Thursday, October 17, 2013

Legends, Traditions and Stories

Grandma said Grandpa was part Indian. He must have been, she said, as he looked like an Indian. Auntie said Grandpa's ancestor was Cherokee, after all Grandma said he was Indian and the Cherokees came through this area of Kentucky on the Trail of Tears. Uncle said Grandpa "fell away" from the Trail of Tears and stayed in Kentucky. Otherwise he would have gone on with the rest of the Cherokees. Dad said he didn't care if Grandpa was Indian or not. He was tired of hearing about it and changed the subject.

So, was Grandpa of Native American descent or not? How much faith do you put in family stories? What do you believe and what do you discard? And finally, where do you look for Indian records in Kentucky? 

Family legends, traditions and stories are fun, but they don't have to be true to be fun. Sometimes they are so preposterous that we are sure they are not true. But what about the stories that could be true.

The only way to find out if those stories are true is to follow that old path from the known to the unknown. Start with what you know and work backwards using vital records, census, and every other record available in the courthouse.

I've been researching Kentucky records for a long time and have never seen a box of documents (or even a single document) or a big book marked "Indian Records" in the courthouse. Except for separate books for African American marriages, all other records are found together with no label of color or ethnicity.

So, record those legends, traditions and family stories and be sure to write down the date you heard them and the name of the storyteller. Then get busy researching to determine if they are true or not.

Published 17 October 2013, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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