My great-grandfather told my grandmother that his mother was "full-blooded Cherokee." His mother was Elizabeth "Betty" Meeks.
Her father was James Meeks, and I'll talk about her mother's name at the end, since no one can actually read what it says on the census.
I know that a lot of people claim Cherokee heritage, but I once had a Cherokee woman who had just moved away from the North Carolina reservation after living there her entire life walk up and ask me about my heritage, because she recognized my Cherokee features. If you look at photos of my great-grandfather, his features look just like what you would expect in a vintage photo of a Native American. If he had long hair and the right clothes, you would never guess that it wasn't one of those old vintage photos. My grandmother looked more and more Native American as she got older, too.
Maybe it's not Cherokee, and maybe it's not as recent as I was told, but I know it has to be there, and I believe my great-grandfather absolutely believed that his mother was "full-blooded Cherokee," even if it turns out that an ancestor much further back in time is the one who was Native American, and if it was Choctaw or something else that isn't Cherokee.
I have wanted to try to make a connection with descendants of my great-grandfather's older siblings, and descendants of his mother's siblings, to try to learn if there is the story of Cherokee heritage in other branches as well.
My great-grandfather told my grandmother that, when he was a boy, he used to spend a lot of time in the woods with a group of Cherokee. I have not been able to verify the existence of this group, though they may not stand out in records. They may have been relatives of his late mother.
Here is what I know about these ancestors:
Henry Jefferson Luttrell, born and died in Casey County, Kentucky, 1879-1954, claimed spent his childhood with local Cherokee. Son of James Matthew "Matt" Luttrell and Betty Meeks.
Elizabeth "Betty" (Meeks) Luttrell, born in about 1846 in Kentucky, died between 1880 and 1889. Married James Matthew "Matt" Luttrell. Probably buried in Bowmer Cemetery in Casey County, Kentucky, in an unmarked grave next to her husband (his 2nd wife is buried on the other side; headstone reads Mat Literall). She sometimes showed up as Betsey and sometimes had the middle initial E. or B. According to my grandma, Betty climbed up the chimney and jumped off the roof, killing herself, when my great-grandfather was a child. This was definitely after the 1880 census but before Matt remarried in 1889. Grandma never specified whether Henry remembered his mother or not.
Henry was the youngest child. His older siblings are Zachariah T, Jesse D., and James F. I believe it was James F whose mother's name showed as Betty Meeks on his death certificate. Henry's shows as Betty Minks, but marriage records show her name was Elizabeth Meeks, and my grandma had simply misheard it, expecting a Native American name. Jesse's death certificate left his mother's name blank, and I have not found Zachariah's.
James Meeks was born about 1824. He lived in Casey County in 1860. I think he died in 1869, but now I can't find the record. He is the father of Louisa S. (Meeks) Hiter, Louisa S.<br> Elizabeth "Betty" (Meeks) Luttrell, Martha A.Meeks, Joseph or Johanna Meeks, Allen B. Meeks (he shows as Allen B.C. on one census), Lester or Foster Meeks, and James B. Meeks. Any of their decendents might know more than I do.
Now, last but not least, the name of their mother. My only sources are the 1860 and 1870 censuses, and nothing is consistent. From her age, she was born between 1818 and 1820. Her name showed up (to my careful analysis) as Delhis in 1860, and Delie in 1870, but it could be anything from Gelhis to Delia to Delilah. I have no idea what her maiden name was. I think died between 1870 and 1880, because I can't find an 1880 census for her in Casey County. I know that one of their daughters, Louisa, married a neighbor, James Hiter, in 1862, and other than that, I don't know anything else.
The only other thing I can add is that my great-grandfather took my mother into the woods in Casey County, Kentucky when she was maybe 3 or 4 years old, and he showed her all these different plants and knew what they were called and what they were for. He signed his draft card with an X and only had a couple years of schooling, so I know he didn't learn this from a book. It is possible that he was taught Native American plant lore from the Cherokee who were living in Casey County when he was a boy, but this is speculation.