All Roads Lead to Cherokee Chief John Rogers, Jr.

When DNA reveals a relationship between you, your known cousins, and 15 descendants of Old Settler Cherokee Chief John “Nolachucky” Rogers, Jr.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about my ties to the Cherokee Nation, both as a Cherokee Freedmen and also a descendant of the Cherokee. My research on this side of my family has grown times 10 since my recent trip to Kansas. It seems like every day for the last month plus I’ve found something new. Trust, I have A LOT of stuff to share with you all and it’s going to take me months to get it all out. This new DNA discovery is one of those things.

The Ground Floor: Combining Traditional Genealogy with DNA

There are five people who are descendants of my great great grandfather Isaac Rogers who have DNA tested. Three of the five are me, SV and SRH. Our relationships have been verified through traditional genealogy and oral history, we share DNA at levels that we’re supposed to, and have inherited DNA from our shared ancestor that we have in common.

Me and SV are descendants of Ike’s fifth child, Theodore Cooweescoowee “Cooey” Vann Rogers, Sr., and SRH is a descendant of Ike’s eighth and final child, Roy McKinley Rogers. Theodore and Roy were half brothers sharing only a father.

Me and S.V. second cousins. Due to how the generations fell on this particular line, me and SV are half second cousins once removed with SRH. (Click here for an explanation of once removed relationships). Be sure to keep this information in my your pocket, it’s a crucial reason why the DNA matches fell a certain way for SRH and not me and SV.

This means that any DNA me, SV, and SRH share is from Isaac Rogers and his ancestors. This takes us well behind the brick wall since Ike was born about 1850.

Great, great, great, great grandmother was a slave maid during the Trail of Tears…She was raped…After she became pregnant, she went out into the territory of Oklahoma. No one knows great great great great grandma’s name. We’re related to Will Rogers – go back to the rape.

No one ever wants to get this news. Ever. I had to make sure the event was never glossed over or forgotten, so I sought out to find which of my ancestors was victimized. I had to do more genealogy research to determine exactly who she was. This meant tracing our origins beyond Isaac Rogers. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Ike’s paternal line:

  • Father: Nick or Jack Rogers – b. about 1814 in the Cherokee Nation, died before 1865 in the Cherokee Nation
  • Paternal grandparents: Jesse Rowe aka Shoo-cow/Che-cow – b. ?, died before 1835 and Lucinda “Lucy” Rogers Musgrove (b. about 1777 in Georgia (Cherokee Nation East), d. between 1887-1892 in the Cherokee Nation West
  • Paternal great grandmother: Little Nan (mother of Jesse Rowe) – unknown birth and death dates

Jesse Rowe aka Shoo-cow/Che-cow was a former slave of Shoo-cow/Che-cow Rowe. Lucinda was a former slave of Robert Rogers, his wife, Sallie Vann Rogers Musgrove, and his grandson, Clement Vann Rogers, father of humorist Will Rogers.  Sallie, Clement, and Will were Cherokee.

Ike’s maternal line:

  • Mother: Martha May Richardson – b. between 1826-1838 in the Cherokee Nation West, d. October 10, 1911 in Ft. Scott, Bourbon, Kansas
  • Maternal grandparents: Annie May Humphries – b. between 1810-1820, d. before 1900 likely in Kansas and Edward Humphries, unknown origin

Ike, his mother Martha, and his maternal grandmother Annie May Humphries were all former slaves of Alzirah Price May, a Cherokee.

DNA results of one of the five people tested tell us that Ike’s direct paternal line traces back to West Africa.

 

Based upon the information I had gathered, Annie May Humphries or Lucy Rogers Musgrove could have been my female ancestor who was victimized when taking into account their approximate birth years and when the Trail of Tears took place. I soon ruled Lucy out because a male child born of her and a man with predominate European and/or Native American ancestry would produce a direct male lineage tracing back to Europe or America, which is not the case based on DNA.

This means Annie was likely the female ancestor. I know that Annie’s slaveholder was noted on the Old Settler Roll1, meaning that she arrived in the Cherokee Nation West prior to the forced removal in 1838, but Martha’s approximate birth year fell within the right time period.

Fifteen is the Magic Number

The cornerstone of discovering relationships based on upon DNA and genealogy is repetition. Repetition of surnames, locations, and pedigrees is key. In this case, the surname Rogers was repeated over, and over, and over again in the matches me, SV, and SRH had in common. I then looked closer. There were more than a few DNA matches who were descendants of Cherokee Chief John “Nolachucky” Rogers, Jr., and they were through several of his children:

In all, me, SV, and SRH matched 15 different descendants in different combinations.

The descendant group with the largest number of matches was that of W.D. Nelson Rogers who had a 8 descendants that matched our side.

For the entire group of 15, I only matched five of the 15 and SV matched only three of the 15, SRH matched 12 of the 15.  In some instances, SRH shared upwards of 20cM of DNA with a match while I shared upwards of 40cM with one match who shared no DNA with SRH or SV. This speaks to the random nature of how DNA from our ancestors appears in our genomes and how DNA manifests when a family member is a generation closer to a particular ancestor.

Based on the amount of DNA shared, and the projections given by AncestryDNA, Chief John Rogers would be me and SV’s 4x great grandfather and SRH’s 3x great grandfather.

Going Further

The next phase of research is cementing if one of Chief John Rogers, Jr.’s sons are the actual father of Martha, pushing things back another generation. Preliminary research indicates this could be the case as DNA results for SRH show matches that are relations to the wife of Chief John Rogers, Jr., noted as Elizabeth Coody. Although, a high level of intermarriage exists within this population, so further research would have to be done to conclude this. Also, establishing the locations of Chief John and his sons during the period of 1826-1838 is key.

Debate has ensued for decades as to how Robert Rogers, paternal grandfather of Will Rogers, was related to Chief John Rogers, Jr. Of course the jury is out on that one, but there is definitely a tie between my formerly enslaved family members and Will Rogers through slaveownership.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted on updates!

Sources

(1) May, Eliza, group 52, Old Settler Roll, 1851, Records Relating to Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller, 1908-1910. Page 27. Accessed 8 May 2017 via Fold3.com

Featured image: left to right: Cherokee Chief William Charles Rogers, Humorist Will Rogers, Isaac Rogers

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8 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to Cherokee Chief John Rogers, Jr.”

  1. I think we maybe related. I think I am related to Chief Rogers and would love to talk to you! I am 65. I have done 23 and me dna test and I have done gedmatch (though I do not know how to use it. Lol. My grandfather was mulatto. I also have cousins listed in 23 and me with the last name smith. I am a quadriplegic so it is hard to use software sometimes. I am so proud of all the work you have done.

  2. My mouth dropped open while reading this. Looking forward to where in West Africa. You are simply amazingand brilliant!

  3. Eleanor Salas Baraajas

    I have 58% NA dna, would like to know if I belong to this tribe, I have several matches that are Lumbee and Melugeon. Can you share you Gedmatch kit#? Thanks for your article

  4. Long history on my paternal side of Cherokee ancestry. My name is Antonio Rogers Jr., My father was Antonio Rogers Sr., My Grandfather was Gilbert Thomas Rogers, and my great Grandfather was Frank Rogers. We were always told to be aware of our Cherokee and other Native roots in our family… But for many generations we were taught to denounce these roots and claim Mexican heritage. Now I am trying to rediscover my Native ancestry and am shocked by many things including my last name and it’s possible origins.

  5. Hi All!
    Relatively new to this so pardon any rookie mistakes! I have made great progress on my mother’s side and until just recently was limited on my father’s side. Researching my paternal grandmother has been particularly difficult though. Looking for any help that you all may be able to offer. Her name is Goldie Jewell (Rogers) Cantrell and was married to John Franklin Cantrell in Texas in 1937. The marriage records show her going by Jewell Rogers. I was not able to locate a birth record but she wrote several notes in a baby book to my father. That we recently discovered. One note was her birthdate and place… July 29th, 1917 in Salina, Oklahoma. Ever since I can remember, there was talk of our Cherokee linage but health problems with my grandmother and lack of records have made it difficult to put the puzzle pieces together. Anyone have any thoughts or direction?

    1. Nicka Sewell-Smith

      Thanks for the comment Andy. The easiest way to verify a connection to the Cherokee Nation is by locating an ancestor who applied for or was approved by the Dawes Commission which took place between 1895-1905 or so. This would likely be your grandmother’s parents. There are a set of cards for folks who are considered “by blood” and those who are considered Freedmen although the Freedmen did have blood. Do you have any leads on who her parents are? Have you found her on the 1920 US Census living in Mayes County, OK or nearby?

  6. We are cousins, not sure the number there. Thomas Lewis Rogers, Sr is my gggg /grandfather. He married into the Osage tribe, so I am Osage/Cherokee through my Rogers side and Cherokee through my Harlin siide, through my mother. My father was as white as snow
    Your research is very interesting. I am looking to trace the Rogers tree as far as I can. I always heard I was related to Will Rogers, but have never been able to find a connection.

    1. Nicka Sewell-Smith

      Siyo Cuz! Yes, we totally are related. As of December 2019, I have four matches just from your 4x great grandfather Thomas Lewis Rogers, Sr. Our total list is now over 50 people who descend from Chief John “Nolachucky” Rogers, Jr. My plan is to take a trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center in 2020 so I can dig into records that haven’t been made available elsewhere. Hoping to find out more about him and other family members while I’m there. Thanks for reaching out!

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