Where to start your Cherokee genealogy research

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The Cherokee Indians have had continuing dealings with the U.S. Government since the 1700’s through treaties, legislation, and the courts. There are probably more federal records concerning the Cherokees than any other tribe.

During the 1830’s and 1840’s, the period covered by the Indian Removal Act, many Indians were forced to remove to what is now Oklahoma. A small number of Indians remained in the southeast and gathered in the North Carolina area where they purchased land and continued to live on the Quala Boundary. Many went into the Appalachian Mountains to escape the removal. Cherokee Ancestry falls into three main groups: 

1) Persons listed on the final roll of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that were closed in 1907 and their descendants.

2) Persons enrolled as members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina and their descendants, Baker Roll.

3) Other persons of Cherokee Indian ancestry.

The first groups were those Cherokees who went West and formally organized as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. After about a half-century of self-government, a law enacted by Congress in 1906 directed that a final roll be made and each enrollee be given an allotment of land or be paid cash. After that date no names could be added to the final rolls. The 1906 enrollment records are kept by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The second group, or Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, are formally organized and have their own requirements for member ship. 

Information about the Indian ancestry of persons in the third group of Cherokees is the most difficult to locate. Some of these Indians did not sign up when necessary. The information for this group is best found by using the same methods as used in compiling ancestries of non-Indians. The claims that were filed in 1906 and were rejected provide the same good source of information that is helpful in tracing Indian ancestry.