Genealogy FAQs

Genealogy FAQs

We get asked all kinds of things all the time…some of it of general applicability, others useful only to a particular individual. We’re sharing some of these questions, minus information that would identify the writer of the question, in the hope that it proves useful or informative.


  • Am I Cherokee?
  • Can you give me information about the Reservation Rolls of 1817?
  • Can you help find my biological parents?
  • Do you have tribal council records from 1890?
  • What birth records and documentation do you need?
  • Where can I get a copy of the Old Settlers List?
  • Where do I get my tribal application?

With most genealogical research, it is best to begin with yourself and work back through the previous generations. It is not a good idea to attempt to start with someone on the Trail of Tears, for example, and then try to work forward. At the very least, you will want to identify each ancestor by name. But in order to complete even the most basic genealogy project, you will need to research and make note of the following information about each of your ancestors.


  • Names (including maiden names of females)
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Date and place of death
  • Names of siblings (i.e., brothers and sisters)
  • Roll and Roll Number (when tracing Cherokee ancestry)

Here’s a sample of what the information might look like:
Name: William Cox Born: 7-June-1894 in Delaware Dist, Cherokee Nation Married: 15-October-1919 in Blount County, Tennessee to Polly Morris Died: 3-April-1973 in Nashville, Tennessee Roll. Census Information: 1896 Census, Delaware Dist – Roll #517.

People have many and varied reasons for studying their genealogy, and in many cases, they need more than a simple list of names and dates to achieve their goals. Many of you come to this web-site, or visit the Genealogy Department at the Cherokee Heritage Center because you are interested in establishing your ancestral ties to the Cherokee Tribe. Perhaps you wish to do this in order to get a CDIB card, or a Tribal Membership Card, or you wish to become a member of First Families. In these cases, you will be required to supply hard-copy documents to prove your genealogy.

Documenting Your Genealogy
As you trace your genealogy, you will want to research and collect certain kinds of documents which prove that you are legally related to a particular individual, and that one generation is legally related to another. These are called Primary Source Documents. You may also want to include other information which reflects the character and personal details of your ancestors’ lives. These are called Secondary Source Documents. Below are examples of each and hints on where to find them.

Primary Source Documents are generally defined as “government records made at the time of the event, by the parties involved.”

Listed below are nine types of Primary Source Documents. To assist you in efforts specific to researching your Cherokee genealogy, we have noted additional information to help you locate the documents.

1. Birth Records
: Oklahoma birth records have been kept since 1925 and are available from:Division of Vital Records Oklahoma State Dept. of Health 100, NE 10th Ave, PO Box 53551, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-3551.

Birth Affidavits for Minor Cherokees born (1902 to 1906) were included in the Dawes Applications, and are available from: Oklahoma Historical Society 2401 N Laird, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4997.

Guion Miller Applications also include birthdates and proof of family relationships. These are available from:

John Vaughn Library/Ballanger Room, NSU (Northeastern State University) Tahlequah, OK 74464.

2. Death Records:
 Oklahoma Death Records have been kept since 1920. 
(Contact Division of Vital Records, 
Oklahoma State Dept. of Health) 
County probate records have been kept since 1907.
Some deaths were also recorded in the Dawes and Guion Miller Applications. 
(Contact John Vaughn Library-NSU).

3. Marriage Records:
 Marriage records are usually available from the county clerk in the county where the marriage occurred.
 Some marriages of Cherokee citizens were also recorded in the Dawes and Guion Miller Applications.

4. Census Records:
 Oklahoma Federal Census Records are available for the years 1900-1920.
 Complete lists of Rolls, Censuses and where to find them are published in various genealogical books. Specific to those relating to Cherokee Ancestry, we recommend: Exploring your Cherokee Ancestry, by Tom Mooney. This book is available from the Cherokee Heritage Center Museum shop ($12.50).

5. Probate Records: 
Wills, estates, guardianship and other legal papers should be available from the county court clerks. Records of this nature should be available from the date the specific county was formed and forward.

6. Land Records & Plats:
 Purchases and sales of property usually also record residency and marital relationships.
 Available from various county clerks; Records of this nature should be available from the date the specific county was formed, and forward. 
Cherokee Allotment Plats of 1906 were recorded and available at the Cherokee County Clerks Office/Tahlequah, OK. 
Allotment information is also available in bookform at the Rudsill Branch of the Tulsa Public Library System, Tulsa, OK.

7. Military Records:
 These records include muster-in and muster-out dates, pay vouchers, pension papers, military bounty and land warrants.
 These records are available from: National Archives & Records Service, 
8th and Pennsylvania, NW
, Washington, DC 20408

8. Church Records:
 These records often contain birth, death, marriage and funeral information. 
Another good source is the book: A Guide to Cherokee Documents in the Northeastern United States
by Sr. Paul Kutsch — available on microfilm from the Oklahoma Historical Society.

9. Court Records:
 Civil and criminal records are kept on the county level from the date the county was formed and forward. They may also be located in the circuit or superior court(s) where the event occurred.

Secondary and Supplemental Source Documents, loosely speaking, include just about every kind of printed material that doesn’t come from government records, but from information that was published or recorded at the time that your ancestors were alive.

Inclusion of these kinds of records and documents is strongly encouraged, as this is the kind of information which reflects the character and personal details of your ancestors’ lives. It renders your genealogy less statistical in nature, and more like a story, or family history.

Additionally; these materials will provide valuable and rich information for future generations of genealogists.

Listed below are seven types of Secondary/Supplemental Documents, with tips on where to find this kind of information, and tips about properly documenting your collection.

1. Bible Records:
 (Date and/or updated)
Include photocopy of the page showing publisher, date of publication, pages showing names, dates, and events. Also identify and note current location and owners of the family Bible.

2. Obituaries:
 (Dated and identified)
Include name of newspaper and location. 
Most public libraries maintain archives of local papers.

3. Newspaper Clippings:
 (Dated and identified)
Include name of newspaper and location. 
Anniversaries, biographical sketches, awards, marriage notices and other noteworthy events are frequently published in local newspapers.

4. Family Histories/Genealogies:
 (Dated and identified)
Published family genealogies are especially valuable. Include photocopy of the title page, publisher, date of publication, and note direct ancestral descent. Also identify and note current location and owners of the book.

5. County Histories/Portraits and Biographical Histories:
 (Published works – dated and identified). Many Oklahoma counties have at least one history with biographical information.

6. Personal Papers:
 (Dated and identified)
 Un-Published records include personal letters, diaries, journals, reunion records, and manuscripts. 
Many un-published Cherokee documents are indexed in Kristen L Southwell’s Cherokee Nation Papers, Inventory and Index — which is available from: University of Oklahoma Western History Collections, 
630 Parrington Oval – Room 452
 Norman, OK 73019.

7. Tombstone Inscriptions:
 (Photographs and Transcriptions) 
Include name and location of the cemetery. 
Many Cherokee inscriptions are listed in Tyner and Timmons Our People and Where They Rest (available from our Museum Shop)
. Other published sources are available, including Talking Tombstones, by Ruby Cranor, which includes transcriptions of tombstones in Washington County, Oklahoma.