Great Grandma was a
Full Blooded Cherokee Princess
~ Now What????
can't tell you how many inquiries I get that begin with "my
grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee princess".
In self-defense, I've written an article about how to research
Native heritage - and how DNA can help in that process.
you've become interested in your family heritage and someone told you
that your great-grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee princess.
You find this quite interesting of course, and would like to find
out more. But where do you
turn, what do you do, and can DNA testing help you?
Let's look at your options one at a time.
let's just be honest here. Your
great-grandmother was probably NOT a full blooded Cherokee Princess.
I've heard this story thousands of times - even in my own family
- and it's simply not true. There
are two reasons it's not true - but don't give up -
keep reading - there's light at the end of the tunnel!
1 - The Cherokee didn't have princesses.
2 - Unless your great-grandmother was living on the Cherokee Reservation
in either Oklahoma or North Carolina , she probably wasn't full blooded. The Cherokee east of the Mississippi were relocated in the
1830s in the ordeal known at the Trail of Tears.
You can read more about that at this link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_Tears
and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_removal.
A census was taken at that time, and even then, few Cherokee were
"full-blooded". Many were admixed with mostly European traders, but a few
with African Americans as well.
Cherokee who were allowed to remain east of the Mississippi were already
living outside of the reservation, were citizens of the states in which
they lived and owned land, living mostly as Europeans, not Native
people. Most were Native
women married to white men. Today they form the Eastern Bank of the Cherokee and mostly
descend from people on the original Baker Roll. You can search the Baker Roll here - http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/baker.php.
a generation length of 25-30 years on the average, the Cherokee removal
was between 6 and 7 generations ago.
IF your ancestor was full blooded at that time, and IF they
married a full-blooded white person for every generation since, you
would be 1/64th Cherokee and great-grandma would have been 1/8th.
Of course, there are a lot of IFs in that statement.
the good news. Many times,
where there is smoke, there is fire.
If your family carries the oral history that you have some Native
ancestry, you probably do. These
stories tend to become exaggerated over time and also tend to lose track
of the correct generation.
talk about some things you can do to discover your Native heritage.
1. The census is your friend.
Thankfully, the census has been indexed and is available online.
Some years are available free by using Heritage Quest, available
though most libraries via the internet with a library card.
Check with your local library.
Personally, I use Ancestry.com but it requires a subscription for
most years. In the census,
if your ancestor was of mixed heritage and it was visible, they may be
noted as mulatto in the census. There were only three categories, black, white and mulatto.
In this context, mulatto meant mixed.
Find them in every census available.
The census began in 1790 and in most places, the census is
available every 10 years, except for 1890 which was destroyed.
Sometimes their ethnic designation changed from census to census
and even one mulatto finding is a significant hint.
Check their siblings too.
2. Where did they live? The
census will tell you not only where they lived, but where they were born
and where their parents were born.
Often you can track the family back in time. If your ancestors
were Cherokee, they would have been living where the Cherokee tribe was
located. On the map below,
you can see where the Cherokee and other tribes were found before
removal in the 1830s.
3. The word Cherokee has become generic, like the word Kleenex.
Many people who descend from now defunct tribes have lost their
tribal name. The Cherokee
are the best known tribe east of the Mississippi, and therefore many
families have assumed for years that the Cherokee were their ancestors,
when they were not. In the
1600s, 1700s and 1800s, many tribes were nearly decimated and their
remnant people joined together. You
can read about this in my paper titled Where
Have All the Indians Gone? Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal,
Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony of
Roanoke. This paper is available free on my website, but was
originally published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy.
It discusses the various tribes, their locations as well as their
fates at length.
4. There are Native resources you can check.
There were several rolls taken beginning in 1817 and ending in
1924. You can see them at
this link - http://www.tngenweb.org/tnfirst/rolls.html.
The most famous and useful are the Dawes Rolls and the Guion
Miller Roll, both of which are used to document tribal heritage and at
that time, enrollment in the tribe. You can search the final rolls index for free at this link -
Many legitimate Cherokee enrolled, and many families with a
history of Native heritage attempted to enroll as well.
Most were declined because even then, they could not prove their
connection to the Cherokee. However, if one of your family members, or their siblings, or
cousins attempted to enroll, the application is chocked full of
genealogy information. These
applications are the Holy Grail of Native American genealogy research. Notice on the bottom of this page that you can also search
other rolls as well. You
can also search at www.footnote.com
using the collection title "Dawes Packets".
5. You can engage others to help you in your search.
A company called Cherokee Roots has published a significant
amount of information in book format and will also assist you in your
search. You can see their
products and services here - http://www.cherokeeroots.com/.
How Can DNA Testing Help?
testing can help you in a number of ways, depending on who is available
are three kinds of DNA testing for genealogy.
All three test different parts of the human DNA and for different
white paper is available that explains this at http://www.dnaexplain.com/Publications/Publications.asp
titled DNA Testing For Genealogy: The Basics.
first type of DNA testing is Y chromosomal testing.
Men given their Y chromosome to their sons, which is what makes
them male. Women don't have
a Y chromosome, so they can't contribute any part of it to their sons.
Therefore, the father's Y chromosome is passed intact to his
sons. He inherited the same
chromosome from his father, and his father from his grandfather, on up
the paternal tree, which fortunately matches the surname.
Therefore, men can test their Y chromosome to see if they match
another man of the same surname to see if they share a common ancestor.
on the results, men are grouped together in larger groups called
haplogroups, and there are two Native American haplogroups that men fall
into. This identifies them as Native American.
In our situation with great-grandma, this won't work, because she
did not have a Y chromosome. However, if you know who great-grandma's father was, you can
test his male descendants (of the same surname) today to see if maybe
great-grandma's Native ancestry came from her father.
second type of DNA testing is mitochondrial DNA testing. Women give
their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to both sexes of their children, but
only the women pass it on. Men
do not contribute their mitochondrial DNA to their children.
Therefore, in the current generation, men and women can both
test, but when testing ancestors, the person to test today must be
descended from the woman in question through all females to the current
generation. In our case, if
you are descended from great-grandma only through females, meaning your
mother, and her mother, then you can personally test to see if
great-grandma was Native through her mother. Like with men, women's results are grouped together in
haplogroups and your haplogroup will tell if your maternal ancestor was
Native on her mother's side.
you are unlucky and you don't descend from great-grandma through all
females, meaning she is your father's grandmother, for example - you're
still not out of luck. Find
someone who descends from her through all females and ask them to test.
If she has a son left living, he can test as well. What if she had no female children who had female children or
sons left living? Then move
up the tree a generation to her mother and see if she had any female
children who had female children.
third type of testing is called autosomal testing.
It tests all of your DNA and one of the results is a percentage
of ethnicity. This tells
you how much of 7 basic worldwide groups you are, including Native
American. This test is
quite accurate back about 5 generations and beyond that, can sometimes
pick up minority ancestry. Even
1% is enough to confirm the oral history as accurate.
Looking at your family tree - if your Cherokee ancestor was 5
generations back in time, you would be 3.12% Cherokee.
If your Cherokee ancestor was really great-grandma and she was
full blooded, you would be 12.5%, which is plenty to be detected using
are differing types of DNA tests for genealogy and various quality
factors. I strongly recommend that you use Family Tree DNA for testing
purposes for a number of reasons. First,
they don't "guess" at your haplogroup, they test. Other firms
attempt to extrapolate, and many times, incorrectly.
Second, they have the largest data base for comparison to others
who have tested - and you may well find cousins you didn't even know you
had. Third, they have
projects you can join, for free, and obtain discounts if you order your
tests through projects. Projects
can be surname projects or projects such as those focused on Native
Americans - and you can join an unlimited number.
Each project has an administrator who is a volunteer, but
generally very helpful. Lastly,
they are one of only two firms to use the latest technology for
autosomal testing (as of 2011) which tests over half a million autosomal
locations. You just can't
do the ethnicity predictions accurately with only a few locations.
Some firms try to do them with as few as 15 and 21, as compared
to half a million.
tests can be ordered at www.familytreedna.com
and they are the Yline test for males, the mitochondrial test for female
ancestors and the Family Finder tests for ethnicity percentages.
After your testing is complete, if you want more information
about the DNA results and an heirloom report, you can also order a
Personalized DNA report, either at Family Tree DNA or at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx.
your search for your family!!! It's
a journey you'll never regret.
~Out and About ~
Family History Society of Eastern North Carolina
month it was Anne Poole's turn to present a program about the Lost
Colonists, what we are doing to find them, and our DNA projects.
On Saturday, June 4th, at the Riverfront Convention Center in New
Bern, Anne joined several other presenters at the Family History fair
sponsored by the Family History Society of Eastern North Carolina.
event was highly publicized, and just under 500 people attended. All, of course, are interested in Family History.
Two of our long-time members joined Anne for part of the day and
shared Lost Colony related family history with us!
It's always wonderful to meet our members, or in this case, to
see them again! Elizabeth
Poole, Anne's daughter, helped throughout the day as well.
only problem Anne had was that her session was TOO popular, and she
wound up with twice the number of attendees as had signed up for the
session. Now that's a great
problem to have - and the event management graciously made additional
copies of the handouts for the extra guests.
your family is from eastern NC, check out the Family History Society and
maybe plan on attending a meeting.
big thank you to both Anne and Elizabeth for representing our
organization. Take a look at how nice our booth looked.
When not presenting, Anne was talking to attendees about the Lost