For descendents of the the Five Civilized Tribes - Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chicasaw and Seminole - mention in one of these rolls indicates proof of membership.
The importance of tracing your heritage through the Dawes Rolls - for those people who are descendents of the Five Civilized Tribes - is that courts have held that those rolls are conclusive as to your tribal membership.
Each tribe has its own official roll on which your ancestor must be listed. So if you are trying to become a member of the Cherokee tribe you will have to find your ancestor in a direct line on the Dawes Rolls.
HISTORY of the ROLLS
In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act sponsored by Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts. The purpose of this act was to divide Indian lands and give 160 acre parcels to heads of Indian families.
These families were granted U.S. citizenship if they farmed the land for 25 years. To be entitled, the family was also required to register their name on the Dawes Rolls.
This provided official Native American status to many families, but unfortunately had extremely negative results on the tribes as a whole.
Most often the land was rented or sold at a fraction of its value. Many Indians lost their land or were displaced to reservations. In fact, the General Allotment Act made it possible for the federal government to reduce Indian land holdings from 138 million acres to 52 million between 1887 and 1934.
Using the Dawes Rolls
You'll need to cross-reference your tribe's roll number and file location before searching for your family name on the microfilm records.
If you are trying to research the Dawes Rolls at the Archives to officially register yourself, you’ll start by looking up your tribal name in the Tribal Records Book. Once you find the tribal name, you copy down the number next to the name, then cross reference that number in the Dawes Rolls records to get the Roll number and the file location.
Next you go to the related rolls, which are on microfilm. Scroll down the microfilm to the correct roll number where you'll find the names of your previously registered family members.
If you are trying to officially register yourself, this is just the first step.
We can provide you with the record the government created and then you will take those copies to the tribe in which you are trying to establish membership.