US Indian Census Rolls 1885 – 1940

Did you know there was a special yearly Indian census from 1885 – 1940 in the US?  Well, there was, although it didn’t exactly incorporate everyone.

The US Indian Census Rolls data base is found on

The database contains an index to the Indian census rolls from 1885-1940. Information contained in this database includes:

  • Name (Indian and/or English)
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Birth date
  • Relationship to head of family
  • Marital status
  • Tribe name
  • Agency and reservation name

Other information about an individual, such as degree of Indian blood, as recorded in the later census years, may be available on the original record. Be sure to view the corresponding image in order to obtain all possible information about an individual.

The Indian Census schedules 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. 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.

Most of the rolls for the year 1940 were retained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and are not included in this database. Rolls were not required to be submitted after 1940 so only a few post-1940 records are included here.

Notes about Searching the Censuses:

When browsing or searching this large collection, it is important to note the following:

1) Family groups are listed together and are sometimes listed alphabetically by surname of the head of the family, but often there is often no discernible order to the listing of families.

2) Currently accepted spellings of tribal names have been used in the index. In the census rolls themselves, obsolete spellings are often used; and the name of a tribe may be spelled several ways in different rolls. Sometimes even the name used for a tribe was changed from year to year.

Some of the above information was taken from:

  • Curt B. Witcher and George J. Nixon, “Tracking Native American Family History,” in The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).
  • Publication Details of Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

This information is not being used at this time in the Native Names project because these records are only relevant to individuals who are tribal members.  The native names project seeks to discover early records of individuals who may not be associated with tribes, so their records are likely not available through “normal” resources, but who are still considered Indian.  Additionally the Native Names project is focused on earlier records and those not online and not generally available.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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6 Responses to US Indian Census Rolls 1885 – 1940

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. My uncle, C.Kenney Templeton married Nell Roberts d/o the noted Rush “Fancy Eagle”Roberts. Those census records were invaluable in adding details of Rush’s descendants to my tree.
    I’d still love to find a male-male-male descendant to take a YDNA test (which I’d pay for) to confirm or deny the story that Rush was s/o German immigrants, killed by the Sioux. He was found as a child by Skidi Pawnees & adopted by Sitting Eagle & Roaming Princess. This story was told to Rush’s son Henry by his uncle, Rush’s brother (step=brother?). John “Knife Chief”. Henry later repeated the story to his younger brother George who included it in a 4th grade story about his dad.

    • D Maskevich says:

      Once you find indian bloodline, but people aren’t on any rolls, how do you establish that bloodline? Was your uncle or his wife on any roll or how did you establish his wife was of indian blood? There’s no one we know of to do DNA but have found the line that’s suppose to be indian. Not finding any avenues on ancestry. Thanks and good luck to you.

      • I was fortunate in finding Rush Roberts on every annual Indian census from 1885-1935, his wives on the rolls with him while still living (in some cases with their Indian names) & his daughter Nell on every annual Indian census from 1890-1935. Nell’s older children were listed as 50% indian blood.

  2. I don’t have the money for How can I get to my Blackfoot 1850s ancestry at no cost?

  3. Faith Stevens says:

    Looking for my Family tribal roll number bebee lulu

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