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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

October 21, 1999
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Canon vs. Civil

Q: What is the difference between canon and civil relationships? What is their purpose? -- Billandsyd

A: When you look up the two words, you find the following in Barbara Jean Evan's The New A to Zax:

Canon: a rule; a law; a church law

Civil: pertaining to citizens and their rights

So, what you can take away from this is that canon relationships are those individuals related through a church event and civil relationships are those related through the civil laws. This may seem like a duplication. However, we need to keep in mind that civil registration has not been in existence very long. Also, there are those religions and family beliefs where the civil marriage, for instance, would not be recognized.

Beginning Cherokee Research

Q: I have a grandmother on my dad's side who my mother has recently told us was 1/2 Cherokee. My dad died before I was born and my mother has not given us much information on my dad's genealogy. I am 40 now and want to learn more. My grandma's maiden name was Cloe or Chloe Butler. I do not believe that this was her Indian name. She was born on the reservation in Oklahoma. She lived in California as an adult. I have tried to search the Indian sites and I have tried a lot of the other genealogy sites with no luck. -- John

A: One of the most important things necessary to researching Native American ancestry is to know the tribal affiliation. Since you already know that you are researching a Cherokee, half the battle has been fought and won. However, many people think that it will be extremely easy from that point on and as such can get frustrated quickly.

The first step, though, is like all others. Begin at the beginning. Start with what you know. In your case this may mean gathering information on your father, such as his birth certificate. Then move on to your grandmother's death certificate. When turning to the records unique to Native Americans, the ideal scenario would be if you were able to locate your grandmother in the 1900 census and it listed them, or at least your grandmother as Indian. Individuals listed in the 1900 census who were Indian actually had an additional page of information. The second page of the census, specifically for those Indians, labeled Special Inquiries Relating to Indians, asked questions including:

  • Other name (usually the native name of the Indian)
  • Tribe of this Indian
  • Tribe of the father of this Indian
  • Tribe of the mother of this Indian
  • Whether or not the Indian has any white blood
  • Whether or not the Indian is living in Polygamy
  • Citizenship questions
  • The type of dwelling the Indian is living in (fixed or movable)

Once you have determined that your ancestor is Indian, you will then want to begin to turn your attention to those records unique to Indians. One of those is the Dawes Rolls.

The Dawes Rolls, named after U.S. Senator Henry Dawes, from Massachusetts, who was appointed commissioner, were a census of those living in Indian Territory. To be enrolled, the individual had to complete an application. This application was evaluated to determine if they could be on the Roll. An individual could be enrolled under one of the following categories:

  • Citizens by Blood
  • Citizens by Marriage
  • New Born Citizens by Blood
  • Minor Citizens by Blood
  • Freedmen (former Indian black slaves)
  • New Born Freedmen
  • Minor Freedmen

The records that you will be researching though will not appear online, at least not for awhile. You will need to visit your local Family History Center. The Dawes Rolls are on microfilm, as is the 1900 census.

An excellent resource to aid you with your research is Myra Vanderpool Gormley's Cherokee Connections which is available through Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.

Working with Federal Land Records

Q: I have found a couple of ancestors on federal land records for certain counties in Arkansas. The info given is the acreage, township, etc. Why is this information useful? Is it an "oh, they lived here in this year because they bought land here" or is there other useful information that I can get from NARA about the land records? -- LuAnn

A: Land records offer genealogists a number of different possible clues to aid in the research. In some cases it will be simply a verification that the family did indeed live in a given area at a particular time. However, other times the land record will allude to the county or state of origin of the purchaser, or will offer insight into the county or state to which the owner of the land moved.

You mention specifically the federal land records, so I am assuming that you accessed this information from the Bureau of Land Management Web site. If so, then the most important field in the information revealed here is how the individual purchased the land. While a majority of these will show a cash sale, there will be a few that received the land through military bounty or homesteading. If the record shows anything other than cash sale, then it is a good idea to order a copy of the land case file. Military bounty and homestead files are likely to include copies of records showing relationships.

Frustrated with Kentucky Research

Q: What I know about my mother and her family is very limited. So I will give you all the information that I have. I would appreciate any answers or leads that you can give me. My mother was born: Billie Kirby Campbell on October 7, 1933 in Kentucky. She died July 7, 1998. Her father was William Leslie Campbell born November 3, 1903, died January 28, 1991 in the state of Kentucky. He married Patsy Kirby. -- Patricia

A: Your research appears to be centralized in Kentucky. If you haven't already done so, you may want to search the Kentucky Vital Records Index which includes an index to death records up to 1992, and should include death of William Leslie CAMPBELL. This would give you the necessary information to write and request a copy of his death record, which will hopefully include the names of his parents.

You will also want to search the Social Security Death Index looking for both your mother and her father. However it is important to not include too much information in the search. While you may know a lot, the Social Security Administration may not have known that much when entering the information into the Social Security Death Index. Start with the name and the birth year and then if the results are still too many you can further narrow down the results with additional information.

Once you have the Social Security number, you can then write away for the SS-5 form for your grandfather. This will include his full date and place of birth, the names of his parents offering you another clue to push back a little further. Once you have the names of William's parents, you can then turn to the census records.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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