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© 1997-2010 Angela Y. Walton-Raji
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Virginia Native American Resources

There are currently 8 state recognized tribes in Virginia: Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock, Upper Mattaponi.  However,  Virginia’s history and the presence of native people goes beyond these 8 state recognized groups.  For many people there is a challenge to document the native history because some of the groups that were previously known to exist in state’s history are now blended in to the general population of the state. Some of these groups had already blended into the general population before the 20th century.   However, this does not mean that researching the history cannot be done, in fact it can be done particularly because the records in Virginia are so extensive.  There are population registers, Free Negro registers and manumission records that do not exist in other states, so the chance to document the family history is highly probable.  There are records that document African Americans as well as Native Americans in Virginia from the colonial period to the 20th century.

In the case of many places in Virginia the genealogical records will not be found on the proverbial tribal rolls that one finds in the western tribes, but in the same genealogical records that one would use–vital records, census records and local county records one will be able to document the family history.

Virginia does have the unique issue of the  handiwork of Walter Plecker, the director of Vital Records who made an effort to see that records were changed among those families that were identifying themselves as Indians.  His premise was that Virginia Indians had long disappeared, and that the population was either black or white.  For 34 years he served as the head of Vital Records for the state of Virginia, and his work brought about the Virginia Racial integrity law.  But–-in spite of Walter Plecker–-as a genealogist your research will extend far beyond the efforts of Mr. Plecker to dispute the Indian background of many of the state’s citizens.

The Virginia genealogist has the benefit of some of the best records in the country, at the Library of Virginia  Therefore, both local and federal records should be used.

*Vital Records
*Federal Census Records (Particular attention should be paid to the 1910 and 1900 Special Indian Census. Many Indian communities were reflected in those years)
*Military Records (WWI Draft registration card, Civil War records, and early colonial records are particularly useful)
*Free Negro Registers (Some people from native communities had early contact with free people of color)
*Manumission Records
*Court and Land Records

One useful publication was issued in 2008 from the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Forgotten Patriots, African American and American Indian Patriots of the Revolutionary War. A Guide to Service, Sources and Studies. This book identifies sources and provides some useful information on researching African American and Native American patriots, and might open some doors to those whose research will take them back into colonial Virginia.

This book can be obtained directly from the Daughters of the American Revolution.