According the the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, individuals of Cherokee ancestry fall into the following four categories:
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indian of Oklahoma
"All other persons of Cherokee Indian ancestry"
The Cherokee Nation, requires NO particular degree of Indian blood. However, each Cherokee tribe does require you to have an ancestor listed on certain rolls.
Your grandmother said you had Cherokee ancestors. Now is your chance to get started on this adventure and we will try to help you begin in a very simple way. We have all the tools to help you on your journey of connecting with your heritage. For a better understanding of Cherokee history and the different tribes, check out our genealogy page.
#1 Identify and Record Your Ancestors
#2 Search Cherokee rolls
#3 Apply for tribal citizenship
Step #1 - Identify and Record Your Ancestors
Begin by interviewing family members to learn basic information about names, places of residence, and approximate dates of birth and death to allow you to begin the search. Take along pictures or something else to share with them to jog their memory. Often others before you have gathered data about the families in which you are interested. Ask about nicknames, middle names, and maiden names. Where all did they live, and where are they buried?
Find out all the vital information you can about your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and other relatives. Ask to see old family bibles that often contain family trees. Look at the backs of old photos and ask who each person in the photo is. Make careful notes so you don't have to trust your memory later. (notice we have several forms for this). It is essential for you to establish the names and dates of your ancestors and know the states and counties where they lived.
You will find free forms and software below. Enter the information you have found on a chart or into a family tree program on your computer. Start with your parents names and birthdates, marriage date and (if applicable) their death dates along with birth and death counties and states. List yourself and all their other children with birthdates and places of birth. (If using the forms, it will be on the "ancestry chart". Then fill out a "family chart" form for every set of grandparents and great grandparents etc.) Add information about people identified in records by their names, the dates of events in their lives (birth, marriage, death), the places they lived, and by relationships to others either stated or inferred in the records. If you don't have all the dates you need, fill in what you can. In the beginning, you only need to trace ancestors to about 1880.
Step #2 - Search the rolls:
Now locate ancestors on your family tree who were living around 1900. Use the links at left to search for names of your Cherokee ancestors from this time period who are on your chart.
Begin with the Dawes roll, then the Guion-Miller roll. If your ancestors lived in North Carolina, search the Baker roll. If you have African-American ancestors check the Freedmen rolls at left also.
Step #3 - Apply for tribal citizenship. At a minimum you will need the roll number of your ancestor and your state certified birth certificate. You may also need to provide other documents such as death certificates. Now it is important that you completed the family tree because you can simply transcribe the information onto your application. If your ancestor is listed on the Dawes roll, click here for the application form. If your ancestor is on the Baker roll, use this form.
What if I didn't find an ancestor on the rolls? - Don't be discouraged and don't give up. It's possible they are listed by a Cherokee name, an English name that was misspelled, or many other reasons. Do NOT decide your ancestors hid away, wondered off "the trail", or that their records were lost. If you give in to this thought process, you are abandoning your heritage. Determine to know the truth. Authentic Cherokee descendants will have a tremendous proof of identity through their blood relations to tribal ancestors who were on other rolls. This is why the Cherokee Registry is such an important genealogical service.
Go back to your family tree and look for siblings of the persons you have already searched for, especially any who lived in Oklahoma or the Southeastern states. Search for them on these same rolls. As you do, imagine ways in which the names could be misspelled. You can also request an extensive surname search. Your ancestor may have been a Shawnee-Cherokee, or Delaware. These were part of the Cherokee Nation at one time but are now independent tribes. There are many other ways in which the information could be hidden. There are clues in where your ancestors lived. Contact us for more information on this.
For more help you can view the online Cherokee genealogy course.