Sunday, January 13, 2008

Early Records – What are the ROLLS? - Part 1

Most early Cherokee records originated from official government documents called “Treaty Rolls”. When the government made a new treaty, they would list the names of the adult members of the community that would be responsible for following the terms of the treaty. There Treaty Rolls, up until about 1850, only listed the names of the Heads of House, not their spouses or their children. If a family consisted of a white parent and an Indian parent, only the Indian parent’s name would be listed. These early Treaty Rolls can be used to determine the origins of many Cherokee family names, even if they left the Old Cherokee Nation and ‘passed for white’ in some other Territory or State.

There are a few other early records maintained by missionaries and churches and the early records of the Tennessee Indian Agency. Some of these documents show births, deaths, marriages, and other family relationships. The Tennessee Indian Agency records only list names of Heads of House that filed claims against losses due to white incursions.

There are several Cherokee genealogy books that were written by Cherokees for Cherokees that follow the bulk of the families in the Old Cherokee Nation, or individual family histories. The most complete of these books is “The History of the Cherokee Indians” written by Emitt Starr, first published in 1900. In this book are listed some 5,000 Cherokees, their spouses, their parents, and their children from about 1700 to 1875, and lists the major first families of the Old Cherokee Nation.

The earliest *Treaty Rolls* of the Old Cherokee Nation are as follows –

*Reservation Roll of 1817*

Families listed on this Roll, under terms of this Treaty, were expected to become American citizens, be ‘issued’ a one square mile tract of land for a personal farm or “Individual Reservation”. The land was not owned by the Cherokee family, but was ‘set aside for their use ‘for life’. At the end of their life, the land was to return to the American government. Individual Reservations were granted in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama.

580 Cherokee families signed up for this Roll. By the time the Individual Reservations were issued in 1820, only 107 families were listed as being issued a reservation ‘For Life’ and 39 families were given a ‘fee simple’ (given title to the land). 23 reservations were in Georgia, the rest were in Tennessee. Listings of the Individual Reservations in North Carolina or Alabama have not been located.

(to be continued)