Freaky Friday ~ “We Were Cherokee”

ff imageGrowing up I was always told that we were part Native American. On my mothers’ side, I was supposedly Creek and on my dads’ side, I was supposedly Osage, Cheyenne, and Cherokee. For my mothers’ side, I can find no proof of being Creek. My Great Grandfather was our link to this bloodline, but unfortunately, he is also one of my solid brick walls, and the few documents I do have give absolutely no indication that he was. All of the “proof” we had were the far fetched stories my mother told us.

Now, on my dad’s side, there is no proof whatsoever that we have a drop of Native can you prove it questionblood in us. However, every cousin I have ever talked to or corresponded with swears we are Cherokee. So, for over 20 years I have searched the archives for any proof. When genealogy made it easier to find documents etc, I spent a multitude of hours researching. Still nothing. I had one cousin tell me that I apparently am not smart enough to figure out that we are Cherokee. I just laughed. I guess he didn’t realize that the fact that most people in our family have high cheekbones is not proof enough to claim we are.

A few months ago, I decided to revisit the rumors of our Native Heritage. I started with my oldest Hughes ancestor and began to slowly go over all of my documents and notes. I spent a couple of days making my way forward hoping to find one little hint. I took a break and called one of my two living first cousins to try to get more information about why the family believed the story. He told me that my Grandmother Hughes had told him when he was a young boy that we were Cherokee and that it came from our Hayes side a couple of generations back from her. He is the only living cousin who met our Grandmother, so who was I to doubt it?

George W Hayes Finished pic 2I returned to the search determined to find something. I abandoned my search of the Hughes’ and switched to the Hayes’. I was determined to find a link to our story. It didn’t take long. My 2x Great Grandfather, George W. Hayes (1817-1898) was where I found my answer. He was a wealthy man and during the Civil War, he provided aid by way of finances and supplies to the Confederate Army in North Carolina. In Burke County, North Carolina they had a unit called “Company A the Cherokee Rangers”. Although George never joined the army nor fought in any battles he was made an honorary Captain in the unit.

I can see how the “story” may have gotten started. He or his wife could have told a telephone-gamechild or grandchild that he had been in the Cherokee Rangers and just like the “game of telephone” each time the story is passed to another person part of it is changed. So, I can see why we came to believe that we were Cherokee. This whole concept is kind of Freaky because it makes one wonder what other family stories have been changed this drastically?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

12 thoughts on “Freaky Friday ~ “We Were Cherokee”

  1. My wife’s family had believed for decades the story that they were “French.” It turns out that they were from Paris….. Idaho.

  2. This is a wonderful story, and now I know you must be glad you put in all of the hours to search for it! On the Finding Your Roots program on TV, the host starts laughing when a person says that they “heard” the family info that they have some native American ancestor. Not that it is funny, but it is so common to hear this and so difficult to trace!

  3. Small world, my boyfriend is from Burke County, NC and his family insists they’re Cherokee but no one is exactly sure where it originates. I’m from eastern NC and am Lumbee, but know for a fact my grandmother was 100% Native American!

      1. Well, be aware you could learn some things you might not want to know and you can unlearn them. But it would certainly determine if you have any Native American dna.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s