After a lot of hours of research on some of these families, one thing repeatedly comes up over and over - a rejected Guion Miller application. Families who had never been considered Cherokee before were suddenly making a claim of being Cherokee on these applications. It is extremely common for people today to base their entire claim of Cherokee ancestry on a rejected, I repeat, rejected, application. It doesn't matter that there is never other documentation to support the idea that the family was actually Cherokee. Because someone in their ancestry decided to apply for the Guion Miller Roll, people grab onto a rejected claim of Cherokee blood and cling to it as if their life depended on it. Though these applications often offer a lot of genealogical information, they don't necessarily offer any proof of Cherokee ancestry and to use them as such is in no way, shape or form, the practice of good genealogy.
What was the Guion Miller Roll? It is a list that includes the names of ALL the people who applied for compensation arising from the judgment of the United States Court of Claims on May 28, 1906, for the Eastern Cherokee tribe.There were 45,857 applications filed for about 900,000 claimants. 30,254 of those claimants were entitled to share in the funds. This means nearly 2/3 of all claimants were NOT entitled and therefore rejected. It would be impossible for that many people to actually be Cherokee yet never have been found on any Cherokee record before then. Obviously some of the people who filed an application simply were not Cherokee.
A common assumption of those who descend from people who were rejected on the Miller Roll is that their ancestors were Cherokee, but they just couldn't prove it at that time. After reviewing many, many, many of these applications, I don't believe that assumption to be correct. Newspapers were full of announcements that the Cherokees and/or Cherokee heirs would be receiving money anywhere from $5,000,000 to $11,000,000. Many times it was not made clear this was money for nearly the entire tribe but instead gave the impression that it was for specific families. Any time people were making a claim for money, we must be wary of anything they said. For a chance at that amount of money, I believe most people would have said just about anything to try to prove their claim.
There are people who applied for the Miller Roll who had never heard they were Cherokee before the money or land topic came up. They were suddenly informed by someone that they were Cherokee or related to a specific family and should apply. There were families who had heard they were Indian or "kin" to them, so they applied even though they had never heard what tribe of Indians they might be "kin" to. There were people who were notified by "claim agents" and lawyers that they were entitled to lots of money so they applied. There were people who were told they would be receiving both land and money, so they applied. There were people who applied because they thought they were enrolling in the Eastern Cherokee tribe and then would be entitled to land and money. There were even people who believed it was only their specific ancestor the money was for so they thought they were coming into a vast fortune by applying.
Estate fraud has been found in non-Indian genealogy for years and I think many of these Guion Miller claims fall into the same category. Many of the rejected non-Cherokee claimants, for one reason or another, filed a claim believing they were going to come into money. Maybe they did it out of greed, or maybe they were misled in one way or another into believing they had a valid claim, but either way, I think they were basically fortune hunters who were filing a claim thinking they had a chance to gain either money or land or both. Though many claimed they had always lived and/or passed as white just like their parents, grandparents and so on, they still were willing to claim to be Cherokee thinking it would benefit them. It was at this time, I think wannabeism took a strong hold over the non-Cherokee population in the United States and I think it has done nothing but grow since then. Over the next few weeks, or months, or years, however long it takes to show all the documentation and evidence that supports the reasons I believe this, I will be writing on why I believe the rejected applications are a very poor source to use to support a claim of Cherokee ancestry and why I think those rejected applications have led to the hoard of wannabes that exist today.
Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.
***Note - The term "Cherokee Myth Phenomenon" does not belong to me. It is a term that was originally used by a friend of mine and I use it when it fits the subject I am writing about, but that term belongs to him, not me.***
copyright 2011, Polly's Granddaughter - TCBTweet