This site is a joint production of Jim Hicks, computer geek,and Jerry Clark, history geek. It isdedicated to the study of Cherokee history and genealogy, and is based on theessential research of Dr. Emmet Starr. In addition, we have added information obtained from scholarly books,articles, and research papers, and have used documents from Tribal, State,Federal, and other archival or manuscript collections. We have also examinedcolonial records relating to Indian affairs. We have tried to gain access toall available information about the Tsa-la-gi, probably the most written-aboutof all Native Americans. The historicalrecord of the not always happy interaction between this tribe and Europeans andAmericans is extensive and rich.
Some of the information in these pages consists of informedspeculation, but is consistent with the available evidence. We welcome submission of new facts ordocuments; anything written here is subject to addition, modification, orcorrection.
The Cherokees were a numerous and warlike people, inhabitingsouthern Appalachia, constituting parts of the present States of Alabama,Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Nearly 300 years ago, British subjects(mainly of Scot ancestry) penetrated the mountain country to trade with theIndians. Many of these tradersestablished trading posts in Cherokee towns, and by accepting a Native wife orconsort, were adopted into the tribe. These men became known as “Indian Countrymen,” and became the progenitorsof many of the families listed in Dr. Starr’s books and unpublished notes. Some were Loyalists or Tories living amongthe Cherokees during the American Revolution. Later, as a result of coercion, most of the tribe was removed toArkansas and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).
Cherokee genealogy is tricky, due to the uneasy intermixtureof the very different Cherokee and European family customs. Cherokee society was matrilineal, withdescent traced through the mother. There were seven clans, and a Cherokee was forbidden to marry anyone ofthe same clan. A Cherokee belonged tohis or her mother’s clan, and uncle-nephew connections were more important thanfather-son relations. Knowledge of a Cherokee’s clan identity is extremelyimportant factor in determining family connections. Polygamy was not uncommon, and marriages (and divorces) werecasual by European standards.
Cherokee Chiefs and headmen were chosen by consensus intribal councils, and did not fit the European scheme of royalty and nobility. There were “Peace Chiefs” (diplomats) and“War Chiefs” (generals); town chiefs (mayors) and regional chiefs (governors);chiefs called “Small-Pox Conjuror” (not always successful), “Slave Catchers”(i.e. they captured prisoners of war), “Mankiller” (killed enemies); and evenapprentice chiefs (known as “Colonah” meaning “Raven”).
Cherokee “Princesses” did not exist. However, a wise Indian countryman chose ashis Cherokee bride the sister, niece, or daughter of an important chief orheadman in order to take advantage of his wife’s high social standing. Thus, while not royalty, these Cherokeespouses were perhaps “heiresses” or “debutants.”
The Cherokees adopted European style surnames, often instrange ways. Cherokee names weretranslated (Bear Paw, Going Snake, etc) or the sounds of the Cherokee languagerendered into English letters, frequently resulting in wildly differingspellings. Most male names had meaning(Enola = Black Fox), but most female names could not be translated (Annawake,Qualiyuka, Sokinney, etc) or were equivalents of English names (Quatie = Betty,Sookie = Susie).
“Full Blood” is a somewhat relative term among Cherokees,since many persons of mixed-ancestry maintained traditional values, spoke onlythe Cherokee language, and were called “full-bloods.” For example, Sequoyah (aka George Gist) was only ¼ Cherokee, butwas considered a full blood. Anotherexample was Redbird Smith, the founder of the Nighthawk orKeetoowah Society.
The Cherokees adopted into the tribe, members of otherIndian nations (including Osage, Delawares, and Shawnees). Besides intermarriage with European orAmerican merchants, missionaries, or army personnel, former Negro slaves of theCherokees became Freedmen citizens of the tribe after the Civil War. Thus one can be Indian, white, or black (orany combination of the above) and be a Cherokee, without actually having muchCherokee blood.
The solving of conundrums of Cherokee connections is anever-ending pleasure, but because of gaps in the historical record and theloss of family information, some puzzles shall never be cleared up. This web site is a modest, but earnestattempt to furnish information to all serious researchers of the heritage ofthis great Native Nation.
Today, the Cherokees are the second most numerous AmericanIndian people (only the Navajo tribe is larger). Many Americans believe themselves to have Cherokee ancestry, buttribal membership is solely the responsibility of the three recognized tribalgovernments (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma;United Keetoowah Band, and the Eastern Band of North Carolina). It hasbeen said that there are three types of Cherokees: “Cherokees,” “Wannabees,”and “Outtalucks.”
Note: If you wish tobookmark this site, please use the HomePage, since new material is being added, thereby changing the page numbers.