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Native Research

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  • Native Research

    Perhaps one of the hardest groups to research for various reasons.
    First issue is where to start...

    When researching a possible native ancestor you must determine what tribe and more importantly where this person lived and died.
    Without knowledge of what tribe they were, it will be next to IMPOSSIBLE to find your ancestor.
    When I say tribe,I mean the main body of the tribe. In some cases the tribe was move thousands of miles in others they remain pretty much where they have always been.

    Once you have determined what tribe, now determine what agency they would have been associated with. Except for the 5 civilized tribes an Indian Agency was where the tribe was given rations and were counted. The agency records would show a listing of the family head and who was in the family. But these records for the most only started in the 1850's and later. Which brings me to my next point:

    Before 1900 an Indian that lived with their tribe and was recognized as a citizen or tribal member were not included on the Federal Census of the United States.
    Of course people will have an example of somebody that they found earlier than that. That just means that person gave up there individual rights as a citizen of that tribal nation and are now subject to the laws of the Constitution of the US.

    Ok, that alot to digest at first but it brings up my next point in this
    WHY do you want to discover Native Roots...
    Are you confirming a story
    Have you evidence of native roots other than physical characteristics "ie" high cheek bones??
    Or do you want to enroll with a tribe?

    I will address the first group and set aside enrollment for a second.
    Our roots are important and we have all heard family stories of our ancestors maybe a famous person or even an outlaw in our past.
    Stories have there place around the dining room table and we don't tend to call out grandma when she speaks of a "Cherokee Princess" in the deep past. Stories are stories told and retold the problem is, when you compare them to facts and documentation. They tend to unravel quickly unless you ignore the facts and stick with the myth.
    Myth: No such thing as a Cherokee Princess in the past or distant past Cherokees did not have Royality and if there was a Princess where is the Prince??
    Myth: Dragging Canoe is Cherokee, actually his parents were captured from other tribes and raised as Cherokess so by DNA or Genealogy standards he cannot have Cherokee Roots.
    Myth: Thousands upon thousands escaped, hidout the trail of tears
    Yeah well the problem with this myth is we can find these people on Federal Census in the 1840's 50's and so forth they did not hide that well.

    Fact: 20,000 Cherokees stayed with the Main body of the Tribe in 1838, they lived in North Carolina and Indian Territory

    ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
    Till I Die!

  • #2
    Random Thoughts, Questions and

    When starting out tracing genealogy it is a good idea to have a starting place
    A good first step is you...
    Then precede backwards to parents, grandparents ect....
    I have used sites like and those little leafs but after several generations errors seem to creep in. I noticed that some folks seem to just incorporate into their tree inaccurate information. Such as birth and death dates that overlap or redundant information of siblings ect ect. Well I was spending more time figuring what was correct or not that I just deleted whole sections and started over.

    Which brings up my first Question: What do you hope to gain from this research??
    I think this is a most important question, because if you are just looking for trivia then accuracy is not important.
    But if really want to know then accuracy is most important!! For this research can be passed down, those family stories can be confirmed or dispelled.

    My next question is: rumors of native ancestry?
    Ah now that is the million dollar question... This is the very hard part to this research, getting past the broken chain. That is what this is: links in a chain stretching back in time it starts with you and goes backwards. But those chains also connect to your siblings and your parents siblings and so forth. You must research by family its easier to nail down facts when you know for a fact grandpa had three brothers and you find them on a census.
    If you find in all your research you family lived well away any tribal nations its usually a good indication that they were not native...

    To be continued...
    ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
    Till I Die!


    • #3
      Nuts and Bolts Of Research...

      Ok, so you have a name of a great great grandpa and you want to find out if he was native or to confirm a family story.

      Of course you would follow my advice and start with yourself and trace him backwards linking parent to grandparent to him.
      But, say you think he was adopted or you just don't have that connection you are looking for.
      Well, you have come to the right place!

      I will give you some examples, background and insight on research I have done on my own family. I have those connections and they are not missing for 7 generations going into the past!
      It was still very difficult to confirm connections due to several factors...
      1) Misspelled Names
      2) Phonetic Names
      3) Different or AKA names
      4) Assumptions

      I will start with misspelled names and phonetic names which are similar issues. Census Takers and Roll takers were not always highly educated people. They were hired to take notes working thru in many cases interpreters. An Interpreter usually spoke several languages but which one are they a master of and rarely they were a master of both languages.
      In grade school I am sure you have played the game telephone. Where a line of kids are giving a phrase or word and they repeat it to the next kid, until it comes out the other end. We would always chuckle when we hear how much different the word is at the other end. Well a native sits down and thru an interpreter says who they are and who there parents are, such as with a Dawes Commission Enrollment. The Testimony would have been crossed checked with previous listing on rolls or census taken by that tribe. And I still found errors with spelling of names just checking each of the documents myself. Example: Alex Aleck Alec Aleke are the same names of my great great grandfather used on 4 different rolls. That is just his English name, they butchered his Ndn. 7 ways from sunday. But I was able to cross-check who he was by his wife's name, and birth and death dates so I knew he was a match.

      Next set of issues is AKA names and Assumptions.
      Again I will use my great great Grandfather who is an extreme example but is a good example. He was born 1851 in Flint District, Cherokee Nation. He was one of 7 children and was the 2nd oldest, living to 1932 to a ripe old age of 81. Thru his life he was known as Brown, Soot, Smoke, Burnt Tobacco, Alex, Alec, Aleck and Aleke. He was buried as Alex. The first four names were his translated names and the rest were his English names. From what I gather he did not start using an English name until the 1890's. I traced him using known siblings, wife's name approx. location of where he was born and resided throughout most of his life and where he was buried. He only moved about a 5 mile distance from birth to death. He was an easy one to trace in some cases the testimony of his other siblings gave me several of his names and then just reading rolls and census I found others. This was a full blood who spoke no English his entire life and his headstone is written in Cherokee which I translated using many of his names.
      The other issue is assumptions, I had the Paternal Great Grandpa's last name only to discover he was not always called that, his half brother in testimony in 1907 on the Miller App addressed the issue. His father died when he was a young boy, his mother lived with another man and they took his name. It was very common for Full bloods in the 1880's to use the name of the head of house as there last name for before this period Full bloods only went by the name they were known by. In some cases siblings would share the same name, I found that example when two sisters shared the name Sarah they were only a year apart in age. Another problem with last names it was not a common practice to name the child after there father I have found examples where siblings would use different last names and belong to the same father sometimes it was a derivative of there fathers name or it was just a name they liked and would shorten it. Big Mush is the distant ancestor of a modern family that has nothing in there name to suggest this. Another example is Ask for water which is the English translation of Amadeske or what is now know as Ummerteskee. Or Deer in the Water to Deerinwater or Pumpkin pile kicker to Pumpkin just a few in the hundreds of hundreds examples.

      Chances are though, if you have reason to believe the ancestor you are attempting to connect to has a first and last name and they harken from before the 1850's. They are either breeds or just White. It was very uncommon for Full bloods to have full names prior to this period...

      To Be, continued...
      Last edited by Josiah; 11-16-2014, 01:59 PM.
      ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
      Till I Die!


      • #4
        Rolls not Roles

        Lets dig into what most people are looking for in this site and that is to establish if they have a Cherokee in the past.

        Today you are identified by your First Name, Middle Name and Last Name. Even with all three you may need to use a Birthdate or physical address just to establish your identity.

        Actually, not much has changed when it comes to research. I also use siblings if known and any other tidbit of information to establish if the person I have found is direct kin or somebody of a similar name.
        If I heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times when somebody comes to me asking for help after they found somebody listed on the Dawes Index with a name they believe is kin! I will ask them how did they establish that was there kin? What category are they? What is there age? Where did they live? Did their ancestor actually reside within the boundaries of the old nation in Indian Territory??
        These are very important questions that need to be answered during the process of vetting the name you have found. And if not answered fully you will never know for sure this is your ancestor.

        Did I say this is very hard to do??
        Native Research is Hard to do.

        It is Hard to research if you do not know WHY the roll was created. It is Hard to do if you don't know WHAT the Roll consists of and How it is organized. It is hard to do if you don't know WHERE it was accomplished.

        A couple of very common myths that I hear just about everyday while chatting with folks about Cherokee Research is this:
        1) My kinfolk left the Cherokee Reservation to avoid Dawes Commission. (Cherokees in Indian Territory were not on a Reservation but Sovereign Land Governed by the Government of the Cherokee Nation which included Laws, Law Enforcement and a Court system)
        2) My Kinfolk Hid in the hills of the Cherokee Nation and thus avoided the sweep of the Dawes Commission. (The Dawes commission hired Cherokees to go into the nation to find those that did not want to enroll they used neighbors, kinfolk, to establish if the people they had listed on the census of 1896 and 1880 were still living then enrolled them!)

        History lesson!!!
        Dawes Act of 1896 was commissioned to allot 160 acres of land to the individual head of house or 80 acres to single Adult.
        This list was established by using the Cherokee Nation's own Census of 1880 and 1896. It is fairly easy to compare those documents to those that were listed on the Final Roll of 1907. Looking for MISSING CHEROKEES... Hmm so the list was created from the TRIBE'S own listings of WHOM they RECOGNIZED as TRIBAL MEMBERS... AS a matter of fact those that the Tribal Lawyer fought to be excluded in the Dawes listing some 113 were in fact Wealthy Whites attempting to gain land... So why would somebody run away from Free Land? Why would thousands upon thousands Run to Indian Territory to get this land? In fact tried to establish that they were Cherokee only to be rejected due to the fact they were never recognized by the very tribe they were attempting to be.

        Ok so you don't have an ancestor listed on the Dawes Roll for whatever reason. Well all is not lost, for there was another ROLL that was accomplished at the SAME TIME called the GUION MILLER Roll!! In this roll, money was owed to the any individual that could established that they were either listed or a descendant of two previous rolls called the Drennon Roll of 1851 or Chapman roll of 1850. Physical location did not exclude you from this roll it was only concerned with the fact that you were part of the Cherokee nation living in either the East or West. The only group excluded were Old Settler Cherokees, because they were covered by a different treaty in 1896. By the way this roll is one of the most important rolls for researching Cherokee Ancestry ever created! for on this roll I can look up and find the maiden name of the wife of the head of house, I can see the listings of all the siblings it in some cases list both the English and CHEROKEE names back several generations! A treasure trove of information!!

        Do your research
        Read up on history
        Look at maps

        Don't pay attention to myth and hearsay, establish for your self what is fact

        One last thought

        The earliest Roll that was done on the Cherokees was in 1817 and does not include the whole nation only those that wish to move to Arkansas. In fact if you find an ancestor on there they are probably Old Settler and a part of the UKB today.
        Anything earlier than this is Very difficult to establish with any certainty unless you don't care for facts.
        Then by all means...
        Embrace the Myth!
        But don't call it research
        Call it
        And please add a Disclaimer
        Last edited by Josiah; 11-17-2014, 12:50 PM.
        ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
        Till I Die!


        • #5
          ok ok, so what advice do you have for those who have ancestors who were part of what is considered, "Pencil Genocide?"

          You have written out the steps of research very well! :)


          • #6
            Originally posted by TeenaBear View Post
            ok ok, so what advice do you have for those who have ancestors who were part of what is considered, "Pencil Genocide?"

            You have written out the steps of research very well! :)
            I addressed it early in this set of posts... if your ancestor left the mainbody of the tribe they were subject to the laws of that state where they now resided. Including the fact that census takers would list whatever race they were instructed to write down.

            I am aware that is a bitter pill to swallow, but in my own experience as a researcher you are limited to the documents available to you and what was written on them years and years ago.
            Do overs are not an option.
            This also brings up one of my main points that I must stress:
            If a person was attempting to enroll as a citizen in a particular tribe they would not be using a listing on a census, but they would be determining a connection to a person listed on that particular tribe's base roll.

            On the otherhand if they were merely interested in heritage to find a connection to someone in the past, they must understand the limitations of several types of documents. Before 1900 a census only listed the head of household last name and the family was listed under them listed only by first name. Another really annoying habit at this time was to list people by intial and not spell out there full name!! Another issue is following married women for they would not list maiden name. Maps are very helpful gathering an understanding of the location of the people listed on the census. Clues are scattered through out the pages by understanding how it was taken in those days. The census taker traveled and wrote down those they encountered during a day so its possible looking at the actual page tomsee neighbors and in some cases the children of parents merely moved to the next farm and started farming. Like I said clues lol
            Last edited by Josiah; 11-20-2014, 10:39 PM. Reason: added much more
            ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ - Anigiduwagi
            Till I Die!


            • #7
              ok ok gotcha! Thank you!


              • #8
                Thank you, Josiah! I have learned much of this during my research, but it is nice to have it all written out.


                • #9
                  Thank you. I did not know Dragging Canoe’s parents were adopted from other tribes.

                  I don’t have a family story of a Cherokee but I know there is visibly Native grandparents in my family.

                  Through DNA matching of relatives I have matched many people with Dragging Canoe or his sons in their family trees.

                  I wrongly assumed he was Cherokee from what I’ve read of him online.

                  I know his group broke off from the Cherokees he was living with as they didn’t agree on many issues.


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