My family has Cherokee ancestry by decent from Polly Ann Rogers, the daughter of Captain John “Hellfire” Rogers and Alsey Vann, the sister of the Great Cherokee Chief James Vann. We have gathered all of the genealogical evidence required for proof of direct Cherokee decent. My sister even bears resemblance to Polly Ann Rogers:
The locket that Polly Ann Rogers is wearing in the portrait was passed down through the generations, and my sister is the current heir. My family traveled to Georgia to visit the original homestead of Chief Vann, which still features a portrait of Polly Ann Rogers on display to this day.
The problem is, Polly Ann Rogers, nor all but one of her seven children, did not sign the U.S. government-commissioned Dawes Roll that closed in 1907. This is the genealogical document accepted by the Cherokee to determine tribal membership (I find it ironic that the same government who subjected the Cherokee to the Trail of Tears is also responsible for the document that determines Cherokee citizenship). Polly Ann’s fifth child, Robert Dawson, proved in 1883 that he was Cherokee to the Tehee Court by way of linage to Polly Ann Rogers (he later provided the same proof to the Department of Interior in 1902). Between 1883 and 1972, at least 190 subsequent citizenship applications of descendants of Robert Dawson were admitted on the strength of the this ancestral proof.
My lineage is through Edna Belle Dawson, Polly Ann’s second child. I believe if Robert Dawson’s ancestors can prove Cherokee lineage through Polly Ann, then Edna Belle’s ancestors should also be afforded the same rights. I have Cherokee descendancy proof for my family, evidenced by birth, death, marriage, and baptism certificates, supported by tombstones, newspaper citations, and other geneological records.
Polly Ann, and her husband Samuel Riley Dawson, traveled from Georgia to Texas, living in Tennessee and Arkansas along the way. Samuel Riley fought in the war of 1812. In 1824, Samuel obtained a land grant in Tennessee under a military warrant. He was in Berryville, Arkansas by 1840, and moved to Texas by 1850, where he settled on Bounty Land from the war with Mexico. He tried to obtain more nearby land, but it was still occupied by Mexico. By following Polly Ann’s path from Georgia to Texas, we have been able to collect the necessary geneological evidence required for ancestral proof.
My family is now considering a citizenship bid based on similar arguments and the precendent of how Robert Dawson did it. Because of the Cherokee’s matrilineal society, my sister’s legal knowledge, and her resemblance to Polly Ann Rogers, she is the natural choice to present our family’s history to the Cherokee.