When people begin researching their ancestry with the hope of finding a roll number they think, “Oh, finding my ancestor is easy.” I know that is what I thought over twenty years ago when I started my research. In truth, it may be easy for some to just look on the Dawes Roll and say, “There they are!” but most typically it is harder than that. The final goal is locating a family member on the Dawes Roll, but first, you have to research and figure out who in your family tree is most likely to be listed. That is where the other Cherokee Rolls can be beneficial.
In this post we will learn about each roll, why they were created, who was required to sign, and where you can go to research them. Unfortunately, not all rolls are available to search online. The larger, more important rolls are available and I will add a link to their search engine. The first official rolls were conducted in 1817, in lands east of the Mississippi River.
1). RESERVATION ROLL – 1817
In 1817, a treaty was signed offering 640 acres to the Cherokees who wished to remain in their homeland in the east. In applying for this land the head of house agreed to become a U.S. Citizen. Those not wishing to become a citizen and stay in their homeland were required to move west to Arkansas.
The Reservation Roll was not an in depth roll. The main information obtained from this would be name of the head of house as well as number of people in the household. Unfortunately, there is no online database to search this roll.
2). EMIGRATION ROLL – 1817
The Emigration Roll is the exact opposite of the Reservation Roll. Where the Reservation Roll listed those wishing to remain, the Emigration Roll was those wishing to move west to Arkansas. These people became known as “Old Settlers”. There is no online database for this roll, but the book Cherokee Emigration Rolls, 1817-1835, transcribed by Jack D. Baker holds the names on this roll.
3). HENDERSON ROLL – 1835
Also known as the “Trail of Tears Roll”, this roll lists the names of those to be forcibly removed to Indian Territory after the Treaty of New Echota was signed. There is a total of 16,000 Cherokees, 900 Heads of House listed on this roll. Click Here to redirect to a book entitled Cherokee Indian Census of 1835 of the States of Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, by Homer A Walker. This is public access and is a fully transcribed version of the roll.
The Trail of Tears covered over 5,000 miles and 9 states. They faced all forces of nature and disease and 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokees didn’t make it to the new land.
4). OLD SETTLERS ROLL – 1851
The Old Settlers Roll was taken in what is now Northeastern Oklahoma. This roll contained members of the families who removed to Indian Territory before the Trail of Tears and was still living in 1851. The roll was grouped in family units so while it only lists names and location each family was assigned the number so to find who was a part of one family click the number and everyone in that family will populate. The Old Settlers Roll can be accessed online here.
5). DRENNEN ROLL – 1851
The same years as the Old Settlers Roll, the Cherokees also did the Drennen Roll. This roll was the first census taken of the Trail of Tears survivors in their new land. Though this record is proof of Indian Heritage if you ancestor is found on this roll, unfortunately, it will not help you obtain tribal enrollment, but this is the first step for an ancestor to be eligible for the Dawes Roll. The Drennen Roll is searchable online by clicking here.
6). CHAPMAN ROLL – 1852
The Chapman Roll was taken in 1852 by Alfred Chapman after numerous complaints from individuals claiming to be omitted from the Siler Roll done the previous year. These rolls are considered a receipt roll for payments made to the Eastern Cherokees. The Siler Roll contains more information gathered from the individuals on it, but the Chapman Roll is complete and can be viewed here.
7). TOMPKINS ROLL – 1867
The Tompkins Roll was a census taken of all Cherokees and Freedmen living in Northeast Oklahoma in 1867. This roll lists name, gender, age, and race, unfortunately there is no known online record of this roll.
8). SWETLAND ROLL – 1869
The Swetland Roll was conducted in 1869 to record the Cherokees that still lived in North Carolina in 1848 but later removed to Indian Territory. As of now there is no online record of this roll.
9). HESTER ROLL – 1883
The Hester Roll was a census taken in 1883 of the Eastern Cherokees. Information included in this roll were name (both Indian and English), age, location, Chapman Roll # (if rejected there will be a N/R for not registered), family number, and status. You can search the Hester Roll by clicking here.
10). WALLACE ROLL – 1890
The Wallace Roll was the result of an investigation regarding the challenged citizenship status of ex-slaves, Shawnee-Cherokees, and Delaware-Cherokees. The idea of this rill was to establish a list of these citizens to determine their rights to live on Cherokee land and to share in the Cherokee annuities.
This roll is compiled of eight combined investigations; Authenticated Freedmen, Authenticated Freedmen (Dead Roll), Admitted List, Free African Americans (pre-Civil War), Questioned List (Affidavits of Questioned Cherokee Freedmen, 1889-1891), First Supplemental List, Second Supplemental List, and Third Supplemental List.
The Wallace Roll can be searched online on Ancestry.com. Follow this link to be directed to the search page.
11). CHURCHILL ROLL – 1908
the Churchill Roll was conducted in 1908 in the Eastern Band of the Cherokees to certify the members. This roll included name, roll number, and location. Unfortunately, there is no transcription of this roll online at this time.
12). GUION MILLER ROLL – 1909
The Guion Miller Roll was compiled of those Cherokees that applied for reparations that were entitled to them from various treaty violations. This roll included people identified as descendants of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. To search this roll click here.
There is one more important roll that has not been listed here and it’s the most important of all the rolls. There is so much information concerning the Dawes Roll I decided to dedicate a whole post to it and I will have it posted on here shortly and upload a link here on this post.
I hope this post has been beneficial in helping research your Native American history. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.