52 Documents in 52 Weeks #9: John Riddle Cherokee Enrollment Application

I have heard many people say that they have Cherokee blood, but very few are able to back up that statement with any proof. A while ago, I blogged about my husband’s Riddle family and I heard from a reader who was trying to find their own Riddle connection to the Cherokee Nation.

There are some resources available for searching applicants for membership in the late 1800s – mainly the Dawes Rolls – but there is a second, less well known database, the Guion Miller Rolls of 1908.

My reader had been trying to prove her Cherokee roots for 30 years, but the answer was in the Guion Miller Rolls.

Statement of John Riddle, 1908

No. 19252 John Riddle being first duly sworn deposes and says:

I am 45 years of age, and live in Ashe County, N.C.
I claim Cherokee blood. All my people and other old people say it is Cherokee Indian blood. I claim through my father.
My mother had no Indian blood. I do not know when my father
died. My father left my mother before I was grown, and they
heard he was dead. My mother was a White woman. My
father, William Riddle, was born in Ashe County, and lived
here a large part of his wife (sic). I never heard of his receiving
any money from the Government on account of his Indian blood.
I think my Indian blood came through my father’s mother. I
disremember now, what her name was. She has been dead a long time.
I have seen her while she was living in Ashe County. In my
application, I said that her name was Sarah Riddle, and that must
be right. My grandparents claimed to be Cherokee Indians.
I am related to the Sizemores, but I cannot say what Sizemore.
I do not know who Em Sizemore is. My grandfather Sawyers on
my mother’s side wrote my family history down for me, and
Mr. Grayball filled out my application from that. My father died
in Kentucky I was told.

John (hisXmark) Riddle

Subscribed and sworn to before me at Jefferson, N.C., this
2d day of April, 1908

J. Edward Tylor
Assistant to Special Commissioner
Court of Claims

First, this John Riddle was born c1863 and lived in Ashe County, North Carolina and later in Johnson County, Tennessee, where he died on 13 January 1944.

My reader was able to connect their grandparent to this John Riddle through family and census records, but was unable to move back before John.

Here is a young John living with the Grayball family in 1870. Note that he is enumerated as black:


John Riddle, 1870

John’s father, William Riddle was located in the 1850 census of Ashe County, North Carolina living with his apparent mother and siblings. The Riddles were all enumerated as mulatto.

This Riddle family had been residents of Ashe County for some time, as seen by the census records. It probably isn’t possible to move further back in time because there are no Riddles in Ashe County in 1840 and the surname is very, very common in that area of North Carolina and Virginia.

John Riddle did state that he was related to the Sizemore family, but didn’t know how. There are two Sizemore families in Ashe County in 1840 and one in Johnson County, Tennessee, next door and just over the state line. Perhaps Sarah was a Sizemore?

My reader still has venues to research, using the FAN club.

If you believe you have a Cherokee ancestor, as always, begin with what you know and work backwards. If you hit a brick wall at the turn of the 20th century, be sure to search both the Dawes Roll and the Guion Miller Roll. You might find your proof!

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