Nancy Ward: Military and Genealogical Records of the Famous Indian Woman of Tennessee


Last Updated: 5 years

– Book Review:

Nancy Ward was a well known historical figure from the Cherokee tribe born into the Wolf Clan around 1738 at Chota, near Fort Loudon, Tennessee. She was born around the time of a smallpox epidemic that caused the deaths of approximately half of the Cherokee population living at that time.

Her father was Fivekiller, a Cherokee-Delaware man, and her mother was Tame Deer (sometimes recorded as Tame Doe, known popularly as Catherine), the sister of Attakullakulla (also spelled Attacullaculla, or Little Carpenter in English). Her cousin, Dragging Canoe (Tsi’yu-gunsini) became a famous Chickamaugas Chief.

Nancy Ward first married Kingfisher, a Cherokee of the Deer clan, and they had two children, Catherine, and Fivekiller. After he was killed at the Battle of Taliwa, she later married Briant (Bryant) Ward, an English trader, and they had another daughter named Elizabeth, who was often called Betsy or Betty.

Ward was already married to a white woman when he wed Nancy, and later returned to his European wife. He also had a previous son by his white wife, who later came looking for him while he was still living with the Cherokee, and John (Jack) Ward ended up staying himself, taking a Cherokee wife of his own. Many of their decendants later became prominent in the Cherokee tribe.

Nancy Ward’s early Cherokee name, Nanye-hi, “One Who Goes About,” comes from the name of the mythological Spirit People of the Cherokee. As a young woman, she had the nickname Tsistunagiska, meaning “Wild Rose.” After the Battle of Taliwa in 1755, where she battled alongside the male warriors, she was given the Cherokee honorary title of Ghighau, “Beloved Woman.” This Cherokee title, by tradition, gave her a lifetime voice in the tribal councils of chiefs, as well as the power to pardon condemned captives, which she did on several occasions. She was also sometimes known as Agigaue (Agi-ga-u-e), meaning “War Woman.”

Nancy Ward is credited with bringing the first cows to the Cherokee people, and being the only Cherokee woman allowed to speak at treaty negotiations.

Nancy Ward: Military and Genealogical Records of the Famous Indian Woman of Tennessee, 3rd Edition, written by Annie Walker Burns in 1957 and edited and annotated by Henry Matthew Ward in 2009, is a facinating glimpse into this historical period for the Cherokee people.

While the book focuses on Nancy Ward, her uncle Attacullaculla, her son-in-law General Joseph Martin and her daughter, Elizabeth “Betty” Ward Martin, this book would be an invaluable resource for anyone who is doing genealogical research on this branch of the Ward family and their relations or just enjoys a look into history. The book presents extensive information on the decendants of Nancy Ward and Joseph Martin, along with many references to where the original material was found, right down to page numbers.

Much of the book is presented in the form of old letters, wills, and court and military records, along with excerpts from other contemporary records of the life of Nancy Ward, presenting a facinating glimpse into the history of this time period in general, as well as how it related to Nancy and her decendants.

The one drawback to this book was there is no chapter outline at the beginning of the book, which I found a bit disconcerting. This made it a bit hard if you wanted to just skip around to the periods or records you were most interested in, and the book could have been better organized.

However, the Index at the back of the book is excellent. It runs 25 pages long, and lists about 1,750 persons mentioned in the book. It is arranged alphabetically by name, and shows each page number where that person was mentioned.

The annoitations by Henry Mattew Ward at the bottom of each page were most helpful, explainging discrepencies in spellings; locations and changes in place names; and noting information in the book that disagrees with other sources or that has been proved in error since the original publication of the book in 1957.

Towards the back of the book, there is a list of many resources that would be helpful to anyone doing Cherokee genealogical research, even if they are not related to the Cherokee lines covered in this book. It lists the government rolls that are pertinent to Cherokee genealogical research, and many pertinent government records, etc.

This book is an oversized paperback and is 296 pages long. Cost is $16.95. It can be purchased at or at Park Bench Publishing.

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