Preparing for the Possible Outcome of Your Cherokee Genealogy Research
by Christina Berry
More and more families are trying to trace their Cherokee roots. In many cases the family has nothing much to go on except for family legends of Cherokee heritage. Sadly, in many cases these families may never be able to conclusively prove their Cherokee heritage. This is why, when beginning the search into the possibility of Cherokee roots, families should try to keep their expectations low and approach the search as a fun adventure.
When it comes to Cherokee genealogy there are basically five groups of people. A family must be open to the possibility that any of the five of these are relevant to their situation.
1. In some cases rumors of Cherokee ancestry in a family turn out to be false. It is possible that some families who are trying to find Cherokee roots are neither Cherokee, nor Native American.
2. In a few cases a family may find that, while the rumor has always been that they are Cherokee, in reality they belong to a different Indian tribe. I go into this possibility in greater detail in a previous article, To Be Or Not To Be . . . Cherokee.
3. In a few cases rumors of Cherokee ancestry in a family can never be proven or traced. The family may, in fact, be Cherokee, but because of the nature of Cherokee history some family histories are difficult if not impossible to document. This could be because the family intermarried with whites and passed as white, or because the family moved away from the tribe very early on and was never recorded as Cherokee on any official records.
4. There are some families who can prove that they are Cherokee but are not eligible for enrollment in any of the three federally recognized tribes. The reason for this is that the Cherokee Nation was made to sign numerous rolls through the history of their early contact with the US government. In these cases, however, the families' ancestors may have left the Cherokee Nation, or the Eastern Cherokee boundary, before the final rolls (Dawes or Baker) or the families' ancestors refused to sign the final rolls because of their negative experiences with rolls in the past. In the case of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee there may also be families who have ancestors on the final roll (Baker) but they do not meet the blood quantum or age requirement so that cannot enroll.
5. Lastly, there are some families which will find a direct ancestor on one of the final rolls (Baker or Dawes), meet any other requirements and will be able to register with their tribe. To learn more about the requirements for joining one of the three federally recognized tribes read this article, Joining the Nation - What is Required?
Every family who is beginning the search for their Cherokee ancestors hopes that they will be in the last group. However, the majority will not be. It is important to not set your hopes or expectations too high. Tracing your genealogy is a fun and exciting journey into the past. Families may not find what they are looking for, but hopefully they will learn a bit about their family history in the process.
Excerpts from this article appear in the All Things Cherokee Customized Cherokee Rolls Report, which also includes detailed Cherokee enrollment information, as well as a custom surname search of the Cherokee rolls, including the Dawes and Baker Rolls.
Title: Cherokee Roots: Eastern (Volume 1)
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)
Description: Indexes all rolls of the Western Cherokee, taken from 1851 to 1909. This records those Cherokee living west of the Mississippi River.
All Things Cherokee has helped over 3,000 families with their Cherokee genealogy research. We offer three great services to help you find answers to your genealogy questions.
Cherokee Roll Report - this service is a great start for DIY researchers, with tons of Cherokee genealogy plus custom surname searches of all the Cherokee Rolls.
Tribal Enrollment Research - this service helps determine if you are eligible to enroll with one of the federally-recognized Cherokee tribes.
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Cherokee Roots: Eastern (Volume 1)
A great genealogy resource indexing those Cherokee living east of the Mississippi River.
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