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Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 2, # 10
Cherokee Genealogical Research (part 2): Be sure to keep an open mind when researching Cherokee ancestry. There were many instances when both an Indian name and a French or English name were used for the same individual. Record everything found on the surname(s) of interest. The Cherokees adopted into the tribe, members of other Indian nations (including Osage, Delaware, and Shawnee). Besides intermarriage with European or American merchants, missionaries, or army personnel, former Negro slaves of the Cherokees became Freedmen citizens of the tribe after the Civil War. For that reason one could be Indian, white, or black (or any combination of the three) and be a Cherokee, without actually having much Cherokee blood.
Many Cherokee traders would have two families: a Cherokee family and another located usually in South Carolina or Virginia. Also, most Upper Creek traders had Cherokee wives. As most traders chose to marry prominent Cherokees, there may be kinship to any of the prominent chieftains.
If your ancestor has disappeared from the records, don’t give up searching. There were no written records within the Cherokee Nation.
Continue to search through European or American records to locate your ancestor. If your ancestor (surnames) can not be found on traditional records, this is usually a good sign that they can be found within the Cherokee Nation.
Don’t accept everything at face value, and try to be totally objective. Learn and comprehend Cherokee traditions, and look for traits that exist in your current family. Forget traditional genealogical methods. Cherokee genealogy, as well as all Native genealogy, is not traditional. Search all abstracts, journals, and memoirs available on Cherokee families. Many researchers are not aware that any one Cherokee ancestor could possess more than one title or name. For instance, Ostenaco can be found as Mankiller, Ootacite, Tacite, or Outacite. All four of these terms refer to the same Cherokee individual.
Every text that you search hopefully includes a bibliography. Search the bibliographies for even more sources.
Here are some other sources to consider for research:
American State Papers
- Cherokee Roots, Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians by Bob Blankenship
- Cherokee Roots: Western Cherokee Rolls
Cherokee Old Timers
- Cherokee By Blood: Records of the Eastern Cherokee Ancestry in the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910 by Jerry Wright Jordan.
- Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry: A Basic Genealogical Research Guide by Thomas G. Mooney.
- Journal of Cherokee Studies, (16 volumes). The set contains many genealogical abstracts and articles about prominent Cherokees.
- Old Cherokee Families: Notes of Dr. Emmet Starr and Starr’s History of the Cherokee Indians, both by Emmet Starr.
The solving of riddles pertaining to Cherokee genealogy is always a great accomplishment, but because of gaps in the historical records and the loss of family information, some puzzles will remain forever mysteries.
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Fact: Cherokee Chiefs and headmen were chosen by consensus in tribal councils, and did not fit the European scheme of royalty and nobility. There were “Peace Chiefs” (diplomats) and “War Chiefs” (generals); town chiefs (mayors) and regional chiefs (governors); chiefs called “Small-Pox Conjuror” (not always successful), “Slave Catchers” (i.e. they captured prisoners of war), “Mankiller” (killed enemies); and even apprentice chiefs (known as “Colonah” meaning “Raven”).
Tip: Cherokee clans were based on a matrilineal system (traced thru the mother's line). This changed in the 1750’s due to their intermarriage with European Americans. While Cherokees kept traditional matrilineal oral records, mixed Cherokees often used both patrilineal and matrilineal documentation in writing.
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From the Allen County Public Library genealogy newsletter ‘Genealogy Gems’ comes the following information for researchers in Florida.
“Spanish Land Grants in Florida by Melissa Shimkus
While Florida was under Spanish rule, the Spanish government established procedures to grant land titles to individuals based on whether they were laborers, soldiers, or aristocrats. First, an individual had to petition the governor of the territory for the land.
Then the governor would grant the land to the individual with conditions. A surveyor would interview witnesses to verify information and survey the land. Finally, a land title would be awarded once the governor verified that the individual had satisfied the conditions of the grant.
On March 30, 1822, a territorial government was created in Florida under the United States. An agreement was made with Spain which provided individuals who had received land in Florida from the Spanish government prior to 1818 the right to file claims to their land. A Board of Commissioners for West Florida and a Board of Commissioners for East Florida were established to review the validity of claims and evidence provided.
The Historical Records Survey Program was created by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to record state and county archives. In Florida, they deciphered and interpreted the archival papers of these Boards of Commissioners, publishing a five volume set, "Spanish Land Grants in Florida" (975.9 H62sp). The first volume features unconfirmed claims, while the other four volumes document confirmed land claims. The records are listed alphabetically by surname.
Information found in the claims varies for each case but can include a petition for the land, names of family members, military service information, a survey or plat of the land, depositions of neighbors and family, deeds, and character testimony. Many individuals supplied the documents from their land title petition under the Spanish government.
The record for Guillermo Craig, who claimed ownership of a section of land along the St. Johns River, offers a wealth of information.
Guillermo provided details of how he acquired the land and the former owner signed off on the explanation. Three witnesses testified when he met the conditions required to receive the land title. The names and ages of the witnesses are provided. A dispute with James Hall over the land created another entry.
"Spanish Land Grants in Florida" is an informative resource for Florida researchers, which documents the locations, dates, names, and some ages for land owners in Florida when it was transferred from the Spanish government to the United States.”
The collection can be found and searched from the Florida Memory Project site at http://www.floridamemory.com/Collections/SpanishLandGrants/
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New Research Acquisitions in the Heritage Room
H 355.1 Lu ~ Revolutionary War Period Bible Family and Marriage Records Gleaned from Pension Applications, Hull – Hunting by Deidre Dagner
H 971.6049 Whi ~ Blacks on the Border: Black Refugees in British North America, 1815 – 1860 by Harvey Whitfield
H 973.0496 Fam ~ Families and Freedom: African-American Kinship in the Civil War Era by Ira Berlin and Leslie Rowland
H 973.3 Tay ~ Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution by Alan Taylor
H 973.3089 Lan ~ African-Americans in the American Revolution by Michael Lanning
H 973.52 Lan ~ Union 1812: Americans Who fought the Second War of Independence by A. J. Langguth
H 974 Win ~ Walking Toward the Sunset: The Melungeons of Appalachia by Wayne Winker
H 975.634 Bri ~ Estate Records, 1772 – 1933, Richmond County, North Carolina (3 Vols.) by Myrtle Bridges
H 975.725 Che ~ Families of Old Pendleton District, South Carolina by Linda Cheek (2 Vols.)
H 975.729 Pru ~ Spartanburg District, South Carolina Deed Abstracts (Book CC-FF), 1825-1860 by Larry Vehorn
H 975.771 Rak ~ Cemeteries of Northern Richland County, South Carolina by David Rakes