Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Start Your Cherokee Search -1-

Like any other search, you have to start with what you know. Start by filling out a Pedigree Chart or a simple Family Tree, filling in as many blanks as possible with names, Year of Birth, State or Territory of Birth, Year and State of death. Go as far back as you can, then enlist the help of elder female relatives to help fill in the blanks back to your ancestors that were alive in 1900-1924.

These are important dates for Cherokees and many other Tribes, as the government held Final Treaties with the Indians during this period. Volumes of information are recorded in Official Records from this period.

The major Cherokee Treaty Rolls of this period were -

Dawes Roll of 1896-1905 in Oklahoma and surrounding states

Miller Roll of Eastern Cherokees (whole US) 1906-1909

Baker Roll of the Eastern Band in North Carolina 1924

Most people only registered on one of these Rolls, but some families applied to all of them, as the government was being very slow in awarding Cherokees Citizenship and settling land claims. The Dawes Roll was 'closed' in 1906 (no additions except by Act of Congress), but the Final Roll issuing Citizenship rights and issuing land was not completed until 1917. Some people felt they had been overlooked and registered on other Rolls as they became available.

I recommend asking your female relatives for help in this project, as the ladies tend to remember family history the way men remember sports trivia. While speaking with your elder relatives on family history, Do NOT mention Indian or Cherokee or any other Tribe, unless they bring the subject up first. The reason for this is deeply rooted in Anti-Indian prejudice formulated by the federal government to drive the remaining Indians onto existing Reservations. The Anti-Indian Laws of the period were enforced from 1830 to 1935. Any Indian 'discovered' living “Off the Reservation”, was arrested and exiled to the nearest reservation. An Indian could be murdered for the color of his skin, and the murder would not be investigated. Some of your older relatives may be old enough to have heard stories from their parents or grandparents when they were children, and old habits die hard.

Typically, older female relatives are thrilled that someone in the 'current generation' is interested in family history, and are willing to talk and help you with the Family Tree. While interviewing them, be sure to ask

If they have copies of any Land Deeds, Wills, Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, obituaries, books written about family members, or the old Family Bible, and old “Family Trunk” handed down by Grandma, scrapbooks, old photos, etc.

Ask if they know of a 'distant cousin' who is doing the family tree, or is the "Family Historian". Ask about Family Reunions, as there are typically one or more Family Historians at these functions who are willing to share their information. It makes them feel important, so be nice to them. (to be continued)