http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgGene Norris, Cherokee Heritage Center senior genealogist, researches a client’s Cherokee ancestry at the CHC in Park Hill, Oklahoma. CHANDLER KIDD/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Gene Norris, Cherokee Heritage Center senior genealogist, researches a client’s Cherokee ancestry at the CHC in Park Hill, Oklahoma. CHANDLER KIDD/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Starting Cherokee ancestry research

11/14/2017 08:45 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center allows a person to peek into his or her Cherokee heritage and ancestry through its Cherokee Family Research Center.

Specialized resources are available for research in the genealogy department, including Dawes Rolls and other roll records, census records and historic documents related to Cherokee people.

To begin this research, there is a $30 first-hour fee and $30 is charged for every additional hour. If you are a Cherokee National Historical Society member seeking ancestry information, the fee is $20 per hour.

Gene Norris, senior genealogist, said he explores census records, cemetery records and birth records to obtain information about a person’s ancestry.

“Most folks applying have found somebody on the Dawes Roll that they think is their direct ancestor, and they want to apply for citizenship with the (Cherokee) Nation. The Registration department is very busy and has outsourced us as a research department,” Norris said.

The genealogical process does not happen in one day. The process for each case depends on how well the applicant fills out the application form for the research process, Norris said.

“We tell people when they come here it doesn’t matter what your ancestor was in a sense of their genetic make up. What matters is where did they live at during their lifetime, specifically at the time of Dawes (late 1800s, early 1900s),” he said.

Genealogical research begins with the person wishing to obtain his or her history. Certain documents such as birth certificates, death certificates and marriage certificates that go down the ancestral line as far as possible are helpful. The process can last up to eight weeks, Norris said.

Ashley Vann, genealogical researcher, said Cherokee people should study the Dawes Commission period to further understand the genealogical documents they receive, she said. Learning what a person’s Cherokee ancestors went through is an important part of the process she said.

“If people understood the historical background, then it is easier to understand why the records are the way that they are,” Vann said.

For more information on how to begin a genealogy process using CHC resources, visit or call Norris or Vann at 918-456-6007.

Start Your Cherokee Ancestry Search

1. Always begin with yourself. Have your birth certificate. Get your parents’ birth certificates and your grandparents’. Continue down your ancestral lines until you can go no further. Marriage certificates and death certificates also help. Obtain them if you can. You need a paper trail to prove relation to any ancestors.

2. Talk to relatives. Your oldest relatives usually have the most information about your family. Check for a family Bible with recorded family information. Hand copy the information or shoot photos. Family Bibles may be old and fragile. Record or take notes of conversations with family members or friends.

3. Use a loose-leaf notebook with plastic sheet covers to store your papers, family pedigree charts and “proofs” such as birth certificates.

4. The Cherokee people had several rolls taken of them for governmental purposes beginning in 1817. Not all Cherokees were included on these rolls, particularly if they were not living in the Cherokee Nation when a roll was taken. These are considered supplemental resources to a genealogical search.

5. Basic information regarding your Cherokee ancestor is required to use these rolls. You should know the approximate date of his/her birth and where he/she lived. Cherokee rolls are limited geographically. If a Cherokee move out of the Cherokee Nation it is likely they will not be located on these rolls and certainly not on some rolls. One exception is if your ancestor’s permanent address was still in the Cherokee Nation at the time of the Dawes Rolls and was serving in the military, at school or in prison. It is the Dawes Rolls that Cherokee Nation uses to determine whether or not a person is eligible for citizenship.

6. The Guion Miller Roll is another source for Cherokee family information. It was taken in the early 20th century for money due to Cherokees for land taken in the southeastern United States in the 1830s. The application asked for family members back to before the Trail of Tears. The family did not have to be living in the Cherokee Nation to apply but had to prove their family lived in the Cherokee Nation before the removal.

7. Other rolls included the Drennan Roll of 1851, Siler Roll and Chapman Roll. They were census records.

Research Sources

• Cherokee Family Research Center – Its primary goal is to promote understanding of Cherokee family history and documentation by educating the public and housing all resources specific to Cherokee genealogy. – Index of the Guion Miller applications and Dawes Final Rolls as well as other tribal enumerations. – Trail of Tears Association is a citizens organization of national and international members with state chapters in the nine states the Trail of Tears traverses: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. – Compiled Cherokee family histories with sources from the collaboration of James Hicks and Jerry L. Clark, a retired archivist and Cherokee Nation citizen. – Provides access to numerous Census listings, including the 1900 federal Census listing all Indian Territory residents. (subscription site) – A digitization website with images of Native American documents, including the Dawes Final Roll of the Five Tribes and Guion Miller. (subscription site) – Collection of free family history and genealogy look-ups with digitization of some state records (free site that requires username and password for images) – Collection of more than 88 million grave sites with some photos – A research division of the Oklahoma Historical Society that includes marriage records, census listings and 3.5 million Indian records. – U.S. National Archives website for Native American records.


11/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Since 2010, the Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Programs has provided free home energy audits to tribal citizens. The audits help keep energy bills from rising in the winters and summers and are used to scan homes for air leaks that cause excessive energy use to warm or cool homes. According to the Department of Energy, an average home can lose up to $450 per year in energy costs from air leakage and insulation defects. Taking small measures such as weatherization can save an average of $350 per year. After receiving a DOE grant, Environmental Programs officials looked for ways to save citizens on energy costs, and providing audits was one way. Now funded through the Housing and Urban Development, the audits are provided to citizens who participate in Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act-funded programs such as iSave, Mortgage Assistance Program, Housing Rehabilitation and Financial Assistance. Participants must also live within the tribe’s jurisdiction. “We focus our audit on the air seal of the home,” Terrel Mitchell, CN environmental specialist, said. “That is, in most cases, the easiest issue to address. It’s the least expensive. So there’s a really good return on your time and investment when you work on your air seal.” The audits focus on finding air leaks in homes using diagnostic tools and equipment such as a blower door and infrared cameras to monitor and measure leaks. A blower door is a large calibrated fan that measures houses for leakage and locates each leak via high-resolution thermal images from an infrared camera. Audits are also used to calculate air exchange rates. Mitchell said homes with ratings of 10 to 15 tend to leak two to three times more than they should. An ideal rating is 4 to 6. “What we find is you don’t want an airtight home because indoor air quality goes down pretty fast. But what you do want is a house in a range where you’re going to get some energy efficiency and good indoor air quality,” Mitchell said. After homes are measured on the AER scale, basic weatherization is used to fix air leakage problems. Weatherization means caulking or sealing cracks and replacing weather strips around doors. Citizens are provided with free weatherization kits that include caulk, a caulk gun, backer rod, expandable foam, weather strips, electrical outlets and switch gaskets, safety plugs and duct tape. Mitchell said many people think they need to replace windows or doors but usually they don’t. “Everyone thinks they need new doors and windows. We don’t recommend new doors and windows very often. It’s a pretty rare occasion. What we do is tell them the seal is bad or it was a bad installation. In order to get this door or window to perform in the way it should, we need to seal up the gaps that were caused by the installation,” he said. Other contributors of air leakage found in homes aside from windows and doors can include electrical outlets, holes or cracks in the dry wall, baseboards, non-working back valve flows in exhaust fans, gaps around drain pipes and heat and air closets located inside living spaces. For more information, call 918-453-5099 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
11/17/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – As the year comes to a close, it’s a time of reflecting and embracing the holiday spirit for most. With the Cherokee Nation Angel Project kicking off at 4 p.m. on Nov. 21 and the Elder Angel Tree in full swing, people will have the chance to make someone’s holiday season more cheerful. Rachel Fore, Indian Child Welfare administrative operations manager, said the Angel Project’s purpose is to “provide hope in the form of gifts.” “As a Nation, we want to help provide for our most vulnerable people, our children,” she said. “Having presents to open at Christmas can provide hope for our Cherokee children and that is why myself, my Angel Project team and many volunteers work so hard during this time of year.” At 1,921 angels on the tree, Fore said it’s “important” to come together to help these children. “As a community it is important that we come together at this time of year to show our Cherokee children that they are a blessing and that their tribal community will provide for them when needed,” she said. To adopt, Fore said people can take angels off the tree at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex or email <a href="mailto:"></a> to request angels. When picking an angel there will be a list of needed items and “wants” the children may have. If people wish to donate money instead of picking an angel they can. Fore said people wishing to donate should visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, create and choose the “Recipient as Angel Tree” option. She said people have until Dec. 15 to do so. “All donated money will be used exclusively to shop for angels who are not provided for,” she said. Fore said gifts for adopted angels must be returned to Cherokee First in the complex by Dec. 8. Fore said people can also volunteer to help shop for children or work at the warehouse. Crystal Thomas, Elder Angel Tree coordinator, said this year has proved to be the largest number of elder angels received since the program’s 2011 inception. Thomas said 295 elders became available for adoption on Nov. 6 and 250 were still on the tree as of Nov. 11. She added that elders are being adopted at a slower rate this year. Thomas said offering the Elder Angel Tree is important because not all elders have family or receive something special during the holiday season. “If it wasn’t for the Elder Angel Tree they wouldn’t get a gift, and we feel like everybody needs a gift at Christmas,” she said. When adopting an elder, Thomas said there are lists of items for his or her “needs” and “wants.” “A lot of them want socks and underwear. Some have hobbies that they want gifts for,” she said. “If on the needs list it’s something that we can fix with one of the programs, then of course we refer them.” Elder angels can be chosen at the Human Services office in the complex or by emailing <a href="mailto:"></a>. Gifts must be returned wrapped or in gift bags by Dec. 4. For more information, call Thomas at 918-453-5627. <strong>Dates, times and places to volunteer to shop for the Cherokee Nation Angel Project.</strong> <strong>Shopping trips in Tahlequah:</strong> <strong>• Nov. 28</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 6 p.m.-9 p.m. <strong>• Nov. 29</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 6 p.m.-9 p.m. <strong>• Nov. 30</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 6 p.m.-9 p.m. <strong>• Dec. 1</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. <strong>• Dec. 3</strong> 3 p.m.-6 p.m. <strong>Shopping trips in Catoosa:</strong> <strong>• Nov. 28</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. <strong>• Nov. 29</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. <strong>• Nov. 30</strong> 9 a.m.-5 p.m. <strong>• Dec. 1</strong> 9 a.m.-3 p.m. People can also volunteer at the Cherokee Nation Angel Project warehouse between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m on Dec. 1-16. For more information, call 918-458-6919.
11/06/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Human Services said the department’s Elder Angel Tree in the Tribal Complex has more than 240 angels that are available for adoption. “This is the largest number of requests we’ve ever had, so please come adopt an Elder Angel and make their Christmas special,” Crystal Thomas, Family Assistance assistant manager, wrote in a Nov. 6 email. “All of our elder angels are low-income and might not get a present if it weren’t for the Elder Angel Tree.” Once a donor selects an angel, he or she must take it to the Human Services receptionist for recording. The donor then has until Dec. 4 to shop and return wrapped gifts for the angel. Human Services officials said donors should consider gift bags over wrapping because they are easier for elders to unwrap. All gifts must be returned to Human Services so that employees can deliver them to the angels. For more information, call Thomas at 918-453-5627.
11/04/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix recently made a change to its Elder Fund to make U.S. military veterans eligible for free yearlong subscriptions to the Cherokee Phoenix. Thanks in part to a donation from Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as donations from Cherokee Phoenix individual subscribers, it was possible to expand the fund to include Cherokee veterans of any age. “The Elder Fund was created to provide free subscriptions to Cherokee elders 65 and older,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Due to an influx of recent donations, we had the ability to extend the Elder Fund to include Cherokee veterans. We will continue to give free subscriptions to our elders and veterans as long as we have money in our Elder & Veteran Fund.” Using the newly renamed Elder & Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older and Cherokee veterans of any age can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the Elder & Veteran Fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or <a href="mailto:"></a>. No income guidelines have been specified for the Elder & Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Elder & Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder & Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website,, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
11/02/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and CN One Fire Victim Services officials proclaimed October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” on Oct. 24 with a proclamation signing and a “Flowers on the Pond” ceremony. Domestic violence is defined as when a person is an intimate relationship with another, such as a spouse, and an abuser attempts to gain and maintain control of the victim by using physical violence and psychological intimidation. The proclamation, signed by Principal Chief Bill John Baker in the Tribal Complex, states CN officials support One Fire Victim services in the protection of victims, gaining access to legal and psychological support structures, gaining financial independence and being safe. “And whereas the social responsibility inherent to the intervention and prevention of this crime is recognized and is an essential measure for the safety and protection of domestic violence victims and the future generations of the Cherokee Nation,” the proclamation states. After the signing, the public was invited to attend a “Flowers on the Pond” ceremony at the One Fire pond east of the Tribal Complex to release flowers into the water as a way to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence. The ceremony was inspired by a poem from the viewpoint of a domestic violence victim leading up to her funeral where she received flowers. “That’s an event we don’t want to receive flowers for, and so we hope to bring awareness to the purpose of fighting domestic violence,” One Fire Victim Services Director Nikki Baker-Limore said. “Domestic violence touches everyone. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you have, what job, the color of your skin, if you’re old, if you’re young. However, Native Americans do suffer domestic violence at a higher rate. Eighty-four percent of Native American women will suffer domestic violence sometime during their lifetime compared to 35 percent of the general population.” One Fire Victim Services provides aid to people through civil legal assistance, advocacy, divorce, and other services, and are available 24 hours a day. For more information, call 1-866-458-5399.