I’ve got “Indian” in my family

How many times have i heard this?  Too many to count. And frankly, I wish people would be honest and confront some things.

As a genealogist and speaker, I often remark about this when I’m giving talks.  One of the most common misconceptions that people have when beginning their genealogy research is the time honored “My ____________ was (fill in the blank Native American group).”  My response? “Is someone in your family collecting benefits from (fill in the blank Native American group)? Is your ___________ on the dawes roll?”  99% of the time, the answer to both of those questions is no.  It’s so prevalent, that folks are even giving genealogy lessons on the “Indian in their family” in cosmetic advertisements. lol


This is one of the few genealogy topics that irks me to no end. Why? I see it being passed down to our younger generations.  Of course, if someone is going on hearsay, they are naturally going to pass down these things to their children because they heard them as a child.  Most likely, no one in the family is going to bother to research whether or not it’s true. I mean, if you do, this means that folks have been telling a lie for a long time and that the story has to change.  lol   Most folks would rather just keep on believing a lie.

As a child, I heard from many relatives that our family was Cherokee.  folks would point to the time honored classics of “Indian indentification,” – high cheek bones, long hair, or just “lookin’ like one of them Indians.” lol For the longest time, I thought people were talking out of the side of their necks although I knew that the grandparent on this side was from Oklahoma.  I’ll admit that i claimed Cherokee ancestry without really knowing if I had it.  I mean, how else did i inherit the hair and features I have? lol Not entirely true.  As my research further showed, me and many others like me could have inherited these things due to a percentage of European ancestry.  Regardless, along I went trying to verify these claims.

What I found humbled me, shocked me, and gave me some things to think about. One of those things was:

My paternal grandmother, keeper of hallmark "Indian" features, Loyce Elaine Rogers Sewell

Did I ever consider the price that was paid to bring non African ancestry into my lineage?

There was a price paid, period.  Bills have been paid left and right for centuries and to this day, they still are.  When folks throw this and that group around like it’s a Girl Scout badge, I think they may forget that they had a bill or two taken care of by someone who preceded them. We rarely think about these bills when were just throwing things around casually and in my opinion, we all should be more careful.

Why? The person who brought that additional ancestry into your family may have endured a rape or a forced relationship that they didn’t want and couldn’t control.  On the other hand, the ancestor could have wanted the relationship but had to endure horrible treatment from others because it wasn’t the norm at the time.  Regardless off the positive or negative feeling, a bill was paid.  Some were heftier than others.  I’m coming to several conclusions about my own that I’ll blog about here.  It’s my way of honoring those who paid a price for me.

7 thoughts on “I’ve got “Indian” in my family”

  1. Enjoyed the article—I also have “Indians” in the family tree from Tennessee as we talked about one day at CGS. I think we know better! Thanks for helping me understand the this side of my heritage.

  2. Pingback: me and ike - the search for my cherokee roots, pt. 1

  3. Pingback: who is nicka smith? » started from the bottom | rider fields is my 4x great grandfather

  4. Victoria Thornhill

    First thank you for your blog:) Secondly, I would like to share 2 fantastic websites with you…
    1. Paul Heinegg has done some amazing research and makes it available for free at:
    2. One of the most amazing finds ever! Reading through these petitions
    is like looking through a window at the past. Stunning!
    The Race and Slavery Petitions Project by UNC Greensboro:
    Thirdly, Thank you for this post.
    This is a huge issue for me right now! I am a descendant of a Thomas Nash who moved from NC to MS to LA between 1780-1810. I believe the research proves him to have been a free black man – born of a white mother and a black father. I was shocked to discover a war is going on in the genealogy community regarding this person. He is now considered one of the progenitors of a group of people known as: Redbones. WE ARE OF INDIAN DESCENT THEY SCREAM!!! I was reading a blog recently that was written several years ago when DNA testing first became mainstream. Some of these people seemed suicidal after discovering they carried an African gene and no Native American gene. They retested. They questioned the qualifications of the lab people. They could not accept the results. This made me feel so angry. Thomas Nash was born free into a world where being a free black man was not ok…He lived an extrordinary life and against all odds did well in a world that did not respect him. I believe his family began calling themselves ‘part indian’ to face less persecution and perhaps get some land the govt was giving to native americans at that time. And you know what I say? WHO COULD BLAME THEM!!! But today’s research gives us proof. Today we should be able to look at the truth! I can! When I began to investigate my heritage a few years ago, I thought I was just an ordinary person. But now I find I am a very unusual person because I only want to know the truth. The truth is what matters. The truth is a teacher. And after all is said and done, the truth shall set you free:)

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