Monday, April 11, 2011

Will the Real Descendants of the Cherokee Alexander Barnes Please Stand Up?

A couple of weeks ago, a woman (let's call her Jane) started posting on the Bill John Baker for Principal Chief facebook page claiming to be an unregistered Cherokee who's family never wanted to be associated with the tribe, but were Cherokee through her great grandfather, Alexander Barnes. She claimed he had two families, one in Missouri, the one she descends from, and one in Oklahoma, the one he listed on the Dawes Roll. She says her great grandfather abandoned his children after the death of his wife and went to Oklahoma and remarried and started a new family. She claimed he was visiting in Missouri when he was called back to Oklahoma to give testimony for Dawes and his family in Missouri never saw him after he left to go there. Not only does the story sound fishy, it irritated the heck out of my friend, who is a cousin to the real descendants of the Alexander Barnes who was listed on the Dawes Roll.

I was asked to research this and quickly saw the claim made by the woman touches several topics I have discussed in the past, including same name/different person; ancestor stealing; wannabes; and fake tribes.

Jane says this about her family -
My great grandfather, Alexander Barnes (born October 14, 1858 Arkansas- died November 16 1908) was married to Elizabeth (Eliza) Williams (born 1854 TN- died 1886 Arkansas.) Their son, my maternal grandfather, Arthur Alexander Barnes (born 1881 Warm Springs, Arkansas - died 1954 Poplar Bluff, Mo ) was married to Ida Luna Hays (born April 17, 1889 - died November 6, 1978 Poplar Bluff, Mo.) Alexander and Elizabeth's other children were Davis Washington Barnes (March 1885 - 1970) and Benjamin Franklin Barnes (May 1, 1886 - died in Texas, not sure of date.) My great grandmother (Eliza) died very shortly after giving birth to my great uncle Ben.
That is more than enough information to start a genealogical search, so I started looking. It became quite clear, very early in my research, that Jane either has very poor genealogical skills or she was intentionally adjusting information so she could lay claim to someone else's ancestor. 

Jane's grandpa, Arthur Alexander Barnes, was the son of a man named Alexander Barnes, but not the Alexander Barnes who is found on the Dawes Roll. Information on Arthur's father is fairly easy to find and clearly shows a picture of his life. Many but not all of the documents I used for sources are posted here. If you would like to read them, click on them and then enlarge them again if you need to.

Arthur's father, Alexander, was born in Tennessee, 1842, the son of John and Nancy Barnes. He was married at least three times, possibly four. He had at least five children who lived to adulthood, two daughters and the three sons. He served for the Union in the Civil War and was wounded while serving. He later received a pension for his service to the country.

The earliest I found Jane's great grandfather, Alexander Barnes, was on the US Census of 1860. He was 18 years old and shown living in District 15, McNairy County, Tennessee with his parents, John and Nancy Barnes, and siblings; Catherine, Elizabeth, Robert J, Martha M., John D., Nancy A., and James K.

Next, Alexander is found in his Civil War paperwork. According to the document below, he enlisted with Co. G, 6th Regiment, Tennessee Calvary on October 15, 1862. His enlistment was for three years.

After his service in the Civil War, Alexander married for the first time. In McNairy County, Tennessee on January 20, 1867, he married Mary J. Riley. 

Later, Alexander and Mary J (Riley) Barnes became the parents of Nancy Susan Barnes, who according to her death certificate, was born in McNairy County, Tennessee on March 2, 1867 to Alexander Barnes and Unknown Riley. According to most census information, Nancy was probably born about 1870 instead of 1867. The information for the death certificate was provided by Jane's grandfather and Nancy's brother, Arthur Barnes. (Nancy was found living with Arthur and his family on the 1910 and 1920 censuses and listed as his sister.)

Alexander was not found again until 1880 the US Census. He had apparently moved to Union, Ripley County, Missouri. He was listed as A.H. Barnes and was living with his parents, John and Nancy; a new wife, Louisa A.; and two daughters, Nancy S. and Mary Martha E. I am not sure if Louisa is "Elizabeth Williams" or if she is a different wife, but it seems likely she is NOT Mary J. Riley.

Though the ages of everyone seems off a little, the birth locations are consistent with everyone in the family, as are the names of John, Nancy, and Nancy S. Also, the addition of a new daughter to the family is supported by the information contained in the death certificate of Mary Martha (Barnes) Smith and on her gravestone located in Evergreen Cemetery in Lipan, Hood County, Texas.  She was born in Missouri in 1874, the daughter of Alex Barnes and unknown. 

Information was provided by her husband, James M. Smith, who she married October 30, 1895 per Ripley County, Missouri Marriage records.

Alexander is next found in June on the 1890 Veterans Schedule for Union, Ripley County, Missouri. As you can see, the enlistment date matches the one on the document above - October 15, 1862.

Later that same year, he also filed for and received a pension based on his service during the Civil War.

Sometime between 1890 and 1894, Alexander's wife, Eliza/Elizabeth Williams (Jane's great grandma) must have died because his last child with her was born in 1890 and Alexander married again in 1894. This is is shown by the death certificate of Benjamin Franklin Barnes.

As you can see, Benjamin was born November 12, 1890 and he was the son of "Alec" Barnes and Unknown Williams. Benjamin's birth year is verified again in his WWI information. (By subtracting 27 years and 5 months from April 14, 1918, you will come up with the year 1890.)

Though Jane has the parents of Benjamin correct, she is off by at least 4 years on his birth date and his mother's death date. This is a crucial piece of information. Benjamin was born in Missouri in 1890 and he was the son of Alec (Alex/Alexander Barnes and Unknown Williams.)

Now onto Alexander's next marriage. On September 16, 1894, in Ripley County, Missouri, he married Lucretia (Baker) Smith, a woman from Warm Springs, Arkansas. 

Lucretia is possibly the mother of his son-in-law, James M. Smith, who married Alexander's daughter, Mary Martha E. Barnes, in 1895. I don't know for certain, but Lucretia is shown living in Texas near James and Mary on the 1910 US Census and she is buried in the same cemetery. And she did have a son named James who was born in the same year and location as the James who married Martha. But that is neither here nor there in our exploration of the two Alexander Barneses. What is important to know is Jane's great grandpa, Alexander Barnes, was still living in Missouri and remarried in 1894 after the death of her great grandmother. 

Alexander Barnes is next found on the US Census of 1900 living in Gatewood, Ripley County, Missouri. He is listed as head of household and living with his children, Nancy S. (born 1871), Arthur (born 1881), Davis (born 1885) and Benjamin (born 1890.) He is not listed as living with Lucretia, but she is still in Ripley County living with her Smith children from her previous marriage. She is also living in very close vicinity of James M. and Mary Smith. This is also a crucial piece of information!

I didn't find Alexander on any records after 1900, but I did find Lucretia living in Justice Precinct 2, Hood County, Texas. This is the same area she, James M. and Mary Martha (Barnes) Smith are all buried. More thoughts on this later.

Now that we have a clear picture of the Alexander Barnes who was the great grandfather of Jane, it is time to evaluate whether he could be the Alexander Barnes who is listed on the Dawes Roll as Cherokee by blood.

Cherokee Alexander Barnes was born in October 1858 in Arkansas, the son of Lofton and Mary (Brown) Barnes. He is first found on the US Census of 1860.

I believe Cherokee Alexander Barnes is found living in Ward 7, Caddo, Louisiana on the US Census of 1870. Though the head of household is listed as James, the initials, ages and birth places fit the children of Lofton and Mary Barnes; Melinda, Alexander, Hirim and John. 

Also, per the testimony given to the Dawes Commission by Cherokee Alexander's sister, they had lived in Louisiana. 

The next time I found Cherokee Alexander was October 22, 1889, when he was readmitted to the Cherokee Nation. At the time, he said he was 30 years old. 

This Alexander is next found living in Canadian District, Cherokee Nation on the 1890 Census of the Cherokee Nation. He is listed as a Native Cherokee, age 28, and married. There is a note that he was readmitted to the Cherokee Nation in 1889. He is listed with his wife, Caroline P, age 18, and his daughter, Martha, age 14 months. This is crucial information!

This Alexander is then found living in Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory on the US Census of 1900. He is found living with his wife, Caroline (Parthenia), and their five daughters; Martha, Nancy B., Antonia, Mary L., and Melinda. Martha is listed as being born in 1888 and Nancy in 1890. The years they were born are another piece of crucial information.

Cherokee Alexander and his family are found again in 1900 when their application for the Dawes roll was made. He states he is 39 years old. Not only does he give the names of his parents, Lofton and Mary Barnes, he also lists his children and his wife, Caroline P. He is questioned about how long he has been married (13 years) and whether it is his first marriage (yes). He also says he has lived in Cherokee Nation for 13 years since he was married. More crucial information there!

The Cherokee Alexander Barnes died in Porum, Oklahoma on November 16, 1908. He is buried in the Coleman Cemetery with his wife.

Now, back to Jane's claim. She says "My great grandfather, Alexander Barnes (born October 14, 1858 Arkansas- died November 16 1908) was married to Elizabeth (Eliza) Williams (born 1854 TN- died 1886 Arkansas.)

She did have a great grandfather named Alexander Barnes and a great grandma named Eliza/Elizabeth Williams, but the dates she uses for them do not fit the parents of her grandfather, Arthur Alexander Barnes. The evidence and documentation clearly shows her great grandfather, Alexander Barnes, was born about 1842 in Tennessee. He is about 16 years older than the Cherokee man named Alexander Barnes.

Jane's great grandfather, Alexander Barnes, served in the Civil War. The Cherokee Alexander Barnes was approximately four years old when Jane's great grandfather enlisted.

Janes' great grandfather, Alexander Barnes, married Mary J. Riley in 1967 in Tennessee. The Cherokee Alexander Barnes was only 8 or 9 years old at this time. When Jane's great grandfather's first child, Nancy S., was born, the Cherokee Alexander would have only been about 11 or 12 years old! It is peculiar that Jane failed to mention Nancy as a child of her great grandfather's since Nancy was shown living with Arthur and listed as his sister on the 1910 and 1920 censuses. Is it possible Jane didn't want to mention this child because Nancy's age would make it obvious the Cherokee Alexander Barnes could not possibly be her father?

And now for the really interesting claims. Jane says her great grandfather, who she claims was the Cherokee Alexander Barnes, left his children after their mother died and started a new family in Oklahoma. She claims the new wife was Caroline and the new family was the children of Cherokee Alexander and Caroline. This cannot be true.

The Cherokee Alexander Barnes married Caroline in 1887, at least three years BEFORE Jane's great grandmother, Elizabeth Williams died. We know this because Elizabeth's youngest child, Benjamin Franklin, was not born until November, 1890. Why would Jane claim Benjamin was born in 1896 when the evidence clearly shows he was born in 1890? To make her story fit so she could claim a Cherokee ancestor, perhaps?

Also, the Cherokee Alexander Barnes' testimony for his Dawes application clearly shows he did not have another family before marrying Caroline. He states he has been married to her for 13 years and it is his first marriage. In addition to this testimony, we can also see that Cherokee Alexander and his wife Caroline already had at least two children together by the time Jane's great grandmother died. Jane's story does not fit the evidence!

And what about this 1894 marriage between Jane's great grandpa, Alexander Barnes, and Lucretia (Baker) Smith? Since they had two households in 1900, could this be the woman Alexander married and started a new family with? Though he didn't appear to have actually had children with Lucretia, she did have several young children from her previous marriage, so maybe Jane's great grandfather spent most of his time with Lucretia in her household and helped raise those children. Maybe it was her family and his own that he kept going back and forth between. Or perhaps Jane's great grandfather left Missouri after 1900 and went to Texas with Lucretia. Perhaps he died in Texas before 1910. That might explain why he left and never came back. 

Honestly, I don't know what happened to Jane's great grandpa. I don't know if he stayed in Missouri, died and was buried there or if he went to Texas, died and was buried there, or if he went somewhere else, died and was buried there, but I do know where he isn't buried -- in the grave in Porum, Oklahoma where the Cherokee man named Alexander Barnes is buried. 

Not only was Jane's great grandfather not the Cherokee man listed on the Dawes Roll named Alexander Barnes, he was not a Cherokee at all. On all the historical documentation, he is listed as white. There is no indication, other than Jane's story, that the man was Cherokee. Jane has been told this, but she won't accept it. She says it is a free country and she knows who she is and can claim to be Cherokee if she wants. One might wonder why someone would continue a claim like this after so much historical documentation and evidence is shown to them. Normally, I would say I don't know, but in Jane's case, it is very clear. There are reasons she can't allow her claim of Cherokee blood to be shown untrue, but that topic is for another time!

Those are my thoughts for today. 
Thanks for reading. 

The Granddaughter 

Below are the death certificates for the other children of Jane's great grandfather, Alexander Barnes. They also provide some evidence in the things stated above.

And Lucretia Baker Smith Barnes' death certificate

copyright 2011, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB


  1. Thanks for posting this interesting information! This "Jane" is a nightmare to all of us who are unregistered. She makes the term "wannabe" very applicable to herself in this case and makes it hard on the rest of us who sincerely are researching our Cherokee ancestors. I resent the fact that she has closed her mind to the idea that she has mixed up the two Alexander Barnes and simply will not accept the fact that her ancestor (who still sounds like an interesting individual) and the actual Cherokee Alexander Barnes are NOT the same. The information you presented clearly shows they are different. Also, "Jane" is a genealogical nightmare. You simply cannot call yourself a genuine and ethical researcher if you are not willing to prove beyond a shadow of doubt any genealogical claim. I will not say that she is not a Cherokee descendant. However, this particular line does not prove that heritage at all. She needs to research other family lines to prove her heritage. Thanks for posting!

    1. I came across this article while looking for information on my great grandmother, Mary Jane Barnes...and I bump into my cousin Mike...again! :)

      That being said, I couldn't agree more.

      By the way...the Mary Jane I am looking for isn't the one mentioned in the article above. I don't think she was Cherokee, either, but I could be wrong. Guess I gotta look some more.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I agree with you. And, I also think her real ancestor, Alexander Barnes - non-Cherokee, sounds like a very interesting person. If she would open up her thinking, she could probably learn a lot more about him by ordering his pension application, but I doubt that will happen. In order to do that, she would have to accept he was her ancestor instead of the Alexander Barnes on the Dawes Roll.

  3. 'Tis a sad post with no redemption in sight.

  4. This sounds like a similar situation I am facing. Since my mother's maiden name was Pemberton, I frequently encounter researchers who are convinced we MUST be related to General John Clifford Pemberton and John Pemberton, inventor of Coca-Cola. There are even some people who say that the general was the Coke inventor's uncle, but I doubt that as well. I haven't proven that we aren't related to them, but the family origins are not the same. Our family came from Canada via New York, and General Pemberton was from Pennsylvania. The inventor of Coke's father was born in North Carolina (which is why I don't think the two of them are nephew and uncle). Looking at the marriage dates and birth dates of General John Pemberton's parents and proven brothers and sisters, the Coke inventor's father does not fit properly. It TOTALLY annoys me when people claim that we must be related, and that they are related to each other. Makes me cringe at the stupidity.

  5. The Cherokees were great and archivist, although some names weren't always spelled correctly, if there is lineage recorded among all of the available documents, you WILL find it, even if a name or two were changed, because all roads will eventually lead back to the same people. In this particular case, the evidence is clear. However, I do feel sad for this woman, because she has been clinging onto to this story for such a long time, and it really means something to her, and that's why reality is hard for her to swallow. The only advice I can offer for those of you that are still searching, is to not give up, we are one of the best recorded people, if it's there your gonna find it. Wado

  6. CC, Your research is wonderfully clear and concise! I'm amazed at what you have handed "Jane" on a silver platter. Bummer that the documentation doesn't show her to be related to the Cherokee Nation but look at all the awesome stuff you did uncover. Will pray that "Jane" sees the evidence for what it is and that she will give you peace as well.

  7. Okay, so there I was, just researching my dad's family, which I know nothing about and being a Barnes, I figured I'd run into this person's family tree and while I think this woman is embarrassing herself by claiming ancestors she's not related to, but to suggest the Cherokee Alexander Barnes was messing with another woman?! OMG! REALLY? Boy, if I could figure out whether or not I'm related to this man, I'd give that woman the "what for."
    So anyway, through my research, I've found out my dad's paternal auntie is names Lois Barnes. His father was Lewis Barnes and I have been having a heck of a time finding anything on him. So,I try to see if I can find out about his sister Lois. Well, lo and behold, when I try to look up MY great aunt Lois from Texas, I keep getting the Lois from Oklahoma and it is driving me up the freakin' wall!! SO many people are claiming heritage from that line, that it is obscuring my line. Infact, I bet more than a few of those claiming that line are, infact from my line.. which may be why I can't find her and could be the reason that side of the family has become the brick wall it is for me. I just want the freakin' truth!! There are circumstances surrounding my grandfather and my dad's life that I'd like to find out about.
    SO kids, what have we leared?
    When you claim heritage that isn't yours, you may be really screwing it up for someone whose ancestor is unfortunate enough to share a name with.
    That said, as little as I about my dad's side of the family, I am open to whatever the documentation shows. Right now, all I have are educated guesses from what I have been able to glean from So as you can see, I suck out-loud at genealogy and these people being so quick to glom onto the nearest Cherokee relative with a similar name have really complicated my search. I have been told we're Cherokee on both sides and my mother's family did observe some of the ways, but I need proof.
    Sorry such a long post..but well.. I'm miffed!
    BTW I like your historical entries, the pics of the printing stuff were right after my own heart! I've been in the printing industry for 21 years.

  8. Thanks for your wonderful information.I am searching for information with little to go on myself. My mom is a "Hill" from Tn and she has told me that one of my Grandmothers from way back was Cherokee-Elizabeth Barnes.I have no real clue on how to start other than doing searches on the net, I am frustrated with my Mother and My Aunts for having such little information.Do you have any suggestions of where to start? My main concern is that there are traditions that I would like to learn and its for a personal knowledge of my lineage.I don't want to make untrue claims...I don't want to make any claims really.Its about my spirituality and what these ways mean to me personally.Any information to help me would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

  9. While searching for my Native ancestors I have found so much conflicting information from so many different "Janes" that are floating around out there, so I guess the world is filled with them. I would rather spend the next five years learning the truth about who I am than going by someone's "misinformation" that they think is correct. Although I do concede that one person could produce hundreds of cousins and wannabe cousins. Good luck on your quest!


Your comments are welcome!