Friday, November 18, 2011

"Go Hard or Go Home" - Facts vs Fiction

Hard evidence. That is what one needs to honestly claim to be Cherokee or of Cherokee descent. I didn't make the rules of genealogy. I didn't make the rules of citizenship for the three federally recognized tribes either. But I follow those rules and I respect those rules.

Those who disagree with my following those rules tend to miss the point. They will say, "She doesn't decide who is Cherokee," without addressing the fact that I only follow Cherokee law on who is or is not Cherokee. I don't decide who is an American either, but I quote the law on that as well and no one seems to have a problem with it, so why is quoting the laws on who is or is not Cherokee any different?

A lot of people miss the point on the genealogical issues as well. People who claim to be Cherokee or Cherokee descent with no hard proof think I, or others, who speak out against such things, are evil or mean or "from the dark side." Why? We are simply following the Standards for Sound Genealogical Research. Some I would like to point out are:

  • test every hypothesis or theory against credible evidence, and reject those that are not supported by the evidence;
  • seek original records, or reproduced images of them when there is reasonable assurance they have not been altered, as the basis for their research conclusions;
  • state something as a fact only when it is supported by convincing evidence, and identify the evidence when communicating the fact to others;
  • limit with words like "probable" or "possible" any statement that is based on less than convincing evidence, and state the reasons for concluding that it is probable or possible;
  • avoid misleading other researchers by either intentionally or carelessly distributing or publishing inaccurate information;
Notice how these mention using original records; stating something only as fact when there is supporting evidence; limiting words like "possible"; and  avoid misleading others by carelessly distributing inaccurate information? I didn't make those rules. Those came from the National Genealogical Society.

"A lineage, pedigree, or genealogy is a series of related assertions proved by a complex web of interwoven evidence." It is NOT a family story passed down that has no credible supporting evidence. Rejected Eastern Cherokee applications (Miller applications); family pictures; and the word of others who say they have heard the same thing are NOT credible supporting evidence. Taking a guess or jumping all over the map to make things fit the way one wants is not a web of interwoven evidence.

An example:

"My name is LouLou. I know someone named LouAnne. I must be her cousin. Wait, LouLou sounds a lot like Lucy. I'm related to Lucille Ball. And Ball must be the same thing as Round. Which looks like Ronald, so I bet that means Ronald Regan, so I am related to him too!" 

As absurd as that example sounds, it happens. Lordy sakes, believe me, it happens! People who have no understanding of the Cherokee language or naming conventions jump in and start looking for names that "might" match, so they assume. They try online translators which offer nothing in the area of genealogy, but they think it does so they take that translation and run with it and end up making a mess of things just like the scenario above. 

Genealogical evidence is found in good, hard sources, not in one's imagination. Documents that can be sound, supporting evidence are military service records, pension applications, land records, wills, immigration records, census records, etc...If one is Cherokee, there are also other numerous records and rolls that can be used such as the censuses of the Cherokee Nation taken in 1835, 1869, 1880, 1883, 1886, 1890, 1894, 1896; the numerous rolls including but not limited to the Reservation Roll, the Emigration Roll;  the Old Settler Rolls; and the Dawes, Miller, Siler, Drennen, Chapman and Baker rolls. There are also records of the claims made by Cherokees for property, transportation and subsistence. This is not a complete list of everything available on the Cherokees, but is a good starting place. 

So, if you have a family story of Cherokee ancestry, yet your ancestor is found on census, land, and military records as being born in the late 1700s in South Carolina; and in the early 1800s, moving from county to county in Georgia shortly after those counties were formed from land ceded by the Creek Nation, and then finally moving into a county in Georgia that was formed after the Cherokees were forcibly removed, the records do not show your ancestor was Cherokee, but instead, a free white person who only moved onto Cherokee land AFTER the Cherokees left it. To ignore such sources, while clinging to a rejected Eastern Cherokee application and speculating on what might or might not have happened, means one is carelessly and haphazardly attempting to rewrite their family history. To publish or distribute their conclusions and call it genealogy is irresponsible.  

Anyone can make a mistake in genealogy. Even the best of the best have probably made them. I don't fault anyone for making a mistake, but I do take issue with those who would ignore all the good, hard evidence, and instead, invent a genealogy they want. If you want to do your family genealogy, then do it. But do it based on real documentation and hard evidence. Wouldn't it be embarrassing if you wrote an entire family history that you called a genealogy and then someone else came along behind you and proved everything you wrote was wrong using many primary sources while you used none? 

Word of advice -  There are plenty of records out there to either prove or disprove Cherokee ancestry. Use them. Not my standards, but instead, the standards of the genealogical community. If you want to write fiction, then do it, but at least call it fiction. If you want to do your genealogy, then do that too, but don't guess, assume or invent anything. "Test every hypothesis or theory against credible evidence, and reject those that are not supported by the evidence." Basically -- either go hard (evidence) or go home (don't bother.)

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

The Granddaughter

copyright 2011, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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