Tah-Chee, a Cherokee chief / A. Newsam., Eastern Cherokee

Descendants of Eastern Cherokees

Between May 1905 and April 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court authorized the Secretary of the Interior to identify the descendants of Eastern Cherokees entitled to participate in the distribution of more than $1 million authorized by Congress. The purpose of the authorization was to settle outstanding claims made under treaties between the U.S. government and the Cherokees in 1835-36 and 1845.

On May 28, 1909, Mr. Guion Miller, representing the Interior Department, submitted his findings with respect to 45,847 separate applications for compensation (encompassing about 90,000 individual claimants). Miller qualified about 30,000 persons inhabiting 19 states to share in the fund. Ninety percent of these individuals were living west of the Mississippi River, but all of them were considered to be Eastern Cherokee by blood, that is, descendants of the Cherokee Nation that had been evicted from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee in 1835. (The Interior agent submitted a supplemental report in January 1910 that resulted in another 610 eligibles.)

The Guion Miller Commission prepared abstracts for all of its application findings, and those abstracts (National Archive Record Groups 75 and 123) represent the basis for this series of books by Mr. Jeff Bowen. The author begins with a helpful introduction describing the origins of the Guion Miller rolls and the methodology used in abstracting them. The bulk of Eastern Cherokee by Blood, 1906-1910. Volume I – Applications 1-3000 from the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910. Cherokee-Related Records of Special Commissioner Guion Miller, by Jeff Bowen, comprises abstracts of the first 3,000 of the 45,847 examined by Mr. Miller. The abstracts, in every case, provide the application number, the applicant’s (head of household’s) name and city of residence, the number of other persons in the applicant’s family, references to family members found in other applications, and the disposition of the application. The researcher will find references to about 8,000 Cherokee descendants in this volume, each of whom is identified in the name index at the back.

By any measure, the series Eastern Cherokee by Blood, 1906-1910 is one of the most important additions to the literature of Native American genealogy in recent years.

Image Credit: Tah-Chee, a Cherokee chief / A. Newsam. By Biddle, Edward C., 1808-1893, publisher, via Library of Congress Common Images.

Dennis Wolfe, a full-blooded Cherokee indian in Cherokee, North Carolina

Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?

When I lived in the Southern US, I didn’t pay much attention to someone claiming Cherokee ancestry. Generally, I brushed off friends’ claims of being some minuscule fraction Cherokee, as when pressed on the source of this information it was always a mix of word-of-mouth, distant relation or family lure with a healthy measure of questionable math.

However, now that I’ve read the following piece, Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood? written by Gregory D. Smithers, associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of The Cherokee Diaspora, I am giving these claims some additional thought. I hadn’t thought about the political ramifications, or the air of antebellum legitimacy associated with these claims. I am reposting the Slate article in its entirety as Mr. Smithers provides an interesting and concise explanation of why so many people – of both white and African-American descent – believe they have Cherokee blood.

If you are one of the many who have heard family stories of an “Indian Princess” or a Great-Great-Grandmother who was Cherokee, it may be worth not only reading this article, but doing some further original source material research into your bloodlines.

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Spotlight on Georgia Genealogy

The July-August 2003 issue of Ancestry magazine contained an excellent article by Robert S. Davis on “Research in the Deep South.” The author’s premise is that Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, “on the way to becoming the states of today, made such different histories that these six states only sometimes share a common past.” To support his assertion, Mr. Davis has written an essay on each state of the region that summarizes that state’s genealogical characteristics and dispels myths along the way.

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More Passenger Lists Rescued by Clifford Neal Smith

We recently featured a number of scarce German passenger list books compiled by the late genealogist Clifford Neal Smith from rich but obscure sources. Mr. Smith derived many of his passenger records from “buried” secondary works–including historical monographs written in German–books that even the conscientious genealogist was unlikely to discover.

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Unrivaled Source for Note Taking

Chapter 16 in Professional Genealogy. A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, covers the topic of Note-Taking.  Entitled “Transcripts and Abstracts,” and written by Mary McCampbell Bell, this chapter offers rock-solid guidance on the taking of genealogical notes. It’s sorely needed by every researcher—professional or not—because everyone takes research notes. To quote Ms. Bell:

“Reliable research, reliable conclusions, reliable reports, and reliable publications all rest on one foundation: skill at note taking . . . This chapter focuses upon the two most essential note-taking skills: transcribing and abstracting. Both require familiarity with the mechanics of editing words. Both require us to understand the records we use and the boilerplate we find in them. For abstracts, we must also be able to distinguish between crucial details and excess verbiage. Toward that end, this chapter reviews note-taking principles and presentation styles. Examples from a variety of legal documents demonstrate how to transcribe and abstract—with step-by-step illustrations of how an abstract evolves.”

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