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Tracing Cherokee Lineage

January 06, 1985

This is in response to "Cherokee Ancestor's Tracks Are Now Cold" (Dec. 27). The article, by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, prompted one of our members to call us. It appears that Gormley could use additional information.

The suggestion that one begin tracing Cherokee ancestry with the 1900 Federal Census is good only for those who feel that they are of Indian ancestry but that for some reason their forebears never enrolled.

The Western Cherokee rolls offer a wealth of genealogical information. The most important roll is the "Dawes Roll" or Final Roll of the Five Civilized Tribes, compiled from 1899 to 1906. In order to become a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, it is absolutely necessary to trace your direct descent from someone on this roll.

Another wonderful source is the Guion Miller Roll of Eastern Cherokees (not to be confused with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina). This roll was taken in 1906 as the result of a decision of the United States Court of Claims to pay a portion of the Cherokee tribe. About 45,000 persons applied for this money and only 15,000 applications were granted. Nevertheless, each applicant provided information about his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, other enrollments. Since money was at stake, many provided more than was required. The complete index is available on National Archives Microfilm publication M-1104, Roll 1 with the applications on the next 347 rolls. This has only been out for about two years and therefore most libraries have not yet acquired them. A summary version is on National Archives Microfilm publication M-685, Rolls 1-12.

After using the above sources you can utilize the 1896 Census, 1880 Census, 1896 Old Settler Roll, 1851 Old Settler Roll, 1851 Drennen Roll and numerous lesser rolls. A number of Cherokees fought in the Civil War and have military service records.

Anyway, I think you see that Cherokee tracks have not "turned cold." At the Cherokee National Historical Society we spend a good bit of our time helping people prove their Cherokee heritage. A word of caution: The ancestor had to remain in tribally assigned lands and enroll at the proper times. If they left the tribe or failed to enroll, it is very unlikely our records will be of any value. We will be willing to assist your readers, providing they enclose a long self-addressed envelope.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this matter.

TOM MOONEY, archivist The Cherokee National Historical Society Inc.

Tahlequah, Okla.

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