Finding Cherokee & Catawba Indian Ancestors
Beginning Your Research
A word of advice from Rachal Mills Lennon, an expert on Southeastern Native American research:
“The first and best rule is this: one should proceed to research the family in the same manner as if the Indian tradition did not exist.”
The two largest groups of modern Cherokees are the western Cherokee Nation (http://www.cherokee.org) located in Oklahoma where the Cherokees were sent in 1838 – 39, and the Eastern Band of Cherokees (http://visitcherokeenc.com/) here in North Carolina. This guide focuses on resources dealing with the Eastern Band.
Once you have some clues indicating that a particular ancestor was Cherokee, consult the following books for information on specific resources:
- 929.1 GOR NCC. Cherokee Connections.
- 929.3089975 MCC NCC. Cherokee Proud.
- 929.1 LEN NCC. Tracing Ancestors among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal.
To find other books on Cherokee history, search our catalog by Subject for Cherokee History.
You must meet the requirements to become a member of the Eastern Band:
Go to: http://visitcherokeenc.com/play/culture/genealogy/
- A direct lineal ancestor must appear on the 1924 Baker Roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
- You must possess at least 1/16th degree of Eastern Cherokee blood.*
*Blood quantum is calculated from your ancestor listed on the 1924 Baker Roll. No DNA/blood testing is performed or acceptable for this calculation.
The 1924 Baker Roll is available in the following locations:
- View the entire roll on microfilm at the Main Library, Gastonia, in the North Carolina Collection.
- 929.3089975 BLA NCC. Cherokee Roots, Vol. 1 by Bob Blankenship has an index to the Baker Rolls.
- See it on Ancestry Library Edition, available at all Gaston County libraries.
- Access the Baker Rolls at Access Genealogy (free but registration required).
Go to: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/baker.php
Other Tribal Rolls and Sources
There are many people who do have Cherokee ancestors even though they are not eligible for tribal membership. Below are some other sources used for working on the genealogy of a Cherokee family.
A good starting point: these articles that describe the various "rolls" -- lists of tribal members -- taken at different times in Charokee history.
- Eastern Enrollments and Census Enumerations, 1835-1940
Go to: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/reference-reports/eastern-cherokee-enumerations.pdf
- Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory Research: Rolls & Census.
List includes sources for both Eastern and Western Cherokees.
Go to: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~itcherok/genealogy/rolls-census.htm
- See also the databases on Ancestry Library Edition available at all Gaston County Libraries.
- You can search many of these rolls at Access Genealogy.
Go to: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/rolls.htm.
- Another roll available is the 1851 Chapman Roll.
Go to: http://www.tngennet.org/cherokee_by_blood/chapman.htm
- North Carolina, Native American Census Selected Tribes, 1894-1913 is a database available on Ancestry Library Edition.
The 1909 Guion Miller Roll is of major use to Eastern Cherokee researchers. According to the National Archives, the roll was prepared by Guion Miller from 45,847 applications covering about 90,000 persons. The applications, which have been reproduced on 348 rolls of microfilm as M1104, were received from persons living all over the United States (not just in Indian Territory) and contain the applicant's' name, residence, age, sex, place of birth, and information about children, parents, and other relatives. The index to applicants, which is reproduced on roll 1 of M1104, covers all of the applicants including the more than 60,000 whose claims were rejected.
These files are included in Ancestry Library Edition as "U.S., Records Related to Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller, 1908-1910." They can be searched and all the original applications have been digitized.
The National Archives provides a digital image of the original typescript Index to Applications Submitted for the Eastern Cherokee Roll of 1909 (Guion Miller Roll)." You have to look through it; it is not searchable. Can be slow to load.
Go to: http://research.archives.gov/description/300330
- The following books also have information relating to the 1909 Guion Miller Roll:
- 929.3089975 BLA NCC. Cherokee Roots by Bob Blankenship includes a name index.
- 929.3 JOR NCC. Cherokee by Blood: Records of Eastern Cherokee Ancestry in the U. S. Court of Claims, 1906-1910 (9 vols.) gives data from the Miller Roll.
- 929.373 BOW NCC. Cherokee Descendants East: An Index to the Guion Miller Applications by Jeff Bowen.
- 929.3 PAG NCC. Extract of the Rejected Applications of the Guion Miller Roll of the Eastern Cherokee (3 vols.) gives a lot of useful family data.
- 929.39 BOW NCC. North Carolina Eastern Cherokee Indian Census, 1898 - 1899, 1904, 1906, 1909 - 1912, 1914. Transcribed by Jeff Bowen; recasting and expansion of 1998 publication by the same name. Census derives from National Archives microfilm series M595, Roll #22.
These web pages have hints and links for Cherokee research:
- Cherokee Ancestry
Go to: http://www.doi.gov/tribes/Cherokee.cfm
- Native American Reference Reports by the National Archives
Go to: http://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/reference-reports/
- Ancestry discussion boards on Cherokee research. You do not need an Ancestry membership to use these.
Go to: http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.ethnic.natam.nations.cherokee/mb.ashx
The Catawba’s ancestral territory was in the border areas of North and South Carolina. Their headquarters today are in York County, South Carolina.
To find books on the Catawbas, search our catalog by Subject for: Catawba Indians.
- 929.1 QUA NCC. The Quarterly of the York County Genealogical and Historical Society has published a number of relevant articles.
- 929.3 SOU NCC. South Carolina Indians, Indian Traders, and Other Ethnic Connections Beginning in 1670, edited by Theresa M. Hicks, refers to many Catawba families.
- 929.3 SOU NCC. “Tribal Lists from 1849 (Greenville, Chester and York)”. Upper South Carolina Genealogy & History. Vol. 9 No. 3 (July 1995): Pages 89 – 91.
- R970.1 HAN 2004. “Catawba and Neighboring Groups”. Handbook of North American Indians (2004 Ed.). Vol. 14: Pages 301 – 318.
- 970.3 M NCC. The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal by James Merrell is a narrative history with detailed notes on sources.
- Catawba Indian Genealogy by Ian Watson, 1995. Compiled genealogy of part of the Catawba Indian tribe of South Carolina.
Go to: https://archive.org/details/catawba-indian-genealogy
- S. C. Indians: Catawba
- The York County Genweb site has material on the Catawbas, including census transcriptions.
Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: Finding Cherokee & Catawba Indian Ancestors
Revised: 13 June 2017