How To Guide for Native Americans

How To Guide for Native Americans

by Paul Sarrett Jr.

As a foreword I would like to thank Paul Sarrett Jr. for outstanding work in the field of genealogy and especially Native American Genealogy. We would also like to give are heartfelt appreciation to him for allowing us to include his wonderful research to our pages.


Revised: May  09, 1996
Revised: Jan. 29, 1996
Revised: Aug. 18, 1995
Created: Jul. 04, 1993
By: Paul R. Sarrett, Jr.

While tracing Cherokee ancestry is difficult it is not impossible.
There are records for the "Eastern" Cherokees and of the "Western"
Cherokees. These records are representative of those existing
for other tribes which came under the jurisdiction of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs.

For those interested in conducting their own research, "Exploring
Your Ancestry" by Thomas G. Moony is highly recommended.
(See my file NA_SOURCE.TXT for source records which can provide maps, 
books, and pamphlets, etc. etc.   ...prs)

Several census have been taken and tribal records have also been
kept. Sometimes in the census/index records you will find a number with 
the name. This number could be a "Roll" number and is very important. 
Keep it. 

If you are researching so that you may receive "Tribal Membership". 
To register as a member of the Cherokee Nation one must prove direct
ancestry to a person of Cherokee Blood enrolled by DAWES during the
period of 1898 to 1914. Simultaneous applications for "Certificate 
of Degree of Indian Blood" and "Cherokee Nation Membership" are 
required. Birth certificates, death certificates, and Court Records
are some of the means of "proving" direct decendency from a person
on the DAWES Roll. It is your responsibility to "prove" to the Cherokee
Nation that you are entitled to be registered as a member. If your
descendent is NOT on the DAWES Roll no registration will be allowed.

Applications may be obtained from Cherokee Nation, Tribal Register
Tahlequah, OK.  74465 Phone 918-456-0671

Note that tribal agencies do Not accept Federal Census Records as Proof
of Indian blood.

Originally the Native American Indian was to be included in the Vital 
Statistic Records of each state when that state began keeping records 
but because the Native American Indians were spread out in large area, 
complete registering was not done for many years. There are many tribal 
offices for different tribes as well as Bureau of Indian Affairs offices 
for different areas. 

As of the 1980 Federal census there were 25 pages (80 tribes to a page) 
of listed "tribes" to be coded and those not listed had a special code 
number. The more well known tribes were: Apache, Navajo, Hopi, 
Cherokee, Sioux, Iroquois, Crow, Chippewa and many others. The tribes 
that are less known include the Attu, Atka, Hoh, Makah, Sanak, etc. 
Some tribes have more and better records than others. Our way of doing 
genealogy does not always fit the Indian way. They may take into their 
home an orphan, the homeless of any age, a widow or other stray and 
call them "brother, sister, aunt" etc... and there may be no blood 
relationship at all. It was also an accepted practice to use the 
mother's family name and she could be listed as head of household. An 
Indian name generally does not tell you if the person is male or female. 

Many Native Americans were missed completely on the census rolls when taken 
because of distance, lack of communication and understanding of the 
language and customs. Others did not want to admit to being Indian 
and some just refused to report. Also, as with all people, names were 
written as then sounded to the person taking the census. ( Pal could 
be listed as Powell). Many Native Americans had only one name which did not 
help to keep the records correct. There were many with given and 
surnames so different from what the record taker was accustomed to that 
they did not always understand them or know how to record them.

As with any other family research, it is best to start with your "known"
parent and work back toward your descendent. 1920, 1910, 1900, etc. etc.
These Census & Roll records are located in the Fort Worth Federal Record
Center, the National Archives and the Oklahoma Historical Society
in Oklahoma City. As well as other Regional NARC Centers.

The Cherokees were once a mighty and powerful nation. At the time
when the Cherokees came first in contact with the white man (DeSoto
in 1540, they claimed some 135,000 square miles of territory covering
parts of eight present-day states: North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginal.
By the end of the American Revolutionary War, the Cherokees had lost
about half of their land in the east. Between 1785 and 1835 the Cherokee
lands had shrunk to a few million acres. By the "Treaty of New Echota"
in 1835, all lands east of the Mississippi River were ceded to the 
Federal Government. (Of the 40 treaties executed with the Cherokees,
the Federal Government chose to break each and every one.)

As far back as 1782, a group of Eastern Cherokee who fought with the British 
in the Revolution petitioned the Spanish for permission to settle west 
of the Mississippi, which was granted. A. group of Eastern Cherokee moved
in 1794 into the St. Francis River valley in present-day southeastern 
Missouri. It is probable that there were already Cherokee settled in the 
Missouri area. Records of how many people, and when, moved "West" are 
limited. Due to earthquakes and flooding in Missouri, around 1812, most 
of the Cherokee in Missouri moved into present-day northwestern Arkansas.

The LOVELY'S PURCHASE of 1816, was a result of a conference 
between the OSAGES and the CHEROKEES, convened at the mouth of 
the Verdigris River. Major WILLIAM LOVELY, Cherokee agent in the 
West, obtained an agreement whereby the OSAGES  ceded to the 
United States the land as follows:
   "Beginning at the Arkansas River .. Frog Bayou .. then 
    up the Arkansas and Verdigris to the falls of the Verdigris 
    River .. thence Eastwardly, to the said OSAGE boundary line, at a 
    point 20 leagues North from the Arkansas River .. and, with that 
    line, to the point of beginning..." 

During 1811-1812, the Cherokees moved en masse to the Arkansas
region. In the "Turkey Town Treaty of" 1817 the Cherokee ceded
land and some 1,100 Cherokees started (1818-19) their removal from their 
ancestral lands East of the Mississippi to  area to Arkansas Territory. 
The Cherokee agreed to exchange 1/3rd of the lands in the East for 
equal acreage located between the White River on the Northeast boundary
and the Arkansas River on the Southwest boundary in the then Arkansas 
Territory. Out of these "treaties", the Cherokee had a choice of
two alternatives. They could either "enroll" to move to the traded
land in Arkansas or they could "file" for a reservation of 640
acres in the east which would revert to the state upon their death 
or abandonment of the property.

Reservation Rolls 1817   A listing of those Cherokees desiring a 640
                         acre tract in the east and permitted to reside
                         their. No record exists of the 2,000 Cherokees
                         who emigrated before 1817.

Emigration Rolls 1817    A listing of those Cherokees emigrating to
                 1835    Arkansas territory & later 1828 to Oklahoma
                         In 1828, the Cherokees ceded their lands in 
                         Arkansas for land in Oklahoma. 

Henderson Rolls 1835     A listing of 16,000 Cherokees living in 
                         Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, & North Carolina
                         to be removed to Oklahoma, per Treaty New Echota.

The "Treaty of New Echota", 29 Dec 1835, represented the final cession of 
all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi. This Census (NARC T-496) was 
taken of the Western Cherokees in 1835 before they were force to move in 
what is know as "The Trail of Tears" to Oklahoma.
But in the three years between 1835 and 1838 no records seem to have been 
kept of those Cherokee Indians who were born, who died (4,000) along the 
way, who never left their homes, or who initially reached the new territory
in the west. Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1835 by Major Currey who was 
in charge of the Census classified as "Indian" anyone with 1/4 degree of 
Indian blood. 

In 1838, several hundred Cherokees in the East escaped into the mountains 
of North Carolina and became known as the Eastern Band of Cherokees. 
At about the same time, many elected to take advantage of Article
12 of the 1835 treaty which allowed those desirous to stay in the
east if they met certain criteria.

Mullay Roll 1848          A listing of 1,517 Cherokees living in
                          in North Carolina after the removal of 1838
                          Agent John C. Mullay took the Census pursuant
                          to an act of Congress in 1848.

Siler Roll 1851           A listing of 1,700 Cherokees living in
                          Eastern Cherokee entitled to a per capita
                          payment pursuant an act of Congress in 1850.

In 1851, David W. Silar was appointed to take a census of the
Cherokees east of the Mississippi to determine who could be
eligible to participate in a per capita payment based on the 1835
treaty. Silar submitted his census list which contained 1,959?
individuals by state and county in North Carolina, Tennessee,
Georgia and Alabama.

Old Settler Roll 1851     A listing of Cherokees still living in 1851
                          who already residing in Oklahoma when the
                          main body of the Cherokee arrived in the
                          winter of 1839 (Trail of Tears) Approximately
                          one third were Old Settlers and two third
                          were new arrivals.

The 1851 Old Settler Roll lists each individual by district and his/her 
children unless the mother was an emigrant Cherokee. In this case, the
children were listed with their mother on the Drennen Roll 1852. There 
were 44 family groups listed as non-residents. Guion Miller used this 
roll in compiling the 1910 record.

Chapman Roll 1852         Prepared by Albert Chapman as a listing of
                          those Cherokee actually receiving payment
                          based on Siler 1851 Eastern Census.

In 1851 and 1852 the per capita payments were made by Alfred
Chapman based on Silar's census to 2,134 individuals.This roll
played an important part in Guion Miller's preparation of his
roll completed in 1910. Anyone who could trace their ancestry to
an individual on the Chapman Roll was included on Miller's roll.

Drennen Roll 1852         Prepared by John Drennen as a listing of
                          first Census of "New" arrivals of 1839
                          in Oklahoma. (Trail of Tears) 

Federal Census 1860       M-653 Roll 52 & 54 contain Indian lands in 

Swetland Roll 1869        Prepared by S.H. Swetland as a listing of
                          those Cherokee, and their decedents, who
                          were listed as remaining in North Carolina
                          by Mullay 1848 Census. Made pursuant to an
                          act of Congress 1868 for a removal payment

S. H. Swetland was appointed to take a census in 1868. He was to
use the Mullay Roll of 1848 as the basis for his census. This
census was completed in 1868 and gives the families in the
Eastern Cherokee band.

Hester Roll 1883          Prepared by Joseph G. Hester as a listing of
                          Eastern Cherokee in 1883. (This Roll is an
                          excellent source of information. Includes
                          ancestors, Chapman Roll Number, age English
                          name and Indian name.)

In 1882, Joseph G. Hester was appointed to take the 5th census of
the Eastern Band. Copies of the previous census were made
available to him and he was required to account for all persons
on the previous rolls by either including them on the new roll,
noting their deaths on the old rolls or describing their
whereabouts as unknown either to Mr. Hester or any of the Native Americans. 
This completed roll was submitted to the Secretary of Interior in
1884. It contained 2,956 persons residing in North Carolina,
Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois,
Kansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, and California. Those
living west of the Mississippi and listed by Mr. Hester were
descendants of members of the Eastern Band and had no affiliation
with the Cherokee Nation in the west.

Federal Census 1880       T-9, 1,454 rolls, Check Federal Territorial Census
                          rolls using the names and locations found in the 
                          Indian Rolls. (Note the 1880 Indian Schedules for 
                          this Federal Census were destroyed.)
                          In 1879, the Cherokee National Council authorized
                          a census and this 1880 Census was arranged in 6 
                          schedules. Again, in 1883 and 1886, The Cherokee 
                          National Council authorized another census. 

Federal Census 1890       M-123,  Roll 76 is Indian Territory, Oklahoma
                          In 1890, another census of the Cherokee Nation
                          was made and it is probably the most complete 
                          of any of the census. It included Cherokees and 
                          adopted whites, Shawnees and Delawares, orphans
                          under 16 yrs, those denied citizenship by the 
                          Cherokee authorities, those whose claims to 
                          citizenship were pending, intruders and whites 
                          living in the Cherokee Nation by permission.

Payment Roll 1896         The 1896 Payment Roll is based on the above 1851
                          Old Settler Roll and listed each payee 1851 roll
                          number, name, age, sex, and post office address.

The DAWES Roll           The final Roll for allotting the land and 
1898-1914                terminating the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Senator 
                         Henry L. Dawes was the Commission's Chairman. The
                         Roll  turned out NOT to be as final as it was 
                         expected to be. Upon the re-organization of the 
                         Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in the 1970's, the DAWES Roll 
                         became the only means of "Certifying" membership.
                         To be enrolled by the Cherokee Nation, one  
                         must "prove" ancestry to a person enrolled by DAWES.

Federal Census 1900       T-623, 1,854 rolls, Same as 1910; in addition a  
                          separate Indian Territory Schedule is at the end 
                          of the Soundex Index (T-1082). Use Soundex Code. 
                          This lists members of the Five Civilized Tribes 
                          as well as Whites and Blacks living in the Indian
                          Territory. Rolls 1843-1854 are the rolls for the 
                          Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Peoria, 
                          Quapaw, Seneca, Wyandotte, Seminole, Modoc, 
                          Ottawa & Shawnee nations. There are also special
                          state censuses listing Indian population by 
                          tribes or reservations. 

Five Civilized Tribes 1907 #7 RA3 index & final rolls 5 civilized Tribes-1907

Churchill Roll 1908      Prepared by Frank C. Churchill as a listing of
                         Eastern Cherokee to "Certify Members" of the
                         Eastern Band. (Like the Hester above has lots
                         of Information)

Guion Miller Roll 1909   Prepared by Guion Miller of all Eastern Cherokee
                         (Not Old Settlers), residing in the either East
                         or West of the Mississippi River. Ordered by the
                         Court of Claims as result of "Suit" won by Eastern

Federal Census 1910      T-624, 1,784 rolls, Indian Schedules are at the end
                         of the identified Enumeration District ED  
                         (Use the Federal Census Index Books for ED of County
                          of Residence.)

Federal Census 1920      T-625, 8,585 rolls, Native American Indians may be
                         identified as Black, Indian, Other, or white.

Baker Roll 1924          This was supposed to be the "final Roll" of the
                         Eastern Cherokee. The land was to be allotted and
                         all were to become citizens.
                         Fortunately the Eastern Cherokee avoided the
                         termination procedures, unlike their brothers of
                         the Cherokee Nation West. The Baker Roll Revised
                         is the currant membership Roll of the Eastern
                         Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.

There have been other census taken from time to time that
included the some of the Creek, Shawnees and Delawares that
became part of the Cherokee Nation.

There are numerous other records available in the National
Archives which include records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,
US Army Mobile Units, Records of the Supreme Court, Records of
the US District Courts, Records of the US Court of Appeals,
Records of the US Court of Claims, Records of the Veterans
Administration. Since the Cherokee Indians were not (generally)
subject to state courts, their civil and criminal court records
are normally found in the Federal Court records.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs records include the Indian Removal
records, the Land Division records, the Enrollment of the Eastern
Cherokee, the Law and Probate Division records (this has to do
with the heirs of deceased Indian allottees), the Civilization
Division records, the Indian Civil War Claims records, the
Statistics Division records, the Finance Division records and the
Miscellaneous Division records.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Field Office records available for
Cherokees include Cherokee Agency, East located at National
Archives; Cherokee Agency, North Carolina located at FARC,
Atlanta; Cherokee Agency, West located at the National Archives.

In 1938, the Adjutant General's Office transferred its collection
of Confederate records to the National Archives. While many of
the Confederate records were destroyed before seizure by the
Union Army, some records still exist. Roll 74, Compiled Records
Showing Service of Military Units in Confederate Organizations
contains information about the Indian Organizations .Also,
compiled military service records have been reproduced on
microfilm by the National Archives that include service records
of Confederate soldiers. Also the Confederate States Army
Casualties and also documents pertaining to battles in Indian
Territory are in the records.

The Indian Archives in the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma
City, contains about 3 million manuscripts and 6 thousand bound
volumes of Indian documents. This is the largest collection of
Indian documents in the United States outside of the National
Archives. In addition, private collections are also housed at the
Oklahoma Historical Society. These include the works of several
noted Indian historians In addition, the Oklahoma Historical
Society maintains an excellent collection of Oklahoma newspapers.

The Oklahoma Historical Society records contains 740 bound
volumes and 25 file drawers containing over 430 thousand pages
pertaining to the Cherokee Nation.

In doing Native American research, just remember that not all
Cherokee descendants are REALLY Cherokee. Since
many persons who were white, members of other tribes, and slaves
were granted membership into the Cherokee tribe. One should
check the Creek, Choctaw and Delaware records very closely also
as these groups contributed MANY members to the Cherokee Tribe.

Happy Hunting.
Paul R. Sarrett, Jr.

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You can reach Paul by e-mail at: [email protected]