You know, we’ve all heard legends. Sometimes it’s the really famous ones, and sometimes it’s the story of your great-great grand-uncle who rode with Jesse James to rob a train once.
My family has one such legend, and I finally got tired enough of it that I decided to check it out.
The family legend is that we’re direct descendants of a Cherokee Indian princess (and by extension, wouldn’t that mean also a chief?). Supposedly, someone in the family – way back when – should have been able to get an Indian ID card but chose not to do it. But, as family legends are wont to do, nobody even knew for sure which family member it was, or why the choice was made not to take the ID.
Well, Saturday I was looking at the MySpace page of a new friend, mostly looking over past blogs he’d written. One in particular caught my attention – the official newsletter for the Cherokee Nation. Reading that newsletter reminded me of the family legend, and I got a burr in my saddle (so to speak) and wrote to this new friend to tell him the story. He wrote back that, if we could document which family member it was, and the entire un-broken family lineage from that person to me, it might be possible to apply (the form is available at the Official Cherokee Nation website) for citizenship. Of course, there are some very specific qualifications (the primary one is that at least one direct ancestor MUST be listed by name on the Dawes Roll) – but hey, it might be possible.
So, I called my dad on the phone and told him what I’d learned. He said he’d have to get out his records (it was late Sunday night at the time) and see what he had, but if he could give me anything that would help to decide if this was even worth chasing down then he would.
Monday afternoon he called me back with at least birth names, birth years, and death years going back 4 generations before me (not including me), and the name of #4’s father.
So, I went to a web page that had the full roster of the Dawes Roll on it. Now, for your information, the Dawes Roll is the census taken by the US Government of all Native American and Freedmen who were residents of the Indian Territories (mainly a narrow strip of land across the northern part of Oklahoma) during the time the census was conducted – 1898 to 1906.
I typed in a name, selected the tribe and gender, and hit “search”. In two seconds – pow! There it was – my great-great grandmother’s maiden name, with an official CDIB number! Jackpot! Then, just as a whim, I typed in her father’s name, tribe, and gender, then hit “search” again. Yes, you can guess it – he’s there too, with his own unique CDIB number. I don’t know for sure what CDIB means (I tried to find out) – but that is the most important number in support of a claim.
The legends were true, at least in so far as documenting that we ARE carriers of Cherokee blood. It only took me 2 minutes (and some good internet search skills) to verify the information when my dad passed it on to me. Oh, and you should have heard the joy in his voice when I called him back to share the good news! Now he’s going to call his mom (who’s only 83) and ask her for more complete information on everyone, so we can start gathering together the official birth/death certificates we’ll need to provide to support the application. Yes, we are going forward with it – and I hope we’ll be able to complete it in time to share it with my grandmother while she is still able to share it! Of course, her mom (my great-grandmother) only passed away about 10 years ago.
What’s really amazing is – I’m about 1/32nd Cherokee, and 1/4 Irish – so how is it that I actually can hold my liquor? (ducks behind couch) LOL!