26 January 2011

Cherokee in the Family?

     "What's your ethnicity? Where are your ancestors from?" These are questions that come up often, in idle conversations or school projects. I remember multiple times this question came up in writing assignments in elementary and middle school. When I asked my parents, they would say English, Irish, German and Cherokee. But where did this information come from? No one in my family had ever done any genealogy research.

     After about eight years of research, I can say that the English, German and Irish ancestry have been confirmed. But the Cherokee? I've yet to see any evidence. Where do these stories of Cherokee heritage come from?

     On my maternal side, my Aunt June says that she was told that there was Cherokee ancestry in our Dorn family. Well the Dorn family has been tentatively traced back to George Dorn, born in Germany in 1728 and likely died in the Edgefield County, SC area. If there's any Cherokee in this family, it came in via a female line - and likely a few generations back on that line.

     On my paternal side, I've been told that there's Cherokee ancestry on our Britt family line. My aunts recently told me that they believed that their grandfather, Nathan Britt, had spent some time living in Florida near Lake Okeechobee with his grandmother, who had been Cherokee. I know that Nathan's family came from Edgefield County, South Carolina, but I'm fuzzy on any of his grandparents. Also, lot of the "proof" of cherokee ancestry seems to come from photographs of the family. "Look at those cheekbones!" Um, yeah... that's not proof.

     Could there be Cherokee ancestors in my family? Absolutely! The vast majority of my ancestors came over from Europe in the late 1600s and early/mid 1700s and settled in middle and west South Carolina and north east Georgia. There was plenty of opportunity for someone with Cherokee ancestry to marry into one of my European family lines.  But I haven't found any proof of this. But, I can honestly say I haven't been specifically looking either.

     Recently, I've come across a few resources that might help me discover any native american heritage. At the Atlanta Family History Expo, I learned that Footnote.com hosted a number of resources. Also, a few weeks ago I found a blog, Thoughts from Polly's Granddaughter, that showcases Cherokee research.  I think it would be awesome to find some diversity in my family and find that at least part of the family stories are true.

1 comment:

Susan Clark said...

SO familiar! I think many of us with ancestors living in Cherokee lands look at the photographs (think a young Abe Lincoln) with those prominent cheekbones, dark coloring and think there has to be Cherokee ancestry. Maybe, but like you, I've never found a spot of evidence. I'm very curious about what some of the DNA testing will reveal, but doubt I'll ever find a paper trail to support Cherokee blood. For now the story is that they came out of the mountains -- whoever "they" were.


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