GeneaChat: Native American Ancestry. A Part of Your Family Tree? 3

GeneaChat: Native American Ancestry. A Part of Your Family Tree?

made with Canva using Pixabay C0 license photo

My mom was very close to her paternal grandfather William Treadford Roberts (1894-1959). She spent many hours with him sitting on his lap and listening to him read to her or tell her stories. One of those was his tale of a Cherokee maternal ancestor. Like many families in the south, a family tradition of Native American heritage is passed down from generation to generation. During the early 1800s, southerners claimed Cherokee blood as a way to show they and their ancestors had been in the area for many generations. It was a source of pride at one time. Interestingly, after years of pushing it far into the background of their histories, it’s become hip again to claim to have an “Indian princess” in your family tree.

Traditional research on my Roberts/Brazell line has produced no evidence to support the family lore. A test done by my mom shows a slight trace of Native American DNA. The amount goes up from time to time, possibly as more members from the various tribe's test and there is more to match in the pool.

Many family stores have a small kernel of truth. Could we have an ancestor from one of the tribes who made their home in North or South Carolina? Perhaps his version of “my great grandmother was a full blood Cherokee” actually was many generations earlier.

Then there is the family photo showing William with his parents George Phillip Roberts (1856-1930) and Hattie (Brazell) Roberts (1870-1927) of Richland County, South Carolina.

Copy of photo owned by Cheri Hudson Passey. Original unknown.

Like many family stories, the only “proof” is a photo showing dark hair, skin color and “those high cheekbones.” Yes, the family had those things, but Native American proof it does not make.

Talking to Roberts family “cousins” has not lead me to any answers. One had a theory the Native American entered our line during the early to post Revolutionary War period when the family is said to have run a “Trading Post” in the Columbia, SC area. His addition to the story added the community of “Indians who worked at and dealt with the post.”

So far, I have not been able to establish if the family did indeed run a trading post.

Do I have Native American ancestors? I don’t know. At this time, there is no proof, only family lore much like other southern families. If the story is true, I hope at some point the necessary proof will come to light. It would be an honor to claim such heritage.

What about you? Do you have a family tradition of Native American ancestry in your tree? Have you been able to prove it? How did you do so? Has that changed how you look at yourself?

You can participate in this month’s GeneaChat by writing a blog post telling us about the Native American traditions in your family? Add the link to your post in the comment section below. No blog? No problem! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Remember that links to your posts and the comments you leave will be part of the GeneaChat: Native American Ancestry. A Part of Your Family Tree? - Recap on November 30, 2017.

Thanks for GeneaChatting!

Cheri Hudson Passey

About Cheri Hudson Passey

Cheri Hudson Passey is a Professional Genealogist, Instructor, Writer and Speaker. She is the owner of Carolina Girl Genealogy, LLC which provides research services as well as instruction and coaching though her Genealogy 1-on-1 classes. Born in South Carolina, Cheri has roots in the state for many generations. Her blog Carolina Girl Genealogy has helped tell the story of these ancestors and her research process. You can contact Cheri by email or by visiting her blog Carolina Girl Genealogy. Cheri Hudson Passey writes the Modus Operandi column for Going In-Depth Magazine.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 thoughts on “GeneaChat: Native American Ancestry. A Part of Your Family Tree?

  • Kim Johnson

    I also grew up with the family lots of having native American in my direct blood line… It was my maternal great great grandfather, who was rumored to be full fledged Indian, because he was very ‘red’ in color… That reasoning sounds incredibly naive now, but it’s what was passed down and I believed it, along with everyone else in my family. Fast forward to two years ago, when I first dug into this thing called genealogy or family history and the truth comes out… Strangely enough, the truth has been discovered almost 2 decades before, by a cousin who had researched the family. In his notes, I found a scrap piece of paper that said, “there is no Indian to be found, despite what the family says. There’s just no proof.” My own research would conclude the same, though my family would hold strong to the Indian n the family lore, not even getting go when faced with the truth. Oh well. Not really my problem.

    Conversely, there was never any talk and or lore on my paternal side of things about distant Native American relations, but the paper trail would suggest, otherwise. In my father’s maternal line, I found Rebecca (I briefly talk about her in this post,, who was ‘hiding’ in the Dawes Roll, where she is listed as Creek Freedman. A year later, I stumbled, quite by accident, an application to be included in the Creek Nation (not Freedman) by her daughter, Tamah. I am still researching this, in fact, I have a DNA test kit sitting here, staring me in the face…

    I’ve always felt a pull/connection/drawing to Native American culture, even as a young girl… I can’t explain this seemingly magnetic pull that tugs at the strings of my soul and yet it is there.
    As an adult, I have attended many pow-wows, I’ve owned Regalia and I’ve been blessed with a new name (Praise Eagle), given to me by a card carrying Cherokee woman, from Oklahoma- near Muskogee, where my paternal maternal lineage hails from…

    Perhaps, this tugging within my soul is more than just a yearning to be a part of this unique culture and more of an awakening of the ancestors who’ve come and gone before me…

    • Cheri Hudson Passey
      Cheri Passey Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment. Your words are touching as you talk about your soul yearning to be part of what is indeed a unique culture. Chills as I have felt the awaking of ancestors in my line too.
      Your words will be included in the recap that will be published next week.