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Spring 2002
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 2   No. 2


Help!! provides an opportunity for readers to ask for assistance with genealogical queries. We invite our readers to contribute solutions to questions featured in this section. See the Contact section for e-mail and postal addresses. Put GFH-HELP!! in the subject line.


Question: My dad served in WWII, but he would never talk about it. Now that he’s dead, I wanted to get his service record for my genealogy. When I contacted the National Personnel Records Center, they said that his records had been lost in a fire. Is that true?

Answer: Yes, it is true. The July 1973 fire destroyed the records of approximately 22 million veterans who were discharged between 1912 and 1960. In many cases, some reconstruction of the data is possible. The NPRC will provide as much as they can, but the materials in the complete service record can never be replaced.

Question: I am sure my great-grandparents were Cherokees from Oklahoma, and I would like to join the Cherokee tribe to receive government benefits for my children’s education. How do I do this?

Answer: First, give yourself lots of time. Don’t wait until your child is filling out his college applications, because, like any genealogical search, proving Native American ancestry cannot be done overnight. The first step will be to do a thorough search of standard genealogical sources, including available birth and death records as well as all available censuses. This will help identify which people in your family tree could be part of the Cherokee tribe. You need to know exactly who you are looking for before you can find them in Native American records. In addition, you will need to prove your descent from your Native American ancestor to qualify for tribal membership. Once you know exactly who might have been part of the Oklahoma Cherokees, you will need to find them in the Dawes Rolls.

These are the records of the Dawes Commission, which was created in 1893. The Dawes Commission reviewed applications for tribal membership and land allotment. Enrollments ended in 1907 and a final list of tribal members was created. In order to join the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, you must find your direct ancestor on the Dawes Rolls and prove your relationship to him/her. If you cannot find a direct ancestor, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have Native American ancestors; they may have been part of some other tribe, or they may have chosen not to maintain tribal membership or ties to the Indian nations. All it means is that you cannot prove your ancestry, and therefore will not be eligible for benefits or membership in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Question: I happened to find an index of court records for a county in Michigan where my family settled and there was an entry for my great-grandmother. I contacted the county and requested a copy of the document. The document they sent was a naturalization record! I don’t understand because my great-grandmother was born in the United States. I even have a birth certificate to prove it.

Answer: An Act of Congress passed in 1907 included the language "that any American woman who married a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband." The act was repealed in 1922, but any woman who married a non-US citizen during those years had to apply for citizenship after the law was repealed.

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