Today’s post comes from Jason Clingerman, Digital Public Access Branch Chief at the National Archives.
Are you looking to sharpen your research skills? We’re exploring some of the most requested records at the National Archives and how to search for them in the Catalog. Today we’ll take a closer look at the Applications for Enrollment in the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914, also known as the Dawes Rolls, a popular search by researchers in the National Archives Catalog.
What are the Dawes Rolls?
The Dawes Commission, known formally as the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, was appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 and headed by Henry L. Dawes to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes.
Tribe members were allotted land in return for abolishing tribal governments and recognizing Federal laws. In order to receive the land, individual tribal members first had to apply and be deemed eligible by the Commission.
The Commission accepted applications from 1898 until 1907, with a few additional people accepted by an Act of Congress in 1914. The resulting lists of those who were accepted as eligible for land became known as the Dawes Rolls.
Why search the Dawes Rolls?
The Rolls contain over 101,000 names and can be searched to discover the enrollee’s name, sex, blood degree, and census card number. Census cards often provide additional genealogical information and can contain references to earlier rolls, such as the 1880 Cherokee census. A census card is often accompanied by an “application jacket.” The jackets can contain valuable supporting documentation such as birth and death affidavits, marriage licenses, and correspondence.
Today these five tribes continue to use the Dawes Rolls as the basis for determining tribal membership. They usually require applicants to provide proof of descent from a person who is listed on these rolls. (Contact the tribes directly for enrollment information).
How do I search the Dawes Rolls by name?
- Go to the National Archives Catalog series description for the Dawes Rolls and click on “Search within this series.”
- Remove the *:* from the search bar, replace it with the name you would like to search, and press Enter.
- Results displayed will contain the name (or elements of the name) you searched on.
- Click on a result to view that record. The name you searched may not be the primary name in the record, so make sure to view all of the pages to find the relevant information.
You can find more resources for researching Native American Heritage on archives.gov.
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