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Cherokee Research

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There are many Websites for tracing and searching your Cherokee roots. Here are a few of the most used sites.

The following records produced by the Cherokee Nation and the United States government are important sources for research into Cherokee genealogy, but are not considered to be complete.

1. Eastern Cherokee Applications. These records were produced by the Guion Miller Commission of the Court of Claims from 1906 through 1909. The main body of information is formed from 45,000 applications received from living persons who were trying to prove their eligibility to share in the per capita payment made, which amounted to $133.19 per person. In order to be eligible a person had to show that they were descended from a person who was an eastern Cherokee in 1835 usually by proving descent from a person named on the Drennen roll of 1851 (eastern Cherokees living in Oklahoma) or the Chapman roll of 1851 (eastern Cherokees who remained in the east). In addition, those persons eligible would have to prove that they were not "Old Settlers" and that they had not become associated with any other tribe. The applications ask for a tremendous amount of genealogical information. This includes name, date and place of birth, name and age of spouse, names, birthplace and dates of death for parents, names and date for brothers and sisters, names of grandparents, and names of aunts and uncles. In addition, because many persons felt the payment was to be made per stirpes to heirs of Eastern Cherokee, claims for cousins and other more distant relatives are mentioned.

2. Records of the Dawes Commission. For the Cherokee, these records were produced between 1900 and 1906 and were used to determine citizenship and allotment of land. The rolls were originally closed on 1 September 1902 and were reopened to include minors born until 4 March 1906. There are two main classes of records produced: (1) transcripts of testimony of persons applying and (2) census cards which generally include the same information as is in the transcript, but may have additional information added later.

3. The Drennen, Old Settler and Chapman Rolls of 1851. These rolls were produced as a result of the Treaty of 1846 mentioned above. While the Drennen and Old Settler Rolls do not give any identifying information other than name, they are grouped in family units with the head (usually father or husband) listed first and the wife second and the children following. The Chapman Roll and its accompanying Siler Payroll do give ages and other information. Later payments made to the Old Settlers in 1896 and to the Eastern Cherokees in 1909 are referenced to individuals on the 1851 rolls. These rolls have been produced on microfilm and printed in book form.

4. The Old Settler payroll of 1896. This Payroll was made as a result of a final settlement of Old Settler claims. The payment was made "per stirpes" meaning that each person on the 1851 roll was allowed the same amount of money ($159.10). If the original Old Settler was deceased, his heirs split that amount among themselves. All records, other than the payroll, produced by the Old Settler Commission were destroyed in a fire, so it is possible that there may have been applications similar to those of the Eastern Cherokee in 1906. This roll has been produced on microfilm and printed in book form.

5. The 1880 Cherokee census. This was the first thorough census of all residents of the Cherokee Nation and includes six schedules of enumerated persons, depending on citizenship or non-citizenship status. There are three copies of this census available: (1) the original enumeration, which are housed in the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma, Norman (these are now available on microfilm; one district and part of another are missing); (2) a hand-written schedule alphabetized by first letter of surname with a number assigned to each person; this schedule was used by the Dawes commission and those enrollees living in 1880 are referenced to the number on the schedule. In addition the schedule has a notation of what census card each person on the 1880 census is found on, or a notation that the person is dead. This hand-written schedule has been printed in book form recently. (3) A printed schedule based on the hand written schedule, but the numbers assigned each person are not the same.

6. The 1896 Cherokee census. This census was made of all citizens of the Cherokee Nation preparatory to allotment. The Dawes Commission referenced each person enrolled for allotment to this census. This census lists degree of blood and birthplace. This census is reproduced on microfilm.

7. The other various Cherokee censuses: 1883, 1886, 1890, 1893, 1894. Some of these census might more accurately be termed "payrolls." The 1890 gives much the same information as the 1880. The others include only citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

8. The Cherokee census of 1835. Produced preparatory to final removal. It has been microfilmed and printed in book form.

9. The Cherokee census of 1867. The only apparent surviving copy of this census is not the original and is marred by copying errors in nearly every district. It has been reproduced on microfilm.

10. Cherokee Nation official documents. Many of the official documents of the Cherokee Nation such as marriage licenses and wills are currently housed in the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Indian Archives. These have been reproduced on microfilm, but are not indexed and are sometimes difficult to read.

11. Indian Pioneer Papers. Interviews conducted by the WPA sometimes give family and other historical information not found elsewhere. These are housed in the Indian Archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are reproduced on microfilm.

12. Removal Claims to the Board of Commissioners. Claims made for losses in the Cherokee Nation East of both land and personal property.

13. Cherokee Emigration Rolls 1817-1835. These records provide a listing of most "Old Settlers" emigrating during these years. These records have been printed in book form.

14. Cherokee Reserves. Information regarding those persons who claimed a reservation under the Treaties of 1817 and 1819 have been printed in book form.

15. The 1900 United States Census of the Cherokee Nation. This was the first census taken by the United States in Indian Territory.

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