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African-Native American Research Forum Archive

Cherokee Indians - their surnames

I have a question concerning surnames among Indians. Did Indians, particularly Cherokee Indians who may have been enslaved by white slave-owners, have their own surnames? Has anyone found a particular Indian (full-blooded Indian) ancestor who took the surname of the man who may have enslaved him? It is my understanding that Indians were also slaves.

According to oral history, my great-grandmother, Sarah Partee Reed, was half Cherokee. She and her mom, Polly Partee, and brothers had been enslaved by Squire Boone Partee of Panola County, MS. It is believed that Sarah's father was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, but I haven't found any type of documents showing the name of her father. (A search for Sarah's and her brothers' death certificates were unsuccessful).

Well, low and behold, in the 1880 census I found a man named James Partee also in Panola County whose race/color was reported as Indian. He had a wife (not Polly) and other children whose race was given as Black. I don't know for sure if James Partee is really my great-grandmother's father, although Grandma Sarah named her first-born son James, and in the 1870 Census, Polly's youngest son was erroneously recorded as James Partee, but his name was Uncle Johnnie Partee. James Partee remains the strongest and only candidate as being Sarah's father.

It is evident that James Partee came off Squire Partee's farm because he took that surname. But, I had been assuming that Native Americans probably had their own surnames. Did they? Did some take the enslaver's surname as well? Or could it be that James Partee was really half-Black/half-Indian? (maybe a son of a black Partee slave and a pure Indian mother). Forgive me if these sound like stupid questions, but I don't know much about Indian heritage and history.

Also, James Partee's birth was reported as Virginia in/around 1825. Assuming that James Partee was probably of Cherokee Indian ancestry, were there Cherokee Indian tribes in Virginia? I always thought that most Cherokees originally came out of the Carolinas and Georgia.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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