Moytoy of Tellico, Emperor of the Cherokee: Who was he and was he your ancestor?

Forward by blogger Jeanie Roberts
For whatever reason, many many people want to claim membership in, or affiliation with, a Native American tribe. Overwhelmingly, it seems, the tribe of choice is the Cherokee. A common remark on genealogy help sites usually goes something like this; 'I know I am related to (insert name of famous Native American) because my grandma told me so, I just don't know how'. Or, 'my grandpa looks like an Indian'. One of the most common statements is 'my ancestors were Cherokee, but just pretended to be white to avoid the Trail of Tears'.
The one thing that almost all of these folks have in common is a failure to actually do genealogy research. They are looking for a prefab ancestry tree that they can hitch their wagon to. A cursory search of the internet reveals plenty of websites, books, charts, etc. that will do just that. You want to be an Indian, we will make it happen. There are countless fake Indian tribes that will be happy to enroll you as a member. But buyer beware. The internet, as I said, is chock-a-block with junky genealogy.

The focus of this article is the Cherokee chief Moytoy. There are numerous websites and books that claim he descended from an English immigrant to Jamestown, Thomas Pasmere Carpenter, through a mishmash of Powhatan/Cherokee/Shawnee ancestors. Countless people claim to be descended from him through Chief Moytoy. This article, written by Cherokee genealogy researcher Kathie Forbes, sorts fact from fiction and lays out what is truly known about Moytoy, who he was and who were his descendants. Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Will the real Amatoya Moytoy please stand up?
by Katherine Forbes

Who was the man (or men) known as “Moytoy”?  To answer this question, we first need to know something about Cherokee customs, to determine when records of individual Cherokee people begin, and to know what is included in those records. Not only do many people believe they have a Cherokee great-grandmother or a Cherokee princess in their family, they also believe they can trace their Cherokee ancestors back to the 16th century. Tree after on-line tree starts with the mythical Thomas Pasmere Carpenter [debunked [link to post here], which most people with any understanding of the genealogical proof standard can easily recognize as junk genealogy. Many more start with “The Descendants of A ma do ya Moytoy,” an online tree which to many people appears to be authoritative, accurate, and documented. Sadly, it is none of these.
Let’s start with a little history.
Families and communities.
The Cherokee, along with most indigenous people, were matrilineal. During the 1600s and 1700s they lived in about 60 small agricultural communities spread over some 200 miles, each largely independent from its neighbors. Each community had its own headman (or chief) and other leaders, who were chosen by the community, not by descent. There was no central government. Clan relationships determined a person’s behaviors. Families were made up of women and other members of their clans. Women could not marry a person of their own clan, so in the Cherokee culture the biological father was not a blood relative. The men responsible for bringing up a boy were his mother’s brothers, and if she didn’t have brothers, other men of her clan who lived in her village.  While some couples had long-lasting marriages, marriage as we know it was not a Cherokee concept.  A couple stayed together only as long as both were happy with the arrangement, and both men and women had children with multiple partners.
Cherokee names.
Cherokee people did not have ‘surnames’, family names, or even given names as we know them. With the exception of clothing and some household goods, everything was owned in common so there was no concept of inheritance or decendance. A Cherokee person’s name could – and did – change over a lifetime and a Cherokee person might be known by multiple names at the same time. A person’s true name was known only to close family/clan members. A childhood name would be replaced by an adult name, usually associated with a significant event in the person’s life.  A later event or a bout of illness often resulted in a new name.  Men (and some women) might be known by a title based on their position in the village – i.e. ‘Raven’, ‘Mankiller’, or ‘Beloved Woman’.  People had names used only at home, nicknames given by others, and English translations of their Cherokee names and titles.  Starting in the middle of the 18th century, some mixed-blood Cherokee added the name of their biological white father to the mix and others adopted (or were given) the name of an admired white person. Missionaries gave people new names when they were baptized. The names we associate with early Cherokee people were recorded by whites who sometimes attempted to write them phonetically, sometimes wrote what they believed was an English translation of the name, and sometimes wrote down a title as a name.  There was no standardized spelling at this time, even for English names and words, and Cherokee men often appear in a single record with different spellings of a name.
Recordkeeping prior to the 1800s.
The Cherokee did not have a written language until 1821.  Before then, everything written about the Cherokee was filtered through the eyes and ears of white people, very few of whom spoke or even understood the Cherokee language. Records of the Cherokee prior to 1800 consist solely of the journals, correspondence, and memoirs of white men, and the treaties and recorded actions of colonial and early American legislative bodies. There are no birth, marriage, death, church, or family Bible records. The only censuses taken in the 18th century were simple headcounts done by village.  There are occasional rare statements by a Cherokee person included in historical records which mention a family relationship, but there are not many historical records relating to the Cherokee before 1750.  The first whites to take an interest in Cherokees as families were the missionaries who arrived late in the 1790’s.

Chief Moytoy
So, back to “Chief Moytoy.”  The ‘Am-a-do-ya Moytoy’ tree starts with a man named Amadoya Moytoy, born in 1647.  He is listed with a wife and five children. Looks good, except here’s the catch:  Plain and simple, there is no mention in any record of a Cherokee person named or called, “Moytoy” or anything similar, until 1729. As noted above, there aren’t many early records which mention any Cherokee by name, and ‘Moytoy’ doesn’t exist in the ones that do. Not in the account of Needham and Arthur (1674), the first Englishmen to travel to the Cherokee Nation and return to tell about it. Not in the 1684 Treaty with Virginia.  Not in the Colonial Records of South Carolina, 1710-1718.  Not in the journals of trade commissioner George Chicken’s travels among the Cherokee (1715-16 and 1725).  Not in the records associated with the Cherokee treaty and trade agreement with South Carolina of 1721 (which resulted in the naming of a chief named Wrosetasataw as ‘Emperor’ of the Cherokee).  Not in the journal of John Herbert (1727-28), South Carolina Commissioner for Indian Affairs.  Not in the early correspondence of Ludovic Grant, who settled among the Cherokee about 1727.
The first contemporaneous mention of Moytoy is in the “Journal of Sir Alexander Cuming” who travelled in the Cherokee Nation in 1729-30. Cuming wrote on March 29, 1729, “… arrived at Great Telliquo, in the upper Settlements, 200 miles up from Keeakwee.  Moytoy the head Warrior here, told him, that the Year before, the Nation design’d to have made him Head over all;” [Historical note, Wrosetesataw died about 1728.] Cuming wrote later, “Moytoy of Telliquo presides at present as Emperor over the whole; he was chose at Nequassie, April 3, 1730, and had an absolute unlimited Power given him…” Cuming hoped to take Moytoy and some other Cherokee back to England with him to demonstrate their loyalty to the English King: “He ask’d Moytoy, if the Indians could travel there [to Charleston]in so short a Time on Foot, who told him that it might be done, and that he [Moytoy] would have waited on him himself, but that his Wife was dangerously ill, and therefore desired Sir Alexander to chuse whom he pleased to attend him.”  Attakullakulla, one of the seven Cherokee who went to England with Cuming later recounted the events to the South Carolina Governor (through a translator). “At night Mr Wiggan the Interpreter came to the house where I was, and told me the Warrior {Moytoy] had a particular favour for me, and that if I would Consent to go he would be indifferent whither any other Went; and Mr. Wiggan pressed me very much to accept of his invitation.”
Cuming’s account of the selection of the travelers says, “Sir Alexander chose as Evidence of the Truth of what had happened, the head Warrior of Tassetchee, a Man of great Power and Interest, who has a Right to be King, and is called Oukah Ulah (that is the King that is to be) Skallelockee, the second Warrior, otherwise Kettagustah, (or Prince) Tathtowie, the third Warrior, and Collannah, a fourth Warrior; and from Tannassie, the remotest Town of the Country, he took Clogoittah and Oukanaekah [later known as Attakullakulla] Warriors.”  The seventh man met them en route to Charleston and joined the group. There is nothing to suggest in any of these accounts that the men selected were related in any way.
James Adair wrote that he first visited the Cherokee in 1736.  He did not mention Moytoy by name, but as “their old Archi-magus,” made emperor by Christian Priber. Trader Ludovic Grant wrote in regard to the English attempt to arrest Christian Priber, “I therefore endeavored to prevail with Moytoy who was then the head of the Nation to Give Orders to some of his people to seize him [Priber] and I promised him a very great present for it.  He thanked me and said he would accept of the present…”
Several modern histories suggest [without sources] that Moytoy’s name was actually “Ama-edohi” [Conley, A Cherokee Encyclopedia[ or “Amo-adaw-ehi” [Brown, Old Frontiers], meaning variously “Water-goer,” “Water-walker,” “Water-conjouror,” or “Rainmaker”.
As to Moytoy’s family, we know from his own words that he had a wife, and from other records, at least one son. We are told that Moytoy died in battle in 1741, and “At Moytoy’s death, his son Amo-Scossite (Bad Water) claimed his father’s title.”  [Brown, Old Frontiers, p.46] Although the Cherokee refused to accept Amoscossite as ‘Emperor’, he became chief at Tellico and headed delegations including a meeting with Virginia trade representatives in 1756. He is believed to have died shortly thereafter, leaving no known descendants.
What about those children in the second generation of the ‘A-ma-do-ya’ tree?  One of them is the ‘real’ Moytoy, who died in 1741.  Two of them, Tistoe and Oukah-Oula were among the seven men who went to England with Cuming.  As noted above, there is nothing to suggest that they were related in any way.  They came from different towns and in none of the contemporary records are they listed as brothers, cousins, or relatives of any kind.  The fourth person listed is supposedly the mother of Nan-ye-hi, Nancy Ward.  Nancy’s parents are completely unknown.  All that we know about her parents is that her mother was from the Wolf Clan, and, according to a great-grandson, her father may have been an adopted Delaware Indian.  The last person, ‘Old Hop’ (who lived at Chota) was a prominent Cherokee chief, a contemporary of the ‘real’ Moytoy. Records show that he became de facto head of the Cherokee Nation after the death of Moytoy and a political struggle with the chiefs of Tellico.  Nothing is known of his parents or his wife, but he apparently had sisters since he stated that he had two nephews, Attakullakulla and Willenawa. He also remarked that he had sons, whose names are unknown.
Transcripts of primary sources:
Adair, James. The History of the American Indians.  London, 1775; reprint with introduction by Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr.  Johnson, New York: Reprint Corp, 1968.
Alvord, Clarence Waltworth, and Lee Bidgood.  The First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Region by the Virginians, 1650-1674.  Cleveland, Arthur H. Clark, 1912.  Includes transcripts of early accounts.
Bartram, William.  Travels in North America. New Haven, Yale University Press
Bonnefoy, Antoine.  Journal. Transcript in Williams; Bonnefoy was a captive of the Cherokee in 1741-42.
Chicken, George.  Journals 1715-1716 and 1725
Conversation between his Excellency the Governor of South Carolina and Chuconnunta a head man of the Cherokees Whose name formerly was Ouconecaw.  Recorded by Richard Smith in 1756, transcript in the “Journal of Cherokee Studies” Vol. XXVI, pp. 15-23
Cuming, Alexander.  Journal of Sir Alexander Cuming. Transcript in Williams.
Grant, Ludovic.  Historical Relation of the Facts. 1755.  Transcript in the “Journal of Cherokee Studies” Vol. XXVI, pp. 2-23.
Herbert, John. Journal of Colonel John Herbert, commissioner Indian affairs for the province of South Carolina, October 17, 1727, to March 1927/8
Timberlake, Henry  The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake. Duane King, ed. Museum of the Cherokee Indian Press, Cherokee, N.C., 2007
Williams, Samuel Cole.  Early Travels in the Tennessee Country, 1580-1800 Johnson City, Tennessee, Watauga Press, 1928
Calendar of Virginia State Papers
Colonial Records of North Carolina – multiple volumes published by the North Carolina Archives.
Native Americans in Early North Carolina – ed. Dennis Isenbarger, published by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Department of Archives and History, 2013. Includes transcripts of primary documents from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Villainy Often Goes Unpunished – Indian Records from the North Carolina General Assembly Sessions 1685-1789. William L. Byrd, III, Heritage Books 2012.  Transcripts of General Assembly records.
Colonial Records of South Carolina – multiple volumes published by the South Carolina Archives.  Series 2 are the Indian Papers.
Other references:
Brown, John P.  Old Frontiers.  Southern Publishers, Inc. Kingsport, TN 1938
Conley, Robert. A Cherokee Encyclopedia and The Cherokee Nation: a History. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2007
[Note:  Conley’s books are easier to read than the more scholarly texts listed, but also are not as well-researched and contain more factual errors.]
Hoig, Stanley. The Cherokees and their Chiefs. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville 1998
Mooney, James. History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee. American Bureau of Ethnology 1891 & 1900, reprint Historical Images, Inc.  Asheville, N.C. 1992
Journal of Cherokee Studies.  Museum of the Cherokee Indian Press, Cherokee, N.C.
Kathie Forbes 10/19/17

Questions and comments are welcome as long as they are appropriate and polite all other will be removed and or reported.


  1. Ms. Roberts and Ms. Forbes, I have a daughter-in-law whose 8th GGM was Catherine "Caty" McDaniel, whose mother was Grasshopper Turkey (1/2 Cherokee, 1/2 Shawnee), whose mother was Sugi Rainmaker. She married Old Hop, supposedly her first-cousin, whose parents were killed and he was raised by his uncle, Trader Tom, AKA Moytoy, etc. This is the quote from an anonymous author that supports this: "I've been researching the Moytoy line for some time. My gggg grandfather is Old Hop-Standing Turkey- Kanagatuckco. He was not a Cherokee as many believe. He was Shawnee and he married his cousin Su-gi Rainmaker. Su-gi was Shawnee/Cherokee. Old Hop went to live with his Aunt and Uncle Amatoya Moytoy after the death of his parents. He was known as Standing Turkey Cornstalk the son of Big Turkey Cornstalk the grandson of Hokolesqua Opechan Cornstalk. Old Hop and Su-gi had a daughter named Grasshopper and she married David McDaniel a registered Indian trader."
    Are you able to correct/elucidate on this? Thanks for your help! Travis Brannon

    1. Travis, I'd love to connect with you to see if I'm related to your DIL, please reach out to me. I tried to search for you but there are too many people with your name and few clues to which one you are ;)

    2. Travis check out his information on wikitree about Granny Hopper and her husband ___McDaniel.

    3. Great write up . I am a gggg granson to Old Hop . If you have ever been to the Cherokee Nation Genealogy in Tahlequah OK they can put in your Tibal roll or Citizenship number and pull up your family tree . I know alot or most families have stories like you said about mixed up stories and people believing they are related to such people they are not. The sure way to find out is if you are on the tribal roll now have your Blue card and CDIB and go into there office. They are very helpful, your number is almost like your social security number and link you to your whole family within the cherokee nation . My tree went back to the early 1600s . I believe it to be accurate . What is your opinion ? Is going directly to the Cherokee nation Genealogy department accurate to verify the truth of your family tree ? I live out here in OK and have always had my card since birth as did my mother and her father. Some of my family did not sign the roll and fought along the rought on the trail of tears . This part of my family history is only stories past down that I had family members that had lead a war party against the whites and fought all the way to Arkansas where some returned to NC and others hid in the hills of Arkansas and refused to sign the roll . Again thank you for this great write up. Seems like every other white guy I meat says the same thing . They are either Cherokee with no proof or they have a Cherokee Princess Grandmother lol

    4. I would like a phone number to the Cherokee genealogy department please. Email me some info at thanks, I am quantified 3/8 Native American. I am trying to retrace my family's lineage so that I and others in my family will know and remember where we came from. I too have stories from a grandmother about being related to an Indian princess Manny chiefs and have the Pasmere, Moytoy, carpenter and Granny GrassHopper. I have evidence that I have found that Granny GrassHopper is and was a real person. Her name appears on the Guion Miller rolls page 93 as Susannah Moytoy or Powhatan. Yeas, I am looking to enroll as a tribal member, but of the correct tribe. I show to come from the Western Renape Algonquin Native American Tribe (Known as the Powhatan Federation) as well as the Cherokee Tribes and with some relation in the Blackfoot Tribe as well. I'm seeking the truth, because as I have found relation to Thomas Pasmere Carpenter who is believed to be a real person whom I have had difficulties proving myself and the fact that remains is there is no sufficient evidence to prove or disprove this, "fictional Character," ever existed. His mother's middle name was Pasmere and that is evident that someone took great effort in making this person or individual look real and there is a family that owned ships that they used to conduct Trade so I'm stuck. Things haven't been adding up because the problem isn't just proliferation of genealogical information there is now a witch hunt destroying information, for what ever nefarious reasons, that is adding to the problem. You see, you all are in a fight against one another focusing on who's right, when we all should be working together to provide a solution. Not make the problem worse.

  2. Very interesting 'info' thank you

  3. Related through nancy payne and my dads line 7th gr grandmother mary bluesky cornstalk fry

    1. Hi Tina, I recommend you check out this blog: about Blue Sky Cornstalk.

    2. Tina you dillweed you're not Cherokee or related to any Cherokee. You have faked lines and a delucional mind. You're not related to Moytoy as he had no known decendants did you bother to read the article?

    3. Lol so many fakes out there . Im not sure if she is or isnt . But I know of some people calling themselves Cherokee Chiefs and starting fake tribes and even going as far as to charging a price for fake tribal membership. Some of these people have been prosecuted and I think they should be. What gives them the right to appoint themselves Chief of the Cherokee. They are so desperate to be Cherokee or Indian at all they start there own fake tribe . Just be your self . There are only 3 Cherokee tribes that I know of and thats the Eastern Band in NC (The Original ) The Cherokee nation in Tahlequah OK and the United Keetoowah band of Cherokee . Please correct me if im wrong . Im sure some will comment with some unknown lost tribe lol

  4. Where do I research in order to know what is true and what is not? I’ve been doing family research for 50 years, I’m from the George Ward and Lucy Mayes Ward union, is that also an untruth? I am a frustrated wanna be Indian I guess. Kaye Large Davis

  5. I have been doing genealogy for 50 years and what I’ve just read is so very frustrating. I am not lazy and do not believe I am just a wanna be Indian. My grandfather was on the Cherokee rolls. I hail from Katy McDaniels and the Ward and Stover family. Old Hop is an ancestor. Or is all of this just made-up? And that’s just my father’s line. Excuse my frustration, but I don’t believe everything on the internet either. Thanks for your hard work.

    1. Cherokee Indians - Research + Genealogy Facebook group will check out your family and see if there is a Cherokee connection.

  6. I am trying to find information about an Indian trader named Cornelius Dougherty who was supposedly married a Cherokee bride.

    1. Cherokee Indian - Research + Genealogy Facebook group will check out your family and see if there is a Cherokee connection.

    2. I highly recommend the Cherokee Indian Research groups on Facebook. They are serious about their genealogy and extremely knowledgeable.

    3. You can find Cornelius Dougherty in the William L. McDowell, Jr., ed. The Colonial Records of South Carolina: Documents Relating to Indian Affairs, 1750-1765. [Series 2, The Indian Books] 3 vols. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1958-1970. Dougherty's name is spelled several ways in the historical documents. A daughter/granddaughter or daughter-in-law went with the Cherokee delegation in 1791 as a linguist/translator when they met with Washington and Henry Knox to contest a treaty negotiated by William Blount, governor of the Southwest Territory.

  7. I enjoyed reading your blog. I have just learned of Moytoy; and have found some distant relations. I am excited to keep researching.

  8. Is a tree formed on Family Search dot com considered accurate?

    1. Anything that can be edited by anyone is not necessarily accurate. This includes FamilySearch, FindAGrave, Wikipedia, etc. What you need to do is check the sources that are cited. Anonymous comments on a website don’t count. This Moytoy family is one of the biggest Pretendian families online.

  9. Hello I have just recently discovered that through ancestry DNA and some further research that Amadohiyi Pidgeon Moytoy of Tellico was supposedly my 8thGGFather through my father. I would really like to learn more! Great research by the way!

    1. Did you read the post? Moytoy is a made up tree. He had no descendants. So no, your father is not descended from Amadoya Moytoy, or any other moytoy.

  10. Hello my name is Lisa Johnson Nelsen I have been doing my family tree for a long time. I did find out that Nancy Feathers Ward is my 9th great grandmother I have been trying to find roll numbers for her family but have not got very far The reason I started my family tree is because I found out I have a rare eye condition that i have gotten from my dad My eyes use to look like wolf eyes. Sinces then I have had cornel transplants to keep my sight. They do not know where it comes from I have had friend that are Native American that had eye issues so I was trying to see if I had Native American in my family which I do now I dont know if this why I have the condition but know one knows were it comes from. Now I did find Vets working on K9s ( Timber wolves and Huskies }with the same gene that causes my issue. This is the reason for my search.

  11. All I know is my Grandfather was full Cherokee and his wife was half Cherokee. My Father went and lived in North Carolina in his sixties and died there. My Father's name was Charles Leroy Harris. I had my DNA done by Ancestry. com and it showed Ingenious family in the South. Now I want more information!

  12. Please email me at ❤️🙏

  13. No one in the Cherokee nation has the same name as Chief Hokoleskwa “Cornstalk”
    b. c1710/20 d. 10 Nov 1777 killed at Fort Randolph
    And no other person was called CORNSTALK!!! The Chief was about 6’6” “tall as the corn” that is where the name came from, his sisters and daughters were over 6’ also, this name was NOT used for anyone else.
    The Cherokee never had this name, people need to RESEARCH and get a clue.

  14. I would be wary of anything on thst doesn't have anything real. Not just native lines that are incorrect. But I followed one line supposedly to George Washington.....but when you research historical names from different sources they are not listed...

  15. "Nancy ward and the Hildebrand family" found on family search book search, has some interesting information about Alexander Cummings, Moytoy and Nancy Ward's parents. not sure how accurate it is but it also references "Wild Rose of the Cherokee" by Sterling King about Nancy Ward that I havent looked into yet.

    1. I'm pretty sure I'm related to Motoy, or at least Nancy Ward. My gg Grandpa was Lafayette Catron married to Margaret Hilderbrand. From what I can find Nancy Ward was her grandmother

  16. Hi I’m supposed to be related to the Moytoy family went to the Cherokee reservation and they had this family in their museum Canoe and Attakullakulla and Nancy ward . My family is from craven county Nc the surnames that are attached are Fenner, Moore, Carter. Issac,George, Carter. George Carter married a Thomasina Moore one of them are Cherokee and the other Tuscarora. I have a Margaret Moore who maybe Cherokee , Lydia Moore Babb , she had a daughter. Ames Dicey Ann Moore Carter, she had my great great grandmother Mahetable Moore Carter Fenner.if you see the connection to Attakullakulla Moytoy email me please


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