Kinsearching November 28, 2010




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we may picture in our minds a festive meal shared by the immigrant Pilgrims from Europe and the Native Americans of the New England region. Of course, when the celebratory banquet took place, other Indian tribes resided in the various areas that later became the United States. While many families have a tradition of Indian ancestry, proving the pedigree is often difficult. A new publication that will be helpful to many genealogists is CHEROKEE CITIZENSHIP COMMISSION DOCKETS, VOLUME II, 1880-1884 AND 1887-1889 by Jeff Bowen.

     The second in a series, this volume pertains to the rulings of the Cherokee Nation Commission on Citizenship (a creation of the Tribal Council) concerning cases of tribal citizenship, an irksome problem confronting Cherokee leaders. Prior to the American Civil War, the controversy was often associated with the political rivalries between factions of the Eastern Cherokee relocated to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1839. After the war ended, the issue was exacerbated by the influx of white and ex-slave “intruders” who sought the privileges of Cherokee citizenship by making false claims of Indian ancestry. To make matters worse, the Cherokee Tribal Council and the Department of Interior were never able to agree on answers to two questions: who was responsible for removing “intruders” and which jurisdiction had the final authority on the subject of citizenship.

     Despite the efforts to the contrary of Chief Ochalata and the Cherokee Tribal Council during the administrations of Presidents Grant and Hayes, the citizenship question was one factor leading to the passage of the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. This statute had two results: the denationalization of the Cherokee and other tribes in the Indian Territory and the establishment of a white-dominated government in Oklahoma. The Dawes Commission of 1893 subsequently scrutinized the Cherokee Commission Dockets in making its final determinations on citizenship for members of the tribe.

     Volume II consists of data from Commission Dockets 287-718. The verbatim transcriptions furnish the names of the applicant and the presiding commissioners, the post office address, the date of the determination (whether approved or rejected), and, in most cases, the names of family members and their relationship to the person or persons filing the application, and the name of their Indian ancestor. Additional details may include age and sex and miscellaneous information.

     For example, John R. ALLISON, 36, male; Willie ALLISON, 6, male; Elma R. ALLISON, 3, female; and Jennie ALLISON, 2, female; of Timson (sic), Texas, claimed descent from ancestors J. A. & Patsey THOMPSON. The Commission “adjudged and decided” that all of these individuals were “Cherokee by blood and are hereby re-admitted to all the rights privileges and immunities of a Cherokee by blood.” James T. ALLISON, 40, male; and Martha A. ALLISON, 30, female; of Fair Play, Texas, also claimed descent from the Thompsons and were admitted to the tribe.

     Others had their claims rejected. For instance, Phillip MATEA of Colfax, California, tried to join the tribe through his ancestor, James MATEA. However, “There being no evidence in support of this case the Commission decide that Phillip Matea aged fifty two years is not a Cherokee by blood.” Also rejected were Bettie HARRELL, 24, female; and Rosie HARRELL, 3, female; of Cassville, Missouri, who claimed descent from Elizabeth HOUSE.

     Family researchers will find references to approximately 4,000 Cherokee claimants in this work. A copy of CHEROKEE CITIZENSHIP COMMISSION DOCKETS, VOLUME II, 1880-1884 AND 1887-1889 should be included in all genealogical library collections relating to Native American ancestry.

     The 363-page publication has soft covers, an introduction explaining the historical background, and a full-name index. To the book's price of $35.00, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order 9011) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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