Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why Native American ancestors had European sounding names -2-

About 1740, the British established a Frontier Post in Eastern Tennessee called Fort Louden. In those days, the British government paid their foreign soldiers in land grants upon completion of service, in the country where they served. Approximately half of these soldiers took Cherokee wives or had Cherokee girlfriends for the duration of their deployment, and passed on their family name to their children.

In many cases, Indian names were ‘translated’ into English, as the names were typically some animal, plant or action. Many of these names were ‘lost in translation’ through mistakes in interpretation. “The Rope” pointed to a coil of rope and was mistakenly named “Coil”; “The Otter” demonstrated his name by lifting up an otter and was immediately named “Muskrat Lifter” (the whites didn’t know the difference between an otter and a muskrat). This name continued to change over the years to “Rat Lifter” and eventually Ratliff; The first son of Cherokee Emperor Moy Toy, demonstrated his Indian name of ‘Leaning Wood” by placing several poles against another pole. This earned him the name of “Little Carpenter”.

The famous Chickamauga Warrior Chief “Dragging Canoe” was about 3 when he pestered his mother’s uncles to go into battle with them. They told him that when he was old enough to push a war canoe into the river, he would be ready. These war canoes were about 20 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide, hollowed out tree trunks. One day not much later, he was seen dragging the canoe toward the water and one of the Indians exclaimed “The Canoe – he is dragging it”, so he became known as “Dragging Canoe”. His modern descendants modified the mane to Canoe.

Other Indians adopted the name of a white friend or benefactor, and others named their children after famous white leaders. In Cherokee genealogy there are hundreds of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster with their family name tacked on at the end.

In early Indian society, the women were in charge. The men hunted, fished, made babies and were generally useless for other things. When they married, the wife’s Clan (her blood relatives) provided the couple with a house and was responsible for training and raising the children. In many cases, the husband would be known by his wife’s name.

For instance - John Shepherd (1/2 Cherokee) married Eutsangih Roasting Ear and was henceforward called John Roasting Ear. The family claimed the name of their white ancestor, John Shepherd, in 1883 when the white census takers demanded the Indians use English names for the legal records. The whites could not spell Cherokee names and had to write them down by phonetics. Spelling changed from Roll to Roll and made it nearly impossible to determine if a person was the same or a descendant of someone on a previous Roll.

On the Mullay Roll of North Carolina in 1848 is a John A-lar-Che. This same man and his family were recorded two years later in 1850 on the Siler Roll as John A-lah-Chih. In a similar case, there is a Ah-to-wih on the Chapman Roll of 1851 and he is identified as A-am-nea on the Hester Roll of 1883.

In some instances, Cherokees had Indian names that translated into something offensive to the whites and they were forced to change their family name. One such case was “White Man Killer”. This name was changed to “Mankiller” for the Dawes Roll in 1900. In other cases, compound names were split in following generations such as “Rattling Gourd” was modified to “Ratlingourd” then split between two branches of descendants to the “Rattler” family and the “Gourd” family.

The following list contains early family names in the old Cherokee Nation, where the nation of origin is known. There are hundreds of additional family names represented on the first Cherokee Roll that was a result of the Treaty of New Echota in 1817. I did not show them here, as their country of origin was not known.

Adair ~1758 Scotland

Agnew ~1815 England

Alberty ~1780 England

Blackburn ~1780 England

Bowles ~1760 Scotland

Buffington ~1750 England

Cordery ~1760 England

Crutchfield ~1780 England

Daniel ~1750 England

Downing ~1740 British Army

Due ~1750 England

Duncan ~1760 Scotland

Fawling ~1750 England

Fields ~1770 England

Foreman ~1770 Scotland

Gentry ~1800 England

Grant ~1724 Scotland

Gunter ~1800 Welch

Harlan ~1650 England

Hildebrand ~1800 Germany

Lowrey ~1770 England

Lynch ~1780 Ireland

Martin ~ 1740 England

McDonald ~1750 Scotland

Riley ~1760 England

Rogers ~1750 Scotland/England

Ross ~1750 Scotland

Sanders ~1750 England

Shorey ~1720 Scotland

Starr ~1758 Ireland

Stuart 1760 - British Army

Vann ~1700 Scotland, derived from early spelling error - Vaus to Vans to Vann

Ward ~1770 England

Wharton ~1688 England

Wickett ~1770 England

Original Native American names that have changed spelling over time

Chisholm - North Carolina Cherokee

Guess - derived from Alexander GIST ~1760

Watie - derived from Oo-Wa-Te meaning "he stands in the door".

Ridge - "The Ridge, he walks it" or "Ridge Walker"

Baldridge - derived from Baldridge Lowrey, some descendants used Baldridge as a family name and others used Lowrey.