One politician's family tree apparently includes an imaginary branch.
For the better part of a decade, Elizabeth Warren, now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, has said she is Native American.
Cherokee to be precise.
Her proof? "Family lore."
Oddly, her name does not appear among the 300,000 plus on the official tribal rolls of the Cherokee Nation.
So, Genealogist Michael Patrick Leahy looked into her claim. Writing in a blog at breitbart.com, Leahy indicates the best evidence shows Warren's great-great-great grandma, O.C. Sarah Smith Crawford, was at least part Swedish, but not Cherokee.
Wait... there's more!
Leahy also reports that Swedish Sarah's husband (Warren's great-great-great-grandfather) was Jonathan Crawford, a member of the Tennessee Militia.
Great-great-great grandpappy Jonathan was a member of the militia during the time it was tasked with rounding up Cherokees for relocation to the Oklahoma territory -- a forced migration that became known as the infamous "Trail of Tears."
Far from being among the tormented, her ancestor was apparently one of the tormentors.
How's that for a plot twist?
So why should Massachusetts voters, let alone anyone else, care about this? William Jacobson, an associate law professor at Cornell University, offers this answer:
"Who Warren’s great-great-great grandparents were or what they did should be irrelevant, except that Warren has incorporated “lore” about those victimized ancestors into her own personal, professional and, now, political narratives."
In other words, if you're a lawyer-turned-politician claiming to be Cherokee, you'd better be Cherokee.