How can I find my Cherokee ancestor(s)?

+9 votes
My father always told us that his grandfather's grandfather married a Cherokee princess, but I have not been able to find this ancestor. Every line I trace has this same story, but no one can substantiate it.
in Genealogy Help by Marian Andrews G2G Crew (500 points)
retagged by Maggie N.
My family always had a myth of Native American ancestry. When I got my DNA tested I found that my maternal haplogroup was C1c, confirming the rumor. The autosomal portion reported by 23andme is only 0.2%. There are a number of reasons that you could have a member of a tribe that is an ancestor and not have any DNA to show for it, including that person not being of Native American ancestry, but a member of the tribe.
Russ provided you a great answer.

5 Answers

+4 votes
Good question! I was also told by family members that my 4th great grandfather was a Cherokee Chief. I also found it on line (Ancestry) where someone wrote a nice story about it. I looked for almost 30 years with no luck, then I had my DNA checked. Turns out I have 0% Native American in my DNA. I know this doesn't answer your question, but you might want to have your DNA done. Thanks for asking and good luck.
by John Noel G2G6 Pilot (712k points)
I agree. Get some DNA done.
+3 votes
Unfortunately many families end up believing myths about their family, now there is a chance, yes. Of course the princesses have descendants, but there is a chance that this was just a myth.

I know me and a few others in my family have busted some myths about our family.
by Davian Pfeiff G2G6 (7.5k points)
Never mind princesses or even descending from them ... I happen to be a queen.


PS  I know this because it's what the label in my pantyhose says.
+3 votes

DNA aside, have you noticed any indication on any records that you may have Indian ancestors?  For example, I've been running into census records that show that many of my ancestors have been marked white, mulatto, black and indian. On another record, I found a 3X great grandfather who was listed as Cherokee on his death record.  Then, with some of my other ancestors, they claimed that they were indian on every record that I found of them.  

I know that at the time that they lived there was a stigma at being associated as an indian.  Also, some received certain benefits if they claimed to be white that they could not receive had their true race been known. 


by Amy Weatherford G2G5 (5.1k points)
+9 votes
In my experience, DNA ethnicity tests are not reliable for determining NA ancestry.   For three reasons, one is because these results rely on people's self-reporting of their ancestry, two because many NA groups have very small sample sizes compared to Europeans, and three because people are adopted into NA Nations who are not necessarily of NA blood. For example - Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney)

What DNA tests can do reliably is show you who your cousins are.   If you have a DNA sample look at the maternal haplogroups of your cousins.   If you see a number of cousins with Native American haplogroups A,B,C,D (and some X) that shows you have cousins with NA ancestry and suggests that you do as well.

For example my father is a British immigrant, my mother is from Indiana and our family history is Quaker and Blackfoot.   When I divide my cousins into maternal and paternal groups I see about 40 cousins on my mother's side who have NA maternal haplogroups, on my father's side - zero.

There is no such thing as Cherokee "Princess".  A princess is a European concept.

For Cherokee ancestry the best place to start is to look for one of your ancestors on the Dawes and Guion Miller Rolls.   Membership in the federally recognized Cherokee Nations relies on those rolls.

A good guide to finding Cherokee ancestors is 'Cherokee Connections' by Myra Vanderpool Gormley.
by Marc Snelling G2G6 (7.2k points)
Marc, could you perhaps explain what exactly a haplogroup is?  I new to DNA testing and do not understand what this means.  I know you might think this a dumb question but I truly want to know.  I am waiting for my DNA results to come back and I'm sure this will prove useful.

"A haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and refinements consist of additional number and letter combinations." ISOGG Haplogroup definition



Thank you!  I'm going to see if I can find more info and start studying up on this.  Sounds very interesting.  :)

Not a dumb question at all.  A haplogroup is a grouping of common  patrilineal or matrilineal lines who share a common ancestor.  The main haplogroups are divided by letter, and smaller sub-divisions by letter and number.  For example H isa very large group, H1 is a subgroup of H, H1a is a subgroup of H1, and so on.   The further you narrow it down the closer in years the common ancestor is.

 There are small parts of our DNA that do not change much over time.  Geneticists have used these parts to identify population groupings, where they live, and their movement through human history.   Certain haplogroups occur with greater frequency in certain areas which is what leads to them be categorized as African, European, Asian, Native American etc.

Males have a paternal and a maternal haplogroup.  Their paternal haplogroup is inherited along a direct paternal line - your father's father's father's, etc.. The maternal haplogroup is inherited from your direct maternal line.  Females only have a maternal haplogroup.

Here is a mapping of maternal haplogroups:

You can see from this map what part of the world the groups are associated with.    If you get into the details of the haplogroups it will show how the groups branch out from one another.  On a long enough timeline everyone's ancestry goes back to Africa (more than 50,000 years ago).  But these haplogroups identify ancestry in more recent times (within the last 50,000 years)

For example my mother is haplogroup H.   This is the biggest group for Europeans.  It is estimated that the common ancestor of this group is a woman who lived in the Caucasus between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago.   Depending on the test you take you can get more detail.  

My mother did an mtDNA test that further narrowed her haplogroup to H1as.   Certain lineages of H1 are thought to have been introduced by hunter-gather women up to 18,000 years ago.    H1a is thought to be a common ancestor 2000 years ago and is tied to many Europeans of Romany (Gypsy) ancestry.   This would suggest that if you followed my mother's direct maternal line back past genealogical times the most likely ancestry would be a Romany Hungarian.   My mother's European ancestry is heavily German - so this makes sense. 

Keep in mind that the understanding of these groups changes over time as people learn more.  


I made a mistake on the last part - the H1a Romany group is a paternal haplogroup not a maternal one.  The H1a maternal common ancestor is not currently known.    So - important to be sure you are looking at the right Y (paternal) or mtDNA (maternal) group.   Here is a map of the paternal haplogroups:



This is absolutely amazing!  I find this so interesting and want to know more about what my own DNA holds.  I can't wait to get my DNA results back so that I can start researching and learning more about my family.  My mom should have her results back about the same time I do.  I need to get my Dad tested as well.  I'm not sure if he would be on board but I'm going to ask anyway.  

Thank you for your in depth explanation, Marc.  :)
+1 vote

a few things to remember. the ones that could often claimed to be white using names they heard. so often times there are two people with the same name often the same age but are two different people having different children and wives and have two different set of parents. however people not knowing this will add the white parents assuming this is right because the other parents seem to be non existent and they claimed to be white. when a line drops off with nowhere to go often times they are your Native  american line. Cherokee is one of the five civilized tribes so you can look them up on the  make sure you just use the last name not the whole name it works better. has a list of Native American census rolls and the  are helpful. once you find them you can order their cards which often give parents and bloodlines.  If they are not one of the five tribes it may take longer to find and you may have to go to a different places in the region they came from to find the information.also be aware that DNA testing may not be right on. my cousin got hers done and it stated she had 0 % Native American but our family information and records from the rolls and census records show clearly that our 3rd great grandfather was full blood Choctaw on our grandmothers side.  hope this helps  

by Casey Stimmel G2G1 (2.0k points)
edited by Casey Stimmel

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