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Native Americans: Resources in Local History and Genealogy

People indigenous to the United States may need to use special resources to untangle and document their family history. This guide provides print and electronic materials for exploring this research at the Library as well as other repositories.


Many families have knowledge or traditions that there are Native Americans in the family tree. You can use genealogical research techniques to prove or disprove these traditions. The sources in this guide refer only to those indigenous peoples living within the borders of the United States as it currently exists. The Library of Congress also has materials about or by indigenous peoples of Canada, Mexico, Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean.

Genealogical best practices recommend that you start with yourself, then build your family tree relationship by relationship and event by event, until you find reliable documents that identify an ancestor as Native American. In addition to the usual genealogical records, there are certain specialized documents to help you trace your Native American family members. You may also find histories and archival items related to the culture and language of your ancestors. All of these will help you understand your family.

You can also consider the benefits and limitations of current DNA research. There are three types of DNA tests presently available to the public: autosomal, mitochondrial, and y-DNA. Each is used to examine different parts of the family tree. It is important to understand each type of test, so that you can apply the science most effectively to your research question. Learn more by exploring the resources at Genetic Genealogy: DNA and Family History - Research Guides at Library of Congress (

Please note that tribal membership is entirely a decision of the tribe itself and not of the U.S. Government.

About Local History & Genealogy Reference Services

The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.