Hampton has 56 years of Cherokee genealogy experience
Cherokee genealogist David Hampton, center, talks to the 2017 “Remember the Removal” bike riders in May about their genealogies he researched for them. Hampton has been providing RTR participants with their genealogies for the past nine years. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen David Hampton has researched Cherokee genealogy for 56 years and has formed a database with more than 120,000 names and pieces of information.
“My database is about 120,000 names, not all are Cherokee however, many of those are spouses of Cherokees and their parents,” Hampton said. “On Cherokee lines we can trace back, in some cases, to the early 1700s. Most full-blood lines trace back only to the early 1800s or later 1700s.”
For the past nine years, Hampton has also provided the Cherokee Nation’s “Remember the Removal” cyclists and staff with their genealogies. He’s able to trace their ancestors to pre-removal and give dates and years to when and where those ancestors were born and died, as well as the names of their spouses and children. With his help, cyclists can determine their ancestors’ home sites along the journey.
Hampton also links cyclists by telling them how they are related, if they have common ancestors.
Not only does he research the riders’ genealogies, he also researches genealogies for the public.
“I didn’t have many clients before, but as people hear about me and see what I do, it has gotten to be more and more,” he said.
Hampton grew up in Broken Arrow. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War as a Laotian interpreter. He later graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in accounting before working as an accountant until he retired in 2011. Since then he’s been a committed full-time genealogist out of his home near Hulbert. He’s also a member of the Trail of Tears Association, Oklahoma Historical Society, Goingsnake District Heritage Association and Descendants of Nancy Ward Association, in which he’s served as president for more than 20 years.
Hampton said his interest in genealogy began at age 11 when he decided to retrace his family tree. He talked with his grandparents about their families, and ever since he’s been intrigued with discovering the past.
“I think the reason why I started so young was because I had all my grandparents alive until I was 35. I also had great-grandparents living at the time and a sister of a great-great-grandparent, so I was around a lot of older people in my family,” he said. “I think me wanting to know more about their lives is why I was so interested at such an early age.”
Although he knew he had Cherokee ancestors, Hampton wanted to dig more to find out who they were and from where they came. It was then that he discovered a detail about his family and his genealogical passion.
“I didn’t know anything really about my Cherokee ancestors, other than my grandfather. But I found out within the first week or so of doing my family tree that I was a descendant of (Beloved Woman) Nancy Ward. And that was really exciting because at that time she wasn’t as popular as she is today, and I hadn’t ever heard of her before,” Hampton said.
Ever since he’s been serious about his research. However, it wasn’t as easy for him to obtain information then as it is today.
Before the internet was developed and access to records was almost instant, Hampton spent hours searching countless records, visiting cemeteries and talking with Cherokee elders who provided information that’s been added to his database.
“For the first few years a lot of information I got was from other people. I wrote lots and lots of letters to people who knew a lot of information. It just kind of gradually built up to where I started building a good library of records myself,” said Hampton. “I’ve been working at it for so long, and I really geared my interest to making sure I had a lot of information.”
Hampton said he’s acquired records that may not even be found on the internet. “Now days there is so much to look at on the internet and digitized records to look at. And there are digitized records that aren’t necessarily on the internet that I have copies of. So I have a lot of stuff to look at.”
Because of the internet, he’s been able to research more records and acquire more documentation than ever. Currently, he’s interested in gathering information about Cherokee Freedmen families.
“One thing I wish I had more time to go through is the Freedmen records because there is so much information not only about the Freedmen but also about the Cherokees they lived with. There are thousands and thousands of pages of testimonies during the Dawes Roll time that it would be almost impossible to read through all of them. But unless you did there would be no way of knowing the stories and information that may be interesting to know about that person,” he said.
He added that there are “lots of cases of (Freedmen) who have a Cherokee parent who is listed on the Dawes Roll.”
“One thing I am realizing from looking at genealogy records is how many of the Freedmen are Cherokee, but they didn’t get put on the Cherokee Roll even though they were part Cherokee… There also is going to be cases of people on Freedmen Roll who had a Cherokee grandparent that isn’t listed on their card,” Hampton said. “In many cases people on the Freedmen Roll tried to get on the by blood roll. They (Freedmen) would say, ‘oh no, we’re Cherokee. My father was Cherokee. You have to put us down as Cherokee,’ and they (Dawes Commission) would say, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter what roll you get on.’ So it probably didn’t make any difference to them at the time, but it ended up making a difference to their descendants.”
Another issue Hampton sees in his research regards the Cherokee clans. He said he is seeing more people not knowing their clans or where to find that information.
“There are no records essentially that lists the clans. So if you say, ‘I want to know my clan and where do I go look,’ well there is no place. In order to know your clan you have to ask someone in your family, generally an elderly female who has the same clan as you.”
As Hampton gets older, he’s more concerned about the work he’s done on Cherokee genealogy. He said he isn’t sure what will become of his research after he’s gone, and he’s digitizing records and documents and keeping everything on his computer.
“I’ll be 68 next month, and I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen to all my stuff. It’s generally all computerized records, of course, I have some records from 50 years ago that aren’t computerized that I’ve been trying to digitize so that I have everything on a computer,” he said. “I use a highly sophisticated genealogy program, so hopefully in 50 years someone can still use a computer and read it…because I believe I have some stuff people would be interested in knowing 50 to 100 years from now.”
For now, he said he’ll keep doing genealogy until his “fingers won’t type no more” because he enjoys researching genealogy for people and explaining that it’s important for people to trace their genealogies to help understand the past.
“I think tracing one’s own genealogy helps give a greater appreciation to historical events. When Cherokee’s today study the Trail of Tears or the Civil War or the allotment period, it gives a better understanding of the events if you understand how it affected your own family,” he said.
For more information on Hampton’s Cherokee genealogy research services, email firstname.lastname@example.org