Virginia Cherokees

Recently, I ordered a book from, Horace R. Rice, The Buffalo Ridge Cherokees: A Remnant of a Great Nation Divided. Heritage Books, 1995. This is actually a revision of an earlier book written in 1985, because Rice determined that there were still many older persons who still had much to tell about the secrets of their ancestry. There are photos, bibliography, inter-lined sources, and descent pedigrees galore in reduced type.

Buffalo Ridge is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains which run from central Virginia through Northern South Carolina. The study concentrates on Amherst County, Appomattox County, and Lynchburg City, Virginia. Right where my research on Betsy Penn, born before the American Revolution, has bogged down. Every Penn family has been examined–by many researchers and family members before me. And in over 500 documented and recorded searches by me. Whew, where did she come from?

There is a “mulatto,” Rawleigh Pinn and his family who are resident in Amherst County at that time. He seems to come from Lancaster County and is tied into the mixed-race family of Pinn living there. This is a common designation for Native Americans, especially in the U.S. Census records, although Betsy, who lived until after the 1850 census was taken, was not identified as such.

This book has Rawleigh Pinn and his family on several pages and included in several of the descent pedigrees. Rawleigh appears to be the same generation as Betsy and his list of children does not include a Betsy (nor any variation of Elizabeth). There is a Betsy of the right generation and I am off and running to seek the proof!

Naming patterns are a significant kind of evidence for building an accurate lineage.  Names cannot stand alone. Names do act as the gateway to proving other evidence found in basic sources. Since much of the information in this study comes from living people whose memories are filled with genealogy secrets, I believe the information that Horace Rice gathered and has so painstakingly compiled, the Buffalo Ridge Cherokees will be the gateway to Betsy Penn and her family!

Record loss at the government level in Virginia is extensive. At the personal and local level, there is evidence galore against which traditions and family lore can be compared and measured. The work of local genealogists cannot be under-estimated. You are dependent upon what has survived for proving your ancestry. Rice has carefully sourced his work.

If you are looking for an ancestor in central Virginia, have you considered Native American origins for your family? You won’t know until you look! Add this book and others like it to your study bibliography. Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Hang tight–my summer trip to Virginia archives and libraries brought me head-on into sources that by-pass the burned records of Virginia’s counties! Stay tuned.

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