Seeking Proof of Native American Roots?

Tracing Your Roots: A reader hopes a fire that destroyed family records won’t halt his search.

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If his ancestors lived in another area of the country, try to locate books on that particular area. For example, in the New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston, you can find many books on various tribes. Some of these titles are Researching Native Americans in New York State; The Native Americans; and The Quiet Patriarch: The Life of James A. Newberry, Native American Pioneer, and a Study of Native Americans in the Early Days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You will learn about what Native American life was like in certain areas and with certain tribes.

You can also access a “Guide to Tracing Your American Indian and Alaska Native Ancestry” (pdf) on the Bureau of Indian Affairs website.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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This answer was provided in consultation with researchers from New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country's leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website,, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today.