This is a very complex subject because the Cherokee Nation once encompassed parts of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, western West Virginia, southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, northern Alabama, northwestern South Carolina and northern Georgia.
The issue is further complicated by the infamous removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears in the late 1830s. During the 1800s and 1900s, there was much miscegenation between Cherokee and non-Indian settlers. The genealogy research process is made even more difficult since some Cherokee desired to retain their Native American lineage while others did not.
While some genealogy records exist for the tribal members, it is nearly impossible to trace genealogy based on a single name which does not appear as part of tribal records.
The United States government conducted several censuses of the Cherokee (pre and post-removal). These rolls are printed in two publications called Cherokee Roots Vol. 1 (Eastern Cherokee) and Vol. 2 (Western Cherokee). They can be purchased from:Cherokee Roots
P.O. Box 525
Cherokee, NC 28719
Online at http://www.cherokeeroots.com/store.html
Genealogical and historic research assistance is also offered by James P. Myers, Jr. He will conduct roll searches and in-depth research if desired.
James P. Myers, Jr.
P.O. Box 682
Cherokee, NC 28719
Remember that each Group, Tribe, and Nation has their own criteria for membership. Some require a certain Blood Quantum, to be an enrolled member. This means you may possibly be a direct descendant but will not be able to become enrolled because of the Blood Quantum requirements.
Researching the records of the United States Census are always good starting points for genealogists. Consideration of your ancestor’s birth place (County, town, area)and specific time references (birth dates, marriages, etc.) are essential.
Many times in census records people were classified as Indian, Mulatto, or Free Person of Color.
Here are some tips for researching your Cherokee family ties or other Native American Indian family ties.
1. Start with yourself, the known, and work toward the unknown. You should find all the information you can about your parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors and write the information down. Most important informational clues are vital statistics–ancestral names, dates of birth, marriages/divorces, deaths, and the places where ancestors were born, lived, married, and died. Valuable information can be found in family Bibles, newspaper clippings, military certificates, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, backs of pictures and baby books. During such research, the goal, especially for tribal membership purposes, is to establish and document the relationships of Native American ancestors and to identify the Native American tribe with which your ancestor may have been affiliated.
2. Enlist Your Relatives. Relatives, particularly older ones, are another good source of information.
You should write a letter, make a personal visit, or conduct a telephone survey to find facts. You might also find that someone else in your family is working on a family history. Teaming up with an interested family member is a great way to spread the work and make the research process more enjoyable. You can launch your research in libraries and archives. You might also find it helpful to advertise in the local genealogical bulletins (city, county, or state) where your ancestors lived.
3. Public Records – Some states began to keep records of births and deaths earlier, but for most of the United States, birth and death registration because a requirement around the turn of the century, about 1890- 1915. Before that time these events can sometimes be found in church records and family bibles. Marriages can be found recorded in most counties. Many times dating back as early as the establishment of the county. Records of property acquisition and disposition can be good sources of genealogical data. Such records are normally kept in county courthouses. Often the earliest county records or copies are also available in state archives.
Historical and genealogical information can be found in other civil records at the county courthouse such as deeds, wills, land or other property conveyances. In addition to county courthouses, school and church records can be researched for information.
Write to your states’ Bureau of Vital Statistics to request copies of birth, death, marriage, and divorce decrees. Include the name of the individual, date and place of birth, and your relationship to that person. Remember that many state governments did not keep birth and death records until around the turn of the century (1890-1915). Therefore searches in state records for ancestors who were born or died before that time may be limited.
The National Archives in Washington, D.C. has records of genealogical value. The Federal government has implemented the census every ten years since 1790 and is a very good source of information for individuals who are trying to identify their ancestors. Census records from 1790-1920 are available on microfilm in the National Archives’ regional branches. Seventeen branch offices are in major metropolitan areas throughout the country. A brochure describing the branch office is available from the Archives at:The National Archives Records and Administration Publication and Distribution Staff (NECD)
8th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408-0001
Web site: http://www.archives.gov/
The National Archives also has military and service related records, passenger arrival records, and other records of value to persons involved in genealogical research. The National Archives has various publications for sale. The Archives have been microfilmed all censuses. Individuals can purchase copies of the microfilm rolls and associated genealogical materials. Various rolls of microfilm are available for rental at the National Archives.
4. Other Organizations
The local library is a good starting point for gathering facts about Native Americans and Native American tribes including history, culture, historic tribal territories, and migration patterns. Learn as much as you can about the tribe from which you believe yourself to be descended. A few churches have very good records of important events in the lives of members such as baptismal and marriage certificates and memorial books. Investigate the possibility of finding genealogical data in the records of the church to which your ancestor belonged. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Genealogy Library maintains an active family history program which includes information about members and non-members.
Depending on geography, you might find useful information at your local historical society or chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR),with a historical or lineage orientation.
6. Books and Videos
A Student’s Guide to Native American Genealogy (Oryx American Family Tree Series) by E. Barrie Kavasch.
How to Trace Your Family Tree : A Complete and Easy to Understand Guide for the Beginner. by the American Genealogical Research Institute
How to Trace Your Native American Heritage (1998)(VHS)
Cherokee Proud 2nd Edition by Tony MacK McClure
6. On-Line Research Tools are unlimited. You can learn about genealogy research at Ancestry.com. The site now contains more than 500 MILLION names and over 2000 databases for researching your family tree.
Use the search tool to find your ancestors, and then build your family tree online using the multi-user collaboration tool. Since 1983 Ancestry.com (formerly Ancestry, Inc.) has helped millions of people all around the world find and use the best sources of genealogical information. In 1996, Ancestry.com helped revolutionize the field of genealogy by launching massive online databases such as the 50-million name Social
Security Death Index.
7. Hiring a Professional Researcher
If you wish to hire a researcher, the following organizations will provide you with listings of genealogical researchers for hire:
Board of Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington, D.C. 20044
Association of Professional Genealogists
P.O. Box 40393
Denver, Colorado 80204-0393
9. Contact the Various Indian Tribes in South Carolina
If your next step is to determine your eligibility for tribal enrollment, then you will need to get in touch with the Enrollment Office for the particular tribe. Contact information for the Enrollment Office can usually be found at each of the tribal organizations’ offices.
If you would like a Membership application for ECSIUT or the Cherokee Indian Tribe
of South Carolina, Inc. write to:
P.O. Box 7062,
Columbia, South Carolina
Other Cherokee Tribal Groups in other states:
Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee
Lucian Lamar Sneed, Pd.D. Executive Director
State Recognized Ga Code OCGA 44-12-300
a/k/a Georgia Cherokee Indians
State Recognized Ga Code OCGA 44-12-300
P.O. Box 1915
Cumming, Georgia 30028
ECHOTA CHEROKEE TRIBE OF ALABAMA
PERRY WHITE, CHIEF
59 HWY 487
VANDIVER AL 35176
CHEROKEE TRIBE OF NORTHEAST ALABAMA
CHARLENE TUCKALEECHE STORY, CHIEF
53 BUCKWORTH CIRCLE
TRAFFORD AL 35172
WEB SITE: http://www.tsalagi.org/
CHEROKEES OF SOUTHEAST ALABAMA
RAYMOND (DICK) HULL, CHIEF
2212 50TH ST
VALLEY AL 36854
UNITED CHEROKEE INTERTRIBAL
GINA WILLIAMSON, CHIEF
P.O. BOX 754
GUNTERVILLE, AL 35976
Principal Chief,Tim Meeks; Gvnidigardi
PO Box 201
Tracy City, TN 37387
Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas & Missouri
776 HWY 351
Paragould, AR 72450
Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas & Missouri
200 North Rockingchair Road
Paragould, Arkansas 72450
Ph: (870) 239-5174, Fax: (870) 239-9974
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465
Click here: Official Site of the Cherokee Nation – Federally Recognized
Charles Jahtlohi Rogers M.D.
Traditional Chief and Ugu
Cherokee Nation of Mexico
When federal enumerators began counting American Indian populations, traditional names were replaced by made-up surnames (usually adapted from nicknames, e.g. Pete, Nash, and Henry). Many families still carry these surnames today, though it’s possible to trace original Indian identities through the transitional censuses of the nineteenth century.
Many family historians have related their frustration at the lack of records available for families living outside of reservation lands. For those who remain undaunted, one historian has recommended the 1900 U.S. Census. This record included a separate form for American Indians living in non-reservation households. Consequently, he was able to find detailed information about his ancestor including her tribal affiliation, blood
degree and American citizenship.
Tribal elders: Thanks to the rich oral tradition inherent in American Indian culture, many tribal elders can recite their family histories going back several generations. If you’d like to arrange an interview, you may do so through a local tribal office. Just be aware that, out of respect, you should refrain from bringing tape recorders and video cameras.
More Family History Basics:
American Indian Ancestry A source of tremendous personal pride, American Indian ancestry is touted (sometimes falsely) by nearly every citizen of
this nation. Fortunately, American Indians are among the best-documented cultural groups in the United States. Therefore, it is possible to prove direct ties to one of more than 500 tribal nations. Just be aware that American Indian genealogy can involve a lot of work. Below are recommendations from Ancestry.com for those interested in tracing their American Indian lineage.
Bureau of Indian Affairs: Established in 1824, the Bureau of Indian Affairs
(BIA) was the onetime repository for a variety of historical records.
However, many of these records now belong to the National Archives. Still, you can
contact regional BIA offices and request what information they may still
have on file. Be prepared to provide as much information as you can about your
ancestors’ tribal affiliations.
For contact information, visit the BIA website:
U.S. Federal Census: Not to be confused with Indian reservation census lists, the U.S. Federal Census began incorporating American Indian communities in
1860. Transitional censuses (most dating from 1880 to 1890) are among the most valuable censuses available. They included Indian names alongside corresponding American names as well as information ranging from
native languages to American Indian blood degree.
Click to access ancestry.com’s census collection:
Dawes Commission Index: The Dawes Act of 1893 reapportioned land belonging
to the Five Civilized Tribes Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole. Members of each tribe could apply for a portion of this land after submitting proof of tribal enrollment. The Dawes Commission listed the names of those who enrolled between 1896 and 1914.
Click to access the Dawes Commission Index on Ancestry.com: http://www.ancestry.families.aol.com/search/rectype/inddbs/3118a.htm
The Hudson’s Bay Company: Founded by British-Scotch fur traders in Canada around 1670. Hudson’s Bay company preserved records for local Indian marriages and baptisms along with journals obtained from traveling fur traders (who spent a great deal of time with American and Canadian tribes). More detailed than average government records, these documents are now housed at the Hudson’s Bay Archives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
For more information about the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives visit their website:
The National Archives: With its main office located in Washington D.C., the National Archives is easily the nation’s largest repository for American Indian genealogical records. The records encompass a variety of topics ranging from Indian trade, reservation censuses, treaties, land claims and education.
Click below to visit The National Archives website: