Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Family of Delia Noble - Seminole Freedmen

When researching families from Indian Territory, it is often valuable to study not only the enrollment cards but also to remember the various categories of records where families are found. The standard enrollment cards are always a starting point, and they are particularly essential when researching those tribes where the interviews were never microfilmed. The lack of records are found when examining families that are Seminole and Creek families.

However, by examining the files of relatives found in "other" categories such as the "New Born" files, one can often learn more about the family. I was able to do this with data on a Seminole Freedman family, the Nobles of Wewoka.

With this family we begin with a Seminole New Born card, with 3 children, Stephen, Leford, and Rachel. All 3 children are 5 years or  younger. Their mother is Delia Noble, and their father George Noble is said to be a Creek citizen.

Seminole Freedman New Born Card #9
The National Archives at Ft. Worth, Ft. Worth Texas 1868-1914

NAI Number: 251747

Record Group Title: Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75

On Seminole Freedman card #648,  we find Delia Noble, and 6 other children. The children were Shake Payne, and William, Benjamin, Robert, Lyman and Elbetta, all with the Noble surname. All whose names appear on this card are noted as members of the Bruner band.

Seminole Freedman Card #648
(Source: same as above)

Back side of card
(Source: same as above)

It is also clear that the father George Noble is a Creek citizen as he is found on Creek Freedman Card 1400 (Field card 1516)

Creek Freedman Card #1400
(Source: same as above)

(Back of Card)

Application Jackets

With both parents application jackets do not exist. There is not one for George Noble among the Creek files, nor is there one for Delia Noble among Seminole files. However, because there was as separate effort to enroll Stephen Noble as a Creek, the family story is found. Stephen's name was put on a Seminole Freedman card (see above) among those cards known as "New Born" cards. Thankfully there is an extensive file to be found reflecting his status, with interviews pertaining to not only the family but their presence on earlier rolls.

Looking and finding data on the family was a challenge. For Seminole Freedman Card number 648 no application jacket exists among the many digitized images found on Fold3 and Ancestry. Among the collections to be found are the categories of  "Seminole", "Seminole Memorandum", "Seminole Newborn", and "Seminole Newborn Freedmen". And strangely, there is no single category of "Seminole Freedmen" to be found. So the file that pertained to Delia's file was not included among the many microfilmed records.

However, from the file of "Seminole Newborn Freedmen" a file accompanies the card with the 3 children, Stephen, Leford and Rachel. The greater surprise is that an extensive set of documents were contained within that file, and it is from that file of the Newborn Freedmen, that an amazingly rich series of interviews and documents are found.

One first finds some birth affidavits of the children. Such documents are often found in the application jackets and these are valuable records because they provide information that pre-dates Oklahoma statehood and also the process of documenting births. U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment 

in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

(Source: same as above)

The most essential part of this application jacket is a multiple page document, examining the status of the family. Keep in mind that the father in this household-- George Noble was a Creek Citizen and their mother Delia was Seminole.

Many of the questions involved their status and the effort was made to determine if they were Seminole or Creek. George Noble, in fact had appeared in front of the commission in 1904 to enroll his son Stephen as a Creek. George explains how he was enrolling his son and it was noted that Delia his wife was Seminole.

(Source: same as above)

Much of the questioning in the interview centered around whether or not George was registering only one child while the others were registered as Seminole. He explained himself several times, and he was challenged on whether he was accurate about the dates. He pointed out that he record dates of birth from the family bible, and he noted was registering the child Stephen because the others had been registered already as Seminoles.

Much of the interview seems to ask the same questions more than one time. An associate of George Noble was also called to verify the birth of the child, and the examination continued.

(Source: same as above)

At times there appeared to be an effort to confuse George the witness pointing out statements that he had made earlier in response to previous questions.

(Source: same as above)

Repeatedly questions about George's movements were posed to him and other witnesses, how often he came to trade and with whom he visited when coming to town to trade. Also the time in which George came to file on his land were discussed.

(Source: same as above)

As witnesses were called, the reader can glean much about the process of Dawes enrollment, when often the line of questioning would stray from the status of the applicant and often focus on one or two details would surface. However, the reader can also learn much about the movement and life of the applicant with some of the details expressed.

(Source: same as above)

The complexity of questions directed to applicants is clearly seen in this file. As much as some files were strangely brief or non-existent in many files, this case seemed to cover multiple angles about his desire to enroll his son.

The point is also that the questioning pertains to Creek enrollment, although George's wife and children were Seminoles of the Bruner band. Also the ultimate status of the family would be that of Seminole family, it is also important to realize how close these two tribes were as well. Families new each other, and mingled socially. Many from one tribe chose a spouse from the other tribe, and it is well known that both cultures share similar origins from the southeast.

(Source: same as above)

The file went on for multiple pages, and even beyond these question and answer interviews 20 more pages were part of this file, consisting of letters pertaining to the Noble family.

(Source: same as above)

Questions about whether or not people knew George Noble closely were asked even to the point of asking if the witnesses had visited the Noble household and recalled the birth of the child Stephen. There was focus on the fact that there was movement when called to appear and register, and one can see how often people were responding to the call to enroll.

One associate was called and asked about his own child's date of birth, and whether or not George Noble's child was born before or after his child's birth. Delia is mentioned continually, and her status as Seminole was repeatedly mentioned. But her voice, appeared to be the one voice that was missing. She was not a witness in these pages, yet, her presence and status as a Seminole was never challenged.

(Source: same as above)

(Source: same as above)

There are 19 more pages that are part of this family's file. Clearly, one might find much value in researching the records and files of Newborn Freedmen to document more of the family's rich and complex history.


In 1907 a decision was finally made on the case for Stephen. The application to enroll him as a Seminole Freedman was denied. However the denial was based on the fact that he had been enrolled as a Creek and his status was therefore not changed. As one can see from the first illustration above, a line was drawn through his name on the front of the card.

(Source: same as above)

(Source: same as above)

Delia and her children were enrolled as Seminole Freedmen, and the one child Stephen was kept as a Creek citizens. Since the Seminole Nation still allows the two Freedman bands to be a part of the nation, it is hoped that descendants of the Noble family are still a part of the nation that is their birthright. The extensive file reflects a complex and interesting history, and hopefully their story will be told of how all but one of Delia's children were Seminole, and how one branch became Creek.

This is the 30th article in a 52-article series devoted to sharing histories of families once held as enslaved people in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma. The focus is on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, and these posts are part of an on-going project to document 52 families in 52 weeks.

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