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