I thought I’d take a few minutes today to just chat with you folks about how things are going with the Native Heritage Project, the Native Names project and what the future holds. If you recall, the Native Names project is compiling a list of all Native people with any kind of European name that might be found or tracked by people looking back in time for their ancestors. That means of course, if you are Native and your name is Joe Smith, you’re on the list. If your name is Joe Sees Thunder, you’re on the list. If your name is Joe or Captain Joe, you’re on the list. If your name is Tah-lon-tee-skee, you’re not on the list, because no one will ever look for that name starting from the here and now.
This blog is the outcropping of that project. I’m sharing the journey and goodies found along the way. Sharing and preserving Native heritage. While the blog was new this year, this is year 6 in the Native Heritage project as a whole. So, how is it coming?
First, let’s look at some raw stats. The Names document itself is over 2400 pages. It is indexed by surname, and all of the records for that surname are found together. Actually, it’s divided into several documents by alphabet segment.
Secondly, I also keep a spreadsheet of just the surnames. On my spreadsheet is more than just the names, but in many cases, major sources. For example, Paul Heinegg’s work is on there with every name he has catalogued, both Native and African. Why, because those two groups are both counted as people of color, they often intermarried and it’s a wonderful resource. Heinegg’s names are often found in both categories. Another resource on my spreadsheet is the entire 1790 Free People of Color census for several states. I don’t add the surnames to the spreadsheet until I’m done transcribing from the original document, so the big documents I’m currently working on aren’t yet reflected in the total I’m about to give you. However, the total different surnames in the spreadsheet now stands at 5536 surnames.
I also keep a third separate Timeline document of historical events associated with the Native people, tribes and such. Lots of maps and links to maps, original sources, etc. This document is not focused on individuals specifically, but on tribal and migration history. This document is also broken into different pieces by time period and is over 2200 pages.
Ok, so what historical documents am I working on now?
I’m wading through several documents. I tend to work on more than one at a time because they get really old after awhile, and I need to be able to work on more than one to break the monotony.
For example, the Carlisle Indian School records – about 8000 of them. First, I extracted them from the National Archives website, tribe by tribe, by keyword. Then I typed all of them into a spreadsheet. Now I’m copying them into the Native Names document. In the mean time, I found a book about the Carlisle School when I visited the Native bookstore in Cherokee, NC last month. In that book is also a list of names garnered through lots of records from the school and other associated agencies. I bought the book to cross check against my list from the National Archives. I expected that there would perhaps be a few on both lists not on the other. Imagine my surprise when few records were found on both lists. I knew that there were supposed to be about 12,000 Native students in total, but judging from what I’m finding, I think the total may be more like 15,000 or even higher. There are many, many names on their list not at the National Archives and vice versa. So, of course, this means that I’ll need to do a second transcription of the new records, then add them to the Names document as well, etc. Needless to say, this takes weeks to complete, as I really do have a “day job.”
Another project I’m still working on is the transcription of the Revolutionary War service records, by state from the DAR records. I’m currently working on Pennsylvania. These records are difficult because the DAR did such a good job. Now isn’t that a great irony. Many of these Native people were referenced by many names that were similar, some as many as 10 or 12. How do I index those? How do I cross reference them? Just little issues that have to be dealt with for each individual set of records. Also, the type font is very small in the records I’m working from, and that means my eyes get tired quickly. After Pennsylvania, I have to do Delaware and then all of the Southern states. I’m looking forward to those records, so I don’t let myself peek ahead much.
I’m also working on the WWI service registrations. I have completed all of the states east of the Mississippi and several west. However, the big one is sitting here looking at me – and that one is Oklahoma. I will start it next and it holds a lot of really relevant records. Of course, most of the tribes that once lived east of the Mississippi eventually wound up in Oklahoma and nearby states. I have learned so much through this record set.
I am also transcribing the Native names from the book Shawnee Heritage I by Don Greene with Noel Schutz. I really debated about this one, as it is unsourced, and I know that at least one family (Sizemore) is incorrect. However, I’m not transcribing all of the family information, just enough such that someone with that surname will be led to that resource. And having read the book, I also know that even though there are errors, and he did not source his work, there is a lot of very valuable information here that will help people searching for their Native families. This book is also difficult to work with because it lacks a standard format and I have to pick around for what I need. I’m currently in the Ts and so there is light at the end of the tunnel.
You may have gathered that I write my blogs, for the most part, a few weeks ahead of time. I try to release one posting every day. I know that people really enjoy their Native “history fix” daily, and I’ve learned so much by writing these pieces. I want to thank everyone who sends tidbits my way. They are very valuable and I do use them. Please, keep them coming.
Lastly, and now for the good stuff….there is so much yet to come. In this past month or so, I’ve been “gifted” with three wonderful, and I do mean ecstatically wonderful, sources of information. Two of these are unpublished but professionally gathered. The good news is that they all hold very early records of the Native people. Many of these have never seen the light of day before, coming out of the NC and SC state archives. And there are hundreds and hundreds of pages of this information. I was dumbstruck when I realized the magnitude of what I have here. Now the bad news. I really can’t start distilling this until I get done with a couple of the projects I’m already in the middle of. I think it will take me at least a year to get through these records, if not more. However, as I find wonderful tidbits, and believe me, there are many, I will, like always, publish them on the blog. Anyone looking for mixed race people, records and families that are found in the VA, NC, SC migration corridor, you are in for a real treat. It’s going to be your lucky year.