Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cherokee Quest

To me a Quest is something you work really hard on, putting all your time and thought into it until you've achieved and finished it to the end. So in some ways it wasn't the best word to use as I haven't been able to put all my time and energy into it but the word Quest also brings up images of adventure and excitement, exploring into the unknown, something noble, something great!  One of my Quests deals with family history.  It's intriguing to hear stories and learn about your ancestors and it can really help you to feel like you know who you are and have a sense of who you came from.  It can be really great to learn about the cultures of your ancestors. I knew from when I was really little that my great-grandpa had come to the U.S. from Germany so I always loved to learn about German culture and customs.  I know a lot about my Dad's side of the family, at least more than my Mom's.

It was probably about 10 years ago that I started getting more involved with figuring out my Mom's family history. My Mom's Dad, Lendon Hicks, passed away in 1999. I didn't know him terribly well, we had spent time with him but we had always lived very far away from each other. I had this desire to learn more about him and his family. Little did I know what I was getting myself into - a fun and exciting but also very time consuming and often frustrating um, well - Quest.
My grandpa Len holding me as a wee little baby
 I was in college and took some classes about doing Genealogy and the school had these great resources including, at the time, free access to files. I dived in and often would find out after hours of putting in data that there was a quicker and easier way to do it, hence some of the frustration. Family History is one of those things that can really suck you in, it's a time warp where you can go four hours and you suddenly pull out of it and go, "hey, maybe I should get some food before the day is over." One of the problems with Family History is there isn't a definitive end to it. True you can get to a point going up the family tree where you can't get more information. A friend of mine was doing her family and got to Elly the barmaid, daughter of Elly the barmaid - yep not going to really be able to go past that (although I do believe that was getting back into like the 1600s). But for me I wanted to figure out about siblings and such, not just the one straight line back.  Feeling that way however can make it so Family History becomes this crazy labyrinth and you find yourself going off on this tangent path and winding and twisting all up when you realize you probably have gone a bit far off from your original path so you go back and try to flesh that path out more.

For most people when you're starting off Family History you talk to - well - family. My Mom's family has never been that close though, living far apart and living their own lives. We didn't get together for holidays or have reunions. Right after I got married in 2004, I went with my Mom and sister to Kentucky and it was like this little mini reunion as we visited with her sister and brother who hadn't been all together like that for probably 10 years. (Now mind you, there's 11 or so kids in the family but most of them are half siblings and step siblings to my mom, she has just the two, I guess you'd call them full blooded siblings, but she had a bit of a relationship with some of the other siblings also. I didn't really know there were so many siblings until just recently actually) But I just wasn't all that close to my Mom's relatives so I didn't feel like I could call them up and ask about the family. Plus after Mom's accident I couldn't really go to her for information.

I took what info I did have and just went for the Censuses and government records.  I was really getting the hang of things, how to look stuff up online and gathering all sorts of census stuff - but then I had my daughter and it's not very easy to go to a Genealogy library with a baby.  I realized being a mom of young kids I needed to set aside Family History for another time when I could do it more. This wasn't easy as there was a draw to keep finding more but I had to keep saying to myself that whole idea of there being a time and season to everything.  Yet every now and then something calls be back to it and I'll once again get sucked into it for a time before I set it aside - the Quest calls to me.

Wow, long post and I haven't even once mentioned the whole Cherokee thing. I'm sure someone's going to read a bit into it and wonder why the title is Cherokee Quest.  Well let me get to that right now.  In looking up family stuff on my Mom's side, I had heard that some of the ancestors might be Native American. I thought this was really cool since I've always liked the culture of the Native Americans - I've been drawn to the art, music, etc. and on my bedroom wall is a collection of dreamcatchers, medicine pouches and other such Native American iconographic objects that both my husband and I have collected/made over the years. (My husband doesn't have any Native American ancestors but he got attracted to the Native American culture through Order of the Arrow Boy Scout program) It seemed rational enough for my ancestors to be Native, at least in my eyes my great-grandparents had Native features, but I only had 2 pictures and a newspaper clipping to go off of and I only remember meeting them in person once.
Carlo and Edna Hicks1990
I had heard that my great-grandpa Carlo's mother was Native American but when I found her in the census she was put down as White so I didn't think much more of it. I did keep searching for more history and at one point decided to share all the census and marriage licenses and such on facebook for anyone interested.  I suddenly got friend request from relatives I didn't know and went to look something up online and found this great site that had a lot more information and even some pictures of some of my ancestors! Carlos mother, Minnie Hicks, was in that group with a few pictures and in looking up a little more online I found more pictures of her - once again to me it looked like Native American features.
Minnie Lovins Hicks picture found at

Minnie Hicks picture found at

I added that into my information and posted more on facebook and one of my mothers cousins told me that it's specifially the Cherokee tribe that Minnie is said to belong to as well as some of Edna's ancestors and there's a good chance we are related to the current Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, but the only connection is the last name Hicks.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
In looking up on my great-grandmother Edna's line, her grandmother Elizabeth Carmack was also said to be Cherokee. One of Edna's nephews put that idea out on a forum and recently I found her father Rev. Jacob Carmack's gravestone was put up and the idea of him being Cherokee was put on a forum also. What I find interesting is the information about Jacob didn't have his daughter Elizabeth so it's more than one source.  Plus, as I've searched for more information about Minnie, I've discovered that "Minnie" is a common Cherokee name (or at least I found a variety of other Minnie's that are proven Cherokee).

In case I've lost you and this is all confusing here's a pedigree outline:
Overview - Lendon is my mom's dad. The surname Hicks, is a Cherokee name, there's a fair amount of Hicks in this list of Cherokees. (There's even more Fields in that list, which may be related to Edna, some of the names in that list match the Fields names I found here but sadly the years don't match.)  The circled people, Minnie, Elizabeth and Jacob, are said to be Cherokee.

So this is my Quest - to discover if there's any possible way to prove that there is Cherokee connections.  This is a LOT easier said than done and for many reasons. One reason is some people hid that they were Native American, as told in this story about a different Minnie (I was really hoping it was the same Minnie as mine but no such luck) that story did have the idea of the people that had Native blood being able to pass themselves off as Black but showing more of their Native look when they were older which I think shows with my Minnie.  There are some books and resources out there - but from the little I've started to look into it's not easy at all. I also had very little knowledge about the Cherokee in general.  So a few days ago when I took my kids to the library I checked out a few books! I found out the Cherokee didn't have a written language until the 1820's! I've also done just a bit more research online and while there are some that feel that even 1 drop of Cherokee blood makes you Cherokee - there are others that don't feel the same way.   (And while it may seem cliché, I've had this song stuck in my head for days!)

Sigh. There are some great websites but to view the information you almost always have to pay a lot of money. And once again there's the whole issue of time, a lot of this takes tons of time which as I said before is not something I have a lot of right now. So I'm not sure how to go about things and if I'll ever be able to fulfill my Quest.  But perhaps posting all this here will help. If you're reading this and want to see more information - the Census and other records, you can check out my facebook album.

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