Possibly Native American brick wall

+2 votes

I may have hit a brick wall on my grandmother’s grandmother. My great-grandmother was said to be 1/2 Native American and her mother was believed to be a Native American. I do find it odd that she is my only brick wall prior to 1700. I can find nothing about her parents or her birth. I know that many native Americans were given new names which makes research more difficult. Her name was Martha Marie Harrison (1835-1910) married to William Porter Brazelton (1831-1910) and they lived in Madison County, Alabama. Her WikiTree ID is Harrison-15722.

I’m wondering if anyone might have information about her or ideas that I am investigate for more information. Thanks!

WikiTree profile: Martha Harrison
in Genealogy Help by Billy Dunn G2G6 (7.8k points)

3 Answers

+3 votes
According to the 1880 census on daughter’s profile Martha is listed as white
by Marion Poole G2G6 Pilot (964k points)
Yes I’ve seen that, but I’ve seen a lot of strange and absolutely incorrect entries in the census. And, of course, in that time and in that state, it would not surprise me if many people might try to hide their true true lineage. Assuming she was not Native American, I would still like to know if anyone has ideas about how to find out more about her, perhaps working down to her instead of working up through her parents? I’m not sure how to best approach this one.
+4 votes
I’m not seeing anything to suggest that Martha was Cherokee.  Madison County Alabama was not in the Cherokee part of the state.  There is only one family named Harrison on the 1835 Cherokee census. They lived in McMinn Co., Tennessee and went to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears in 1838.  Martha does not appear on the 1851 Siler/Chapman rolls of Cherokee East of the Mississippi and she did not file an application for the 1907 Eastern Cherokee payment.  I’m sorry, but I think you just have a family story.
by Kathie Forbes G2G6 Pilot (217k points)

That's interesting as many of the part of the family is also associated with McMinn and other parts of Tennessee. Can I find the sources for those roles on WikiTree or elsewhere? I have only found my wife's link to Nancy Ward before and that was very interesting, but she and my daughter already had their tribal citizenship cards, so it was just an exercise. And, of course, the Nancy Ward family is probably comparatively easy to trace now. Finding a relatively unknown is far more difficult so far. frown

While it may only be a family story, I knew my great-grandmother until I was 19 and spent time with her every year. It never occurred to me before I was told about this 5-10 years ago or so, but now I can certainly believe that she may have been Native American. I am visiting with my grandmother today (she recently lost her husband of 71 years) and we are going to talk about all kinds of things. His passing was the initial reason I am now very interested in genealogy. I will try to locate a few photos and put them in the profiles on WikiTree. It just never crossed my mind while I was growing up. I was mostly thinking about playing piano with her and her teacing me to crochet and her biscuits and trying to survive the humidity of Huntsville. laugh

I will also check the project pages and see if I can gather some source material and search through those to see if there is anything that seems familiar. Are there other good resources out there I should know about? I'm relatively new at this, but I send a lot of time on it now. Thanks for the help.

Correction - only a few are from McMinn county. The rest are from McNairy county. I was writing all of that at church this morning.
Cherokee people are very well documented. Records of the Cherokee Agency  go back to 1795 and the Moravian missionaries arrived about the same time.  The first extensive lists begin in 1817, listing people who signed up to emigrate to Indian Territory and those who took reservations of land and planned to stay. The 1835 census included all the Cherokee in the original Cherokee Nation (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina) at that time.  There are four rolls from 1851/52 listing all the Cherokee in Indian Territory amd those east of the Mussissippi.  Applications for the Eastern Cherokee payment of 1907 identified 30,000 living Cherokee and their applications listed thousands more grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and children.  Almost all of the rolls after 1835 involved money, so people were generally eager to sign up.  The Drennan Roll (1851, Indian Territory) and Eastern Cherokee “Guion Miller” (1907-1910) rolls are on Ancestry, the applications are on Fold3.  The Chapman Roll (1852 Cherokee East of the Mississippi) is on the Internet.
That's a great summary for me, thank you! I am guessing that the money involved is why I sometimes find a lot of potentially erroneous information - especially dealing with the children of Catherine "Ka Ti" Kingfisher. I've seen some trees that have her married 5-6 times and having 25-30 children. Ha. Does that make sense? Do you see a lot of that?

Fortunately, I'm in a different position and am not interested in any benefits as my wife and daughter are already Wolf Clan Cherokee and have their blue cards. I have a friend who owns a business and calls that his gold card, but I'm not exactly sure why. Anyway, I'm not sure they will benefit from that these days, but if they do great and if not that's also okay.

It's still nice to learn about one's ancestrial past and the Native American history is particularly fascinating to me the more I learn about it. Back in school, I glossed over the trail of tears, etc. and never gave it much thought. Now I see how tragic all of that was and what happened to them going back to Jackson and before. It was pretty horrible and largely ignored today.
I would say that 90% of on-line trees claiming Native ancestors (usually Cherokee) are at best erroneous and at worst complete frauds.  Ka-ti had three husbands, nine children, and about sixty grandchildren.  Even on Wikitree her profile has two extra children (one was the daughter of Ellis Harlan but not Kati, and one is probably one of her grandchildren).  David Hampton’s books are the authoritative source.

Is the Emmet Star book not considered reliable? That's the only one I have at the moment but now I'm going to find the David Hampton book. Thank you.

Apparently, that book is no longer in print. Do you have an online source for it? I couldn't find it on archive.org. Perhaps there is a newer edition that is still in print? Thanks!
Starr’s book is available online.  There are numerous reprint editions.  David Hampton’s books are hard to find outside of libraries but I think FamilySearch may have digitized some.
Starr’s book is mostly accurate, but there are errors.  His notation systen is hard to follow, and although he had dates and some documentation in his notes he didn’t include them in his book for the most part.  Hampton searched out the documentation, corrected errors, included dates and added information on many of the white spouses.
+2 votes

My knowledge is mostly with Canadian Indigenous people, but DNA test helps a lot with locating Indigenous ancestors.

Just a quick history lesson which might solve why she is listed as 'white' when you think she might not be. The first obvious answer is that she wasn't Indigenous, and this happens all the time. The second was that she face a form of oppression which made the idea of passing off as white the better alternative. Remember it was sometimes illegal (at least here in Canada through our Indian Act), and definitely discourage usually through violence for Indigenous peoples to enter white society as an equal in the mid colonizing stages of North America. Just keeping in mind that religious conversion and societal acceptance are two different things.

In Canada we experienced the 60s Scoop, which was when the government would take away Indigenous children from their biological families usually without any crediable reason other than race, and put them into foster care. Some of these children were adopted/sold into white Canadian families, American families, Australia families, etc. Sometimes these adopted families would not tell the child about their heritage. I think a similar event happened in Australia. I am not sure if this was the same for the United States, but it is worth checking out. I know America has an amazing National Museum for their Native American history, and you could probably look around on their website for more information on Indigenous peoples and their history in your region. Trust me knowing the history of the region for Indigenous peoples helps a lot when trying to connect an ancestor back to their traditional heritage!

Back to the DNA helping. cheeky My maternal great-grandparents were considered 'full status' (systems work a bit differently here in Canada, it would be the same idea as the American blood quantity), but I still match up with many of my Indigenous relatives. The family, and communities I am from are pretty much all connected through blood or marriage, but in your case I am guessing (if she was Indigenous) either adoption or major displacement (when the government wanted Indigenous land usually they were displaced, this is why knowing the history of the region is so important).

Sorry for the super long post, and I really hope this helps smiley I have met a lot of genealogists who are just in it for the novelty, and don't due the culture justice. Just the way you are handling all these answers shows me that you really just care about the heritage and not the care.

by Tessa Hope G2G5 (5.3k points)

Also just a quick note, here in Canada the terms are:

  • Indigenous - Peoples originally residing on land, global term
  • Aboriginal - First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people of Canada
  • First Nation - Original peoples of North America along side their northern siblings, the Inuit
  • Metis (with or without french accent depending on heritage) - A Nation of mixed heritage originating from the offspring of Fur Traders and First Nations (typically FN women), their cultural roots, and ties can be traced back to that time, and to be apart of the nation there is a set of three rules prescribed by the Canadian court
  • Inuit - International term for Indigenous peoples occupying the Arctic
Of course you have historical terms like 'Indian' which is not an acceptable term to use, but I do know some Indigenous peoples who have reclaimed the word as their own.
Many members of indigenous tribes in the United States prefer “Indian” to “Native American” if we have to check off something on a form, it’s a matter of personal preference.  We’re not an undifferentiated mass, however, and if you ask someone what they are they will say they are Cherokee, or Delaware, or Sioux, or whatever their tribe is called. We are citizens of sovereign nations, not random members of an ethnic group.

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