Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wallace Roll Affidavits: Additional Resource for Indian Territory Research - Part 1

National Archives Record Group 75 Entry 578 Box 5
Testimony of Melissa Foster

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Many who research Freedman records are familiar with the Dawes Records and have used the enrollment cards and the accompanying application jackets as part of their collection of family records. (The Dawes records are part of National Archives Publication M1186 and M1801 respectively.)

But it is not widely known that prior to the compilation of the Cherokee Dawes Rolls were the records created in 1890 by John Wallace. His data eventually consisted of the series of names that are now referred to as the Wallace Roll, of 1890. But few researchers are even aware of the fact that there are affidavits which contain some statements made by the  Cherokee Freedmen and as well as other groups.

It should be mentioned that the Wallace Roll Affidavits contained data also pertaining to Shawnee, and Adopted Delawares, in addition to Cherokee Freedmen. The work conducted by John Wallace resulted in rolls for all three of these groups, and the work was undertaken in 1889.  It should be noted that there were other series of investigations taken as well, between 1889-1897, before the final enrollment process would lead to the Dawes Rolls. So in many cases---the data collected for the Dawes Rolls have additional pertinent data for the family researcher an entire decade earlier.

The Case of Melissa Foster

Looking at the image above, one sees an affidavit with a sworn statement was made before John Wallace, and Melissa Foster refers to herself as an authenticated citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and she makes a reference to three grown daughters and their children.

Melissa Foster lived for several years, and she was also enrolled on the Dawes Rolls. The front and back of her Dawes Cards appear below:

Front and Back of Dawes Cards for Melissa Foster
NARA Publication M1186, Cherokee Freedmen, Card #1001

In addition to the Enrollment Cards, one will also utilize her Dawes Commission interview found in the Applications jackets. For Melissa Foster there was a one page interview where she was enrolling herself and an adult son who suffered from a physical disability.

Dawes Application Jacket for Melissa Foster
National Archives Publication M1301, Cherokee Freedmen, #1001

In the case of Melissa Foster, compare the first interview taken by John Wallace (at the top of the page) with the data collected by the Dawes Commission.  One might not even be aware of her grown daughters and their children if one did not have the Affidavit from the Wallace Roll to enhance this family information. It is clear that there is some significant data about Melissa Foster's descendants that might be missed if one did not use the Wallace Roll Affidavits. 

I had an opportunity to explore some of the Wallace Roll Affidavits recently and was amazed at the amount of data, that many of the files contained.

Location of Wallace Roll Affidavits
Although one can easily see the Wallace Roll and access it online, the affidavits are not digitized. They are located at the National Archives in Washington DC, at the main facility on Pennsylvania Avenue. One must request Record Group 75 Entry 578.

There are 30 boxes of Wallace Roll Affidavits toe explore. The first 17 boxes are of greatest value for genealogists. It should also be pointed out that the records contain data for Cherokee Freedmen, for Shawnees, and also for Adopted Delawares as well.

I decided to take a look at these affidavits and spoke with the archivist and had them pulled. Although I knew the index said there were boxes of them to examine I was still amazed at this under utilized set of documents.

Boxes of Wallace Roll Affidavits

Most of these boxes have never been opened and some amazing data can be found inside of each box and each file. 

Data in Wallace Roll Affidavits (30 boxes)Boxes 1-4 All Shawnee
Box 5   Some Admitted Shawnees, Rejected Cherokee Freedmen, & Admitted Cherokee Freedmen
Box 5   Surnames A-B
Box 6   Surname B only
Box 7   Surnames B-D
Box 8   Surnames D-H
Box 9   Surnames H-K
Box 10 Surnames K - McN
Box 11 Surnames M
Box 12 Surnames M-T
Box 13 Surnames P-S
Box 14 Surnames S-Th
Box 15 Surnames Th-W
Box 16 Surnames W 
Boxes 17-21 Authenticated Freedmen
Boxes 22-30 Rejected Cases (arranged by Case)

Clearly the volume of records should be considered valuable for Cherokee Freedmen research, as well as for research of Shawnees and Adopted Delawares. Contained in many of these family documents are written chapters in the history of these three communities. And for any scholars who have a strong interest in the history of Indian Territory, these affidavits should be as essential as the Dawes Records in the effort to document the stories of these families.

(Part 2 of this information on Wallace Roll Affidavits will reflect additional kinds of records found in the files.)

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