Many American families have a tradition of Native American ancestry. Now, Fold3.com has made access to their Native American records collections free between November 1 and 15th. Here are the step-by-step instructions you need to know to effectively navigate the Eastern Cherokee Applications collection at Fold3.com.
Original image provided by Boston Public Library via Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/24029425@N06/5755511285.
Our goal is to open the doors to using all types of available genealogical records, and provide you with the skills to explore them with confidence. Our Genealogy Gems team is excited to share with you the opportunity to utilize the free access to Native American records on Fold3.com. While it can be difficult and confusing to know how to navigate these important records, this post will provide you with information to get you started and to feel a little more comfortable jumping in! Now, let’s get started.
Eastern Cherokee Applications Collection for Native American Research
The Eastern Cherokee tribe sued the United States for funds due them under the treaties of 1835, 1836, and 1845.  Applicants, or claimants, were asked to prove they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe at the time of the treaties, or descended from its members. [To learn more about the lawsuits and allocations, read “Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1909,” in .pdf form provided by the National Archives and Records Administration.]
The courts ruled in favor of the Eastern Cherokees and the Secretary of the Interior was tasked to identify the persons entitled to distribution of funds. The job of compiling a roll of eligible persons was given to Guion Miller.
It is interesting to note that the funds were to be distributed to “all Eastern and Western Cherokee Indians who were alive on May 28, 1906, who could establish the fact that at the time of the treaties, they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe or were descendants of such persons, and that they had not been affiliated with any tribe of Indians other than the Eastern Cherokee or the Cherokee Nation.” [Source: page 4, 3rd paragraph of NARA document Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906-1909.]
The collection at Fold3 titled “Eastern Cherokee Applications” contains these applications submitted to prove eligibility. [Important: Because this act was about money allocation and individuals filling out these applications would have received money if approved, this may raise the question, “Did our ancestor have a reason to lie or exaggerate the truth so that they might be awarded funds?” Further, the Genealogy Standards produced by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) reminds us: “Whenever possible, genealogists prefer to reason from information provided by consistently reliable participants, eyewitnesses, and reporters with no bias, potential for gain, or other motivation to distort, invent, omit, or otherwise report incorrect information.”  In this case, those filling out the Eastern Cherokee Applications did have potential for gain. So, be sure to take any genealogical data, like names, dates, and places, with a grain of salt and find other documentation to back-up the facts.]
The first step in locating whether your ancestor applied is to check the index. If you are not a member of Fold3.com, you will first need to go to www.fold3.com. Click in the center of the homepage where it says, “Free Access to Native American Records.” Next, on the left you will see “Records from Archives.” Go ahead and click that.
From the list now showing on your screen, choose “Eastern Cherokee Applications.” Then click “learn more” at the bottom right of the collection description.
From the new screen, choose “Browse by title.”
Notice, there are two general indexes. The first choice is for surnames between the letters of A and K, and the second general index is for the letters between L and Z. The index is alphabetical by surname.
Scroll through the digital images of the index and find the surname of your targeted ancestor. For example, my ancestor’s last name is Cole.
You will see the state they were currently living in and a number listed to the left of each name. This number is what you will need to find the application of your ancestor. In the example here on the left, Anderson Cole’s number is 31697. Though the step of using this index could be omitted, I wanted you to know how to use it.
Anderson Cole’s name appears on the General Index of the Eastern Cherokee Applications.
Armed with this number as confirmation, let’s go back to the list of options and this order medication online for pain time, choose Applications.
Applications are broken down by the first letter of the surname, so in my case, I would click on the letter C and then from the new options list, click the appropriate indicator until I reach Anderson Cole.
Anderson’s application is eight pages, however applications vary in size from fewer than eight to several more.
From Fold3.com, you can see each page of the application. Some of the information you may find on the applications include, but is not limited to: name, birth date and location of applicant, names of parents and siblings, name of spouse and marriage date and place, tribe affiliation, Cherokee name, grandparents names, and residences.
The application was sent in to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and then it was decided whether the applicant was eligible or not.
Lies and Rejection
Anderson Cole’s Eastern Cherokee Application was rejected but held genealogical data.
In Anderson Cole’s case, he was rejected. This is found on the very first page of the application. In other words, the commission did not find him able to prove his relationship with known members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe and therefore, he was not given any allotment of money. This rejection neither proves or disproves whether Anderson was of Native American descent. However, it does suggest that something in his lineage was questioned.
Further, when reviewing the information recorded on any genealogy record, we must ask the question, “Did this person have any reason to lie?” When money is on the line, lying is always a possibility. According to further research, it appears Anderson either lied, omitted details, or was seriously mistaken about many names and dates of close family members. Even then, there are some great hints within the pages of his application and I was happy to find it.
Additional Information in the Eastern Cherokee Applications
In addition to an application being filed for our ancestor, if the ancestor had children under the age of 21, they may have also applied in behalf of the child as a Cherokee Minor.
Anderson’s son, W.T. Cole, applied under the same application number as Anderson. I found his application in the last pages of Anderson’s file. This type of record is direct evidence of a parent/child relationship and can be a wonderful substitute when other vital records can not be located. However, direct evidence (which is anything that directly answers a specific question…like ‘who are the parents of W.T. Cole?’) does not have to be true. In this case, just because Anderson says his son is W.T. Cole, doesn’t mean it is absolutely true. We should always find other records or evidence to back up our findings.
How is the Roll of Eastern Cherokees Different from the Eastern Cherokee Applications?
You may have noticed that besides the Eastern Cherokee applications and general index, there is also a record set titled “Roll of Eastern Cherokees.” Another name for this roll is called the Guion Miller Rolls. This is a roll, or list, provided by commissioner Guion Miller of all those who were approved to receive the allocated money. [We will be discussing the Guion Miller Roll Collection from Fold3 in a later blog post. Be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter so you don’t miss it!]
Anderson Cole and his son do not appear on this Roll of Eastern Cherokees. If however, your ancestor does, additional information on this roll could include application number, the names of minor children, ages of all parties, current residence, and a death date.
A partial page of the Roll of Eastern Cherokee found online at Fold3.com.
More on Native American Research
Using Native American collections for genealogy research can be challenging. We hope this has helped you to better understand the ins and outs for using the record collections at Fold3. For even more helpful tips, read:
How to Use the Dawes Collections for Native American Research
Stay tuned as we bring you additional instructions for exploring the Guion Miller Roll and Indian Census Rolls at Fold3.com in the days to come. Sign up for our free Genealogy Gems newsletter for our upcoming posts on this important subject.
 “The U.S. Eastern Cherokee or Guion Miller Roll,” article online, FamilySearch Wiki (https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/The_U.S._Eastern_Cherokee_or_Guion_Miller_Roll : accessed 1 Nov 2016).
 Genealogy Standards, 50th anniversary edition, published by Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2014, standard 39, page 24.
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Two of my favorite things, cookies and genealogy, have more in common than you might think! Follow me down this genealogy rabbit hole and discover how you can take you family tree further!
Cookies for My Descendants!
My grandson loves Super Mario games and specifically the mascot Mario. (Actually both of my grandsons do!) So, when it came time to create a sweet treat for his birthday, I opted for sugar cookies decorated as Mario.
Normally I would use a cookie cutter to create a decorated character cookie. Unfortunately, the local craft stories didn’t carry the Mario cutter, and I didn’t have time to get it ordered and delivered.
I hit a cookie decorating brick wall.
But brick walls, whether in genealogy or cookie decorating can often be overcome.
When we come face to face with a brick wall, we need to assess the situation, seek additional advice, and assemble the appropriate tools.
In the case of ole Mario, I first found a drinking glass just slightly larger than the size I wanted the cookie to be. It worked well as a cookie cutter, but I later decided to improvise a cookie cutter of my own.
To create the cookie cutter, I copied an image of his face into a Word document, and then enlarged it to the size of a cookie and printed it out on a sheet of paper. I carefully cut the image out, and then placed the cut-out on a sheet of wax paper, drawing around the edges and then cutting it out.
Next I found a good, sharp paring knife. I placed the wax paper template on the rolled-out cookie dough and carefully cut around it with the paring knife. Brick wall busted!
The finished cookies for my grandson’s birthday
Are you a cookie cutter genealogist?
All this cookie cutting and problem solving got me thinking about genealogy. (Ok, I admit it – I’m always thinking about genealogy!) It brought to mind an email I received just the other day from a listener, Kristine, who described herself as a “cookie-cutter” researcher.
I just retired and guess what is first on my list of things I WANT to do? 🙂 I jumped in with both feet listening to your Premium podcasts and realized a few times that I am the ‘cookie-cutter’ researcher. But, no more. You are the Captain of my ship now. Thank you!
After binging on your podcasts the last two weeks, the first bit of advice I took was changing the way I searched on Newspapers.com. My family’s everyday life’s treasures were buried in the pages of the local news! You made me take a second look after I dismissed the possibility of ever reading about them.
Thank you so much for your dedicated work on behalf of all the genealogists. My Premium subscription will NEVER run out. When a family member says “I don’t know what to get you” I’m prepared to solve that dilemma!
A listener for life
I really admire how Kristine took an honest look at her current research techniques. She was open to acknowledging that she had more to learn. It’s just icing on the cake for me that she started listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast.
It’s easy to become a cookie-cutter genealogist in today’s automated world.
Every day more and more is being done for us automatically. Genealogy record hints and matches on genealogy websites is just one example. These can be very effective tools, but they can also lull you into a false sense that the work is done or correct.
An accepted record hint can in no way be considered as work that is done or correct. It is only the beginning.
In Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #232 professional genealogist and lecturer Elissa Scalise Powell and I discussed the pitfalls of “shallow research,” or as Kristine described it, being a “cookie-cutter” researcher.
Elissa says that while we will find a lot of “low-hanging fruit” in the early days of our genealogical search, there always comes a time when we need to dig deeper. All genealogists will need to stretch and reach for other sources. These types of sources are:
- not straightforward,
- possibly unknown to you at this time,
- not easily accessible,
- time-consuming to explore,
- take study to understand it,
- not self-explanatory.
Moving Beyond Cookie Cutter Genealogy
I also recently I received a question from a reader that provides a great example of a scenario where it’s time to move on to these rich and yet more challenging sources. Harold writes:
I have a totally “back to basics” question.
Since I started seriously doing genealogy about 8 months ago, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about my ancestors…families going back as far as those covered in the 1850 census and since then.
But once you get to the 1840 census and earlier, I do not understand how any genealogist can use the meager records in the census, that only identify the head of the family and the number of adults and children living in the household, to any sense prove that they are your ancestors, or to find their predecessors who are likely to have lived in another state.
After all, in those days, often maiden aunts, grandparents, and others stayed with families, so you can never be sure who all the people are.
And they had a dozen kids, not all of whom survived.
So you cannot count on just the “number” of people listed in the 1840 census to prove anything. Even worse, my ancestors, and I think most people’s, seemed to be moving westward every generation from the establishment of the colonies, so there are dozens of states to choose from, and hundreds or thousands of people with the same surnames in them.
I believe I have found the name of my great-grandfather on an 1840 census in Ohio (though it is possible it is just a duplicate name), but there is no telling where he lived in 1830 or earlier.
As far as I can tell, my ancestors were all poor dirt farmers, moved westward every generation, and didn’t have any records of stores or businesses they might have owned that would have those kinds of records. Yet, there are people who claim they can trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower and the like, but I do not understand how anyone can legitimately trace their ancestry back prior to 1840 unless they have something like a family Bible or similar transcription kept in the family.
Sure, you can find names on earlier census, but lots of people have the same name, and lots of names are spelled wrong, etc. and there are a lot of states and territories to choose from.
So how can ANYONE claim they can PROVE their ancestry from 1840 and before?
The “cookie cutter” Harold was using was the U.S. Federal Census. Cookie cutters provide great, consistent results, but over the decades the census cookie cutter shape changes. The check marks don’t provide the same level of details that we find in later enumerations.
For example, the 1850 U.S. Federal Census provided the name, age, and gender of everyone in the family. It also provided valuable and identifying information such as occupations and place of birth.
Information provided on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census
Just ten years earlier, the 1840 enumeration looked dramatically different:
1840 U.S. Federal Census
As Harold lamented, in 1840 we only find the name of the head of household, followed by the number of people in the household who fell within a certain age range. There’s still valuable information here, but clearly not as detailed as later enumerations.
So, the general answer to his question is that he is right, from 1840 on back you typically cannot rely just on census records.
However, it is indeed often possible to reliably take your family tree further back in time.
Genealogical research at this point in history requires deeper cross-referencing of the types of sources that Elissa referred to in the podcast episode. Examples of these sources include wills and probate records, land deeds, homestead records, tax records, marriage records, old newspapers, compiled genealogies and more. They all play a part in piecing together a family tree.
Some of these records are available online. However, in many cases, you will use only the internet to help you determine where the records are held. Then you must access the records in person, by contacting the repository, asking a friend or fellow researcher in the area to copy it for you, or hire a professional genealogist in the area where they are held.
Regarding Harold’s question regarding genealogists who are able to tie their family tree to the Mayflower, this is indeed possible. There is a lot of excellent documentation over the last few centuries on descendants of the Mayflower, so it is sometimes not that difficult to connect up an ancestor in your own tree with the descendant of the Mayflower. This can indeed take your own tree back much further. However, that’s a topic for another article.
A Sweet Tool that Can Help
In addition to discussing the sources and strategies that you can use to avoid being a cookie cutter genealogist, Elissa and I also discuss the Genealogical Proof Standard (also known as the GPS) in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #232.
The Genealogical Proof Standard was created to help genealogists gain confidence in their research conclusions by providing criteria that can be followed. A genealogical conclusion is considered proved when it meets all five GPS components.
You can learn more about the GPS in episode #20 of my Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.
It’s normal for new genealogists to follow the basic cookie-cutter approach of birth, marriage, death and census records. But these standard sources can only take you so far (as Harold discovered!)
Reaching further back in your family tree by embracing more challenging sources and digging deeper offers a much sweeter reward!
Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished May 20, 2014
Listen to the free genealogy podcast
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 32: Organize Your Genealogy Files, Part 1
Hard drive organization is one of the great challenges that quickly faces new genealogists—and often continues to plague experienced researchers. In today’s episode I’m going to share a system I’ve developed for organizing your computer hard drive files so that you can quickly and easily locate any document. I’ve been using this system for almost a decade and it’s never failed me. So set down your family tree, just for a little while, and put on your apron as we get ready to do some hard drive spring cleaning and organization!
Self-discipline and organization for the genealogist can be our greatest challenge. But it can lead to our greatest research victories!
Think about it. Your amazing research finds become pretty useless if you can’t locate it whenever you need it. And in fact, it has the potential to become a HUGE time and money waster because when you do need it again, you’re going to have to retrace your tracks, find it again at the original source, and pay whatever additional costs that requires.
So each time you’re tempted to toss that record in a pile on your desk or in some non-descript catch all folder on your computer’s hard drive because you’re in a hurry, just remember that in the long run it’s going to slow you WAY down when you want to retrieve it, and ultimately it’s going to dramatically hinder your overall research.
In these next few episodes I’m going to share the hard drive organization system I’ve created for use in Windows. My goal with this system is that I can locate the corresponding electronic file on my computer for any fact in my database in seconds.
At your computer open Windows Explorer. Now on most computers the C drive is the main drive that you store your files on. But if not just double click on the drive where you want to store your computer files.
Select the C drive by clicking on it and go up to the menu and select FILE – NEW FOLDER. In most versions of Windows, you can also just right click on the C drive and select NEW – FOLDER. You’ll see that the label for the folder will be highlighted so that you can name it – so just type GENEALOGY and press ENTER and you will now have a folder on your C drive called Genealogy. Everything’s going to go into this folder.
Overview of Computer Folders:
Setting up folders on your computer is a lot like setting up a filing system in your office. Think of the Genealogy Folder that we just created as a larger drawer in your desk. In that drawer you would put folders for all the major headings of work that you do. And each of these hanging files have a lot of folders in them with sub headings. And within each of these file folders you could even have more folders.
Well, your computer hard drive can be organized much the same way. And you can create all the folders you want.
There are general items having to do with your genealogy research such as:
- Charts and files
- History topics
- Research trip materials
- General timelines
- Genealogy societies or organizations
- and other things that don’t pertain to a particular family in your family tree.
But the folders I want to focus in on are the ones that do apply to your family lines. So we’re going to create a folder inside the Genealogy folder called SURNAMES RESEARCHING. How to Create the SURNAMES RESEARCHING Folder:
- Click on the GENEALOGY folder to select it
- Go to the Menu and click on FILE
- Select NEW
- Select FOLDER
- Name the folder
In next week’s episode I’m going to focus on organizing my family tree which will take us into the heart of this system.