Five Civilized Tribes

In the removal records for the Native Americans, we often find the term “Five Civilized Tribes” meaning the Cherokee, Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles and Chickasaws. Each of these tribes have records prior to, during, and after the removals. If you are tracing your ancestor to one of these five tribes, it is important to know which records apply to each. We do know that when it comes to the Cherokee and Creeks, their records can become confused as these two tribes seem to have been together at times and separate at other times, even though the records usually say that this individual is “Cherokee” or “Creek”, they are found in the same reports.

Several rolls were created about the time of the removal and help the genealogist find their way around the tribes. The rolls will vary from time to time and the information will be different with each of the rolls, however, these are the best sources for individual information.

Here are a few of the rolls where most genealogists start their search:

“Cherokee Emigration Rolls of 1817-1835″
1831 Armstrong Roll for the Choctaw
1833 Parsons and Abbott Census for the Creek
Cherokee Census Roll of 1835
1839 Upshaw Census Roll for the Chickasaw
1856 Census Roll of the Choctaws who remained east of the Mississippi
Miscellaneous Muster Rolls for the Seminoles
Daws Rolls for the Cherokee

As I said, the rolls are the starting point, but not the only source of information even while the tribes are east of the Mississippi. A great source is the records of the various schools conducted by different religious bodies. The Moravians with the Cherokee were great record keepers and the new five volume set of their records is a great source. In many cases, the child is listed with information about the parents and sponsors through their school years. To identify a child with their parent is often difficult and these records help.

In each of the various tribes, there were missionary groups that established schools and kept the records. This approach might require a little more research than just going to the library and picking out a roll of microfilm. You might have to dig into the tribe’s history and see what groups were active within the bounds of their territory. The Methodist and Baptist were especially active in most of the eastern groups, but then there were the Moravians and the independent groups of religious missionaries.

Once you have learned some of the background about your tribe and the groups involved with them through the years, it is time to turn to the removal records. Each of them is a little different in the records kept and the records that were not kept. In a nut shell, the Choctaw from 1826 through 1859 can be found on National Archives microfilm. The Creek for the years 1826 through 1849 and the Cherokee for the years 1828 through 1854 are also found on microfilm. For the Chickasaw for the years 1837-1850 and the Seminole for the years 1827 through 1859 can be located on National Archives microfilm.

The thing to remember is that with all five of the tribes, there was not just one “removal” record. For example with the Cherokee, as early as 1815, many of the wealthy Cherokee like “Rich Joe” Vann sent their slaves west to build their plantations well in advance of him coming out west. Unfortunately, he never made it as he was killed; some say in a drunken brawl.

Do not fail to check on the various listings of those who went by boat, over land and other means during a long period of time. Many knew that going west was the only way out and they left long before the forced removal.

The Federal Government, as time for the removal became shorter, attempted to help some of the Indians in every way they could. Most of the records, scattered throughout private papers, are filled with the assistance offered. These records are much harder to find, but well worth the search.

Happy Hunting!!


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