Help Me Find My Black-and-Apache Dad

Tracing Your Roots: She is mixed-race and knows her white heritage but longs to know the rest of the story.

Mescalero Apache Tribal Administrative Offices and Community Center in New Mexico
Mescalero Apache Tribal Administrative Offices and Community Center in New Mexico Wikimedia Commons

“I was born in 1971 in Boulder, Colo. My mother, Terri Bailey (née Luther), is white (German-Irish) from Kentucky. My father, Gregory Allen Bailey, who left us when I was 2, is half-black on his mother’s side and perhaps half-Mescalero Apache through his father. (I was told Mescalero, but the Bailey name is only on the San Carlos Apache Indian Census Rolls, and they go back as far as the 1893 rolls.)

“My parents were married on Aug. 28, 1970, in Boulder County. My mother said they were on welfare. She also mentioned that when they were married they didn’t have to show their ID, and when my father asked how old you needed to be they said 21, so he said he was 21, but she’s uncertain if that was true. If he was 21, that would put his date of birth at roughly 1949. He was born in Michigan.

“Both of my parents were basically disowned, out of prejudice, when they married each other in 1969. I’ve been trying to find my father and any of his family, but because he was abusive to my mother she erased any info she had on him. My mother believes that my father was raised by his maternal grandmother, whose last name was Jones, but is not sure.  

“I believe that my paternal grandfather’s name is Allen Gregory Bailey. If the rolls are correct, he was born somewhere between 1920 and 1923. The roll he is on is for the San Carlos Reservation, dated April 1, 1932, and recorded by James B. Kitch. His father’s name was Albert and his mother was Emma Drake, and he had a sister named Laura. If this is correct, his grandparents’ names were David (Dastyne) and Carrie (Cydej) Bailey, and Albert’s Apache name is Tladeheyla. My grandfather left the reservation to join the military.

“My mother said my middle name came from my great-great-grandmother Teresita Bailey, but I can’t find a Teresita on the Apache rolls. My grandfather on my father’s side moved to Detroit around the ’20s and met my grandmother there. I don’t know her name. In fact, I know nothing about my black side at all.

“Growing up in the ’70s in Wheat Ridge, Colo., as a mixed-race child with a single white mother was beyond hard, and I basically had to teach myself what it means to be black and Indian. I’d love to know if my grandmother was a child of sharecroppers or free blacks. I’d also love to know more about my Apache family.” —Noelle Bailey

Researching either Native American or African-American genealogy has its own set of challenges. Because both groups were marginalized and discriminated against in the past, records may be less complete or, worse, not available at all. You face the additional challenge in that some of the details of your family’s more recent history are not clear. Although you have some clues provided by family stories, you’re interested in confirming this information and learning more about your African-American ancestry. Here are a few tips and sources of information that will help guide your research.

Finding Your Grandparents

The first step you want to take to find out more about your African-American ancestors is to confirm that your paternal grandfather was, in fact, Allen Gregory Bailey. This search may be difficult because the records that will guide your research are more recent and can be restricted. For example, your father’s birth record in Michigan will list the names of his parents, but since the record is less than 100 years old, only the person named on the certificate, his or her parents, a legal guardian or an heir, if the person is deceased, may order a copy.

Occasionally, marriage records contain information about the bride’s and groom’s parents. If you mother doesn’t already have a copy of the marriage license, a copy can be requested from the Boulder County Clerk’s office by mail for $1.25. The Boulder County Recording Division also has some public records that are searchable online. It is free to search the database, but digital images of these records require a subscription.