Cherokee Nation

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Guide to Cherokee Nation ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and other agency records.

Cherokees Indians in London.jpg
Regions with significant populations
Ancestral Homelands: Alabama to Virginia, northern Georgia, western North Carolina, and southern Tennessee

A large portion of the tribe was removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s. Some remained in North Carolina.


Federally recognized

Linguistic Group


Cultural Group

Southern Appalachian Mountains

Other Related Ethnic Groups

One of what is often called the "Five Civilized Tribes"

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Cherokee Tribe is one of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole

Leaders: Sequoyah, Elias Boudinot, Nancy Ward

Clans: Wolf (Aniwahya), Wild Potato (Anigatogewi) , Deer (Anikawi), Bird (Ani Tsiskwa), Paint (Aniwodi), Blue (Anisahoni), and Long Hair (Anigilohi)


Tribal Headquarters[edit | edit source]

Cherokee Nation Tribal
17675 S. Muskogee Ave.
Tahlequah, OK 74464
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465
Phone: 918-453-5000

Cherokee Heritage Center - Cherokee National Historical Society
21192 S. Keller Drive
Park Hill, OK 74451
Phone: 918-456-6007
PO Box 515
Tahlequah, OK 74465-0515
Cherokee Heritage Center Website

History[edit | edit source]

The Spanish explorer De Soto was the first to encounter the Cherokee in the 1540s.

During the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War the tribe supported the British.

By 1820 a group that had tired of the encroachment by settlers migrated to Indian Territory which is now Arkansas.

Sequoya (George Grist) a mixed blood, developed the Cherokee alphabet, helping to make the tribe a literate people.

In the 1830s gold was discovered in their Nation, this became a catalyst for removal. With the signing of the Treaty of New Echota, December 29, 1835 the tribe sold their remaining land and agreed to move west of the Mississippi.

The removal to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) occurred in the winter of 1838-1839, with an 800 mile journey, this became known as the "Trail of Tears", with a loss of one-fourth of their tribe. They joined an earlier group known as "old settlers" who had been in Arkansas. Another group that had been in Mexico (Texas) was forced by government troops to move, they went to the mountains of North Carolina where in 1842, they obtained permission to stay. The Texas group are now a part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

The Cherokee were slave owners, and resided in areas encompassed by southern influence many of them enlisted in the Confederate Army. A Treaty signed in 1866 remitted them to the United States. They were required to release their slaves. Others had joined the Union Army.

In 1870 some Delaware and Shawnee from Kansas were admitted to the tribe.

There are three band of Cherokee recognized by the Federal government; Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee, and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee

Brief Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1689-1763: French and Indian War, the Cherokee supported the English
  • 1710-1715 The Cherokee and Chickasaw were allies with the British and fought the Shawnee who were alies with the French
  • 1721: The Governor of the Carolinas signed the Cherokee Treaty. This was one of the first concession of land.
  • 1736: Jesuit Mission was founded
  • 1738-1750: Smallpox epidemics
  • 1775-83: During Revolutionary War supported the British
  • 1800: "Moravian," Protestant missionaries of German origin, established the first mission at Spring Place.
  • 1801-1823: An Indian agent, Return J. Meigs, lived among the Cherokee.
  • 1805-1833: The State of Georgia holds eight lotteries to distribute land seized from the Cherokee and Creeks
  • 1806: a Federal road from Savannah, Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee was built through Cherokee land.
  • 1816: Lovely's Purchase. Osage agreed to cede land in Arkansas to the United States for the Cherokee people.
  • 1817: "Treaty of Turkeytown" finalized the exchange for land in Arkansas. The "Old Settlers" begin their migration.
  • 1819-1821: Sequoyah (George Gist) created the Cherokee alphabet.
  • 1827: Tribal leaders recorded their constitution
  • 1828: Georgia held a lottery for Cherokee lands.
  • 1828: Cherokee Phoenix, a bilingual newspaper, contained columns in both English and Cherokee. Editor -- Elias Boudinot
  • December 1835: Treaty of New Echota, traded Cherokee lands in the southeast for land in Indian Territory (Oklahoma)
  • 1838: First Group; Start of Trail of Tears, 800-mile journey; 1838-39 - Second group; 4,000 Cherokees died
  • Cherokee Nation created and divided into the following districts or counties: Canadian, Cooweescoowee, Delaware, Going Snake, Flint, Illinois, Saline, Sequoyah and Tahlequah
  • 1851: Drennen Roll, Is a roll of the Cherokee Emigrants who were forced to remove from the Cherokee Nation and the Old Settlers who moved voluntarily before the forced removal.
  • 1861: Beginning of the Civil War. A treaty was signed between the Cherokee Nation and the Confederate government.
  • 1861-1865: Civil War Some Cherokee fought with the Confederate and others with the Union
  • 1865:Eastern Band lost many to a smallpox epidemic
  • 1866: July 19, Treaty provided for the cession of the Cherokee "neutral lands" in Kansas. Native Americans living on the land could receive a patent to 320 acres but stipulated that they would no longer be members of the Cherokee nation. The treaty also gave emancipation to all the Cherokee slaves. and citizenship to the Cherokee freedmen.
  • 1880: Cherokee Nation Census FHL film 989204
  • 1887: General Allotment Act passed. This act required individual ownership of lands once held in common by the Cherokee people.
  • 1889: Unassigned lands in Indian Territory were opened to white settlers. (Oklahoma Land Rush)
  • 1893: Cherokee Outlet was opened for white settlers.
  • 1898: The Curtis Act dismantled tribal governments.
  • 1906: A final agreement was reached between the federal government and the Cherokee people. The Dawes Commission (all Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cree and Seminole) created the enrollment records.
  • 1907: Oklahoma became the 46th State.
  • Cherokee Nation divided into ten counties: Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Delaware, Maynes, Nowata, Rogers, Sequoyah, Tulsa, and Washington
  • 1909: Guion Miller Rolls, Cherokee only, who applied for a share of the money from a law suit settlement against the United States
  • 1953: U.S. Congress began a new policy of termination for the Native American tribes. The policy ended the protected trust status of all native-owned lands. The BIA began a voluntary urban relocation program. Native Americans could move from their rural tribes to a metropolitan area. Many indigenous people relocated to Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas and Seattle. It is estimated that 750,000 Native Americans migrated to the cities between 1950-1980.
  • 1968: Indian Civil Rights Act restored the right to hold popular elections.

Additional References to the History of the Tribe and/or Bands

  • Frederick Webb Hodge, in his Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, gave a more complete history of the Cherokee tribe, with estimations of the population of the tribe at various time periods. Additional details are given in John Swanton's The Indian Tribes of North America.
  • Benjamin Greenleaf. Cherokee Almanac. 1860. FHL Film 989199 item 3
  • Fredrea Marilyn Hermann Cook. Forgotten Oklahoma Records. Cullman, Alabama: Gregath Co., 1981. FHL Book 970.3 C424co
  • Allen, Maud Bliss. Census Records and Cherokee Muster Rolls. Washington, D.C.: n.p., 1935. This source contains the Cherokee census of 1835 of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Online at:FamilySearch Digital Library.
  • United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Census Roll, 1835, of the Cherokee Indians East of the Mississippi and Index to the Roll, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia. National Archives Microfilm Publications, T0496. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1960. FHL film 833322
  • Siler, David W. The Eastern Cherokees, A Census of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia in 1851. Cottonport, Louisiana: Polyanthus, 1972. FHL book 970.3 C424sd This list contains the names of each person’s father, mother and children, with their ages and relationship (De Kalb, Jackson, and Marshall Counties). An index is included.
  • Malone, Henry Thompson. Cherokees of the Old South: A People in Transition. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1956. FHL book 970.3 C424ma See the maps before the preface. At the end of the book there is a bibliography.
  • United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Cherokee Agency. Records of the Cherokee Agency in Tennessee, 1801–1835. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0208. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1952. FHL films 1024418–31 These records deal with the entire Cherokee Nation. They contain information about passes given to people during 1801 to 1804 allowing them to go through the Cherokee lands. These records also mention claims filed 1816 to 1833 and include the names of Army officers at posts; unauthorized settlements on Indian lands; land office records; and names of traders, settlers, missionaries, chiefs, and members of the tribe. See the introduction at the beginning of the first film to learn about the contents of these records. Many individuals are listed, however there is no index.
  • United States. Office of Indian Affairs. Letters Received, 1824–1881; Registers of Letters Received, 1824–1880. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0018, M0234. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1942, 1956. FHL film 1638620 (first of 1088 films) There are letters in this collection pertaining to each of the major tribes, but they are not indexed.
  • Tyner, James W. Those Who Cried: The 16,000: A Record of the Individual Cherokees Listed in the United States Official Census of the Cherokee Nation Conducted in 1835. N.p.: Chi-ga-u, 1974. FHL book 970.3 C424tj Non-Cherokee census takers in 1835 made lists of Cherokees in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. There are some errors because they did not understand the native languages. The government defined a person as an Indian if he or she had one-quarter degree of Indian blood. The book is indexed and has excellent maps for that period.

Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

The Cherokee Tribe was under the following jurisdictions:[edit | edit source]

Agencies[edit | edit source]

The majority of records of individuals were those created by the agencies. Some records may be available to tribal members through the tribal headquarters. They were (and are) the local office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and were charged with maintaining records of the activities of those under their responsibility. Among these records are:

Reservations[edit | edit source]

  • Qualla Reservation for Eastern Cherokees, in Swain and Jackson counties, North Carolina
  • Cheowah Reservation in Graham county, North Carolina

Superintendency[edit | edit source]

Records[edit | edit source]

Cherokee Nation. Oklahoma Historical Society. Indian Archives (Vital, Land and Property, Court, Probate, and School records) FHL film 1666294 first of 129 films

Agency Records[edit | edit source]

Agency Records 1898-1950 (East) Cherokee Agency. United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs. FHL film 1249974 first film of 7

Cherokee Indian Agency in Tennessee, 1801-1835. United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs. (M0208) FHL 1024418 first of 14 films

Allotment Records[edit | edit source]

  • Five Civilized Indian Tribes Land Allotment Records, 1899-1907, (NARA RG 75) Oklahoma, Indian Territory, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. On Line. FHL film 4124879 first film
  • Forgotten Oklahoma Records ( Allotment) by Fredrea Marilyn Hermann Cook. 1981. Film: 1035512 item 4 or FHL Book: 970.3 C424co
  • Township Plats, Cherokee Nation. Tahlequah, Oklahoma. FHL Film: 989209

Annuity Records[edit | edit source]

Annuity Records, 1905-1910 FHL film 1030883

Census Records[edit | edit source]

The Bureau of Indian Affairs compiled annual Indian Census rolls on many of the reservations from 1885-1940. They list the names of individuals, their age, and other details about each person enumerated. For more information about these records click here.

Tribe Agency Location of Original records

Post - 1885 Census

M595 RG 75 Rolls 693

Roll Number





North Carolina

Cherokee Indian Agency,


Atlanta Roll 22 FHL Films: 573,868-573,872
- 1898-1914 - - FHL Film:573,868

Additional Census Records Available through the Family History Library

  • Mullary Roll 1848, Siler Roll 1851, 1852, Chapman Roll 1852, Swetland Roll 1869 and Hester Roll 1883 Film: 847743 Item 2
  • Revised Roll 1924-1970 Films: 847746-847748
  • Historical Roll 1908, Churchill Roll 1908, Baker Roll 1924, Miller Roll 1909, Baker-revised Roll 1967 Film: 847749
  • The Cherokee Phoenix, 1828-1835. Film: 825726
  • Cherokee Advocate, October 1844-September 1846, Film: 989202 item 7
  • Cherokee One Feather, 1969-1973.
  • Probate Records 1892-1908, Northern District Cherokee Nation by Orpha Jewell Wever Book: 976.6 P2w

Church Records[edit | edit source]

  • 1817 - 1861 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
  • 1803 Moravian Missions
  • 1817 Baptist Missions and Missionaries
  • 1822 Methodist Missions

See: Moravian Church Records

Crews, C. Daniel and Richard W. Starbuck. Records of the Moravians Among the Cherokees. Early Contact and the Establishment of the First Mission 1752-1802. Cherokee National Press. Tahlequah, OK FHL book 970.3 C424cdm Vol. C. 2010. WorldCat

Crews, Daniel C. and Richard W. Starbuck. With Courage for the Future: The Story of the Moravian Church Southern Province Winston-Salem: Moravian Church in America, Southern Province, 2002. FHL 973 K3cw WorldCat

McLoughlin. William G. Cherokees and Missionaries, 1789-1839. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.FHL 970.3 mw WorldCat

Mc Clinton, Rowena. The Moravian Springplace Mission to the Cherokees Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. FHL 970.1 C424gir WorldCat

Starr, Emmet. Early History of the Cherokees Embracing Aboriginal Customs, Religion, Laws, Fork Lore and Civilization. 1917. FHL 970.3 C424sea WorldCat

Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Enrollment Records[edit | edit source]

Find out if you are a Cherokee by having your ancestor's name checked to the 1924 Baker Roll.

Only the Names Remain. by Sandi Garrett FHL book 970.3 C424gs Vol 1-6

Removal[edit | edit source]

The Indian Removal Act was signed May 26, 1830 by President Andrew Jackson. The Act initiated a policy of removal of Native Americans tribes living east of the Mississippi River to land west of the river.

The above collection is also available online:
  • The Oklahoma Historical Society site and research center has excellent information on Indian Removal, Census, Freedman Resources, Tribes in Oklahoma, Timelines for the removal of the Cherokee tribe and more.
  • 1835 Trail of Tears
  • Cherokee Removal: The Journal of Rev. Daniel S. Butrick. by Trail of Tears Association. FHL book 970.3 Cv424bds
  • Library and Archives of Thomas Gilcrease - Institute of American History in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

The Cherokee Observer The only independent Cherokee Newspaper. of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.

The Cherokee Phoenix is a tribal media organization.

Annotated Obituaries from the Cherokee Advance, Canton, Georgia, 1880-1938 by John Carver
2003.Over 600 pages.

School Records[edit | edit source]

  • Saline District, Cherokee Nation, School Records 1900 Film: 989202 item 6
  • Delaware District, Cherokee Nation. Beatties Prairie School Film: 989203 item 1
  • Cherokee National Seminary, Male and Female Seminary Records, 1881-1882. Film: 1025299 item 1
  • Cherokee National Female Seminary 1876-1909. Film: 989203 items 3, 6
  • Cherokee National Male Seminary 1876-1909. Film: 989202 item 5
  • Arcadia School Records, 190. Saline District, Cherokee Nation FHL Film: 989202 item 6
  • T. L. Ballenger. Early History of Northeastern State College FHL Film 989203
  • Beatties Prairie School, Registers of Pupils, 1876-1881. Delaware Cherokee Nation FHL Film 989203
  • Cherokee Agency (East) U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, School Records, 1907-1948 FHL film 1249958 first of two films

Correspondence[edit | edit source]

Tribe Agency Location of Original Records

Pre-1880 Correspondence M234

RG 75 Rolls 962

Roll Number

FHL Film Number

Cherokee Agency,


Washington D.C. Rolls 71-118 1,660,801 - 848
Cherokee Union Agency, 1875-1914 Washington D.C. and Fort Worth Rolls 865-77 1,661,595 - 607
Cherokee Five Civilized Tribes Agency Muskogee, 1914-60 Fort Worth - -
Cherokee, North Carolina Cherokee Indian Agency, 1886-1952 Atlanta - -
Cherokee Eastern Cherokee Indian Agency, 1886-1952 Atlanta - -

Treaties[edit | edit source]

The year link (year of the treaty) will connect to an online copy of the treaty.

During the latter part of the 18th Century and most of the 19th Century, treaties were negotiated between the federal government and individual native tribes. The treaties provide helpful information about the history of the tribe, but usually only include the names of those persons who signed the treaty. For more information about treaties, click here.

Treaties to which the Cherokee Indians were a part were:

  • 1785 November 28, at Hopewell.
  • 1791 July 2, on Holston River
  • 1794 June 26, at Philadelphia
  • 1798 October 2, at Tellico
  • 1804 October 24,at Tellico
  • 1805 October 25, at Tellico
  • 1805 October 27, at Tellico
  • 1806 January 7, at Washington
  • September 11, 1807,
  • August 9, 1814, referred to
  • 1816 March 22, at Washington
  • 1816 September 14, at Chickasaw Council House
  • 1817 July 8, at Cherokee Agency
  • 1819 February 27, at Washington
  • 1828 May 6, at Washington, Western Cherokee
  • 1833 February 14, at Fort Gibson
  • 1835 March 14, unratified
  • 1835 August 24, at Camp Holmes
  • 1835 December 29, at New Echota
  • March 1, 1836, supplementary
  • 1846 August 6, at Washington, with Western Cherokee
  • September 13, 1865, at Fort Smith - unratified
  • 1866 July 19, at Washington
  • 1868 April 27, Western Band Treaties
  • May 6, 1828, at Washington
  • February 14, 1833

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Prior to the Indian Reorganization Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, through their agencies, may have recorded some vital events. Some were recorded on health forms, such as the "Sanitary Record of Sick, Injured, Births, Deaths, etc." Others were recorded as supplements to the "Indian Census Rolls." Some were included in the unindexed reports and other correspondence of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Some vital records for the Cherokee Nation include:

  • Marriage Records for the Cherokee Indian in Delaware District, 1867-1898 Oklahoma Historical Society. Indian Archives Division. FHL film 1666325 item 1first of four films
  • Marriage records for Cooweescoowee District, 1867-1898. Oklahoma Historical Society. Indian Archives Division FHL film 1666317
  • Marriage Records for the Saline District of the Cherokee Nation, 1868-1894. Oklahoma Historical Society. Indian Archives Division. FHL film 1666337 Item 1 and 2
  • Marriage licenses and marks and brands for Sequoyah District in the Cherokee District, 1874-1898 FHL film 1666339
  • Marriage records for Tahlelquah District in the Cherokee Nation, 1892-1897. Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Archives Division. FHL Collection

Indian Pioneer Papers[edit | edit source]

In 1936, the Oklahoma Historical Society and University of Oklahoma requested a writer's project grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in which interviews would be conducted with early settlers in Oklahoma who had lived on Indian land. More than 100 writers conducted over 11,000 interviews and were asked to "call upon early settlers and (record) the story of the migration to Oklahoma and their early life here." [1] The University of Oklahoma Western History Collection has digitized the Indian Pioneer Papers which consists of approximately 80,000 indexed entries arranged alphabetically by personal name, place name, or subject. [2] An index to the Indian Pioneer Papers may also be found at OKGenWeb Oklahoma Genealogy. A separate index of Native Americans interviewed, including the Cherokee, may be viewed at: “Indians in the Indian Pioneer Papers” Some of the surnames from the Cherokee tribe found in the collection are: Adair (Rider), Anderson, Beaver, Brewer, Bohanan, Burch (Choate), Campbell, Candy, Chambers (Ketcher), Coodey, Crutchfield (Lane), Daniels (Cummins), Daughtery (Morris), Drew, Dugan, Duncan, Harlan (James), Keys (Porter), Ketcher (Langley), Langley, Lynch, Marcham, McClure (Keith), Miller (Watts), Morris, Phillips (Keith), Rider (Howland), Ross, Rutherford (Rider), Starr, Vann, West (Spring). Family History Library microfiche number: 6,016,865 (first fiche number)

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Catalog has over 1670 records of interest to the Cherokee Indians

The following is a Family History Library book which is an ebook and may be downloaded.

Martha Jane (Thornton) Williams (1842-1918), Indian History and Genealogy.

Websites[edit | edit source]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

For background information to help find Native American ancestors see For Further Reading.

See also:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Blackburn, Bob L. "Battle Cry for History: The First Century of the Oklahoma Historical Society." n.d. Oklahoma Historical Society. 5 Oct. 1998.
  2. The University of Oklahoma Western History Collections