My Search for Native American Ancestry

The Meherrin Connection

I’ve spent the last few weeks tracing my family’s background. We had always been told that we had Native American ancestry, in addition to various European roots. The search was quite tedious, but I wanted to find out everything I could about our lineage to pass it down to my children. After all, for the last 60 years the only information I had was speculative and spotty. My mother’s side was said to have been Creek and Irish, and my father’s side was supposed to be Cherokee, Irish and Welsh.

I’ve been able to trace a few lines way back into history, and I’ll save that for another post. For now I want to discuss what I’ve learned about my Native American ancestry which turned out to be surprising indeed. Luckily, there had been more information online than I previously thought. Most of the information had already been researched and documented by others.

Trying to confirm Native American lineage is a difficult process. There are tribal specific lists which were prepared more than 100 years ago. You have to find a documented ancestor’s name on one of these lists. The lists also contain blood quanta information for each individual, or in other words, the percentage of Native American “blood” of each respective person. Inter-racial marriage reduces that percentage and most tribes require a certain quanta for anyone trying to enroll in a tribe. Because each tribe is self-governed, the blood quanta required to enroll is set by the tribe, and may differ from one tribe to the next. I have no intention of enrolling, but the verification process is the same regardless.

I was able to determine familial relationship to The Holmes Valley Band of Creek Indians, which still live in Northwest Florida, but so far, no direct descendency. I was at a dead end for a moment, and just trying to finish researching and documenting the rest of my family tree. That’s when I ran across a WordPress article about my 4th great grandfather on my maternal side, Benjamin Thomas.

Benjamin lived on The Meherrin Indian Reservation in North Carolina, and there was documentation of a property sale/lease on record to verify it. My 4th great grandfather was Meherrin Indian, a branch of the Iroquois that settled into what are now Virginia and North Carolina before The United States was formed.

I’m going to continue searching for Creek and Cherokee roots, but for now I’ve at least found some Native American history and gained some experience on researching family trees. There have been unexpected finds already and I’m sure there will be more. I’m collecting all the documentation and photos I’ve discovered so far online and in my written records. I built a free WordPress blog to store it all for my family, but haven’t decided whether or not to make it public.

If you haven’t started looking into your heritage yet I strongly urge you to do so. There’s a whole other world out there you may know nothing of.