CFRC provides Cherokee genealogical research
In this 2017 photo, senior genealogist Gene Norris and former associate genealogist Ashley Vann, both standing, talk with visitors at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s Cherokee Family Research Center in Park Hill. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tucked away on the north end of the Cherokee Heritage Center is the Cherokee Family Research Center, where visitors can learn more about Cherokee ancestry.
Established in 1974, the CFRC is a nonprofit organization through the Cherokee National Historical Society. It has two genealogists – Gene Norris, senior genealogist, and Charla Nofire, associate genealogist.
It also has a library with books, periodicals and computers available to help people conduct Cherokee ancestry research.
Visitors, who visit the CHC for the Diligwa Village or the museum, have access to the CFRC once they pay the entrance fee.
“That allows them access to the materials, the computers. They’re on their own to do the research,” Norris said.
When visitors come in, they sign in and are usually greeted by Norris or Nofire and given a genealogy packet that includes websites, a Cherokee genealogy research checklist, a five-generation pedigree chart, maps of the Cherokee Nation before and after removal as well as a Frequently Asked Questions sheet.
Norris or Nofire then talk with visitors about a historical timeline that includes information about the Old Settlers (early Cherokee emigrants), treaties and the Cherokee people’s removal period.
Norris said if visitors want him or Nofire to conduct research for them, then a fee is “incurred” for $20 per hour for CNHC members and $30 per hour for non-CNHS members.
“Mostly what they get from us is our experience in doing what we do,” Norris said. “We are just so ecstatic when someone comes in that’s just like us, that’s really into their genealogy.”
Norris said visitors who come to the CFRC want to research their ancestries because they may have ancestors who are Cherokee and want to prove it, or want to research their ancestries to become CN citizens.
“We get 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a year. They’re curious. They came to see the museum. They didn’t know we were back here. We have a myriad of different reasons why folks come back here to see us. For the most part, they’re trying to find that elusive Cherokee ancestor,” Norris said.
He said most visitors come with papers, notebooks and documents to trace their lineages, but about 90 to 95% of the clientele “are not able to document their Cherokee ancestry.”
The CFRC works with the tribe’s One Big Family Project and the FamilySearch organization to find digitized records for genealogical research. FamilySearch works with American Indian tribes across the nation in digitizing microfilm archives and records.
“It’s opening up a whole (other) avenue to find information, especially with the Dawes (Rolls). They digitized the allotment jackets associated with the land allotments (which includes) how much was fenced in, how much was homesteaded, how much of it was cultivated. It totally fascinates me. Those weren’t available a few years ago,” Norris said. “So much stuff is coming up online and more records are being digitized with things to look at that we never knew in genealogy. So it totally fascinates us.”
For information, call 918-456-6007 or visit cherokeeheritage.org