U.S. Cherokee

Z and Matt

The Cherokee are the largest and best-known American Indian group in the United States.

There are three federally recognized tribes, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB), in addition to numerous state tribes and local communities. Organized Cherokee tribes exist today even in Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Millions of Americans have some degree of Cherokee admixture, even if they do not know its precise sources in their genealogies. Officially enrolled Cherokee may have a small “blood quantum,” not speak the Cherokee language, not live in a Cherokee district and not know much about Cherokee culture or history. The current chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (2018) is only 1/32 Cherokee by blood.

Photo: Zachary R. LaRocca-Stravalle has Cherokee blood on both his mother’s and father’s side. He lives in New Mexico.

If You Have a Match You Probably Also Have:

Other Native American matches as well, especially Native American Michigan, Native American North Carolina and Native American Florida. You may also have Jewish and other Old World ancestry, whether through recent European admixture or early origins of the tribe.

The admixed Cherokee population data represent DNA samples from 154 randomly chosen individuals across the country, most with reported roots in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Samples were provided by participants in DNA Consultants’ Cherokee DNA Project from 2008 to 2017. Usually the participant has proved their Cherokee descent with mitochondrial DNA through the mother and other DNA tests as well as genealogical documents.

The U.S. Cherokee Enrolled (n=33) data are part of 29 tribes published in a major study, S. Kanthaswamy et al, “Native American Population Data Based on the Globalfiler Autosomal STR loci,” Forensic Science International: Genetics 24:e12-e13.

Total Population (Federally Enrolled Only)
316,049+ (Eastern Band: 13,000+,Cherokee Nation: 288,749, United Keetoowah Band: 14,300)

Regions with Significant Populations
Originally in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, parts of Virginia and Kentucky and north Georgia and Alabama, now scattered throughout the United States with concentrations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and western North Carolina. The largest urban population lives in Los Angeles. Cherokees settled also in Mexico, Nova Scotia, Scotland and Michigan.

Language: English, Cherokee

Various Protestant denominations, especially Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal, also Mormon, Catholic and Jewish, often offbeat sects like faith healers, but believed to have once included secret Jews and Muslims, Moors, Armenians and Turks. The ancient Cherokee religion experienced a revival in the Ghost Dance Movement of the early nineteenth-century and Nighthawk Society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth.

Related Ethnic Groups
Catawba Indians, Cheraw Indians, Tuscarora Indians, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Ottoman Turks, Greeks, Egyptians, Croatians, Black Dutch, Melungeons, Lenape Indians, Mohawk, Algonquian Indians, Shawnee, Maya, Creek Indians, Yuchi Indians, Saponi Indians, Eastern Blackfoot, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Hopi

Known For:

Having seven clans, Wolf, Paint, Deer, Bird, Twister, Wild Potato and Panther
Trail of Tears
Medium dark or olive skin, dark hair, but sometimes blond hair and blue eyes
Town of Cherokee, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains, a top summer tourist destination

Some surnames:

Adair, Beamer, Bell, Blair, Bolling, Boudinot, Bowles, Brown, Bird, Benge, Chisholm, Cooper, Cox, Crittenden, Downing, Duncan, Elliott, Fields, Foreman, Gist, Glass, Grant, Gritts, Guess, Hendricks, Jones, Keys, Lowry, Mayes, McCorkle, Milam, Miller, Moore, Muskrat, Phillips, Procter, Raper, Ridge, Riley, Rogers, Ross, Sanders, Schrimsher, Smith, Starr, Taylor, Thomas, Thompson, Trout, Vann, Ward, Watie, Wilkerson.

Sample Cherokee DNA Test Sample DNA Test (638 KB)

Cherokee DNA Population Match Available (News Archives)

Cherokee DNA Studies:  Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong (Bookstore)

Cherokee DNA Studies II: More Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong (Bookstore)

Enrolled Cherokee Genetics (blog post, July 24, 2018)

[Populations 422, 465, 469]