Cherokee National Records (Microfilm Series) in The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library

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by Roberta F. Ridley


The Cherokee Nation/Indian Territory located in what is now northeastern Oklahoma consisted of the following districts: Canadian, Cooweescoowee, Delaware, Flint, Going Snake, Illinois, Saline, Sequoyah, and Tahlequah, which was the Nation’s capital. After their forced removal from their native lands, the Cherokee established a local as well as a national government in an effort to rebuild and retain the history of their families and their nation. This extensive microfilm collection offers historical documentation of the ongoing cases between the Cherokee and the federal government on land ownership, as well as the stories and events of everyday life and genealogy. The researcher will find records of census rolls (a separate collection from the Indian reservation censuses) and similar lists, applications for citizenship (admitted and rejected), court records, land purchases, marriages, subject files (diverse in content, such as orphan names and their guardians), and tribal records. These materials present events through oral, photographic, and written history from tribal leaders, missionaries, military men, traders, intruders, cattlemen, slaves and freedmen. The bulk of the collection (depending on the category), covers a time period of 1858-1906, while some supplementary materials such as missionary records, manuscripts containing journals, correspondence and other records, provide information from the 1820s to 1996.

This 130 reel collection includes a subject index reel which will allow you to identify the volume, document number of your topic or person, and the appropriate microfilm for viewing the chosen information. The guidebook entitled “Guide to Cherokee Indian Records Microfilm” (970.3 C42a) is also an excellent help in using this collection.

In the index we find a listing for August 16, 1877, document number 892, regarding the case of John B. vs. Eliza B. Saunders for divorce in Sequoyah District Court. Cherokee divorce documents numbered 884-917, dated May 30, 1874–September 16, 1895 are found on reel number CHN 75, where you will find a copy of the original divorce decree.

The Cherokee Nation was and still is the largest Native American tribe in North America. This may explain why most researchers seeking their Native American roots, tend to say “My ancestor was Cherokee.” The challenge is to prove it through some historic documentation. When you try to validate this family tradition, we would like to suggest the ACPL Genealogy Department’s microfilm collection of Cherokee National Records.

Article taken from the Genealogy Gems[1]: News from the Fort Wayne Library
No. 30, August 31, 2006



Link to the Cherokee Heritage Project Page