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Cherokee by Blood

Author: Carolyne Gould
Published on: August 16 & 30, 2000 at

More Americans claim Cherokee heritage than any other tribe. In many cases that claim is correct. But, history shows that in some cases, when Native American ancestry was acknowledged, or could not be forsworn away, a person said they were Cherokee because the tribe was considered "civilized" and being part of that tribe was acceptable on certain levels. Even though such deceptions can make research difficult, if you are chasing family stories that you are Cherokee by blood, you are really quite lucky. In addition to being one of the largest tribes, the Cherokee Nation is also one of the best documented.

Cherokee by Blood is more than a possible description of your ancestry. In addition to the basic meaning, these three words also describe a series of books translating the Guion Miller applications and their accompanying materials. Most major bookstores either carry the "Cherokee by Blood" series or can obtain one or more of the books in the series for you. In addition, the author has posted a great deal of informative material on the Tennessee GenWeb site. A quick click on this Cherokee link will take you straight to the site.

If you are researching your North Carolina Cherokee roots, I recommend the CHEROKEE NATION OF NORTH CAROLINA. You'll find basic information there on the steps to tribal membership as well as current events affecting this nation.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma can be found at

Many of the tools used for searching your Cherokee ancestors will also apply for any readers whose ancestry is from another tribe. Naturally the rolls would be different, but many tips found in the following article should prove useful.

As with many tribes, the Cherokee did not always use Euro-American names or may have been known by various names during their lifetime. Even a life-altering event could lead to the change or a name or an addition. The Cherokee are a matrilinial society, meaning that direct descent came through the mother. In addition, the close-knit family culture designated any child -- even an orphan -- as a member of that clan or family. A positive attribute for children was that each was accepted and treated as a full family member. There was no discrimination or inequality in that acceptance. In genealogical research, however, that acceptance can be a hindrance. For example, family stories of a brother or sister could actually refer to a cousin.

If you are researching your Cherokee ancestry, see "Cherokee by Blood, Part 1" of this article series for information on the books of the same name which are a translation of the Guion Miller rolls and applications. I also recommend:

"Exploring Your Cherokee ancestry : A Basic Genealogical Research guide" Author: Thomas G. Mooney. Published by the Cherokee National Historical Society, 1987, Tahlequah, Okla.

If your library does not have the book, or cannot obtain it through an inter-library loan, it should be available for purchase from the Cherokee Museum, Tahlequah, OK 74464.

A review of my article outlining the records available through the National Archives and Records Administration will explain how to get to the site and to order copies of roll records. When you make your request, particularly with the Dawes Commission rolls, be sure to ask for copies of all information in the Dawes packets. This will include transcripts of interviews and in many cases documentation on births, deaths and marriages.

Remember that geographically you will be searching for your Cherokee ancestors in two major areas: In Indian Territory, (Oklahoma) and in North Carolina. However, there were also Cherokee tribes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas as well as Mexico. That doesn't count those members of the Cherokee nation, or any other nation for that matter, that chose to live apart from the rest of the tribes.

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