Research Our Records

Eastern Cherokee Enumeration: Selected Microfilmed Records

The Eastern Band of Cherokees traces its origin to the more than 1,000 Cherokee members who eluded forced movement westward in 1838-39 by remaining in the mountains. Approximately 300 of these individuals were living on tribal lands in 1838 and claimed U.S. citizenship. Other tribal members living in Tennessee and North Carolina towns were not immediately found and removed. Throughout much of the 1840s Federal agents searched the mountains of North Carolina in attempts to remove the refugees to the Indian Territory. By 1848, however, the U.S. Congress agreed to recognize the North Carolina Cherokees' rights as long as the state would recognize them as permanent residents. The state did not do so until almost 20 years later. With only minor changes, the lines of the current reservation were established in 1876 and in 1882 a regular reservation was established. The Eastern Cherokee Reservation consists of approximately 56,668 acres in five counties in North Carolina: Cherokee, Graham, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties. The following information concentrates on those Cherokee residing in the east after the western migration.

Special Enrollment and Claims Records, 1906-1910

Pursuant to an act of 1902, the Cherokee filed three suits in the U.S. Court of Claims to press their claims for funds due them under their treaties of 1835, 1836, and 1845 with the United States. The court awarded more than 1 million dollars to be distributed to all Eastern Cherokee alive on 28 May 1906, who could prove that they were members of the Eastern Cherokee tribe at the time of the treaties. They also had to prove that they were descended from members who had not been subsequently affiliates with any other tribe.

Microfilm Publication Title Microfilm Pub ID / Catalog Info National Archives Catalog Descriptions
Records Relating to the Enrollment of Eastern Cherokees by Guion Miller, 1908—1910 M685


Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906—1909 M1104:
View series in the National Archives Catalog

Office of Indian Affairs Census Rolls

Microfilm Publication Title Microfilm Pub ID / Catalog Info National Archives Catalog Descriptions
Census Roll. 1835, of Cherokee Indians East of the Mississippi T496


Indian Census Rolls, 1885—1940

Note: For Eastern Cherokee censuses see: Roll 22 (1898-99, 1904, 1906,1909-12, 1914); Roll 23 (1915-22); Roll 24 (1923-29); Roll 25 (1930-32); and Roll 26 (1933-39)

View series in the National Archives Catalog

Cherokees of North Carolina

Microfilm Publication Title Microfilm Pub ID / Catalog Info National Archives Catalog Descriptions
Selected Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs Relating to the Cherokees of North Carolina, 1851—1905 M1059


Related Records

Federal Decennial Census, 1870-1930
It is rare to find enumeration of Eastern Cherokee in the Federal decennial census prior to the 1870 census.  Beginning in 1870, however, the Eastern Cherokee were enumerated among the populations of Cherokee, Graham (established 1872), Jackson, Macon, and Swain (established 1871) Counties.  Except for 1900 and 1910, the census schedules are the same as those used for the general populations.  In those two years, Eastern Cherokee were enumerated on special "Indian Population" schedules, which contain information such as the degree of Indian blood in addition to the same questions asked the rest of the population. 

If you know where your ancestor lived, you can go directly to the appropriate roll of microfilm and scroll until you find the township.  For example, Oconahefty Township in Swain County contains Eastern Cherokee enumerations (1880-1930 censuses).  If you do not know where your ancestor lived, you should consult one of the indexes.  There are CD-Rom indexes for the 1870 and 1880 censuses, and Soundex indexes for the 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses.

Additional resources on the National Archives web site: