Friday, September 10, 2021

Genealogical Research and Common Sense

Not too long ago, while doing a bit of research, I ran across an interesting "person" on Find A Grave. A  Cherokee man was listed as "Devereaux Jarrett Chicken Trotter Bell." Hmmm...what a name, huh?

It caught my attention because, though I've been neglecting my blog, I've been giving a lot of attention to my research...for a book...about a Cherokee man named Devereaux Jarrett Bell.

I don't have time to share all my research here and there is not nearly enough room to do so, but because that name above is such a glaring mistake and so simple to debunk, I thought I'd use it as an example of the fact that all the documents and records in the world won't help our genealogical research if we don't use common sense.

The Cherokee man named Devereaux Jarrett Bell was called Jarrett/Jarratt by his family and close friends. Legally and professionally, he was known as D.J. Bell. He was from the affluent Cherokee Bell family and a brother to the Treaty of New Echota signer, John A. Bell. He was fairly well educated and a student at the Choctaw Academy in 1834 when he was 18 years old. On the transcription below, his name was recorded as "Jarratt Bee?" He was described as having a "Good mind."

Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 9, No.4

After leaving school, Jarrett worked as an interpreter for US agents in the Cherokee Nation. In 1838, he  removed from the east in the detachment led by his brother, John A. Bell, also known as the Treaty Party detachment.

1842 was a big year for him. Not only did he sign as the witness for the claims filed by his father and brother David against the United States for losses of property in the east,

1842 Flint District Book 2 #128 David Bell

he was a secretary/clerk for the Cherokee National Committee.

Letter from Joseph Vann to John Ross - Gilcrease Museum

He was also a claims agent in Flint District, writing the claims for Cherokees to file against the United States for their lost property.

1842 Flint District Book 2 #27 Ellis Hogner

Here's where it gets interesting. According to the Find A Grave biography on the "Devereaux Jarrett Chicken Trotter Bell" page, Devereaux Jarrett Bell was also known as Chicken Trotter and a signer of the Treaty of Bird's Fort with the Republic of Texas in 1843. Common sense tells us that's not true. While Jarrett could read and write English very well, the man named Chicken Trotter who signed the Treaty of Bird's Fort could not.

The man named Chicken Trotter who signed the Treaty of Bird's Fort in 1843 signed the treaty with a mark. That means he could not write his name.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Common sense tells us that the man who, in 1842, repeatedly wrote important letters and documents in English is not the same man who, a year later in 1843, could only sign a treaty with a mark.

That Find A Grave entry has combined two real Cherokee men, Devereaux Jarrett Bell and Chicken Trotter, into one mythological Cherokee folk hero. It's an unfortunate mistake that could have been avoided if someone would have done a bit of research and used common sense. One man could read and write in English. The other could not. They are not the same man. It's that simple.

Those are my thoughts for today.

Thanks for reading,

Polly's Granddaughter


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