Researching your family history can be a long and daunting task. The process takes hours of research, unlimited patience, and an unwavering attention to detail. Having said that, it is usually best to start by interviewing other family members to see if someone else in your family has already started the effort.
Time is of the essence. Interview all of your elderly family members first and record their life stories with a video camera. This keeps you from having to take detailed notes of the conversation and these simple videos will become precious family treasures once these relatives pass away.
When you visit a cemetery to gather information, take photographs of the grave locations and tombstones. If the tombstone information wears away or is ever damaged, these photos will become invaluable. Hard to read tombstones can be modified in a photo editor to recover the original writing. Experiment by making a negative or adjusting filters until the text is easy to read.
To join the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, your ancestor must be listed on the 1906 Dawes roll. To join the Eastern Band of Cherokees, your ancestor must be listed on the 1924 Baker Roll. If the primary goal of your genealogy research is to join a tribe, please read our page on the citizenship debate. Failing to meet the criteria means you aren't a Cherokee citizen, but it does not necessarily mean you don't have a Cherokee heritage.
If you get stuck and need professional guidance, the Cherokee Heritage Center has a genealogist available for a fee.
These web sites are also helpful:
Dawes / Freedman Roll Search at NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL)
Search Dawes Roll