Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Indians on the US Census

An argument has been made that Elizabeth Warren’s ancestors could only be listed as white on some early censuses because the only choices were white or black (or sometimes mulatto.) This is absolutely not true.

Inexperienced researchers sometimes wrongly assume Indians were not listed on the US Census before 1900 (when those Indians living intheir own nations or on reservations were listed for the first time.) Others wrongly believe there was no option for people to list themselves as Indian on the census. 

Actually, Indians were included on the US Census for the first time on the 1860 US Census. Special instructions, number five, to enumerators said, 

5. Indians.-- Indians not taxed are not to be enumerated. The families of Indians who have renounced tribal rule, and who under State or Territorial laws exercise the rights of citizens, are to be enumerated. In all such cases write "Ind." opposite their names, in column 6, under heading "Color."

This means Indians who were living among their tribal nations, and not taxed by the United States government were not to be listed (because they were citizens of their own nations, not the United States) BUT Indians who had left their tribes and who had become citizens of the United States were to be counted and they were to be identified by the racial classification “Ind” under color. 

In 1860, in Tennessee, where Warren’s purported ancestor, Naoma Crawford, was living, 77 people were listed as Indian. In Missouri, were Warren’s ancestor, Preston Crawford was living, 56 people were listed as Indian. And in Illinois, where Warren’s Reed ancestors were living, 45 people were counted as Indian. Being racially classified as Indian was an option in all places her ancestors were living, but none of them were listed as Indians. Her ancestors were listed as white.

In 1870, in Missouri, where Warren’s ancestors, the Crawfords and Reeds were living, 54 people were counted as Indian. It was an option, but Warren’s ancestors were listed as white.

In 1880, in Illinois where Warren’s Reed ancestors were living, 116 people were listed as Indian and in Arkansas where Warren’s Crawford ancestors were living, 182 people were enumerated as Indians. Warren’s ancestors were listed as white.

By 1900, Warren’s ancestor, John Crawford, was living in Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. If he was Indian, that was his chance to claim it and try to grab some land. He was living smack dab in the middle of the Cherokee people. The option to list himself as Indian on the census was available, yet he listed himself as white. Not only did he not list himself as Indian on the census, he didn’t apply for the Dawes Roll or file an Eastern Cherokee application either. 

By 1910, Warren’s grandfather, Harry Gunn Reed had married her grandmother, Hannie Crawford, and they were living in Muskogee County, Oklahoma. There was a high population of Indians there. The option to be counted as Indian was available, yet once again, both were enumerated as white. 

Warren’s ancestors established a very consistent pattern of listing themselves as white. Though one might try to make an argument that some people proven to be Indians were found listed on a US Census as white, the argument being made to help Warren’s case has the opposite effect.

If one is proven to be Indian, then that means there is documentation showing that fact. If one is listed on the Dawes Roll as a by blood Cherokee, yet found on the US Census as white, they can still be shown as Cherokee because they were documented as such on the Dawes Roll and either the 1880 Cherokee census and/or the 1896 Cherokee census. They and their ancestors will also be found on other historical Cherokee rolls and in other Cherokee records. No one has ever said a thin blood Cherokee won’t be found on the US census listed as white. They might, but they will also be found in the Cherokee records as Cherokee. 

It is the combination of the facts Warren’s ancestors are ALWAYS found in US records as white and NEVER found in Cherokee records that makes it clear they were not Cherokee. 

Below are the instructions for the census enumerators and marshals in the years 1860, 1870, and 1880 that involve Indians and/or reporting false information. Some of these instructions make it clear that an enumerator did not have to accept an answer he felt was false. If Warren’s ancestors were Indians, especially at the blood quantum levels of full blood and half blood as claimed about her purported ancestor Naoma Smith and actual ancestor, Preston Crawford; no doubt the enumerator would have questioned their claiming they were white. 

General instructions in taking the eighth census (1860)

6. Refusal to Answer.- If any person to whom application is made for information should refuse to give it, or should designedly make false representations, you should inform him of the responsibility he incurs thereby, and the penalty to which he becomes liable under the 15th section of the law.

1870 Constitutional Relations Section of Instructions

Indians.-"Indians not taxed" are not to be enumerated on schedule 1. Indians out of their tribal relations, and exercising the rights of citizens under State or Territorial laws, will be included. In all cases write "Ind." in the column for "Color." Although no provision is made for the enumeration of "Indians not taxed," it is highly desirable, for statistical purposes, that the number of such persons not living upon reservations should be known. Assistant marshals are therefore requested, where such persons are found within their subdivisions, to make a separate memorandum of names, with sex and age, and embody the same in a special report to the census office.


By the phrase "Indians not taxed" is meant Indians living on reservations under the care of Government agents, or roaming individually, or in bands, over settled tracts of country.

Indians, not in tribal relations, whether full-bloods or half-breeds, who are found mingled with the white population, residing in white families, engaged as servants or laborers, or living in huts or wigwams on the outskirts of towns or settlements are to be regarded as a part of the ordinary population of the country for the constitutional purpose of the apportionment of Representatives among the States, and are to be embraced in the enumeration.

Under obligation to give information

It is further to be noted that the enumerator is not required to accept answers which he knows, or has reason to believe, are false. He has a right to a true statement on every matter respecting which he is bound to inquire; and he is not concluded by a false statement. Should any person persist in making statements which are obviously erroneous, the enumerator should enter upon the schedule of facts as nearly as he can ascertain them by his own observation or by inquiry of credible persons.

It is always important to remember to go to the source to find information about each field of a census for a specific year when doing genealogy. Never assume and never accept what someone else says, especially when they might have a hidden agenda. 

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2012, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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