The Cherokee Rolls
by Christina Berry

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Cherokee rolls. Why were they taken? Who was on them? What do they mean today? In this article I will try to clarify what the various rolls meant and what they mean now.

The Cherokee rolls were taken between the early part of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. These rolls were often taken as a result of land or money distribution due to new treaties or US policies relating to the Cherokee. These rolls, coupled with the Federal Census of Indian Territory in 1860 and 1900 and the Cherokee Nation Census of 1880, are the only official records of those people who lived in both eastern and western Cherokee territories.

Finding your ancestors on any of these rolls will mean that your family is Cherokee (or Cherokee Freedman), however this does not mean that you will be able to register with one of the federally recognized Cherokee tribes. This is because only three of the rolls (the Dawes, Baker and Keetoowah Base rolls) are used for Cherokee tribal citizenship today. You can learn more about tribal citizenship and whether you are eligible for enrollment with the Final Roll research. Below, find out what each roll recorded.

  • Rolls Before and During Removal
    • Reservation Rolls 1817
      Recorded the Cherokees who chose to accept a plot of land on the Cherokee reservation (Eastern Band).

      Emigration Rolls 1817-1835
      Recorded those Cherokee who chose to "emigrate" to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River in present day Oklahoma and Arkansas (prior to the Trail of Tears.

      Henderson Roll 1835
      Recorded those Cherokees who were to be removed to Indian Territory on what would later be called the Trail of Tears.

  • Post Removal Rolls
    • Mullay Roll 1848
      Recorded the Cherokees who remained in North Carolina after removal.

      Siler Roll 1851 - Eastern
      Recorded Eastern Cherokee entitled to per capita payment.

      Old Settler Roll 1851 - Western
      Recorded those Cherokee (still living) who had emigrated to Indian Territory prior to removal.

      Chapman Roll 1852 - Eastern
      Recorded the Eastern Cherokee who actually received payment from the government (reference to Siler Roll).

      Drennen Roll 1852 - Western
      Recorded those Cherokee who came to Indian Territory in 1839 on the Trail of Tears.

      Act of Congress Roll 1854 - Eastern
      Small roll of names added to the Siler Roll.

      Swetland Roll 1869 - Eastern
      Recorded those Cherokees, and their descendants, who were listed on the Mullay Roll as residing in North Carolina.

      Hester Roll 1883 - Eastern
      A roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians which provides a good deal of detail about those listed.

      Wallace Roll 1888 - Western
      A schedule of names of Cherokee freedmen of the Cherokee Nation.

      Kern-Clifton Roll 1896-1897 - Western
      A schedule of names of Cherokee freedmen of the Cherokee Nation, this roll was created to fill in the omissions of the Wallace Roll.

      Churchill Roll 1908 - Eastern
      Additional roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians which also included a list of those rejected from the Eastern Band.

      Guion Miller Roll 1909 - Eastern & Western
      For Cherokees (east and west) excluding the "Old Settlers" who were effected by numerous treaty violations and might be eligible for a monetary award as a result of the treaty violations.

      The Dawes Rolls 1898-1914 - Western
      The final roll of the western Cherokee. The roll ended the Cherokee Nation and allotted the land to the roll signers. This roll is the basis for tribal membership in the Cherokee Nation.

      Baker Roll 1924 - Eastern
      The final roll of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in anticipation of allotment. The land was not allotted and the reservation still exists. This roll is the basis for tribal membership in the Eastern Band.

      The Keetoowah Base Rolls 1949 - Western
      This is the membership roll taken in 1949 for the United Keetoowah Band. This roll is the basis for tribal membership in the United Keetoowah Band today.

If you're searching for your ancestors on the rolls, All Things Cherokee offers a customized genealogy report that can help. The All Things Cherokee Customized Cherokee Rolls Report includes listings for the surname(s) you seek on the Cherokee rolls plus tons of other helpful information.

Related Reading

Title: Cherokee Roots: Eastern (Volume 1)
Price: $10.00

Description: Indexes all rolls of the Eastern Cherokee, taken from 1817 to 1924. This records those Cherokee living east of the Mississippi River.

Title: Cherokee Roots: Western (Volume 2)
Price: $20.00

Description: Indexes all rolls of the Western Cherokee, taken from 1851 to 1909. This records those Cherokee living west of the Mississippi River.


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