prohibit export of goods anywhere except to England and Wales. During this period the Test Act was established by Queen Anne requiring all office holders to take the sacraments as prescribed by the Church of England.

Many Irish, and Scots who had been sent to colonize and strengthen the English claims in Ireland, retaliated by crowding into ships bound for America. This was in response to not only the financial loses faced with the new British legislation, but also was a response to the imposed religious intolerance to any religion outside the establish Church of England, which was established under Henry VIII, when he ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Church. (He refused to acknowledge the Pope, and set himself up as the head of the Catholic Church in England, ie. “Church of England”)

Since money was not available to pay for passage, the majority came as indentured servants, an arrangement which bound the servants for a term of 4 to 7 years. At the expiration of this time, the individual was given clothing, farm tools and usually some land. The arrangement was considered no more demeaning than a normal apprenticeship.

At first the immigrants avoided the southern colonies with their “Established” Church and New England with its “Puritanical ways.” Central Pennsylvania was the favored haven and future jumping off point for further migration. To satisfy their hunger for land, these settlers seldom observed legal proprieties. Their clannish ways made them poor neighbors for either the whites or the Indians. It was truly observed that “the Scots kept the Sabbath and anything they could get their hands on!”

Because of these religious persecutions under which the family suffered, James, John and Robert Guthrie decided to leave Edinburgh and emigrated to the new world, where they first settled in Boston.

James Guthrie of Suffolk County, Massachusetts was listed in the will of John Richardson, dated 7 May 1683, in which Richardson says, “I give and bequeath unto James Guthrie all I have in the world except twenty shillings to buy John Harris a ring and ten shillings to buy John Kyte a ring.” This was witnessed by John Raynsford and John Ramsey.

It is said that this James Guthrie migrated from New England to Bermuda 3.

John Guthrie, of the Jamestown settlement came to America in 1652. Several traditions exist as to his origins in the Americas. One says that he was one of three brothers who emigrated. (How often do we hear that one?!) Another says that he received a grant of land in America from King Charles I of England, prior to Cromwell’s rebellion, and that when the latter came into power, in order to save his life, he was forced to leave England because of his loyalty to the Crown. This tradition claims that his brother, James Guthrie, was beheaded by Cromwell, a fate which he came near to sharing, and assigns the date of his flight as circa 1632. It should be noted here that, while Cromwell held no love for James because of James’ loyalty to the Crown Cromwell did not execute James, who was beheaded in 1661, as previously mentioned.

The first record of John was taken from “Index to Land Grants, Isle of Wight Company, Virginia, book 3, p. 315.” Here it lists: “John Gutteridge, 1654, 350 (acres) .”

In Virginia Colonial Militia 1651-1776, by Crozier, p. 103, it says: “Military officers in Virginia 1680; Isle of Wight Co. Col. Jos. Bridger Commander in Chief of ye horse in ye counties of Isle of Wight, Surry Nanzemond and Lower Norfolk, John Gutridge, Captain.” The same book p. 99 gives Middlesex County Militia,…among others, John Gutteridge.

John married Elizabeth Baskett, 6 February 1686 [Record of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County, VA]

The principle information concerning John and his immediate descendants was found in a letter which follows:

“Martinsferry, Ohio
March 12th, 1867”

“My Dear Daughter:

“Believing that it would be agreeable to you to know something of your Ancestors, I propose to give you some account of what I have learned by Tradition.

“I am informed by tradition that my Paternal Great Grandfather obtained a Grant for a tract of land in America, emigrated from England some time in Cromwell’s Rebellion and located his Grant on the North side of York River, in Poropotank Neck, in Stratten Major Parish, King and Queen County, Virginia, and that he had four sons, and lived to be old, and that he danced a jig when he was one hundred and five years old, and that he lived to be one hundred and ten years old and at his Death he Bequeathed sixty acres to each of three sons, and the balance to my Grandfather, and it is the Homestead where I was born. The farm is surrounded on two sides by a branch of the Poropotank Creek. I often have heard my father of being the Heir at Laws in this Country and if there should be any thing coming from England he would be the heir.

“My Maternal Grandfather, George Pigg, was a surveyor, and I have heard it said was born in the year one, that is, in the year 1701, but don’t know at what time he emigrated from England. But was in this country when he was twenty-five years old and stood as Godfather for my Grandmother according to the rules of the Episcopal Church and when she was twenty-five years and he fifty years old they were married. They had six children three sons and three daughters of whom Rachel Pigg the second daughter was my mother who was born in 1760. I am not positive what my Maternal Grandmother’s maiden name was but think it was Murie.

“I have heard it said that my Grandfather in surveying called the neighborhood where King and Queen Court House now stands the frontiers which is not more than forty or fifty miles from Chesapeake Bay. He procured a beautiful farm on York River a few miles above Poropotank Creek which he left to his oldest son his two oldest sons enlisted and served three years at the North in the Continental Army and returned in the year 1780 that remarkable cold winter when it was said that a beef could be roasted on the ice, and then George, the second son enlisted and went South and died there of excessive heat and fatigue. My father and one brother enlisted in the Continental Army for three years and was through the New England States. He was Sergeant and returned in the winter of 1780. He was married three times my mother being his third wife and I was born in February 23, 1793.

“I have given you Dear Daughter the most important terms that I derived from tradition which I am sure will be gratifying to you.

Henry P. Guthrie”

In the above letter Henry P. Guthrie stated that his great grandfather, had four sons. The four sons’ names are not given; however, from the given names of the earliest Guthries listed on p. 4 of “American Guthries and Allied Families”, the given names are listed in the following order:

  • John, who received the chief portion of their father’s estate. The remaining three received 60 acres each.
  • Edward
  • James, and
  • Daniel
    Robert Guthrie of Edinburgh, Scotland, was an early settler on Block Island, and was overseer of the poor in 1687. He died 3 December 1692. He married 1st, Margaret, born 1633; died 5 April 1687. He married 2nd, Anna, daughter of Dr. John and Sarah Palgrave Allcocke, widow of John Williams. They had a daughter, Catherine Guthrie, born on Block Island, 24 June 1690; married 9 September 1706, John Sands, and died at Cow Neck, LI, 10 February 1769.

    Descendants of James Guthrie of Virginia
    Records of the Guthrie Family of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Virginia,
    by Harriet M. & Evaline Guthrie Dunn; Chicago, Illinois, 1898, pp. 158-164.

    James Guthrie served as a Sergeant in Captain Phillip Taliaferro’s Company known also as Captain Thomas Minor’s Company, and as as Captain Nathaniel Welch’s Company, 2nd Virginia State Regiment, Revolutionary War.

    James enlisted to serve three years. The company served as follows:

  • At White Plains in July and August, 1778
  • At West Point in September 1778
  • At Middlebrook from October 1778 to April 1779
  • At Smith’s Clove in May and June 1779
  • At Camp Romapan in July 1779, and again
  • At Smith’s Clove in August 1779
    John Guthrie, a brother of James, served as fifer in the same Company.

    The Clan Guthrie Website: Guthrie History at

  1. Records of the Guthrie Family of Pennsylvania, Connecticutt, and Virginia; by Harriet M. & Evaline Guthrie Dunn; Chicago, Illinois, 1898, pp. 1-2
  2. American Guthrie and Allied Families – Lineal Representations of the Colonial Guthries of Pennsylvania, Connecticutt, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North & South Carolina, et al; by Laurence R. Guthrie, A.B., B.D.; published by the Kerr Printing Company, Chambersburg, PA; p.1
    For further reading on the Guthrie Clan of Scotland, visit Clan Guthrie, USA.

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Background to Creek Nation

Background to Creek Nation (Muskogee) Genealogy

The Muskogee (or Creek) Nation is one of the Native American groups referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” (along with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole). While most Creek pure-bloods live in Oklahoma today, they formerly inhabited towns from Georgia’s Atlantic Coast and the vicinity of the Savannah River to the center of Alabama. Other Muskogee enclaves existed in Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. The Creek Confederation at one time comprised scores of smaller tribes, including the Apalachicola, Hitchiti, Ikan, Tuskegee, and others. The Creeks early on became divided into Upper Creeks, inhabiting the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers; and the Lower Creeks of the lower Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee.

To gain a fuller understanding of the salient features and events in Creek history, we turn to John Swanton’s incomparable synthesis of Native Americana, Indian Tribes of North America:

“Muskogee tradition points to the northwest for the origin of the Nation. In the spring of 1540, De Soto passed through some [Muskogee] settlements and a ‘province’ called Chisi, Ichisi, and Achese, in southern Georgia . . . It is probable that part if not all of the province of Guale on the Georgia coast was at that time occupied by Muskogee, and relations between Guale Indians and the Spaniards continued intimate from 1565 onward . . . . At any rate it was in a flourishing condition in 1670 when South Carolina was colonized and probably continued to grow more rapidly than before owing to the accession of Creek tribes displaced by the Whites or other tribes whom the Whites displaced . . . Occupying as they did a central position between the English, Spanish, and French colonies, the favor of the Creeks was a matter of concern to these nations, and they played a more important part than any other American Indians in the colonial history of the Gulf region. For a considerable period they were allied with the English, and they were largely instrumental in destroying the former inhabitants of Florida and breaking up the missions which had been established there. Finding the territory thus vacated, very agreeable, and one abounding in game, they presently began to settle in it permanently, particularly after it was ceded to Great Britain in 1763.

“In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the internal organization of the Confederacy was almost revolutionized by Alexander McGillvray, the son of a Scotch trader, who set up a virtual dictatorship and raised the Confederacy to a high position of influence by his skill in playing off one European nation against another. After his death friction developed between the factions favorable to and those opposed to the Whites. Inspired by the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, a large part of the Upper Creeks broke out into open hostilities in 1813, but nearly all of the Lower Creeks and some of the most prominent Upper Creek towns refused to join with them and a large force from the Lower Creeks under William MacIntosh and Timpoochee Bernard, the Yuchi chief, actively aided the American army. The war was ended by Andrew Jackson’s victory at Horseshoe Bend, on the Tallapoosa River, March 27, 1814. One immediate result of this war was to double or triple the number of Seminole in Florida, owing to the multitude of Creeks who wished to escape from their old country. From this time on friction between the pro-White and anti-White Creek factions increased . . . . [The] leaders of the Confederacy finally agreed to the removal, which took place between 1836 and 1840, the Lower Creeks settling in the upper part of their new lands [Indian Territory] and the Upper Creeks in the lower part. The former factional troubles kept the relations between these two sections strained for some years, but they were finally adjusted and in course of time an elective government with a chief, second chief, and a representative assembly of two houses was established, which continued until the nation was incorporated into the State of Oklahoma.

“The report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 gives 11,952 Creeks by blood . . . .The United States Census of 1930 gave 9,083 but included the Alabama and Koasati Indians of Texas and Louisiana and individuals scattered through more than 13 states outside Oklahoma, where 8,760 lived . . . . [The Muskogee] were one of the principal mound-building tribes to survive into modern times and were unsurpassed in the elaborate character of the ceremonials (except possibly by the Natchez), while their prowess in war was proven by the great contest which they waged with the United States Government in 1813-14, and the still more remarkable struggle which their Seminole relatives and descendants maintained in Florida in 1835-1842. Their great war speaker, Hopohithli-yahola, was probably surpassed in native greatness by no chief in this area except the Choctaw Pushmataha.”

Of related interest . . .

Researchers with Creek forebears are encouraged to examine Mr. Jeff Bowen’s ongoing series Applications for Enrollment of Creek Newborn-Act of 1905. (Now through Volume VI):

Volume I:

Volume II:

Volume III:

Volume IV:

Volume V:

Volume VI:

Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes.

Three Mainstays of Native-American Genealogy Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes.

Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal Rachal Lennon’s groundbreaking book is designed to eliminate speculation and to help you determine the truth about your possible links to the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, or Seminoles. It focuses on the toughest period to research–the century or so prior to the removal of the Southeastern nations to Indian Territory (the point at which records were regularly maintained). It provides the cultural, genealogical, and historical background needed to turn family stories into proved lineages. And it outlines a method of research that will take you as far back as the colonial and early federal periods and forward to the mid-to-late 19th century. History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folklore Emmet Starr’s work is the classic account of the early Cherokees, their constitution, treaties with the federal government, land transactions, school system, migration and resettlement, committees, councils and officials, religion, language and culture, and a host of other topics. More than half of the book is devoted to genealogies and biographies, of which there are several hundred. The biographies in particular–each averaging a paragraph or more–are noteworthy for their focus on the genealogical events of birth, marriage, and death over a period of several generations. The Indian Tribes of North America John R. Swanton’s definitive one-volume guide to the Indian tribes of North America covers all Native American groupings, such as nations, confederations, tribes, subtribes, clans, and bands. Formatted as a dictionary, or gazetteer, and organized by state, it includes all known tribal groupings within the state and the many villages where they were located. The text includes such facts as the origin of the tribal name and a brief list of the more important synonyms, the linguistic connections of the tribe, its location, a brief sketch of its history, its population at different periods, and the extent to which its name has been perpetuated geographically.


{source} Genealogy Pointers (02-26-13) In this issue: Bargain Books for February 2013“The Challenge of North American Indian Genealogy. Part One, by Denise R. Larson, Three Mainstays of Native American Genealogy

The Challenge of North American Indian Genealogy. Part Two

“The Challenge of North American Indian Genealogy. Part Two: Native American Resources,” by Denise R. Larson

In last week’s issue of “Genealogy Pointers,” Denise Larson discussed the origins of Native American tribes and clans, their lineage patterns, and naming practices. Part Two, below, examines Native American genealogical resources, including Indian claims, contacting a tribal representative, and some specific tribal records. More . . .

Records of Indian claims provide genealogical leads

In response to Indian claims of illegally seized lands and demands for land allotments and annuities, the U.S. government appointed the Dawes Commission (1893) and the Guion-Miller Commission (1909) to investigate the claims and compile lists of plaintiffs and tribal members. In a twist of fate, the resulting reports provide genealogical insights that might have been lost if not written down by the government agents. American Indians had only oral traditions and no written word. A recital of the ancestors of a person was traditionally made during important ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. As diseases ravaged the tribes and clans were scattered through war or relocation, family lineages were in danger of being lost. A parallel could be drawn with the devastation in Europe caused by the Black Death (aka The Plague) that spawned widespread use of genealogy and pedigree charts to prove–or disprove–claims on estates by survivors.

The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory [and] Index to the Final Rolls was published by the Dawes Commission in 1907 and reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company in 2007. Applicants had to provide proof of bloodlines and tribal affiliation. The work is considered one of the finest printed sources relating to the genealogy of the Five Civilized Tribes.

A good source of information about the Delaware tribe is Delaware Trails: Some Tribal Records, 1842-1907, by Fray Louise Smith Arellano. The hefty 527-page volume includes 20,000 individuals or households and much more than land records, e.g., censuses, medical and school attendance records, and family groups.

Finding your ancestor’s tribe

Today, membership in a recognized tribe can provide cultural, social, educational, and financial benefits. Towards this end the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) provides on its website ( “Tracing Your Indian Ancestry,” produced by the National Archives, and an online Tribal Leaders Directory (, under “How Do I . . .”) with contact information. After gathering names, dates, and family connections through regular genealogy methods of document gathering and interviews with relatives, genealogists should consult the commissions’ reports if applicable to the family tribe(s). Then it’s time to correspond directly with a tribal representative. Contacting the tribe will help researchers determine the requirements for membership in the tribe.

In the BIA Tribal Directory, a PDF, the tribes are listed in alphabetical order, by state, and by BIA region. Contact information such as address, telephone number, and e-mail or website is given. A search by state will show which recognized tribes are residents therein.

Author Jeff Bowen has written fourteen volumes of Applications for Enrollment of Creek Newborn, Act of 1905. Bowen’s material comes from the microfilm of the original applications for enrollment in compliance with the Dawes Act. This amazing author has also compiled application and other-source information, including wills and probate records from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Blackfeet tribes.

John E. Ernest devoted a tremendous amount of time and effort to his comprehensive work The Complete Seminole, a 586-page compilation of land allotment records of the Dawes Commission and valuable census card information.

Myra Vanderpool Gormley wrote Cherokee Connections to assist in the process of applying for membership in the Cherokee tribe. The author has included a history of the tribe, the seven clans, and tribal divisions, as well as maps and some tribal folklore. Gormley also recently authored the companion Genealogy at a Glance: Cherokee Genealogy Research.


The Challenge of North American Indian Genealogy. Part One

“The Challenge of North American Indian Genealogy. Part One: Background to Research,” by Denise R. Larson

My tiny drop of American Indian blood stirred when I saw a news report in November 2012 that a kindergarten class of Sioux children had collected pennies for two weeks, then gave $50 to the tribe chairman to help purchase land in the Black Hills of South Dakota, land that has long been sacred to the tribe but was lost through land grabs and broken treaties. The children’s contribution helped the united tribes meet the fast approaching funding deadline, and now Pe’Sla is again held in trust and honor by the Sioux. What place did my American Indian ancestor hold sacred, I wondered? How do I find out about her? As I started doing my homework on American Indian genealogy, I soon realized that I would have to be as resilient and resourceful in my research as my ancestors were for their survival in some harsh climates. More . . . A babbling brook of voices In the early days of European exploration of North America, ca. 1600, estimates of the number of native inhabitants ranged between 2 and 7 million with approximately 300 to 500 dialects. This shows the value of sign language, which played such a large role in historical tales. Today there are 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the United States, with 1.9 million registered members. Ironically, the government that bullied American Indians off their ancestral land in the name of Manifest Destiny is also responsible for compiling the most valuable records for genealogical research and establishing the invaluable Tribal Leaders Directory. It’s all about the tribe Traditionally, an extended American Indian family of two or three generations would form a clan that would live and move together throughout the year. Several clans would join together to form a tribe. Tribes would occasionally unite to form a confederation. A vast and varied physical environment and the resulting lifestyles brought about cultural and language distinctions among American Indians. The resulting language-root and social groupings are Eastern Woodland, Southeast, Plains, Plateau, Great Basin (Rockies to Sierra Nevada), Southwest, California, Northwest Coast, and Alaska/Arctic. Lineage practices

Tribes were either patrilineal, with descent through the male line, or matrilineal, with kinship through the female line. If the tribal territory was vast, it might include both practices. Sometimes tribes changed from one to the other style of leadership and lineage. When the Muskhogean, who had been agrarian and matrilineal, were driven westward by the Iroquois, they took up buffalo hunting and became patrilineal, with hunters taking prominence, whereas previously matrons ruled the roost and selected a spokesman to represent them at council.

A fundamental guide to North American Indian tribes is The Indian Tribes of North America by John R. Swanton. Language, history, and the origin of individual tribes are described. The author included over-sized fold-out maps as visual aids to locate tribes ca. 1650. Originally printed by the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology and reprinted by Genealogical Publishing in 2007, this sizable book of 726 pages is well respected as a reference source.

Clan name was surname of sorts The American Indian’s identity was through the clan and tribe. All members of the extended family identified themselves with the leader of the clan, the matron or patron, and used her or his name as an identifier. Clans and important individuals might also take on the name of an animal that was important to them, such as bear, beaver, lynx, or whale. Members married outside their extended family clan, usually within the tribe, but intertribal marriages were not uncommon. A first name was given to a child at birth but was held secret to protect the power in the name from anyone who would misuse it. Boys were usually named for a warrior, animal, bird, or sky event, e.g., Big Thunder, Elk, Eagle. Girls often received names from the earth, water, or plants, e.g., Green Valley, Babbling Water, Sweet Grass. A nickname chosen by the mother was for everyday use, such as Little Frog or Blue Flower. In the Northeast and eastern Canada, American Indians who were converted to Catholicism by French missionaries were given Christian names that were used interchangeably with their Indian names. European names usually underwent pronunciation changes. For example, Marie became Molly, Jacques was Sac or Soc, and Jean-Baptiste was pronounced as Sabatis. Laurent became Lola. The letters r and l were interchangeable. The French ou became w in the Indian languages. Knowing these quirks in translation might help family genealogists in their record searches. American Indians of present-day Canada sometimes intermarried with the French and their offspring were called métis. First Métis Families of Quebec, 1622-1748, by Gail Morin, includes fifty-six such families, often through three generations.