Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940

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Native American Research

This article is part of a series.

Overview of Native American Research
Finding Native American Tribe-specific Information
Finding Individual Native American Information
Records Relating to Native American Research in Oklahoma
The Commission to the Five Tribes
Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940
Muskogee Area Office
Anadarko Area Office
Florida Superintendency
Select List of Native American Tribes
List of Useful Native American Research Resources

This article originally appeared in "Native American Research" by Curt B. Witcher, MLS, FUGA, FIGS, and George J. Nixon in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy


These are census rolls usually submitted each year by agents or superintendents in charge of Indian reservations, as required by an act of 4 July 1884 (23 Stat. 98). The data on the rolls varies to some extent but usually includes the Indian and/or English name of the person, roll number, age or date of birth, sex, and relationship to head of family. Beginning in 1930, the rolls also show the degree of Indian blood, marital status, ward status, place of residence, and sometimes other information. For certain years'including 1935, 1936, 1938, and 1939'only supplemental rolls of addi­tions and deletions were compiled.

There is not a census for every reservation or group of Indians for every year. Only persons who maintained a formal affiliation with a tribe under federal supervision are listed on these census rolls.<ref>American Indians. A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, U.S. Central Services Administration, 1984). Records Relating to Census Rolls and Other Enrollments, Bureau of Indian Affairs (record group 75), 32.</ref>

The researcher will find many census rolls listed under particular agencies, and some of these are duplicates of census records found in this group. Often, however, the agent retained a 'working copy' of a census roll upon which he penciled-in comments concerning a par­ticu­lar individual or family. It is worth the extra time to consult the agency copy and the copy that was sent to the bureau in Washington, D.C.

Access has digitized and indexed these records: U.S., Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940.



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