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Tracing back to Sequoyah

The Lineage of a Cherokee Family

Part One

Sequoyah Guess was about 10 years old when his father died in 1900. His father's death left him an orphan because his mother died the previous year. He was too young to enroll himself on Dawes, but that didn't mean he wasn't enrolled. As was common for those who couldn't or wouldn't enroll themselves, an informant who knew the family gave their information. 

Per the testimony of Tom Smith in Dawes Packet 8338, Sequoyah was the son of Dave and Nancy (Ooskoony Young Pig) Guess.



The accuracy of that testimony was validated by information found on the rolls taken in the Cherokee Nation during the years 1890, 1893, and 1896, where Sequoyah is listed with David/Dave and Nancy Guess. ( and Indian Territory, Indian Census Rolls, 1851-1959)


  • Sequoyah in 1890, 3 months old.

  • Sequoyah in 1893, 3 years old.

  • Sequoyah in 1896, 6 years old.


After a reasonably exhaustive search, it was not difficult to conclude that David and Nancy Guess were the parents of Sequoyah. All the documentation found supported that determination, including the Eastern Cherokee Application filed for Sequoyah (17322) by his aunt, Alice Beamer. Though the application listed his English name as Tom Guess, his Indian name was listed as Sequoyah. His parents were listed as Dave Guess and Oo sgoo ne, which matched the names given for his parents in his Dawes application.

The second page of Sequoyah's Eastern Cherokee application listed the names of his grandparents. While written in the opposite sections, his grandfathers were listed as Will Bigmoney aka Guess and Runabout Youngpig.

Sequoyah's aunt, Alice, likely spoke little to no English because she gave additional testimony through an interpreter. Maybe Alice had the names put in the wrong columns or there was a clerical error, but later, in her testimony, she made it clear that Will Big Money was the paternal grandfather of Sequoyah. She also said Ah-del-a-guah was Will Big Money's father. (Note, she listed the name Dah-ya-nih listed as her father's "mother mother". That is likely a typo and should probably be "mother" meaning Will Big Money's mother was Dah-ya-nih.)

Because Alice Beamer was Sequoyah's paternal aunt, her paternal grandparents were Sequoyah's paternal great-grandparents. On the first page of her Eastern Cherokee application (8045), Alice reported that her father was Bill Big Money and that his father (described as her father's father) was Big Money Guess. ( Cherokee applications)

The second page of Alice's Eastern Cherokee application included the names of her paternal grandparents (and Sequoyah's paternal great-grandparents) as Big Money Guess or Ah-de-le-gua and Da-ye-ni. (Similar to Dah-ya-nih from above, isn't it? Remember that name. It's important.)

At this point in this research, the names of Sequoyah's parents, paternal grandparents and paternal great-grandparents have been discovered. The lineage is:


  • Child - Sequoyah Guess

  • Father - David/Dave Guess

  • Paternal Grandfather - Will/Bill Big Money aka Guess

  • Paternal Great-Grandfather - Big Money Guess or  Ah-de-le-gua/Ah-del-a-guah

  • Paternal Great-Grandmother -  Da-ye-ni/Dah-ya-nih

All those names are important in the next installment of this series where we will explore the older Cherokee records, including some from the pre-removal era. This will be a great opportunity to learn about the variety of records available on Cherokees during that time period.


Part Two

n Part 1 of From Sequoyah to Sequoyah: The Lineage of a Cherokee Family, the ancestry of Sequoyah Guess, born c. 1890, was traced back through his father, David Guess; to his grandfather, William Big Money Guess; and to his great grandfather, Big Money Guess. In part 2, the ancestry from William back to his grandfather will be traced.

William Big Money Guess had two children living at the time of the Eastern Cherokee applications as well as several grandchildren. He also had numerous living nieces and nephews who were children of his three siblings; Robert, Moses and Nancy. A review of their applications offered additional information on Big Money Guess, the father of William and his siblings.

In English, the name given for the father of William (and his siblings) varied greatly. At least one person in each family group reported the name Guess as an English name used by their grandfather. Three of the four family groups also reported the name Sequoyah as an English name used by their grandfather. Furthermore, two of the four family groups reported the name Big Money as an English name used by their grandfather which means that name was not exclusive to Alice Beamer's knowledge.


Though there were many similar answers given in the reporting of the English name used by William's father, the results of the research were too inconsistent to make a sound conclusion. Fortunately, many of the descendants included the Cherokee name used by William's father - Ah de le quah. Though the spelling varied from application to application, it's the same name. Because most of the descendants did not read or write in English, someone else filled out the applications from the verbal answers given to the questions. Those people wrote what they heard, therefore, while the English spelling of the name varied slightly from application to application, phonetically, when pronounced, the Cherokee names reported were nearly identical. 


In their own language, encompassing the entire family, the name reported for William's father was remarkably consistent. It was only when the descendants were asked to report the name used in English, a language some didn't speak, that the inconsistency occurred. Evaluations of both the English and Cherokee names were required to conclusively determine all the descendants were connected through their grandfather and that the grandfather, Ah de le quah, was also known by a variety of names in English, including George Guess, Sequoyah Guess, and Big Money.


The names George Guess and Sequoyah are the same names used by the Cherokee who invented the syllabary, a way of writing the Cherokee language. The father of William Big Money Guess cannot be that George Guess or Sequoyah. William's father was considered an Emigrant Cherokee while the famous George Guess or Sequoyah, inventor of the syllabary, was an Old Settler Cherokee. 


However, the famous Sequoyah or George Guess did have a son with the name George who was documented by Emmet Starr as George Guess. Though Starr stated the son, George (Jr), had no descendants, that belief appears to have been flawed. 


Nancy Nolen, niece of William Big Money Guess, said her grandfather's name in English was George Guess. Nancy's sister, Betsy Ketcher, said the same grandfather's name was Big Money in English. That information connected the two names George Guess and Big Money, conclusively, to the same man. In addition to Nancy's report of her grandfather's name, she offered another piece of vital information in her Eastern Cherokee application. On line 21, where applicants were asked to name their ancestors back to 1835, Nancy said,"George Guess or Sequoyah  Old Settler."


There was only one George Guess or Sequoyah who was an Old Settler. That was the famous Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Documentation indicates he was Nancy Nolen's great grandfather, therefore, her Uncle William's grandfather.


Sometimes, to go forward, you have to go backward. This was the case in the research of this family. Though we had the names of all but the final generation, it would have been impossible to have conclusively connected this family to the famous Sequoyah without going back to the Eastern Cherokee applications and looking for additional information provided by other members of the family. By doing an exhaustive search, we were able to learn that William's father, George Big Money Guess, was the same man recorded by Starr as George Guess (Jr.), and therefore, that William's grandfather was the famous Cherokee known as Sequoyah.


The line from the young Sequoyah on Dawes to his famous ancestor, Sequoyah, inventor of the syllabary is:


  • Child - Sequoyah Guess (born c. 1890)

  • Father - David Guess

  • Grandfather - William "Big Money" Guess

  • Great-Grandfather - George "Big Money" Guess Jr.

  • Great-Great-Grandfather - George Guess or Sequoyah


This is a highly condensed version of the research that went into this family. There are numerous documents available on the descendants of George "Big Money" Guess Jr. Like many other Cherokee families, this one had both triumphs and tragedies. Though descended from a famous ancestor, the stories of this family are similar to the stories of many other Cherokee families. 



Stay tuned for a glimpse into the lives of George "Big Money" Guess Jr. and some of his descendants. Their stories are our stories and those stories need to be told.


Part Three

George Big Money Guess Jr., son of Sequoyah, was known by a variety of English names. According to the Eastern Cherokee applications of his grandchildren, he was called George Guess, Sequoyah Guess, and Big Money. Additional research provided yet another name for him - Big Dollar. That same research also provided the name of his wife - Tianna. While the spelling varied from document to document, like Big Dollar's Cherokee name, Tianna's name, too, was almost always phonetically the same, despite the spelling variances.

Not much is known about Tianna's ancestry, but according to one document, a claim filed about the time of the Trail of Tears, she was the step daughter of Knight Killer. Nellie, her mother (and wife of Knight Killer), was a sister to Nancy, the wife of Rev. John Spirit Huss (his second wife with the name Nancy.) Records indicated that Tianna always lived in close proximity to her mother and extended family.

Big Dollar and Tianna lived in Wills Valley in what is now the state of Alabama. While not found on the 1835 census of the Cherokee Nation, Big Dollar's name was listed on the resolution of the National Council that was held at Red Clay on October 24, 1835. That same year, he and Tianna had household goods and farm tools stolen by a U.S. citizen. Tianna filed a claim for their lost property and Knight Killer was the witness for that claim.

Sometime between October and November 1836, Big Dollar's improvements were valuated by Rice and McCoy. He was described as an Indian with a family of eight that would remove in the fall. His family was listed immediately after Tesee Guess, his brother, who was also notated as planning to remove in the fall.

Sometime during the year that followed the valuation, Big Dollar died.

In 1837 and 1839, Tianna received two payments, one for the spoliation claim on household goods and the other for her late husband's improvements. Her name was recorded respectively as Tianna Big Dollar and Tianah (Wife of Big Dollar Gass).

November 11, 1837, Tianna voluntarily removed to the west with several of her extended family members. Rev. John Spirit Huss led the detachment which included Tesee Guess and Knight Killer (nine in family).

Tianna was listed on the detachment muster roll as Widow Big Dollar; family of 6; with 2 males 10 and under; 2 females 10 and under; one male 11-25; and one female 26-50. It's probable that the family group listed for Tianna included her four known children, Robert, William, Moses and Nancy. In 1907, Peter Woodall testified that Robert "Bob" Big Dollar Guess was 25 in 1851. That would put Robert's birth year about 1826. If correct, that would have made him 11 years old in 1837. That would indicate the other three children, plus an unidentified female, would have all been ten years old or younger.

In the first quarter of 1838, Tianna, received a transportation and subsistence payment under the name of "Widow - Big Dollars." She received another in the first quarter of 1839 under the name "Widow Big Dollar."

Tianna was not found on any ration lists in the west from 1838-1840. Knight Killer, her step father, was found on one list from Beattie's Depot, the area where the family settled, in 1840. He collected rations for 15. When Knight Killer removed from the old nation, his family only included nine people. Tianna's family included six. Combined households would have totaled fifteen, so while it is possible that Tianna and her children were living in Knight Killer's household, there is not enough information available to conclusively determine that.

In 1842, Tianna filed another claim for lost property in the east. Knight Killer was again the witness for her claim.

Sometime between her filing the claim in 1842 and the enumeration for the Drennen Roll in 1851, Tianna died. Each of her four known children were listed individually on the Drennen Roll. Nancy was listed as an orphan and directly under the listing for the family of Rev. John Huss. Huss was the signatory for Nancy, so she may have been living in his household.

Additionally, there was another girl, Ellen Guess, listed on the Drennen Roll as an orphan. She was listed immediately after Knight Killer's household and Caty Knight Killer was the signatory. It's possible Ellen was the daughter of Big Dollar and Tianna, but without more information, it is impossible to determine it with any degree of certainty.

What we do know is that Big Dollar (aka George Guess Jr.) had a wife named Tianna and together, they were the parents of at least four children who reached the age of maturity and went on to have families of their own. Despite Starr's genealogies and despite what some other "researchers" have said, George Guess Jr., the son of Sequoyah, had children and he has living descendants today. Hopefully, they will never be "forgotten" again.


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