The Dawes Rolls

If you are doing any research into Native American ancestry, you’ll want to get familiar with the Dawes Rolls. They are known as the Dawes Rolls after Henry Dawes, who was in charge of the documentation. The documents are more officially known as the “Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory”.

To encourage the native population to accept Federal laws and the rule of government, this commission offered each person a plot of land for homestead as long as they agreed to be registered and accept the authority of the United States federal government. These rolls document all those who applied from the “five civilized tribes”, or the Creeks, Choctaws, Seminoles, Chickasaws and Cherokees. More than 100,000 people signed up and are documented in the Rolls.

This went on from 1898 until 1914. Everyone registered with their name, gender, tribal association and a census card number. The census card then had more details, such as other family names and the original application form. The application then held birth dates, death dates and marriage details. Needless to say, this is all great information for a genealogist.

But there are several steps to getting all of the available information. The first step is to go through the Dawes Rolls themselves. Think of them as the main index. It’s the census cards you really want. So first, do a search through the Rolls index to find the name you need.

Once you have their Roll number, do a second search through the actual Rolls. Some census cards are viewable online, otherwise you’ll have to contact the National Archives to get a copy. You’ll need their Roll number, so you still have to do a search before you can get any further.

You can speed things up if you know the tribe of your ancestor, as the Rolls are organized that way. The 1900 American census can help with that, because that was the the year they started enumerating Indians along with their tribal names.

The Dawes Rolls have helped many people get past their Native American brick walls, so you should start doing a little searching if you have family trees from that time.