I have seen this surname before. In my own family research, I found people in the census with this last name listed intermittently as mulatto. Mostly, I found two things interesting about that. First, that their race was intermittently listed as mulatto, like they were so close they flitted back and forth across that color line. Secondly, I found the name very interesting. Not only is it very unique, it’s just quite unusual. I wouldn’t say that it’s “European,” but it is an English word. But chocolate itself is not a plant indigenous to North America. The name falls in to that “isn’t that interesting” category that signals something else is up, but we don’t know what.
Fast forward in time now 15 years or so, give or take 5 or 10, and today, I found a Chocolate family in the 1869 Cherokee West Census. Just one. Nancy Chocolate was living in a household with 2 women and no children. Elderly perhaps. I wonder if that was 2 women in addition to Nancy, or two women total. Regardless, when I saw that entry, all of a sudden the Chocolate entry associated with my Virginia Moore family from so many years ago made more sense.
I found the answer though, a few pages further in the census where an Eli Chu-ca-late is listed with 1 female and also a William Chi-ca-late. Indeed, I think we’ve solved the chocolate mystery. A Native word that sounded like chocolate to the English ear.
In another few pages we find five Cherokee Chuculate families as well one “colored” family who qualified for citizenship as well, likely former slaves who belonged to the Chuculate family.