Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How to Start Your Cherokee Search -3-

Most Counties recorded Birth and Deaths at the "County Seat" as far back as 1850. These old records were stored in the Court House basement where these paper records, with water soluble ink, slowly rotted away. In the years before electricity, the county clerks reviewed these records with kerosene lanterns or open candles, just begging for a fire. I suppose you have heard the term "100 year flood". Since 1850, nearly every county court house in the country has had some sort of flood in their basement.

A County record can be used to fill in the Pedigree Chart. If you find your ancestors on the ‘Right Roll’ that would enable you to apply for Tribal membership, a County record is not permissible. The Tribe and the BIA require a State Certified certificate as 'proof of descent', but there are loopholes and ways around this requirement. A few of my clients have been able to get County Clerks to present the data from earlier birth records to officials in local State offices and have the information transcribed to official State embossed paper, and use those documents as their ‘proof’. The Bureau of Indian Affairs say these birth and death records must be on official State stationary (embossed or with a Raised Seal) that is not subject to editing. A black and white photo copy can be edited, but the embossed State papers cannot.

If you are not collecting genealogical information for Tribal Membership, then you do not need official Birth and Death certificates. They may be ‘nice to have’ as in many cases, they are the only ‘official records’ of your ancestor’s existence.

A ‘*Back Door*’ to Native American family history

If you cannot find direct evidence of your direct ancestors (grandparents, great grandparents, etc) on the official Rolls, it can be helpful to find their siblings or other close family members, since a sibling’s or cousin’s family history will be the same as your branch of the family. Additional sources for finding your ancestors or their siblings can be found in several Cherokee genealogy books, written by Cherokees for Cherokees, between 1825 and 1900, when the information was still 'fresh' in the memory of the elder ladies of the Tribe.

In some cases, you will only be able to find people with the same Family name, that were living in the same State or town as your ancestors, who applied for one of the Rolls. Since people in this period tended to travel in 'packs' and living close to a relative was essential for farm labor and health care, these people will be Kin-Folk to your relatives, and their family history will be nearly the same as yours.

When people Applied for these Rolls, they had to submit the names and birth dates of their parents and their grandparents, and where they were born or living in 1850. They also had to submit letters stating their family history and a connection to the Cherokee Nation. All of their information is still on-file in the National Archives (only in Washington DC and Fort Worth, Texas). Photo-copies can be ordered for as little as $10 for each Application Number or Roll Number, which will include all of the members of the family living under the same roof.

In the case of the Miler Roll of Eastern Cherokees, the applicants listed names, dates of birth and residences of their siblings, married children, children living at home, their parents, their grandparents, their spouse and his immediate family. Quite often, you can find several people with your family name who were living in the same county as your ancestors in 1906. These people are most likely siblings or cousins of your ancestors

Not everyone applied for these Rolls. Many Cherokees disagreed with the terms of the Treaties and thought by ‘picketing’ they could force the government to grant better conditions. Others simply disagreed on political grounds, lived in the wrong State or Territory, or misspelled their ancestors family name. Other people thought some of these government Rolls were scams to trick them into identifying themselves so they could be rounded up and exiled to a reservation.