‘Remember the Removal’ cyclists get genealogy information
“Remember the Removal” cyclist Skylar Vann, of Locust Grove, copies the name of ancestors on a stone monument in June 2017 at Blythe Ferry in Meigs County, Tennessee. In late 1838, the ferry moved approximately 9,000 Cherokee people across the Tennessee River. Thanks to Cherokee genealogist David Hampton, this year “RTR” participants will know the names of their ancestors on the wall before they reach the Blythe Ferry site. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee genealogist David Hampton hands out genealogy booklets he compiled for the 10 cyclists taking part in this year’s “Remember the Removal” bicycle ride. The booklets contain a chart of each cyclist’s Cherokee ancestors, copies of the Dawes Commission cards made for their ancestors, a chart showing the cyclists they are related to within the group of 10 and a copy of the 1835 Cherokee Census. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee genealogist David Hampton assists 2018 “Remember the Removal” cyclist Sky Wildcat with her genealogy booklet that he compiled for her and each of this year’s cyclists including Amari McCoy, right. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
“Remember the Removal” cyclists in 2016 guide their bikes to a pontoon boat waiting to take them across the Tennessee River at the historic Blythe Ferry in Tennessee. In late 1838, the ferry moved approximately 9,000 Cherokee people across the Tennessee River, which took several weeks. On June 4, a pontoon boat will carry the 2018 cyclists across the river to commemorate the crossing their ancestors made 180 years ago. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – It’s a day “Remember the Removal” cyclists look forward to every year, the day genealogist David Hampton visits them.
Hampton, a Cherokee Nation citizen, spends months researching records to create genealogy booklets for the cyclists. He said he uses Eastern Cherokee applications, the Guion Miller Roll, Dawes Commission records, author Emmet Starr’s records, the 1851 Siler Roll and the Old Settlers Roll. He also uses Cherokee people’s claims records made after the Trail of Tears. The claims were made for lost property or income lost because of the removals.
Hampton has been compiling genealogy records since 1961 and has done genealogy research for “Remember the Removal” cyclists since 2009.
“For some reason this was the hardest year. It should be easier every year because I have more and more information in the database. I think one of the reasons it was harder is because, like last year, these people have a higher blood quantum than normal,” Hampton said. “I mean, I’ve had somebody with as much as 1/512th (blood quantum), but we didn’t have anybody like that this year. Some of these people are very close to full blood.”
When a rider has more Cherokee blood, it requires Hampton to do more research on their Cherokee side, where at times there may be less family records.
Hampton usually finds a descendant or two of the noted linguist Sequoyah, but not this year. He did find two Nancy Ward descendants. Ward, sometimes referred to as the Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, is known as believing in a peaceful coexistence with Europeans and Americans and attempted to help her people as a peace negotiator and ambassador in the 1700s.
Hampton said this year many of the cyclists’ ancestors came from Adair County and northern Sequoyah County. He said that worked out for him because he has a large quantity of genealogy records for those areas.
“I have all the funeral home records from Adair County digitized and death records and birth records and probate records that I have access to, and so if you’re from Adair County, I can pretty much trace your line back pretty far and pretty accurately,” he said.
Hampton spoke to the 10 cyclists when presenting them their genealogy booklets. The booklets contain a chart of the cyclist’s Cherokee ancestors, copies of Dawes Commission cards made for their ancestors and a chart showing the cyclists to whom they are related.
“What surprised me the most was how connected we all are as a group,” Daulton Cochran, of Bell, said. “I’m related to almost everyone in this year’s group, and that’s something without the ride I would’ve never found out.”
For this year’s mentor rider, Jennifer Barger Johnson, of Oklahoma City, seeing the traditional Cherokee names of her full-blood ancestors within a couple of generations was interesting to her.
She said her Cherokee mother is interested in her family’s genealogy and had researched much of the family’s tree, so Barger Johnson didn’t expect many surprises.
“I was surprised to learn that my paternal great-grandmother was born in the Choctaw Nation despite her parents being born in the Flint and Saline districts in Indian Territory and living in Flint (District) most of their lives. I really wish I knew the story behind this finding,” she said. “I also had a couple of ancestors who were on the Old Settlers Roll (Cherokees who moved west before the removal) but had actually gone back east in the 1850s. I was under the impression very few were able to do so.”
The booklets also contained a copy of the 1835 Cherokee Census, which riders will be able to use when they reach Blythe Ferry in Meigs County, Tennessee. At the ferry site located next to the Tennessee River sits a museum dedicated to the Cherokee removal and culture. There are also stone monuments listing names of people included in the 1835 Census. The cyclists can use Hampton’s research to find their ancestors’ names on the monuments.
In 1838, the ferry moved approximately 9,000 Cherokee and 300 Muscogee (Creek) people across the Tennessee River, which took weeks. Once across they were out of the old CN and were forced to journey to Indian Territory.
On June 4, a pontoon boat will carry the cyclists across the river to commemorate the crossing their ancestors made 180 years ago.