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Overheard on the Message Boards: What did the 1900 "Indian" census records record?
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

August 22, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does anyone know of a resource to find out what the Native American census for 1900 says? I can see them online but cannot read them. The copies are so poor that trying to enlarge them only makes them worse. I would really like to know what the questions are on the forms etc. -- Mitty

A: While there were Indian censuses taken by the federal government, I suspect that you are asking about the special "Indian Population" that was used during the 1900 census. This page asked additional questions of anyone who was identified as Indian in the normal population schedule.

While the 1900 census is the one most often recognized as having an Indian schedule, in fact, other years also had them including 1880, 1910, 1920 and 1930. Each year had different requirements as to how the Native Americans were to be enumerated and what constituted a Native American. The Indian schedule may hold the clue that leads you to the tribe and, then, to other records.

Many censuses include "Indian schedules."

When Was it Used?

Most people think that the special Indian Schedule was used only in 1900 and only in Indian Territory. Indian Territory, for those who are unaware of the geography, was part of what became the state of Oklahoma. In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s the state was two territories, one devoted primarily to Native American residents.

If you trace your ancestry into Oklahoma, you should be aware that at some point, even if your ancestors are white, they may have appeared in Indian Territory instead of Oklahoma Territory. For instance, in researching an Edward Chauncy Dewey, who appears in the 1920 census with children born in 1901 and 1906 in Oklahoma, it was logical to turn to Oklahoma in 1900 to see if Edward was living there. In fact he and his bride of one year, also white, were living in Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory in 1900. If I hadn't thought to search both Oklahoma and Indian Territory soundex I would not have found him. Those searching the 1900 Census at will find that Indian Territory and Oklahoma have been combined, making it easier to find a person regardless of which territory they were living in.

Finding the census schedules for years other than 1900 and for those areas outside of Indian Territory usually requires spending some time with the census. Sometimes it requires going through the entire census to find where the special Indian schedules have been placed and, as I said, they are not available for all states or all counties.

The Same Yet Different

The Indian Schedule for 1900 had lineages for 20 entries, which differs from the 50 entries found in the general population schedule. The reason for the limitation was that the split form used. The top of the form included the 28 questions asked of the general populace and the bottom half asks questions specifically related to Native Americans.

In some instances, at least during the 1900 canvassing, when the enumerator was using both the regular population schedule as well as the Native American schedule, you will find that the dwelling numbers and family numbers were repeated. So it is possible to have a Dwelling Number 1 for both the general schedule of a county and township as well as on the Indian schedule.

Something else that is unique to the Native Americans was sometimes found in the occupation column (column 19 of the general section of the page). If the Native American relied solely on the Government for support, his occupation was to be listed as "Ration Indian." If the Native American relied in part on the government, the enumerator was to record the occupation of the Native American and then follow that with the letter R. Those under the age of ten who received support from the government were to have "Under age - R" recorded in the occupation column.

Columns 29 to 38 - Questions Asked

Column 29 - Other Name if Any
The enumerator was to record the Indian name of the individual if he had one, his or her English name having been recorded in the upper half of the page.

Column 30 - Nativity: Tribe of this Indian
The enumerator was to list the place of birth for the individual above in column 13. Here he was to write the tribe with which the Native American was associated.

Column 31 - Nativity: Tribe of Father of this Indian
The place of birth of the father of the person was to have been enumerated in column 14 above. Here the enumerator was to list the tribe for the father, which was not always the same as that of the individual.

Column 32 - Nativity: Tribe of Mother of this Indian
The place of birth of the mother of the person was to have been enumerated in column 15 above. Here the numerator was to list the tribe for the mother, which was not always the same as that of the individual.

Column 33 - Mixed Blood: Has this Indian any white blood; if so, how much?
Many Native Americans of the time were not 100% Native American. This column required the enumerator to record white blood as 0, ½, ¼, and 1/8.

Column 34 - Conjugal Condition: Is this Indian, if married, living in polygamy?
The enumerator was to record if the Native American male was living with more than one wife, or if the woman was a plural wife or had more than one husband. In all cases the enumerator was to list Yes or No.

Column 35 - Citizenship: Is this Indian taxed?
The enumerator was not to record anything for Native Americans born in the U.S. in columns 16 through 18 in the general questions. Here the enumerator was to list a Native American as being taxed if he or she was living away from his or her tribe and among white people. Those living on a reservation, without an allotment or roaming unsettled territory were to be considered not taxed. For those born outside of the U.S., the enumerator was to record information in both these columns and columns 16-18 in the general questions.

Column 36 - Citizenship: Year of acquiring citizenship
If a Native American was born in tribal relations but has since become an American citizen, the enumerator was to record the year of citizenship.

Column 37 - Citizenship: Was citizenship acquired by allotment
If the Native American received his or her citizenship by receiving an allotment of land from the federal government, then the enumerator was to record the answer as "Yes." If the Native American received his or her citizenship in some other way, then enumerator was to answer "No."

Column 38 - Dwellings: Is this Indian living in a fixed or in a movable dwelling?
The enumerator's instructions were to record "movable" if the Native American was living in a tent, tepee, or other temporary structure. If the Native American was living in any permanent dwelling, then the enumerator was to record "fixed."

In Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot of information that can be gleaned from the questions asked in the Indian schedules. Comparing that with the information recorded in the general questions may give you leads to other federal records that may have information.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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