Native American Genealogy

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What May Make it Difficult to Research My Cherokee Roots?

Native American Genealogy

Native American genealogy can be a bit more difficult to research if you are trying to find your Native American heritage. Many American Indians didn't have surnames until around the 1700's.

In the 1700's the Cherokee tribe saw many of their tribesman choose surnames. Many of them opted to choose a European surname for a last name. Names such as Adair, Ward, Smith, Guess and Grant became popular within the Cherokee nation.

A problem arose when United States census takers came to the Cherokee tribes for census purposes. Many of these surnames chosen were translated into writing for the first time when census takers took names. This occurred not just with the Cherokee tribe, but with all Indian tribes at that time.

Census takers were not always able to spell the surnames correctly due to the communication barrier with language, this often led to the written surname being spelled different or translated incorrectly into English.

Therefore, if you are searching your Native American genealogy you may want to make sure that you know the spellings of all surnames including ones as early as the 1700's. You can try checking census records from around that time for different spellings of relatives last names, just to ensure you have found all of the relatives you may have.



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Byron White