I do not yet have proof, but based on my research I think the answer is yes, there is at least one Cherokee Indian on the Bare side of my family tree. I believe that most likely that full-blooded Cherokee Indian is Mary Molly Shearer (Sheets), mother of Catherine Ann “Katy” Sheets.
Many of us in the Bare family grew up being told that our parents had a great great grandmother or a 3 times great grandmother who was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. But, as far as I know, these stories never mentioned Katy Sheets or anyone else by name; they just mentioned a great great or 3 times great grandmother. In fact, when I told my parents about the Katy and the Cave story I found, my Dad said he had never heard of that story, Catherine Ann Sheets, or Mary Molly Shearer. But then again, my Dad didn’t even know the actual name of the woman in the stories of our Cherokee ancestor nor exactly how far back she was in our lineage.
I am as certain that I can be that the Bare side of my family are descendants of Catherine Ann “Katy” Sheets and Absalom Bower. This means we are also descendants of Mary Molly Shearer Sheets. We are connected to Katy Sheets through 2 of her children and grandchildren: (1) Jacob Sheets and his daughter Mazie Sheets (Bare), and (2) Nancy Sheets (Bare) and her son Jasper Bare.
Katy was enough of a local celebrity “bad girl” back in her day that much has been written and documented about her, her children, and her parents. And, by the time Katy’s children were born more records were kept that connect Katie and her children to my family line. Even though official records in those days were still not always complete or 100% accurate, they were getting better than in earlier years. I have also discovered many distant relatives through various ancestor sites who also grew up being told they had a Cherokee ancestor. In some cases the stories were specific about that ancestor being Catherine Ann “Katy” or “Catie” Sheets. This combined with what I found through research leads me to believe there is a very high probability that all those stories we heard growing up are indeed true.
I assumed, as did many other family members, that the Cherokee blood probably came from the Craven side of the family due the fact my grandmother Bessie Craven Bare looks very Native American in the photos we have seen of her. Also, many of the Craven family members look very much like they have Cherokee or some other Native American blood in them, as does my middle brother. So, I was greatly surprised to find out the possible Cherokee ancestor is through ancestors of my grandfather Curbe Bare.
Even though my Dad had never heard of Katy Sheets or Mary Molly Shearer, based on my research I’m 99% one of these women is the full-blooded Cherokee Indian that is the subject of the stories we were all told growing up. And because Katy Sheets could only be ½ Cherokee Indian at best even though by all reports people thought she was full-blooded Cherokee Indian (her father is not Native American), I am sure that Mary Molly Shearer is our ancestor most likely to be the full-blooded Cherokee Indian we all heard about growing up.
This may not be the only Native American connection to the Bare family. I may have found a distant connection from Bessie Craven Bare to Pocahontas. The relativefinder.org website, which is a sister site to familysearch.org, says Jane Rolf, granddaughter of Pocahontas and Thomas Rolf, and Bessie Craven Bare are 7th cousins 7 times removed. If this is in fact true, it is a much more distant relationship than is our relationship to Katy Sheets and her mother Mary Molly Shearer. Because I don’t feel this is close enough of a relationship to say we have a Native American ancestor through this connection, I will not be discussing it any further in this article. (But, I might talk about it in a future article where I discuss the likely connections I found to some Chiefs of Native American tribes in North Carolina through my mother and her mother, the Jernberg to Dunn side of my family.)
The remainder of this article is a pretty detailed account of much of the research and some of the conclusions I came to in forming my opinions about Katy Sheets and Mary Molly Shearer. It is a lengthy article, as is often the case with research articles, but I believe it will help you understand how I came to my conclusions. So, grab a cup of coffee or a strong drink, find a comfortable place to sit, and enjoy the journey.
First – A Note about the Popular Ancestry Site DNA tests
I realize that several family members have done blood tests through the popular ancestry sites that have turned up 0 Native American ancestors. However, all one has to do is a little research to find out these tests are far from accurate or precise. The DNA experts say the science is just not advanced enough for behind these types of DNA tests to be even close to accurate or precise, especially the DNA tests available through the various ancestry sites. In fact, here are the results of a study published by a person who submitted 9 different tests to 3 companies and received 6 different results (and 3 errors). The same company gave him different results - for the exact same person! And while the differences coming from a single company may have not been huge, if the tests are accurate and precise the results from one company should have been EXACTLY THE SAME. Furthermore, if the tests are truly accurate and precise, the results should have been the same from all of the companies. https://www.livescience.com/
Apparently very few of the popular ancestry tests can accurately detect Native American DNA for multiple reasons, one of which is very few Native Americans participate in the DNA testing. Therefore, I believe these tests do not accurately answer the question of whether or not we have Native American ancestors. Additionally, if a Native American ancestor is far back enough in your lineage, the DNA may be so diluted it will not show up in these tests – at least not with the state of current DNA science.
Of course, the marketing for the DNA tests from the ancestry companies will make it sound like they are accurate – that the point of marketing. But according to both DNA experts and people who have tested the various DNA tests, regardless of the millions of dollars of marketing money spent or how popular they are, many of those companies have subpar services at best. Also, read the disclaimer that comes with the tests – they say they are to be used for “recreational purposes” only. This tells me the companies know these tests are far from accurate.
Keep in mind that many of the ancestry companies are owned in part by pharmaceutical giants or data companies – meaning your personal DNA information belongs to companies who need to turn a profit. According to Genetics Digest, “the best genetics companies have top-notch data security and are 100% privately owned, meaning they don’t answer to investors. Instead, they answer to you, the customer. Look for a company renowned for their data security and professional pedigree.” https://geneticsdigest.com/best_ancestry_genealogy_dna_test
I am certain that in the next 2 - 5 years as the science and knowledge of DNA advances, these DNA testing companies will start advertising that for another fee you can redo the tests for more accurate and precise results. I am also certain that currently they do not accurately answer the question of whether we have Native American ancestors.
My Accidental Discovery of the Probable Cherokee Ancestor of the Bares
In researching the heritage of the Bares, I originally did not find any Cherokee Indian ancestors – or for that matter any other Native American ancestors. And, talking to a couple of other family members working on our genealogy, I found they too had come up with zero Native American ancestors. However, as I did more research into Katie Sheets (1795 – 1879) and her cave home story, I ran across this note on ancestory.com:
So, I started digging a little more and I found another story about Katie Sheets on ancestry.com that mentions both the cave and Katie’s Cherokee Indian mother, Mary Molly Shearer Sheets.
“Daughter of Andrew and Molly Sheets The story and life of Catherine Sheets is Hallmark worthy. Catherine Sheets was abandoned by her family because she had a love connection with Absalom Bowers. Which evolved into a pregnancy with her first child Lucinda.
Katie lived in two different caves in her lifetime. The first cave is located past Ebenezer Church on Highway 88 on Roans Creek. The other is located down the Highway 88 bridge on the New River. She spent about 65 years of her life living in a cave. Both of the caves were behind two of the ten mills Absalom owned. For the last 25 years of her life she lived with one of her daughters Mary Polly. Who lived near Ebenezer Church as well.
There are many stories and facts of Catherine Sheets. Katie's father (Andrew Sheets) was the first to be born in America in his generation. Katie's mother (Mary "Molly" Sheets), was a Cherokee Indian. So that means Katie was half Cherokee.
Katie's grave was removed due to it being out of line. This is the base of the original grave. A new one will take its place. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/180350379/catherine-ann-sheets#”
The majority of family trees I have found so far show that Catherine Ann Sheets (1776 – 1850) is the daughter of Andres Sheets (or Andrew Sheets, Sr.) (1774 or 1775 – 1855) who was born and died in North Carolina, and Mary Molly Shearer (1776 – 1840 or 1850), who was born and died in North Carolina.
Of course, there are a couple of family trees that show a slightly different story. For example, one family tree found at https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/65592128/person/46193939918/facts says they have DNA tests confirming that Catherina Ann Sheets (1776 – 1850) is the daughter of Mary Molly Young Shearer (1776 – 1855), and Andrew J Sheets (1774 – 1856). These appear to most likely be the same people but with slightly different birth and/or death years.
So, my next step was to research Mary Molly (or Mollie) Shearer Sheets and her lineage, which raised as many questions as it answered.
Research on Mary Molly Shearer (1776 – 1850)
I found a note on an ancestry.com family tree that said the following, which told me various names to use in my research:
“Mary Mollie Shearer was referred to as Mollie Shearer on Eller-Wade Collection, Ashe County North Carolina; and has been referred to as Mary Shearer in other sources, also referred to as Mary Sherrier from other sources. Letter written by John Harvey Sheets dated May 29, 1933 spells Mary Mollie’s last name as Sherrier.”
So far I have not found any birth records or adoption records for Mary Molly Shearer. In fact, I have found very few official records about Mary Molly Shearer at all, let alone her relationship to her parents or her daughter Catherine Ann Sheets. This is not unusual for the 1700s and 1800s, but it is making it more difficult to research. Family trees are often incorrect, but in this case I needed to use them as a starting point.
Most of the family trees say that the parents, or adopted parents – whichever the case may be, of Mary Molly Shearer (1776 - 1850) are Christian Shearer, III or Jr or II (1759 – 1840), who was born in South Carolina and died in Kentucky, and M Hannah Hoover (??? – 1803) who was born in either North Carolina or Pennsylvania and died in North Carolina.
A couple of family trees show Mary Molly Shearer’s parents to be William Christian Shearer (1741 – 1830) born in Pennsylvania and died in Virginia, and Hannah Hoover (1747 – 1825) – same parents but they lived different spans of time and William Christian Shears was born and died in different states. And, yet another family tree shows Hannah Hoover with the birth and death years of 1760 – 1840.
The family tree of the family claiming they have DNA that confirms the lineage says that Mary Molly Shearer (1776 – 1855) is the daughter of William Christian Shearer III (1759 – 1834) who was born in North Carolina and died in Kentucky, and Hannah Hoover (1760 – 1840) who was born in Pennsylvania and died in North Carolina.
So far, all of the family tress show that after Hannah Hoover died, William Christian Shearer married Sarah Sallie Walters (1787 – 1830) who became Mary Molly Shearer’s adopted step-mother and possibly her second adopted mother.
I also found this note from a woman who states she is the great great great granddaughter of a woman named Katie Peck, the mother of Sarah Walters.
“Sarah Walters was born in America but her parents were immigrants from Germany. Her father was William Walters born in 1767 in Germany and died 3 Oct 1829 in Ashe County, NC. Her mother Katie or Katy or Katherine Voegdt was born in Bonn Germany in 1755 to Eliza Foegdt in March or 1859. She immigrated with her parents to America at 3 months of age.
When Katie Peck was very young, she was stolen by some Indians and kept for 2 years and 4 months in Pennsylvania. Later in life she married William Walters and Sarah Walters was born in 1787.
Sarah Walters married Christian Shearer III (a.k.a William Christian Shearer Jr) who was born in 1759 or 1760 in NC. When Sarah married Christian he already had 6 children by his first wife, Hannah Hoover. One of those children was Mary Molly Shearer.
The story is that Mary Molly Shearer was a full blooded Cherokee Indian who was adopted by the Shearers at a very young age.”
Even through this story may be true, a couple of issues I ran across with this story are:
- The 1900 New Jersey census shows a woman named Katie Walter born Mar 1859 in Germany and immigrated in 1873 (at age 14), married in 1878 to James W Walter born in Germany in Oct 1853 and immigrated in 1871. Her mother’s name Eliza Foegdt, a widow by 1900, born Nov 1831 in Germany and immigrated in 1870. Is this the same Katie Walters mentioned in the note above?
- The 1910 New Jersey Census shows a woman named Katie Walter born about 1859 in Germany – widowed by 1910 census shows immigrated in 1874 with son Carl 22, Helen age 10, and mother Elizabeth Voight age 78 who immigrated in 1870. Again, is this the same Katie Walters?
- Related Immigration papers show there was a Catherine Voigt born to Elizabeth Voit from Bremen, Germany. Is this Catherine the Katy mentioned in the note above?
And There Is MORE Confusing Information
As I continued to research Mary Molly Shearer Sheets (1776 – 1850), I found information that adds to the confusion, rather than helps sort it all out.
There are a couple of family trees that show a Mary Molly Shearer belonging to William Christian Shearer and Hannah Hoover who did NOT marry David Sheets. However, there is a dual headstone for David Sheets (1774 – 1850) and Molly Sheets (1776 – 1850) in the Sheets Cemetery in Wilkes County, North Carolina, so I think the Mary Molly Shearer we are interested in did indeed marry Reverend David Sheets. (Although based on other records I’m not sure the dates, especially the death dates, on the headstone are 100% accurate.) Therefore I am ignoring the family trees that show Mary Molly Shearer married someone other than David Sheets.
The more important findings in my research that further confuse the issues are:
(1) In many of the records and family stories, Christian or William Christian Shearer II or III or Jr and Hannah Hoover are said to have given birth to another daughter named Mary P or Mary Polly Shearer (1792 – 1841). She was born in Ashe County, North Carolina and died in Texas. In 1810 Mary Polly Shearer married William Powers (1790 – 1861), who died in Ashe County, North Carolina. And some of the family trees show William Powers married to Mary P Shearer (1794 – 1860).
It is absolutely possible that William Christian Shearer and Hannah Hoover gave birth to a daughter with the same name as an adopted daughter. However, I think it would be not be probably in this situation because the adopted Mary MOLLY Shearer is approx. 14 – 16 years older that Mary POLLY Shearer. This means the adopted daughter was already with the Shearers when the second Mary was born, and the Shearers purposely named their new baby girl close to the exact same name as their adopted daughter. HOWEVER, given the fact that in those days people seemed to be referred to each by their middle names instead of their first names, maybe it’s not so odd.
(2) I ran across a couple of family trees showing a Joseph Henry married to a Mary Jean Shearer (1776 – 1855) who was born and died in North Carolina. This Mary Shearer has the same birth and death dates as Mary Molly Shearer has on several of the family trees I mentioned previously.
(FYI – This Joseph Henry was a private in the North Carolina Revolutionary War Troops and was one of the major heroes known as the “Overmountain Men” who participated in the Oct 7, 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain, South Carolina.)
(3) There is a Mary Shearer (1759 – 1852) who is William Christian Shearer III’s half-sister. Their common father is William Christian Shearer II or Sr (1734 – 1789). She was born in North Carolina and died in Missouri. Many family trees show that in 1781 this half-sister married Joseph Henry (1758 – 1816) (mentioned in #2 above) in Lincoln County, North Carolina. He was born in Pennsylvania and died in either Indian or North Carolina.
As is the situation I often found in the Bare family tree, having a sister or half-sister with the same name as one of more of your daughters makes it a little more challenging than usual to figure out who is being referred to in certain records, such as marriage announcements, death announcements, etc.
(4) There is a cousin to William Christian Shearer III named Mary Shearer (1764 – 1844) born in Virginia and died in Illinois. She is the daughter of James Shearer (1737 – 1784) and Annie Laurie Lenna (1739 – 1822). James is the brother to William Christian Shearer II. She married John Canada Kennedy (1763 – 1840) born in Maryland and died in Kentucky.
Again, having a relative with the same name as your daughter(s) and sister makes research very challenging, especially for “official” records created back in the days they were not very specific and at times inaccurate.
(5) There may be another half-sister or possibly an aunt of Christian Shearer III named Mary McCafferty Shearer or a Mary Jean Shearer (1752 - ??) born in Pennsylvania to either or to or William Christina Shearer II (1734 – 1789), or to Hugh Shearer (1704 - 1792) brother to William Christian Shearer I, or to William Christian Shearer II (1715 – 1789).
Need I say more about the problem this causes when doing research?
At this point I decided to do further research on Hannah Hoover hoping that research would point me to the correct Mary Molly Shearer as well as her correct birth and death dates.
Research on Hannah Hoover or Mary Hannah Hoover
On my family tree on ancestry.com I show almost the same information as is shown on familysearch.org (which is a shared family tree for everyone). Mary Molly Shearer (1776 – 1850) is the adopted child of William C Shearer III (1759 – 1840) and M Hannah Hoover (1760 – 1803). I am also showing that she is not the same person as Mary Polly Shearer (1792 – 1841). The main difference is I show Hannah Hoover died in 1803 rather than 1840 because several family documents show his second wife married him in 1804 after his first wife died.
Even though her adopted parents would have been 17 and 16 when she was born and they married approx. 1780 - 1785, it is entirely possible that William C Shearer IIIs parents took her in at an early age, then Willliam Shearer III and Hannah Hoover adopted her after they married.
What I cannot tell for sure from these any of the family stories or associated documents I found is whether Mary Molly Shearer (1776 – 1850) and Mary Polly Shearer (1794 – 1841) were both daughters of William and Hannah. Also, I have no proof they are not the same person, but I doubt they are due to the ages, marriages, relationships, etc.
Family tree entries:
According to various family trees, her name may be Mary Hannah Hoover. She was most likely born either 1777 (which is impossible because it would make her 1 year old when Mary Molly Shearer was born), 1768 (not likely) or 1760, and she died in either 1798, 1803, or 1840.
I have seen Hannah Hoovers or M Hannah Hoovers listed with these life dates 1747 – 1825, 1777 – 1803, 1777 – 1804, 1760 – 1840, 1760 – 1800, 1768 – 1798 …
There is also a William Christian Shearer (1741 – 1830) and Hannah Hoover (1747 – 1825) in some family trees
There is a family tree that says Hannah Hoover was born in 1768 in Pennsylvania and died in 1798, but that Hannah Hoover was married to a John Jacob Shermer.
A couple of trees state Mary Shearer belonged to William Christian Shearer III and Hannah Hoover.
My conclusions (for the time being):
(1) Because William Christian Shearer II or Jr or III remarried in 1804, I believe Mary Hannah Hoover died in 1803 or 1804 rather than 1840.
(2) I believe Mary Molly Shearer is not the same person as Mary Polly Shearer. They have different birth and death dates, they married different people, and they had different children.
(3) I am guessing that Mary Molly Shearer is not the birth child of either William Christian Shearer or Hannah Hoover. It is a bit unlikely that Mary Molly Shearer was born in 1776 to a father who was born in 1759, making him 17 at the time she was born. It is even more unlikely that she was born to a mother who born in 1760 making her 16 at the time. While it is physically possible, overall women tended to marry a little later in life in the 1700s than they did in later centuries.
(4) I believe the stories that Mary Molly Shearer was full-blooded Cherokee are probably true.
I will include several family stories and documents about the Shearer family in an article to be written in the future so it will be clear I am not basing my conclusions purely on family tree entries. I am also using information from various stories or documents, logic, and good old data analysis.
I'm sure I will be researching this topic more at a later date. However, since many others have not been able to find items such as birth certificates, adoption papers, etc, I'm not sure I will be able to find them. And, until the DNA test became sophisticated enough to be more accurate, I will not put much stock in their results. So for now, I'm going to go with the stories I heard growing up and assume we do have at least 1 Cherokee Indian ancestor.
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