Native American Genealogy… The Confusing Five Tribes

In the late 1800s when the US government was granting land allotments to the “Indians,” those who qualified to receive land belonged to one of the five approved tribes. Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could easily discern, to which tribe our ancestors belonged? Truth be told there were hundreds of tribes. That all these Native people wound up as only five tribes, bears witness to the genocide perpetrated upon them. That said, genealogists trying to find their ancestors would consider it a great accomplishment to find a connection to one of these tribes. After making a connection to one of the five, we can research further, in the hope of finding even one clue that suggests the location of their original homeland.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:


Genealogy… The Importance of Allotments When We Search for Native American Ancestors

In 1893 a commission was created for the purpose of accepting applications from American Indians who belonged to any one of the Five Civilized Tribes who resided in the Indian Territory. The deal was, if the Indians abolished their tribal governments and accepted federal laws, they would receive a land allotment. The idea was to facilitate the assimilation of Natives into white culture and create the Cherokee nation that is now in Oklahoma.

An allotment was the interfacing of Native people with the new America. It’s where they (like it or not) were forced to assimilate. By this time, the Native people were defeated. No doubt many families knew that there was a worse fate, so they cut trees and built homes. Began carving a life for themselves. They dropped names like Hawk and Little Feather and called themselves Roy and Elizabeth. It’s here, where on documents, we no longer recognize their Indianness. If there’s oral history that tells of a Native ancestor, we can look for Roy and Elizabeth who show up as land owners during the granting of allotments. Because of their distrust of the government, many Natives did not come forward and apply. Because land was being allocated for Indians, and people can be greedy and deceptive, non-Indians filled out applications too. Of course, the list only includes those who chose to apply and were “approved” as belonging to one of these tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:

Will Following the Trails of Captured Indian Chiefs Lend Clues to Our Native Ancestry?

Legendary Native American Chief Geronimo was from the Southwest but he spent prison time in Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma. I know it’s an odd question but did the army allow him to see women? He was captive for years, it’s reasonable to ask.

Those of us who trace Native American ancestry, are left wondering where our Native ancestors came from. They may be listed on a Bureau of Indian Affairs Oklahoma census but it’s doubtful that was their homeland. Geronimo died in Oklahoma but that’s after his days of freedom when he was across the border in Mexico and of course his Apache homeland in Arizona and New Mexico. And he traveled with a Wild West Show. Did he have a lover? Lovers? Did he have children?

Let’s look at Fort Sills, Oklahoma where Geronimo died. They named the county Comanche. That’s interesting. The fort was built during the Indian Wars in 1869 when white settlers were moving into Texas and Kansas and the Natives tried to fight it. I guess they needed the fort to incarcerate all the Natives they displaced. Years after the fort was built, 341 Apaches were taken prisoner along with Geronimo. Who were they? Were our ancestors among them? How can we know? These Natives later wound up back in New Mexico or on allotments in Oklahoma.

Apache, Comanche, Indian Wars… pretty hard to research ancestors who were rounded up with captives from various locations. We might assume that the 341 Apaches were from the Southwest but we’ll probably never know for sure. If you’re this far in your genealogy search, you’re doing great. Genealogy is difficult, Native American genealogy even more so. It would be interesting to know if someone’s family history tells of being related to Geronimo. If they could prove it’s true, others might better pinpoint their own Native ancestry.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:

Geronimo Isn’t Just a Legend, He’s Someone’s Great-Great-Grandpa

Even though Americans were fascinated with the legend of Geronimo, his rise to fame is a sad story. That he was part of Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade makes no difference. He was still a prisoner and died four years later, never having gained his freedom or the right to return home, which for the Apaches in the 1800s, was the Southwest, especially Arizona and New Mexico. (Originally  the Apaches were from Western Canada. Using “originally” lightly.)

While he was in his fifties, Geronimo was hearty, fearless and still escaping from the army. Escaping at least three times. After the last time he was captured (he never gained his freedom), while still in captivity, he appeared in a Wild West show. Doesn’t that sound degrading?

The Apaches made a name for themselves among the white settlers, savages. Some of us have that savage blood running through our veins and we would love to uncover its origins.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:

Sanctuaries, Southern Borders, Presidents, Generals…

In today’s political climate, many are appalled at what’s going on in our government. People feel, rightly so, that things have gotten out of control and that politicians are running lawless and making up government positions for their cronies. But it is not unusual for presidents to customize their staff and nor is it unusual in other government departments. In 1824, John C. Calhoun was the Secretary of War. In March of that year, he created The Bureau of Indian Affairs. He created it as an agency and made it a division of his war department. He did this without approval from Congress.

Seven years earlier, tensions were growing between the Seminole Indians and white colonists along the border of Florida and Georgia. The Seminoles were providing sanctuary for runaway slaves. This tension along the southern border gave Secretary of War Calhoun, President James Monroe and General Andrew Jackson, what they felt was justification for war that resulted in the taking of land from the Seminole. Today it’s sanctuary cities and building a southern wall. It’s true what they say, history repeats itself. Again and again.

Ever wonder if you have Native American ancestry? It’s not an easy route, tracing American Indian ancestry. But there are things you can try. But first, you need to know where to look and what not to waste time on. Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. and Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns,–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973



Native American Ancestry? Five Tribes… Five Nations… What’s the Difference?

Don’t get the Five Nations mixed up with the Five Civilized Tribes. The Five Nations had five tribes in it, until they had six. (The Tuscororas came later, in the early 1700’s.) Before that, the Five Nations were the Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Ohondaga and Senecas. They formed the Iroquois Indian Nation. The Five Nations means the Iroquois.

The Five Civilized Tribes were nations until Congress terminated their governments in 1907. They consisted of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes. They were driven out of their homelands and “settled” in Oklahoma where today you will find many of their descendants. By the early 1900’s, the government saw them as willing to assimilate into white civilization. History shows us that the tribes put up great resistance but by the early 1900’s, they had suffered such a severe genocide, they had no other choice.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:

History… America’s “Era of Good Feeling”

After the War of 1812, the subsequent years (1817 to 1824) are recorded as a contented time for Americans. Under the presidency of James Monroe, Americans were anxious to build the country. It brought a sense of togetherness, which brought teamwork, which brought prosperity. Americans were so content during this period, it is referred to by historians as “the era of good feeling.”

One reason Americans were content was because there was virtually one political party, the “Democratic Republicans.” Today we have: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, American Independent and those we call Independent. And there are others. With all these political parties, it’s easy to see why today, there are so many opposing views.

Not everyone living under President Monroe would have agreed that it was the era of “good feeling.” During this time, growing and building the country meant “Westward Expansion.” That expansion was into Native American lands. The taking of Indian lands resulted in a genocide of the Native people. It was a high price to pay for the rest of America’s “good feeling.”

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here: