Cherokee Genealogy Tutorial
by Paul Carter
tutorial will serve to educate and illuminate, in order to
equip you to conduct effective, focused, Cherokee genealogy
research. The resources available for Cherokee research directly
relate to the Cherokee's history. At the conclusion of this
tutorial I provide what I believe to be the most common reasons
for failure to find the Cherokee Blood in one's family, but
more importantly, ways to prove one's ancestry. Additionally,
I will show you how that while you think you may have Cherokee
blood, you may actually have Creek Indian blood, and what the
difference is between Cherokee ancestry and Cherokee citizenship.
people are unaware that Cherokee migration west actually started
at the close of the Revolutionary War, when a group of Cherokees
aligned with the British during the war petitioned the Spanish
Governor in New Orleans for permission to settle on Spanish
lands west of the Mississippi River. The request was
granted, and in 1794 this group (actually a group of Cherokee
may have emigrated to the base of the Rocky Mountains as early
as 1721 - see History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the
Cherokees for in-depth information on this subject) settled
in the St. Francis River Valley in today's southeast Missouri.
great earthquake of 1811 convinced this Cherokee group that
they should not live in this region, so during the winter of
1811 and 1812 they moved to territory between the Arkansas
and White Rivers in today's Arkansas. No official rolls
were kept on these emigrating Cherokees, but a later roll as
a result of the 1828 treaty (see below) states that in 1800
the Cherokee population west of the Mississippi was likely
1000, with about 1000 more emigrating between 1808-1817.
a treaty with the Cherokees in 1817, in which they gave up
certain tracts of land back east, the government officially
granted the Cherokee title to their Arkansas lands.
Several hundred Cherokees from back east officially emigrated
up until 1819 to this new territory as a result of the treaty. Another
treaty with the same type terms was concluded in 1819, but emigration
west was curtailed after 1820 when the Secretary of War decided that
Cherokees who had enrolled themselves for removal but had not removed,
or those who had not enrolled, must emigrate at their own expense. In
1828 another treaty was concluded between the government and Cherokees,
which ceded their Arkansas lands for lands in today's Oklahoma. (Keep
in mind, this was prior to the disputed 1835 treaty which forced
removal and resulted in the tragic Trail of Tears).
1835, it is estimated that 1/3 of the nation's Cherokee population
lived west of the Mississippi. These settlers became known
as the "Old Settler Cherokees." The official
migration rolls resulting from these treaties have been transcribed
and published by noted historian, author, and tribal authority
Jack D. Baker in his work Cherokee
Emigration Rolls 1817-1835. These rolls
provide the only known list of these particular Cherokees prior
to the 1851 Old Settler Census.
1835, the controversial Treaty of New Echota was signed, and
from 1836 to 1838 those Cherokees who supported the treaty
(known as the "Treaty Party") emigrated west to Oklahoma
Territory. In 1838 and 1839 the U.S. government forcibly
removed the remaining members over the Trail
of Tears, except for a few thousand full-blooded Cherokee
who either hid out in the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina,
or were allowed to remain due to the Tsali (Charley) incident
(see History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee,
pg. 131.) These Cherokee were eventually granted a reservation
in Western North Carolina (Qualla Boundary Reservation). In 1835
a census was prepared of the Cherokee living in the east
and those on this list are considered Eastern Cherokee, although
obviously most of these eventually moved west. Additionally,
remaining back east were some mixed-blood families, most one-quarter
blood or less, who assimilated into the white families of Georgia,
Tennessee, North and South Carolina. Some of these families
moved back into the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, after
the Civil War due to southern economic problems, but many did
not. Those who did not likely beget many people today
who claim Cherokee descent, but whose ancestors weren't on
1846, due to inter-tribe bloodshed, politics, and tension,
as well as government manipulation and exploitation of various
branches of the tribe, the government concluded a treaty with
the Cherokee which provided settlements to three branches of
Eastern Cherokees living in the west, resulting in the 1851
Old Settlers, including those living outside the Cherokee Nation,
resulting in the 1851 Old Settler Roll (or census).
Cherokee's still living in the east, resulting in the 1852
Chapman Roll, which was a listing of Cherokee actually receiving
payment based on the 1851 Siler Census).
these are important genealogical resources, they only form
the basis for latter, more complete genealogy works, because
latter works incorporated the above works in one form or another. This
latter work resulted from a 1905 U.S. Court of claims decision
in favor of the Eastern Cherokees, who had brought suit
against the U.S government for various treaty violations. Congress
appropriated one million dollars for compensation to individual
Cherokees (resulting in about $133.19 per person), and Guion
Miller was assigned as the Special Commissioner to head this
claims board. To receive an allotment, applicants who
were alive on May 28 1906 had to prove they were a member of
the Cherokee Nation, or descended from such members, at the
time of the treaties.
Applicants had to submit applications, supported by affidavits,
containing detailed genealogical information on family members such
as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins,
dates and place of birth and death for family members, etc. Many
applications also contain letters, stories, etc. Moreover,
to be eligible for payment, persons had to show they were descended
from a person who was an Eastern Cherokee in 1835, usually by
proving descent from a person on the Drennen Roll or Chapman Roll,
and proving they were not of Old Settlers, or associated with another
tribe. (Interestingly, a number applicants were rejected because
they were Creek - which should be of interest to genealogists who
find ancestors on the
"Applicants not Eligible" portion included in the Miller
857 heads of household applications were received, representing
claims for approximately 90,000 people. While many applications
were rejected, the final roll, known as the Miller Roll, was
approved by the court in 1910. The government paid claims to
27,264 persons residing west of the Mississippi, and 3,436
east of the Mississippi. The rolls represents a wealth
of genealogical information. The applications themselves are
contained on 348 rolls of National Archives microfilm, while
the actual Miller Report is reproduced on 12 rolls of film.
The book Guion
Miller Roll "Plus" indexes this information by name,
and includes full name, Miller number, Dawes number, census card
number, relation, age in 1906, blood degree, and address.
second very valuable source of Cherokee genealogical information
comes from the Dawes Commission (see our
CD which contains the Dawes Roll and applications for all
Five Civilized tribes). Oklahoma Territory was the last refuge
for Native Americans against the encroaching white man. It
was inevitable that they would be forced to give up their lands
prior to Oklahoma statehood. Private land ownership was
unknown to Native Americans. However, with Oklahoma statehood
approaching, disbanding of the tribal governments and allotment
of tribal lands became a necessity. The Dawes Act of 1887 broke
up tribal holdings, and in 1893 Congress created the Dawes
Commission, headed by Senator Henry Dawes. He was
the first chairman to head the commission, charged with splitting
up the reservations and allotting land (160 acres) to individual
members of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek,
Chickasaw, and Seminole). The government obtained the surplus. Indians
were allowed to sell their land after 25 years. By 1934,
Indians had lost nearly 90 million acres, many of it through
fraudulent sales and devious White practices. The commission
work was from approximately 1893 to 1914. Included in the Cherokee
roll were Freedman (former slaves) and Delaware (adopted into
the Cherokee nation). The Dawes Commission records provide
another great source of genealogical information.
As a side note, the tribulations associated with breaking up
the tribal lands and the Dawes Commission can be read about in Angie
Debo's And Still the Waters Run. The book Dawes
Roll "Plus" indexes this information by name, and includes
full name, Dawes number, Miller number, family census card number,
age, sex, blood, and address. One advantage of this book is
that one can look forward in time from 1898 to 1906 (the Miller Roll
information) and see such things as a 1906 surname change brought
about by marriage, divorce, or adoption. The Dawes Roll serves as
the basis for current Cherokee Nation membership.
third very valuable source of Cherokee genealogy comes from
a Cherokee physician named Dr.
Emmet Starr, who in 1892 began reconstructing Cherokee
genealogies. Dr. Starr obtained information from personal knowledge,
interviews, correspondence, and official records. David Hampton
of Broken Arrow OK, a Native American genealogical authority,
(Dr. Starr) reviewed some Cherokee records, especially the
1851 Drennen and Old Settler Rolls, and the 1883 Cherokee census.
He also got some information from the Dawes Commission records;
he had access to the census cards, but probably did not make
extensive use of them. He did not review any Guion Miller
Commission records, usually known as Eastern Cherokee applications,
but he did get some information from the published roll. This
was unfortunate. That commission would have done itself
a great service to have hired Dr. Starr as their chief investigator. He
could have likely saved them much time and effort in their
preparation of the finished roll and greatly assisted himself." A
great advantage of this work is that it does list the names
in genealogical format so one can see relations. The
disadvantage is that it does not contain ages or addresses,
nor does it contain as many names as the other sources listed
fourth very valuable source is Cherokee Jack D. Baker's transcription
of the Cherokee
Emigration Rolls from 1817-1835. These rolls allow one
to connect their Old Settler Cherokee roots back east. These
transcriptions provide a valuable link to connect the Eastern
and Western Cherokee tribes.
but by no means least, is the Cherokee
Roots books Volumes I and II. The advantage of these
volumes is the vast amount of information included (see below). If one is just beginning research, not knowing what way your
research will evolve, I recommend Cherokee Roots. One can come
back to these volumes over and over. These volumes contain
the rolls below:
Settler Roll - 1851. A listing of Cherokee, still
living in 1851, who were already residing in Oklahoma when
the main body of the Cherokee arrived in the winter of 1839
- as a result of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Approximately
one third of the Cherokee people at that time were Old Settlers
and two thirds were new arrivals.VOL II
Roll -1852. The first census of the new arrivals
of 1839. The New Echota Treaty group - "Trail
of Tears." VOL II
Dawes Roll (index). VOL II
Guion Miller West Roll (index). VOL II
Rolls - 1817. A listing of those desiring a 640 acre
tract of land in the east, in lieu of removing to Arkansas. Upon
the death of the reservee, or the abandonment of the property,
title was reverted to the state. VOL I
Roll - 1835. A census of over 16,000 Cherokee residing
in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to be
removed to Oklahoma under terms of the New Echota Treaty.
Roll - 1848. A census of 1,517 Cherokee remaining
in North Carolina after the removal of 1838. John C.
Mullay took the census pursuant to an act of Congress in
1848. VOL I
Roll - 1869. A listing of Eastern Cherokee, and
their descendants, who were listed as remaining in North
Carolina by Mullay in 1848. VOL I
Roll - 1883. Essentially, the 1883 Eastern Cherokee
census. This roll lists ancestors, Chapman Roll number,
age, English name, and Indian name. VOL I 8. Churchill
Roll - 1908. A census like roll to certify members
of the Eastern band of Cherokee. Also contains a great
degree of information including degree of blood. Rejects
are also included. VOL I
Roll - 1924. This was supposed to be the final
roll of the Eastern band of Cherokees. The land was
to be allotted and all were to become regular U.S. citizens.
Unlike their western brothers in Oklahoma, they avoided the
termination procedures. The Baker Roll "Revised" serves
as the current membership roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Indians of North Carolina. VOL I
Siler Roll, 1852 Chapman Roll, and 1909 Guion
Miller East Roll. VOL I
Common Problems Associated
with Finding Cherokee Ancestry
under current Cherokee Nation East, and Cherokee Nation West,
constitutional law, one has to prove descent from the Baker
Roll to claim membership in the Eastern Nation, and descent
from the Dawes Roll, in the category "By Blood,"
for the Western Nation. These rules may not always be the case, and
the last Cherokee Nation West constitutional convention debated whether
to rescind this provision, given the vast amount of people who can
claim Cherokee blood descent but their ancestors failed to appear
on the Dawes roll. Until some change is affected, one cannot
be a member of these two federally recognized tribes unless their
ancestors are on these rolls.
first, one has to understand there is a difference between
citizenship and blood content. Nancy Ward's descendants, who
are clearly, indisputably, Cherokee, are not all Cherokee CITIZENS. There
was a group of her descendants who remained in East Tennessee,
a group who went to California, some (the Hildebrands) who
went to Indiana. Others are scattered in Missouri and
Arkansas, just as the Old Settlers descendants are. They are
blood Cherokee. But they are not citizens of either of the
federally recognized Cherokee Nations due to the Dawes Commission
and Baker Roll requirements. As my friend Jack Baker
pointed out to me to illustrate the point, the German immigrants
who came to this country were clearly German blood, but they
gave up their German citizenship when they came to this country. So,
they were still German, but not German citizens.
So, they did not enjoy the rights of German citizenship, just
as descendants of some Cherokee cannot enjoy the rights of Cherokee
one can still be proud of their rich and noble Cherokee heritage
by using our genealogical resources to find Cherokee ancestors. This
is why the South Carolina Indian Affairs volumes are so important,
because researching them may yield names of ancestors involved
with the Cherokee. I provide some additional tips below.
of the more common reasons proving Cherokee ancestry is difficult:
noted at the beginning of this tutorial, many Cherokee assimilated
with and intermarried into white families in the region (and
vice-versa)as far back as the early 1700's. People were
not very genealogically minded at the time, and few, if any,
records were kept of this assimilation.
white families were shameful of Cherokee Blood through intermarriage
in the family, and disavowed all knowledge of it. It was hidden
for years (and is still hidden). If you see of, or hear, that
a particular ancestor was
"Portuguese," or "Black Dutch," these could mean
White Oklahomans generally did not feel this stigma of intermarriage
- the stigma was in the southern U.S. Cherokee region in the 19th
century and prior. I am told new research is coming out showing
their was a law on Missouri books at one point making marriage between
Whites and Indians illegal.
Cherokee children were placed in white homes and lost their
identity, or white schools and forgot about their identity. Some
kids were so small at the time of removal, they probably were
unaware they were Cherokee.
was not popular in that day to be Native American, to "get
ahead" many disavowed Native American blood.
groups of Cherokee were known to escape along the "Trail
Obviously to avoid capture, they "became white."
is why the Miller Roll "Plus" is so important. It
lists thousands of applicants who were rejected by the Miller
Commission, in some cases unjustly.
One can go to this list, and then obtain the application, and
find out on what basis their ancestors argued for claiming
Cherokee Blood. This is very helpful not only in researching Cherokee
ancestry, but for general genealogical research. Also, this list
may help you prove Creek Indian ancestry, because many of the rejected
applicants were rejected because they were Creek! Because
many people who think they are of Cherokee ancestry are actually
of Creek ancestry, the Campbell's Abstract index, which we offer,
is very important to access.
the Native American CD is the best one-source available not
just for Cherokee genealogy research, but for all the Five
Civilized Tribes. This is because not only does it contain
the Dawes Roll for all Five Civilized Tribes, but reference
books and other sources from Indian territory that are no longer
in print, and even if found, cannot be accessed from any one
location. This CD is highly recommended.
after you have exhausted the resources I mention above, which
should be the primary resources you use for Cherokee genealogy
research, there are some secondary resources.
all states but Oklahoma, the 1900 Federal Census has a separate
Indian index at the end of each county which lists all that
county's Indian population. In Oklahoma (still Indian
Territory) areas which were outside the jurisdiction of the
Five Civilized Nations, the Indian population will be found
at the end of the listings. The Indian population of
the Five Civilized Nations is listed after the state of Wyoming
(the last state alphabetically). But, keep in mind, the Census
Bureau has no standards for what an Indian is, and counts anyone
an Indian who declares him or herself an Indian. Still,
the Census can provide some leads.
the Family History Centers at Latter Day Saint's Churches is
often over-looked. Forget about their computer data bases. They
have microfilmed untold numbers of genealogies, family bibles,
and other surname information (see their surname microfiche),
and thousands of county and state tax, census, deed, and other
records (see their geographic microfiche). Access the
approriate microfiche, and order the appropriate microfilm listed
on the fiche- it is very inexpensive to order 'on-loan.' County
deed records from Oklahoma and other states can be accessed
this way, and is a good source of info, especially if your
ancestor, or a relative of an ancestor, was swindled out of
land. I found their microfilm of state tax records (broken
out by county) to be the number one source of genealogical
information in my research. These are very meticulous
records, as the government wanted to tax early and often.
just because you cannot find a descendant on the Baker Roll,
or Dawes Roll, and therefore, cannot be recognized by the Eastern
or Western Cherokee Nation, or one of the other four Civilized
Tribes such as the Creek, does not mean you are not Indian!
As I stated above, the Cherokee Nation East uses the Baker
Roll, and the Cherokee Nation West uses the Dawes Roll. The
other four civilized tribes use the Dawes Roll. Keep
in mind (and this is a topic that could be expounded on in
many more pages) that according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs,
no single Federal or tribal criterion establishes a persons
identity as an Indian. In fact, there is no universally
accepted definition of the word Indian. Different agencies
and different tribes (tribe is an altogether different definition!)
have varying criteria.
to establish your Cherokee or Indian roots, first establish
your family's ancestry as best as possible using traditional
genealogy methods. I believe this to be the number one
cause for failing to find one's Native American Roots.
In other words, many people try to establish their Native American
heritage without knowing much about their ancestor, and without first
establishing the traditional genealogical information about their
ancestor, which is obtained through tax records, marriage records,
census records, etc.
Use the LDS! Next, use the established sources available on
this site such as the Native American CD, Miller Roll PLUS, Dawes
Roll PLUS, Cherokee Roots Volumes (which has 15 major Cherokee Rolls),
Starr's Genealogy of Old Cherokee Families, and the Journal of Indian
Affairs (3 Volume Set) (sold out currently) which lists many traders
into the Cherokee, Creek, and other Indian tribes.
Many of these married into Indian tribes. If those yield
no results, start searching the 1900 census indexes.
following references represent secondary, or ancillary, sources
which will allow you to delve deeper into Cherokee and other
tribal research. In no way are they a substitute for
the above sources, but can be used to supplement the base which
you have established.
to Records in the National Archives of the United States
Relating to American Indians. ISBN 0-911333-13-4. This
guide examines all the record categories, is descriptive
with detail and dates, and is a superior guide.
Indians: A Select Catalogue of National Archives Microfilm
Publications. ISBN 0-911333-09-6. Breaks out each microfilm
listing. Not as detailed as the first source, but valuable
in showing film numbers, title, dates, and a description
of the record.
of the above books are found at the National Archives and Records
Administration web site at http://www.nara.gov. Email them
at Inquire@nara.Gov or write NARA, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW,
Washington D.C. 20408-0001
Historical Society, 2100 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City
OK 73105-4997 (405) 521-2491. Organized in 1893 with currently
over 100 staff members, the staff will assist with questions
pertaining to Oklahoma and Oklahoma Native Americans. Also
publishes The Chronicles of Oklahoma, the quarterly journal,
with wide ranging articles.
Nation Births and Deaths, 1884-1901. Abstracted from
Indian Chieftain and Daily Chieftain Newspapers, by Dixie
Bogle, sponsored by NE OK Genealogical Society, Vinita OK.
Published 1980 by Cook and McDowell Publications, 719 E.
6th St., Owensboro KY, 42301.
of the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee, 1801-1835. 14 rolls
of microfilm (microcopy 208) from record group 75, Bureau
of Indian Affairs. Marybelle W. Chase has extracted the miscellaneous
lists and registers from these rolls into a book (we do not
have the title), and state these records have much historical
and genealogical value. She could be reached at 5802 E. 22'D
Place, Tulsa OK 74114
Nation Papers, Inventory and Index. Revised and edited
by Kristina L. Southwell. This is, as stated, an inventory
and index held by the University of Oklahoma's Western History
Collection (Norman OK). The collection consists of 104 linear
ft. of official records and publications of the former Cherokee
Nation, and the personal pares of four leading families.
The dates of the bulk of the material are 1830-1907.
Delaware and Shawnee Admitted to Cherokee Citizenship and
the Related Wyandotte and Moravian Delaware. By Tony
Prevost, Heritage Books, 1992. Extensive information containing
background, migration patterns, 1816 treaty ancestral signees,
missionary school info, natives who were on the 1860 and
1870 federal census, biographical info, Civil War info, register
of Delawares who were admitted Cherokee citizenship in 1867,
Delawares on the 1900 fedreral census, and much more.
People and Where They Rest. Master Index. An index to 1043
Old Cemeteries within the boundary of the old Indian Territory.
By Jerri G. Chasteen, 1120 Cottonwood Court, Pryor OK 74361.
Indian School Records. An Indian school in Northern Oklahoma
from 1880 to 1984. Over 18,700 Indians went to school there,
including 4000-5000 Cherokee. After 1910 the largest tribe
attendees was Navajo. Oklahoma Archives maintains school
Indian and Pioneer History. As a 1930's WPA project,
thousands of Oklahomans were interviewed which revealed much
historical and genealogical information. Includes extensive
Indian slave narratives. 113 Volumes, indexed.
Planters in Georgia. By Don Shadburn.
Intrusion. By Don Shadburn. Book about prominent mixed-blood
families in Georgia. Recently reprinted.
and Historical Index of American Indians and Persons Involved
in Indian Affairs, from U.S. Dept. of Interior records,
G.K. Hall and Co., 70 Lincoln Street, Boston, 1966. 8 Volumes.
of Old and New Cherokee Indian Families. By George Morrison
to Cherokee Indian Records Microfilm Collection of Oklahoma
Historical Society, Archives and Manuscript Division.
2100 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
of Oklahoma. This is the magazine of the Oklahoma Historical
Society. Below are select articles from 1960-1979, Vol's
38-57 relating to the Cherokee and Cherokee Nation, and other
Indian Agents 1830-34, L:437-457
Settlers, XLII:82; XLVI 455,458,459; XLVIII 419
of 1851, XLVI:231
Indians in, XLIII:334
Georgia, Whites living in tribe, L:15-19
Indians in, XLII 416
in, XLII:10,11,124,337; XLVII 322; XLIX 296-299
Agents West, XXXXIX 42-53
Indian Agents 1831-1874, L:415-436
Freedmen XLVII:143,151; XLIX240,242,243; L:434
with Choctaw, XXXIX 48,49,327
Indian Agents, 1834-1874, LI37-58
Missionary to XLII:331-333
in Choctaw Country, XLVIII, 474
Indian Agents 1842-74, LI 59,83.