From the 1770s, a strong connection existed between the Cherokees and the Scots-Irish. As waves of Scots-Irish settled on the frontier, they lived, traded, fought and married the Cherokee. Millions of North Americans have Cherokee heritage because many mixed-bloods “passed for white” or blended into African American families.
By the time of removal in 1838, the Cherokee had thoroughly adopted white ways. They became Christians, developed an alphabet, printed a newspaper, held slaves, lived in towns, owned farms, and discarded the clan system. This created records.
Due to the interest in the tribe, there is a wealth of published genealogical material and how-to books. Three major works include: Myra Vanderpool Gormley’s Cherokee Connections (1995, 2002); Tony Mack McClure, Cherokee Proud: A Guide for Tracing and Honoring Your Cherokee Ancestors (2nd ed. 1999); and Tom Mooney, Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry: A Basic Genealogical Research Guide (1990). An excellent general work for the pre-removal period is Rachal Mills Lennon’s Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes (2002).
Geography is the key to researching mixed-blood Cherokee genealogy. By terms of the Treaty of New Echota (1835) they relinquished their lands in the modern-day counties:
Alabama: Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Marshall
Georgia: Cass, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Dade, Dawson, Fannin, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding, Pickins, Polk, Towns, Union, Walker, Whitfield
North Carolina: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon,Swain
Tennessee: Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, Meigs, Monroe, Polk
A remaining mixed-blood family often was recorded in the U.S. Census as white, black, mulatto or Indian. There are particular surnames associated with the pre-removal period. The surname may be your first clue to mixed-blood heritage. Another clue are terms “Black Dutch” and “Black Irish.” These were used by families to hide their ethnicity.
Also refer to my previous blog on August 27-28, 2012 “What Does “Cherokee” Mean?” which brings this topic into the modern arena. The next blogs will focus on Cherokee records.