James Meeks (abt. 1824 - abt. 1869) Casey County, Kentucky (possibly Cherokee)

+4 votes
James Meeks was on the 1860 census in Kentucky.  

James Meeks M 36 Kentucky
Dethes Meeks F 40
Louisa S Meeks F 16
Elizabeth Meeks F 14
Martha A Meeks F 12
Joseph Meeks M 6
Allen B C Meeks M 3
(Sons Foster/Lester and James are shown up on the 1870 census, after James' death)

A few years ago, I found a record of his death indicating that he died of "pneumonia fever" around 1869.  However, I cannot find that record now.  I would really appreciate it if anyone could find it.  He probably died in Casey County, Kentucky.  

Any info about him or his family at all would be really helpful.

James may have been all or part Cherokee. According to his great-granddaughter and grandson (my grandmother and her father), James' daughter, Elizabeth, was full-blooded Cherokee. I have checked the Cherokee rolls and neither James nor his daughter Elizabeth "Betty" (Meeks) Luttrell is on them, however, there were a lot of Meeks on the rolls.  My great-grandfather told his daughter that his mother was "full-blooded Cherokee," so I know that he believed it, and if you look at photos of my great-grandfather, his facial features look like the faces of so many vintage Native American photos.  My grandmother and I are the same way; a full-blooded Cherokee woman who grew up on the North Carolina reservation once came up to me to ask me about my heritage because she recognized my Cherokee features.

This has been a brick wall in my research since 1992.  I am going to separately ask about his wife and daughter.

A note about his wife's name.  It is almost entirely illegible on both censuses.  On the earlier one, it looks like the census taker meant to write "Delhis," but accidentally crossed the L, making it appear to be a T (but comparing with his other T's, it is a crossed L).  On the second one, it looks like the census taker wrote, "Delie."  I wonder if her name might have been Delia, Delilah, Gehlis, or something entirely different.  Not knowing her name has made her completely impossible to trace beyond these two censuses.  

I would not be a bit surprised if my Cherokee heritage turns out to be many generations back before what my grandmother told me, though I think it has to be there somewhere.  (I just recently sent off a DNA sample, so I hope to have my GEDCOM in a month or two, though I will not know how much of my Native American ancestry comes from this side of the family versus some other branch, however at least it might help determine my minimum and maximum genetic distance from my most recent fully Native American ancestor.)  While many people have told me that "everyone" thinks they have Native American heritage, I have to acknowledge that it's possible that my great-grandfather was completely right, and if he was, it might be hopeless to trace my ancestors further back, because they may not have been on any of the records if they were born on Cherokee land before records were being kept there.


Any help at all in tracing James and his family would be greatly appreciated!
WikiTree profile: James Meeks
in Genealogy Help by Susannah Rolfes G2G5 (5.8k points)
If he was 100% Native American or if his father was or paternal grandfather, his Y-DNA would also be Native American. Do you know of any living descendants of either of his two sons? Their Y-DNA would tell the story.
I haven't found any cousins yet.  I have tracked down the burial in Texas of one of his sons, Allen.  I ran across a woman doing genealogy on this line on Genforum around 1999 or 2000, but I don't remember her name, and I don't know if he was her ancestor, or if there is anyone left in the male line.  I haven't been able to find any further descendants in the male line.

There are 2 more sons on the next (1870) census, James B. and Foster.  The lady I spoke to on Genforum told me that Foster was really Lester.  Also, I don't know for sure if Joseph/Joanna was male or female.  James may have had as many as four sons (or even more, if Louisa had any older brothers).  I suspect some of them died during childhood, since I can't find anything on any of them after the 1870 census (except for Allen, Elizabeth, and Louisa).  

If I ever find any, that would be a great place to look!

I have thought since 1992 that our Native American ancestor was most likely a generation further back than we were told, if not more, but that was mostly based on the names.  Meeks sounded English.  Earlier this year, someone said that Meeks was a fairly common Cherokee surname, so I looked at the rolls, and sure enough, it was.  I thought that, because his wife's name was so indecipherable, that meant she was more likely the Cherokee ancestor, but now I am not so sure.  I am back to thinking that they both might have been Native American, so Elizabeth really may have been full Cherokee.

I only say Cherokee because that's what my great-grandfather said.  From our facial features, it is clear that we have Native American ancestry (people who are 100% Cherokee, Choctaw, and 50% Ojibwe/Potawatomi have remarked that I look Cherokee...actually, they asked about my ancestry and then told me that the Cherokee really shows; actually, I don't really know that there are distinctive Cherokee features versus other Eastern Woodlands peoples).  People always remarked on how Native American my great-grandfather and grandmother looked, and, to a lesser extent, my mom and sister.  I have black hair and brown eyes, so I look more like I could be half Cherokee (we are all pale people).  

Then again, I knew someone who was 50% Native American and half Welsh.  She looked 100% Welsh.  You never know which parent a child will favor more, and it can be all or nothing sometimes.  For some reason probability has just favored certain facial features, and it could be 20 generations back but still keep showing up prominently.

2 Answers

+3 votes

The 1860 Casey County, KY US Census has James as white and if you click on his wife's name, she is also listed as white. They have her first name as Dethes. 

https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZB5-K17 : 12 April 2016

When you get the DNA test results, you will know whether or not there is an indication of native American DNA. If so, they will likely show what percentage it is. 

by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
edited by Frank Gill
Yes, you are correct about what is listed on the census, and how it was transcribed on Familysearch.

I have seen several transcriptions of this 1860 census since 1992.  She shows as as "Dethis," "Dethes," "Deathes," and "Dether." They are probably all inaccurate, since if you carefully analyze the handwriting, that is not a T, but an L that was crossed by mistake, and she shows up as Delie (to my reading) or Delia (on the transcriptions I've seen) on the 1870 census.  

It also unmistakably says that they were White.  They may have claimed to be White because of the Trail of Tears and other reasons that made it better not to claim to be Native American at that time, especially if they could "pass."

I'm sure the DNA test will help sort this out, however I have another ancestor who claimed that she was Cherokee, so it won't solve the mystery unless I somehow come up 0% Native American.  

My main concern is not whether or not one or more of them was all or part Cherokee, but finding records, period.  I just can't find anything besides the two censuses (only one for James, two for his wife and children), and at one point, I found an 1869 death record that was probably his, but now I can't locate it.  Any documentation whatsoever would be really useful.
With all the researchers at WikiTree, maybe someone can come up with the documentation you want. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Good hunting!
Thanks, I hope so, too!

It should be interesting to see the result which may get smaller with each generation.

Based on what Spencer Wells has said, native Americans have an ancestor in common with Europeans. Spencer Wells is in charge of the National Geographic Genographic Project. The person lived in Asia; I forget how long ago this was, but some descendants went West and others when East. The ones that went East crossed into what is now Alaska and the Western travelers went into Europe. These folks crossed that Atlantic and came to America much later that the others. 

Spencer Wells is the author of "The Journey of Man," and "Deep Ancestry." His books and videos are available in many libraries. 

It's too bad that I couldn't have gotten a DNA sample from my grandma, who, if my great-grandfather was correct about his mother being Cherokee, would have been 1/4.  

This might be a little off-topic, but it sounds like you're interested in this area of research, so I thought I'd share a few things.

First off, I majored in anthropology and minored in history and sociology in college, and took graduate courses in archaeology and museum studies, so I've studied this from a bit of a different angle than most people.  I learned that ALL the earliest Native American remains found (at least in North America at that time; Class of '03) have Caucasoid features.  One of them was said to greatly resemble the Japanese Ainu people, or the actor Patrick Stewart (this was Kennewick Man, found on the bank of the Columbia River, originally thought to be the skeleton of an early settler before they found a spearpoint imbedded in his pelvis and did a Carbon 14 test...don't quote me on exact placement of the spearpoint; it might have been in his thigh, but I'm not looking it up right now).  Another example is Spirit Cave Man.  So I am not surprised by this information about a common ancestor.

I thought you might be interested in books by Gavin Menzies.  He hypothesized that, in 1421, China sent a fleet of ships around the world to map it and establish trade relations.  They reached the Americas, and pretty much everywhere else, too.  There is archaeological and linguistic evidence for this, as well as genetic evidence.  He has written four books, and, as time goes on, he keeps gathering more data and pushing back the date for when these voyages took place.  I am currently reading his book on Minoan civilization, and I think he is going to say that Minoans also were all over the world (including the Americas, mining copper in the Great Lakes region).  I have not had the opportunity to vet his sources yet, but if he isn't completely fabricating and stretching everything he says, he seems to be on to something.  This is relevant to genetic genealogy.  

Coming around to my point,I have read that people with ancestors on the Cherokee rolls sometimes show up as not being Native American at all, but rather, that they have Middle Eastern or Jewish ancestry that they did not expect.  There is something quite off, because we just don't know enough about ancient human migrations to attribute ancestry to the correct population across the board.  There are going to be weird little quirks and inconsistencies, probably for a long time.  

I have read some very fringe (IMO) ideas about Cherokee not being Native American at all, but rather, being descended from Eastern Europeans (i.e. Albanians or Georgians) who fled from the expanding Ottoman Empire.  Melungeons claim to be descended from shipwrecked sailors, probably from Portugal, but I have to wonder if these could be the shipwrecked Chinese sailors that Menzies wrote about.  This all ties into who the Cherokee were, genetically.  


It's clear that there was Mesoamerican DNA in this region (Georgia, Tennessee, etc.), and it seems hypothetically possible that this might be the entire Native American contribution to an otherwise pre-contact (with British immigrants) population of Eastern European refugees, shipwrecked Chinese sailors, and Native Americans who were already living there at the time that these other groups arrived, intermarrying for a couple centuries before the Western European colonists arrived.  

It all seems pretty fringe to me, but DNA doesn't lie.  Time will tell who is right and who is speculating inaccurately.

I would love to know more about the migration patterns of ancient humans.  Back when I was in college, we could really only follow the linguistic evidence and the artifacts.  Now, we can follow the DNA, too, and I think we're going to find out some very fascinating and unexpected things.
I finally found the source with James Meeks cause of death as pneumonia fever! It was on the U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885. I knew it had something to do with the 1870 census, but couldn't find it again for about 3 years. I still only have 2 sources for him, don't know who his parents were, or anything like that, but perhaps something will turn up eventually. My biggest wish for a source would be to find anything with his wife's name, as I only have Delhis/Delie from 2 censuses (my interpretation based on handwriting). A marriage record would be ideal, since her maiden name could be a huge clue.

No sooner to I ask, than I find it myself!
+1 vote

Looks like he married in in Harrison, KY in 1841, wife's name not shown.

James Meeks

mentioned in the record of James Meeks and UNKNOWN

Name James Meeks
Event Type Marriage
Event Date 1841
Event Place Harrison, Kentucky, United States
Gender Male
Spouse's Gender Female


View the original document. The original may contain more information than was indexed.

Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954

GS Film Number 000216885
Digital Folder Number 004542905
Image Number 00588

Citing this Record

"Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V5Z8-SVV : accessed 3 October 2017), James Meeks and MM9.1.1/V5Z8-SVK:, 1841; citing Harrison, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 216,885.

by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
The marriage year is about right.  I estimated that they married by 1843. I can't be sure he's the same James Meeks, because there were several at that time, but it's definitely worth looking around Harrison County, Kentucky for more records, especially since I don't have anything prior to 1860 in Casey County.  Hurray, a lead!  First new lead in 25 years.

I have 2 sources for his wife (1860 and 1870 censuses), one source says his wife was born in Kentucky, the other, Ohio, and Harrison County is much closer to Ohio, whereas Casey is practically in Tennessee.  If she's from Ohio, she is more likely to be Shawnee or Miami than Cherokee.  

As an added bonus, it looks like Harrison County is less than 2 hours away from where I live, so it would be much easier to go there and look for records than to go to Casey County again.

Thanks so much for finding this!  Now, I have a place to look!  And if he's one of the other James Meeks I've found in the area, at least I'll have ruled it out.
James Meeks married Martha J. Gamble on 19 Jan 1841 in Harrison Co, Kentucky.

Martha Gamble





At first, I thought maybe Martha died and he remarried, but it can't be the right James Meeks, because on the 1860 census, in Nicholas Co, Kentucky:

James Meeks M 35 Kentucky

Martha J Meeks F 36 Kentucky

Francis Meeks F 9 Kentucky




At least now I know that one isn't him!  As excited as I was to possibly finally find a record of him aside from the two I have, I would've been awfully disappointed if that was the only marriage record I could find, because it didn't include his wife's name.


I'm going to start grouping data on these different James Meeks, and see what falls out as none of the ones that aren't him.  It's the best next step, I think.

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