Today we are releasing a new database; Massachusetts: Earle Report of Native Americans, 1861. This database provides an index to the Appendix of 1861 Massachusetts Earle Report of Native Americans from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The index was created in 2020 by David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist of American Ancestors & New England Historic Genealogical Society. It includes the names, tribal membership, tribe/race, and location where the Native Americans resided in Massachusetts in 1861. The database is searchable by name, location, and tribe. The index contains nearly 1,700 searchable names.
The 1861 Massachusetts Earle Report of Native Americans from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts., is a unique census substitute is the only attempt by the Commonwealth to identify those associated with Native Americans in the Commonwealth, and those formerly of the Commonwealth residing outside of Massachusetts. It has been used as a genealogical reference by many Massachusetts area tribes to determine if someone may qualify as a member on the current tribal membership rolls as a descendant.
John Milton Earle was born at Leicester, Massachusetts, 13 April 1794 and died at Worcester, Mass. 8 February 1874. Earle was a Massachusetts politician, and editor of the Massachusetts Spy and later the Daily Spy newspapers from 1823-1857 in Worcester. He was an avid abolitionist in rallying support for the end of slavery in the Commonwealth as a Whig. Earle served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives 1844-46, and 1850-52. He would later serve in the Massachusetts Senate in 1858. Earle would be appointed the Commissioner of Indian of Affairs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was during his tenure as Commissioner that the Senate passed an Act of April 6, 1859 to complete a report on the Native American population of the Commonwealth.
Under this Act the Commissioner was tasked “to examine into the condition of all Indians and the descendants of Indians domiciled in this Commonwealth, and make report to the governor, for the information of the general court, on the following matters, namely:
- The number of all such persons, their place of abode, their distribution, whether by tribes or otherwise, classifying them by age and sex, and distinguishing between the married and single; and also the number of persons reputed Indians, who are of mixed or other race.
- The social and political condition of all such persons, including their municipal, religious, and educational organization, and their relation, individual and municipal, to the counties, town, or districts in when they dwell.
- The economical state of all such persons, including the specification of all property of theirs in lands, and whether the same is held in severalty or in common, and whether now in their own possession, or unlawfully possessed by others, and, in the latter case, by what color of alleged title; and also what proportion of such persons are paupers, dependent on towns in which they dwell, or in the State.
- All such facts in the personal or social condition of the Indians of the Commonwealth, as may enable the general court to judge whether they can, compatibly with their own good and that of the other inhabitants of the State, by placed immediately and completely, or only gradually and partially, on the same legal footing as the other inhabitants of the Commonwealth.”
Under this criteria Earle investigated the living conditions of the Native American population of the Commonwealth. His work included correspondence with local guardians of the various tribes, town officials and members of the various tribes around the state. His work would be published in 1861 as Massachusetts Senate Report No. 96. Report to the Governor and Council concerning the Indians of the Commonwealth, under the Act of April 6, 1859 (Boston: William White, Printer to the State, 1861). The detailed report of nearly one hundred and fifty pages contained additional appendix at the end. The first part of this contains the list of those Native Americans and their families Earle reported upon to the Governor John Albion Andrew (President of NEHGS, 1866-1867) and his council in 1861.
Please note: This database is available to all NEHGS members. Membership options.