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Arizona Pioneer History - How To Conduct State And Local Native American Family History Research For Free
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Arizona Pioneer History - How to Conduct State And Local Native American Family History Research for Free

Native Americans are rarely associated with the term "pioneer history." But why? Each tribe was integral to the tapestry of American and southwest history. During westward expansion, food, textiles and language were but a few of the influences which early settlers embraced and which still influence us today. We hope that the following Arizona state and local resources will awaken your desire to explore your rich Native American heritage. This article is the third installment in the series.


A great place to begin your state research is by going online and searching for the keywords using quotation marks, "Arizona Tribal Leadership." Look for the University of Arizona's "Arizona State Museum" website. It has a web page called "Tribal Leadership in Arizona." A similar site belongs to the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs. Both sites have a directory containing the twenty-plus Arizona tribes. Contact the specific tribe you are researching and ask for local level help or resources.

When we conducted research for the Otero family surname, we spoke to immediate family members and discovered the names of several Arizona ancestors. Once we had specific names, we searched for vital records.

Once you have an ancestor's name or two, visit the state "Department of Health Services" website which offers "Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates." On its website, you can retrieve .pdf copies of vital records. The online searchable database is only available for death records which are more than fifty (50) years old and birth records more than seventy-five (75) years old, due to obvious privacy concerns.

Researchers interested in northern state tribes may find The Northern Arizona University Cline Library “Colorado Plateau Digital Archives” informative. The Archives contain some oral histories and photographs of the Native American communities which live on the Colorado Plateau. The majority of the Archive's photos have full names associated with them.

Researchers interested in southern state tribes will find Spanish mission records useful. Baptismal records from the mid-1880’s are available courtesy of The Catholic Diocese of Tucson. The St. Augustine Baptismal Register includes the names of infants and has reference numbers to images of the baptismal records for many members of the Apache and Papago nations. The register and records are found online at the "Arizona Memory Project" website.


Never underestimate your local library. They are an important resource when conducting ancestry and family surname research. For example, the “Arizona Room” located on the 2nd floor of the Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix houses a carefully selected collection dedicated to Native American tribes. It also carries the Arizona Census from 1870-1930 on microfilm, which might be a whole lot closer than traveling to Washington, D.C. to view Census records.

The same library carries a full collection of Arizona directories and telephone directories dating back to the early 20th century. It costs nothing to view them in the Arizona Room. For further details regarding the library's resources, call the Library Call Center at 602-262-4636 or visit them at 1221 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85004.

Tribal libraries are another great resource. If they don’t have the specific resource you seek, don’t be afraid to ask the librarian. They can field your questions and point you in the right direction. You can find a list of all the tribal libraries at the Arizona State Library, Archive and Public Records' website.


When you conduct your Native American surname and genealogy research, it may be challenging at first. However, once you begin to collect enough family history information to build the base or trunk of your family tree, you will soon discover that the tree will easily yield branches. Good luck!

Until the next article in this series, we remain...yours in history.

Street Talk

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