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Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday's Photo: Native American - Fact or Fiction

Permelia Hairston Noah 1843-1938  
Family lore says that her mother was Cherokee.

Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote, "Most Southern families have their tales of Princess We-no-not-who. Typically, she was Cherokee. Sometimes Choctaw or Creek. Rarely Chickasaw or Seminole. Traditionally, the tale was a whispered one, something to regale the children but not for public knowledge—at least not until the 1970s when a shift in social ideals made minority ancestry both chic and profitable."

Yes, ours was a Cherokee, but not a princess.  According to my father, "one great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee." I was a young teen when Dad told this story and was not impressed.  He always had stories and I never knew what to believe.  I didn't know his family.  His parents died when he was very young and his only siblings lived in faraway Texas. 

When I began researching, all great-grandmothers were accounted for except one; the wife of John L. Hairston. Her name has been said to be Eliza, but even that is debatable. I found distant cousins; Noahs, Thompsons, Greshams, and Chisums.  All had heard family lore about Native American heritage. One Thompson cousin said that her father treated it as a family secret. In an old Bryan family letter, my grandmother was referred to as "an Indian woman named Hirston."

I am waiting for my DNA test from  I am hoping that gives a little more insight to my heritage. As for proving that I am a descendant of a Native American great-grandmother, I will have to find her first.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 7: Family Lore and Indian Princesses,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : [July 3, 2012]).

Permelia Hairston Noah - From Raymond Noah, August 2012 - Photocopy of original photograph. The location of the original photograph, taken before 1880, is currently unknown.


© 2012, copyright Diana Quinn

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