Thursday, December 31, 2015

Creek Freedmen Reflected on "Omitted Rolls"

In 1989, the Federal Records Center in Ft. Worth Texas microfilmed some of the Creek Records recorded in the early 1890s, and among them were the three "colored" towns, North Fork Colored, Arkansas Colored, and Canadian Colored. Having found some of the town rolls made before the Dawes rolls were constructed, I thought I would share some of them here. The images shown below reflect the names of Creek Freedmen from the three "colored" towns who were omitted in an earlier census and thus I refer to them as "Omitted" Rolls

As genealogists it is critical that we know how important it is that we move beyond simply scanning a list for an ancestor's name. What sometimes happens is that if we find a long sought-for name, we are happy, make a coy and move on. If we don't find the ancestor, we often close the book never to examine it again. However--there are still stories that can be found when examining various census records that come from a single community. They should still be examined if there is a tie of any kind, and an interest in the ancestral story.

There are several questions to ask when we look at these earlier records:

Who was on the list?
Who was not?
How were they grouped?
Were there any name variations?
Could some have died before the next census was taken?

These are all questions to be asked.

Researching Indian Territory, as well as any other community requires the same kind of tenacity essential for genealogical research in general. And it is not uncommon for beginners to get lost only in the Dawes rolls search. This partly stems from the political nature of the roll and who was placed on rolls by blood, freedmen rolls, and so on. The political issues were real in the 1890s and are real today. And it is known that for some, the goal is only tribal enrollment and to thereby bypass the greater story. Hopefully it is understood that regardless of an ancestor's status, there is a larger backdrop--a story to tell about their lives, a story tell about where they lived, and a story that describes the way they lived and how. Looking at all available rolls and how they were enumerated can help.

In recent months, I found an interesting collection of lists when I learned that Ancestry had digitized some lesser known records from the Creek Nation. In the Creek Nation, the political divisions consisted of  "towns". Among the towns (which were political and not always geographic or  residential) were three "colored" towns. One was often asked what town they "belonged to" as opposed to where they lived.

Colored Towns on the Omitted Roll

Source: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Arkansas Colored Town, Creek Nation

Source: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Selected Tribal Records. The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas.

Source: (Same as above)

Source: (Same as above)

North Fork Town (Colored)

Canadian Town (Colored)

While looking at the various names that appear on this town roll, I recognize known Creek families. In addition, I see the surnames of families that one may associate with other tribes, such as Bruner, Manuel and others from the Seminole Nation.

Though these are small rolls and reflect a small portion, hopefully the images may assist a researcher whose ancestors may have not have been reflected on the Dawes Rolls, if they died between 1891 and the years of the Dawes collection.

In a future article, I shall present images of the "Omitted Pay Rolls of 1891",

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Are Civil War Era Ancestors Among Your Oklahoma Freedmen Ancestors?

A List of Civil War Events in Indian Territory
Created from The Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick Dyer

It is hoped that the primary goal of research is to find data to assist in telling the family story. Records from Indian Territory are full of useful data to assist with that goal, but I have noticed that very few researchers discuss Civil War era records. In so many cases, people find Dawes Rolls, and in some cases they will refer to an earlier roll such as Wallace Rolls or Kern Clifton or Dunn Rolls. But frequently records and events from the Civil War are not used as much as they can be.  The Civil War affected everyone, and that included Indian Territory in general, and the enslaved population in particular.  When the chance came as Union soldiers approached a community, the enslaved people found themselves in a new situation. The trajectory of their lives had changed forever, and for many it was the war that brought freedom to their door.

Those enslaved in Indian Territory, like those enslaved in southern states were affected in the same manner. When Union soldiers raided a community some slaves were freed and left those places of enslavement. Others took refuge such as the hundreds of Freedmen did, that settled around Ft. Gibson making it one of the furthest west contraband camps.

In addition there were several skirmishes and battles fought in Indian Territory. The image above was taken from pages 981-982 of the Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick Dyer.

The Five slave-holding tribes were involved in the Civil War with many confederate regiments, and from which there were only three Union regiments. The other part of the story seldom mentioned were that there were Black soldiers from the same tribes who served in the Union Army. The 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Infantries consisted of mostly soldiers from the Cherokee and Creek Nations. Later these two units were designated as the 79th and 83rd US Colored Infantries, respectively. In addition to these soldiers were the less mentioned Black soldiers who served in the Indian Home Guards. (Men like Sugar George ended up later serving in their tribal government. Sugar George served as member of the House of Warriors and later the House of Kings, and he was also a member of the board of the Tullahassee Mission School, for Creek Freedmen.) But the strength of these men was demonstrated when they returned from the War as true Freedom fighters, Civil War veterans and leaders in their communities.

The image below reflects battles that were reflected in Indian territory, and neighboring Arkansas as well. Former slaves from the five tribes that held slaves were among the soldiers that fought in these battles. 

The Civil War service records capture much personal information on the individual soldiers themselves, and Freedmen descendants are encourage to study the Civil War in depth. There was a large encampment of Freedmen at Ft. Gibson during and after the war. In addition, former soldiers of the US colored Troops hold a wealth of genealogical data as well.

The soldiers came from all of the tribes. 

Amos Adair - a Cherokee slave, enlisted in the US Army in 1862.

Amos Adair served in the 79th US Colored Infantry. 

From the Choctaw Nation came Aaron Newberry who served in the 83rd US Colored Infantry.

Isaac Alexander was from the Chickasaw Nation, and also served in the 79th US Colored Infantry. He later became a leader among Chickasaw Freedmen.

Service card of Isaac Alexander, Chickasaw Freedmen. 

Solomon Renty was one of many Creek Soldiers who served in the US Colored Troops. He is believed to be a part of the Rentie family who later established  and settled in the town of Rentiesville.

Service card of Solomon Renty, 83rd US Colored Infantry

Billy Island was in the 79th US Colored Infantry. He first enlisted in the 1st Kansas Colored, and the unit was later changed to the 79th. Further research with Dawes Records revealed that Billy Island was a Seminole Freedmen and a member of the Barkus Band. His name was found on Seminole Freedman Card 621, and was revealed as the father to the children of Easter Island.

Clearly, former slaves from all of the Five Tribes, seized freedom when the opportunity came. The history of the units, the battles and skirmishes in which they fought, and the story of the Indian Territory Civil War events should all be incorporated into the family narrative.

Note that the Kansas Colored was the first black regiment to fight the enemy in the Civil War, as they were in the Battle of Island Mound, in Missouri as early as 1862. By learning more about the battle, one will learn more about the soldier in that unit. For every battle that can documented--there is an opportunity to tell more of the story of the Freedman ancestor's story. If they were there--that is part of their story and should be part of the Freedman family narrative.

Remember the Freedmen's Bureau

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, is commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau. The Ft. Smith field office of the Bureau, served people in Indian Territory as well as former slaves in nearby Arkansas. Many people were left destitute after the war, and therefore needed food, clothing, and shelter. The Bureau was there to provide assistance to those in need. The document below reflects a list of people receiving rations. And surprisingly more whites and Cherokee citizens received rations than former slave from the Ft. Smith area.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands, Ft. Smith Field Office
Record Group 105. National Archives Publication M1901 Roll 8

The Civil War era holds so much data for the Oklahoma Freedman researcher, and it is hoped that when you are ready to move beyond the Dawes Records, that military records as well as records reflecting the general population will assist you as you expand the story of the family's history.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Remembering the August "Freedom Celebrations" in Indian Territory

Little is spoken about the lives of those once enslaved in Indian Territory. However, it is from the details of the people that history can be found. The issue of slavery practiced in Indian Territory is often ignored by historians of Oklahoma, historians of the Five tribes where enslaved people lived, and unfortunately largely forgotten by the descendants of those enslaved as well.

Thankfully there are a few stories that were captured and the Western History Collection of the University of Oklahoma has many of those long forgotten stories in the Indian Pioneer Papers. This is the month of August and for a period of at least 50 years after slavery ended in Indian Territory, the freed people, as well as their descendants celebrated their own release from bondage. These emancipation celebrations were widespread and freedmen from all of the five tribes. Well into the 20th century, such celebrations were known to be held in the month of August. With time, most celebrations were held around the 4th of August, in many Freedmen communities. Sadly, much of that tradition is now lost and today thousands of descendants are oblivious to the many yearly traditions honoring their ancestors and celebrating freedom.

As August quickly wanes it is important to note the words left by some who shared their memories of such celebrations. One of the field workers for the Indian Pioneer Papers project was Elizabeth Ross, who described Emancipation celebrations that occurred in the Cherokee Nation, and her notes are stored with the collection and are recorded here:

"Freedmen Celebration"

"During a number of years when the Cherokee government was in existence, it was a custom of the freedmen or former slaves  and their descendants to observe the 4th day of August as the anniversary of their emancipation. As a matter of historical fact, the Cherokee emancipation was issued in the month of February 1863. Just why the August date was selected is not clear, but many were of the belief that the fourth day of that month was the date upon which freedom became their possession.

At Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory the Four Mile Branch, east of Fort Gibson, and at other places, there were held during the years largely attended picnics, at which there was speaking, singing, and bountiful repasts. Noted speakers, prominent white men, Cherokee officials and others often attended the observances. Besides a great variety of other food products, barbecued beef, mutton and pork were provided in abundance, all being spread upon long tables in the shade of the trees, in the vicinity of a spring of water. One of the most largely attended anniversary picnics was that which was held at Tahlequah at the close of the seventies of the last century. A long line of horsemen was formed on the banks of a small stream nearly a mile south of the town, and then a procession headed by a ma*n with drawn sword beside whom rode another man carrying a United States flag rode back and through the main street of Tahlequah. The mounted men sang patriotic songs in far-reaching tones, and halted at the chosen place of meeting which was on level and shaded ground near the vicinity of the large spring at the north end of the main street. The spring was years later designated as the Seminary spring, the Cherokee National Female Seminary having been completed a short distance north of the spring in 1889.

The young persons in attendance indulged in games and older persons "reminisced" of bygone years. A large number of the old time negro people were then alive, some of them having been brought to Indian Territory from the "Old Nation" east of the Mississippi River, at the time of the great Cherokee removal in 1838-39.

At later dates the celebrations were held on the "May party Grounds"  on the (...words missing from image...) of Tahlequah. This was the spot upon which was held the annual 7th of May anniversary holiday which was observed by the National high schools in commemoration of the opening of the Seminaries at the beginning of the fifties of the nineteenth century. On what was probably the last emancipation celebration at this picnic ground, considerable trouble prevailed. There was a revolver firing and a horse was killed, and a man received a painful but not dangerous wound.

In later years the celebration was usually held in the Four Mile Branch locality, in which lived a number of Freedmen and their descendants. The very few older negroes now living recall having seen large and enthusiastic crowds at the annual observance in long past years.

Authority:  E. P. Parris, and Dennis Hendricks"
  * * * * *

In September of 1937, Billie Byrd was an interviewer in the Pioneer project as well. She spoke at length with Aaron Grayson who was a Creek Freedmen. He too spoke in depth about the celebrations in the territory. In addition to the Creeks, it appears that Seminoles also joined in the celebrations as well. The notes made by Billie Byrd from that interview are transcribed below:

An Interview with Aaron Grayson, freedman
of Hitchita Town (Tulwa), Okemah Okla."

Billie Byrd Interviewer
Indian Pioneer History

There was an annual celebration held each year from the period from 1870 on up until the early part of 1900, which was held by negroes and freedmen. The white people observed Independence day on July 4th while the colored people observed the Emancipation day on August 4th. The observance of this Emancipation proclamation was mainly for and by negroes and freedmen, yet the Indians and whites were welcome to attend the celebrations.

There were always good times, because no one became drunk, quarrelsome or tried to pick a fight but only a feeling of good comradeship was felt by all who participated in the events. Of course the Lighthorsement and United States marshals were present to check any trouble and to keep peace and order. Many new acquaintances and lasting friendships were often made at these gatherings.

When a place was chosen where the celebrations were to be held, an American flag was set up and a cannon placed nearby which was fired at certain times. When the day of the celebration drew near, the best and the most highly spirited horses were taken care of by being well groomed and fed to have them in fine shape and rested up to ride that day. The saddles were all decorated with ornaments and fringes which were draped down on both sides of the horse. The rear part of the horse were (sic) mostly covered by heavy fringing and sometimes these fringes were decorated with German silver.

The Indian men who rode horses wore what seemed to be fancy costumes but they were the clothes that were being worn in everyday life. There was a coat which was made of fancy printed calico. These coats were not only worn during the celebration, but all the time. They were highly and fancy trimmed by very bright and vari-colored material, had a large cape collared and heavily trimmed. The sleeves just above the elbow length were further ornamented with colored ribbons that hung in streamers. The trouser legs were both gathered above the knees with ribbons and tied into a bow. If a ribbon was not used, the trouser leg was stiffly starched.

When the day of the great celebration arrived, the people did not come poking around one by one, but they came in a group or by bands, such as the Bruner band, Tokpafka band, etc. These people had assembled at one of the tribal towns from where they had come to the celebration as early as they could. They came on horses at a gallop, laughing and joking and yelling and were heard miles away before they finally came to the chosen place of the event.

When these groups reached the place of the celebration, the band would circle around the flag pole and the cannon was fired off, which was a sign for the people to take off to one side, for the other band to march around the flag pole and the cannon fired off again. There were always cheering words for one another of the participants and friendly greetings from friend to friend.

A queen was often chosen for the occasion by a majority vote of the people and there were always several girls running for this title. My sister was once elected queen. The queen was crowned with a crown made of silk material. The elected queen was given a divided riding skirt which had been made out of calico and the best decorated horse complete with saddle and other accessories was donated to the chosen queen to ride that day. The queen was free to ride anywhere she wished but there were two mounted attendants always at her side whose duties were to help the queen mount and dismount on and from her horse and in any way assist the queen even when a runaway occurred.

It was mostly the women who attended to the fixing the barbecue while the idle ones spent their time riding to and back to a certain place and in exchanging jokes, telling tales and other loud and boisterous fun.

When the refreshment hour rolled around it was then that the Indians showed why they were present because they had come for the eats mostly. At the close of the day, everyone felt that this was a day that had been well-spent in good fellowship. At the end of the day, different groups left for their homes with as much banter as they had gathered. 

These celebrations have been held in Wetumka, and Wewoka vicinity and the last even was held at Tuskegee, a country trading store north of Okemah........."

* * * * * 

Both of the interviews reflect a close and amicable relationship among the various populations found in both Cherokee, Creek Nations and from Grayson's interview it is clear that Seminoles also celebrated freedom in August as well. It is not clear if there were emancipation celebrations in Choctaw or Chickasaw Nations. Freedmen in the northernmost part of Choctaw country actually were geographically close to Cherokee communities, so it quite possible that Freedmen from Skullyville, Oak Lodge and other communities, would have attended the events in Tahlequah, or Ft. Gibson.

The celebrations of those years also reflect an amiable rapport between Freedmen and tribal leaders. Socially the Freedmen and those "by blood" were not strangers to each other. And most notably, the tribal leaders did not hold anti-Freedmen sentiments, or exhibit blatant racial disdain that has been evidenced in recent years with leaders espousing various concerns about the Indian-ness of tribal Freedmen. Linguistic calisthenics are often played today, with clear lessons that can be learned from their ancestors of a century ago.

Perhaps with time, Freedmen descendants and other Territory descendants of the various tribes will revive a time of celebration of fellowship and camaraderie. Both communities, share the same historical landscape, they share the same soil, and the share the same history from the same trail. There is much to be learned from the ancestors.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freedmen's Bureau Served Indian Territory Also

The recent news about the indexing initiative launched by Family Search last week from Los Angeles has thousands of people looking at the Freedmen's Bureau records. The  Bureau, known officially as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, and it operated after the Civil War to bring about order to the lives of the millions of people affected by the War.

The newly freed slaves were among the largest populations served, thus the name, Freedmen's Bureau. But it should be noted that there were many white refugees left destitute by the war, who received rations. And the least of the known facts about the bureau, are the facts that citizens from the nearby Indian tribes were also served by the Freedmen's Bureau. Most of the Indians who are reflected in Bureau records are Cherokee Indians.

Source: National Archives Publication M1901 Roll 8, Ft. Smith Field Office

For this ration distribution list, most of the recipient appears in 1867. Though many of the recipients were Cherokee, a few Choctaw Indians also appeared at the bureau for assistance as well.

A recent article was shared on my other blog MyAncestor's Name reflecting all of the pages from the Ft. Smith field office, and reflects all of the people to whom rations were distributed at that time.

It should be pointed out that there were several Civil War battles fought in Indian Territory from Cabin Creek, to Honey Springs, and small skirmishes in other places, especially in the Cherokee Nation. The people living in the vicinity of these battles would have been equally as traumatized as citizens in other communities in the South. Many were left without shelter, and without food for some time, Therefore the presences of the western Arkansas field office in Ft. Smith served to bring relief and assistance to those also from Indian Territory.

These records reflect those times, and these records also hold to the keys to many unwritten chapters of Civil War history and its aftermath.

The records are now part of a major indexing initiative, in partnership with the Smithsonian, Family Search, and the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cherokee Freedmen Voting, Since the 1800s

"I cast my first vote for chief of this Nation in August 1895, but the first vote that I cast was cast at the election of the Mayor of Tahlequah in the spring on 1895". ~ Ave Vann son of Clora and Joe Turk Vann.
          ~~~~    ~~~~    ~~~~~ 

An interesting post today was shared in social media from a recent article from the Cherokee Phoenix pertaining to the upcoming elections. A letter from the BIA acting Regional Director was written earlier in the month declining to approve LA-04-14, an act to amend the election code of the tribe. A recent phone call between Cherokee Nation representatives and the Department of the Interior addressed the intentions of the tribe to comply with an order from 2011. That particular order from September 2011 came from the United States District Court. 
According to the Phoenix article "That order was set to ensure all Freedmen voters would have the opportunity to participate in the election of the Principal Chief as well as give access to and have rights and benefits the same as all Cherokee Nation citizens." I personally found this to be especially interesting, because this week, while engaging in research for a client, from a Civil War Pension file from the 1890s I found a unexpected reference to a vote in the Cherokee Freedman, by the voter himself.

The case was that of a Civil War widow. Her name was Clora Vann, and her husband was one of the under-mentioned soldiers from the Civil War--black soldiers of the Indian Home Guards. There were several dozen men of African Descent who served in the Indian Home Guards. The soldier in this case was Joseph "Turk" Vann, who served in Company M of the 3rd Regiment of the Indian Home Guards.  He was also referred to as Joe Turkey, and Turk Vann, by many who knew him in his regiment.

Civil War General Index to Pensions 1864-1934, Washington, D.C.
National Archives and Records Administration  T288 546 rolls

After the former soldier's death in the 1890s his widow Clora Vann who lived in Tahlequah filed for a widow's pension. She was awarded her pension after she was able to establish proof that she was truly married to this Union Army veteran.

Among many pieces of "proof" were the testimonies and depositions made by the men who served with her husband, and who knew them to be husband and wife. The file was full of many references to his history, his ties to the well known wealthy Vann slaveholders,  and the other Vanns of Tahlequah. The file also makes many references to the soldier's name, as he was often known by a Cherokee Name as well as name "Turk" and "Turkey" in English.

But another item caught my eye from one of the witnesses. That came from her son, Ave, who also spoke on his mother's behalf.  A question arose about his age. To respond to the question of age he pointed out that he met the age requirement in the Cherokee Nation as a voter was 18 and that he was old enough to have cast a vote in recent elections.

From Widow's Pension file of Clora Vann,
widow of Joe Turk Vann, Company M, Indian Home Guards

Ave Vann's statement about casting his vote stood out and caught my attention, especially since the issue of the upcoming vote and the rights of Cherokee Freedmen is still an issue. (Interestingly the soldier Joe "Turk" Vann was the son of as well as the slave of one of the old Vanns of Tahlequah, including the family of the elder Ave Vann well known in the tribe at that time. And as the file reflected, his own son also bore the same name.)

It is often debated even today by many, in the nation that Cherokee Freedmen had no part in the nation, and never participated in the affairs of the nation, yet, here was a file of a man who served with one of the few Union regiments from Indian Territory. (Most Cherokee regiments were, in fact southern sympathizers and fought with the Confederates.) The son of the soldier in this case clearly pointed out his own participation in his nation as a citizen and as a voter. And as he pointed out that when he was of voting age his voting was never challenged by the Cherokee Nation. "I just handed in my ticket like the rest, and my name was put down on the list. 

As issues of the upcoming elections still address the rights of Freedmen, the pages of history reflect that the Freedmen were there, living under the laws, and participating in the electoral process.

Hopefully the historical presence of those once enslaved in the Cherokee Nation will be acknowledged, and will not be wiped out by malicious expulsion votes, nor maligned by the linguistic calisthenics thrown by some individuals labeling Cherokee Freedmen descendants as  "non-Indian Freedmen".  Carefully, they never referred to Freedmen descendants as called "non-Cherokee" Freedmen, because they can't dispute that in fact, that is what they truly were.
It is hoped that those of all of the respective nations from the pre-statehood Territory, with ties to the nations of their ancestors' birth, will all be recognized for their human presence, and contribution to the tribes, by their labor, their service and their lives.

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Cherokee Rose", Explores Life on a Cherokee Slave Holding Plantation


Cherokee Rose by Tiya Miles

Cherokee Rose is a book that caught my attention, because it is an area in which many African Americans feel is part of their history.  

The author is MacArthur fellow Tiya Miles  and in this book she looks at descendants of people with connections to Cherokee and Creek Indians. I made an oral review of this book on my weekly podcast on April 3. However, it is also imperative that I bring this book to the attention of readers here, as well.

The author bases the story of Cherokee Rose, loosely on the history of the Chief Vann House, in Georgia. But she brings it to light in the lives of three women of color who all have ties to the Georgia plantation. One of them, lives in modern day Oklahoma, is active in a Freedmen's descendant's group, and is in fact, a Creek descendant of African Creek leader, Cow Tom.

My personal interest in this book, is based on my own family history  with one group of my ancestors who were Choctaw Freedmen who were once slaves in the Choctaw Nation. I will say that reading this book is was a special treat, because on the pages one can get a rare and seldom told story of life on a Cherokee Indian slave-holding estate. The James Hold plantation in the book, is a fictionalized version of the real James Vann estate. 

The Cherokee slave holding family, upon whom the story is loosely based was the Vann family, connected to Chief James Vann, a wealthy Cherokee slave holder. The three main characters are all versions of people whom we may feel that we already have known or have met. They are prototypes of women living today, one of the characters, a woman of means and education, another who has ties from the Muscogee Creek Nation and who is an active member of her Muscogee Creek community, and another--a writer seeking a valid story to tell. All of the characters found a strong interest in the estate, and what unfolds is an interesting tie that each of them has to the historic household, and estate. One even sees characters who are somehow self appointed "keepers of the flame" with their plans for the future of the estate. All are somehow familiar, yet still strangers.

The book wanders between places in time, from the present day to the plantation era, through the words of the people of the past. And as the subtitle describes it, it a story of "Gardens and Ghosts" and the reader will find him/herself seeing the grounds, and the greenery from herbs to the lovely Cherokee roses also upon those grounds. And those of us with close ties to Oklahoma will appreciate so much from the seeing the carefully chosen names of the characters to the roles that each of them in the story have in relation to the past.

As a reader, I recognized versions of  people that I have met over the years. including those who perceive a tie that they cannot document. I appreciated seeing the researcher, the preservationist, and the genealogist who eagerly sought their history on AfriGeneas, and others who have only family lore to guide them. Tiya Miles carefully brings in those with historical family lore and brings those persons in direct confrontation with the reality of events of the past. It was carefully constructed. I can only say that I saw persons that I have seen from "Dartmouth to Durant" and places beyond. This book describes so many of the various  "types" of souls who wander the trails of the African-Native experience, and one will walk away from the book understanding how some stories are often misunderstood, but yet still so important to truthfully tell.

Though fiction, this story has a thoroughly documented basis upon which this narrative is told. Author Tiya Miles won a MacArthur fellowship because of her ground-breaking work on exploring the lives of the African experience as slaves in Indian communities. The story is so well written and I can only say those with ties to Oklahoma, or parts of the south and south east need to read Cherokee Rose. I personally have to thank Dr. Tiya Miles for writing this story. 

Now for those who are interested in the historical background of the Chief Vann historic house and estate, read her work The House on Diamond Hillwhich will provide this story. And those who study Indian Territory and its history, rarely see this story told, and even more rare is the story told about life of the enslaved even before removal.

In a general sense as a descendant from enslaved people both from Indian Territory, and also of the  American South, I note that few stories ever go beyond  those tales of horror and of cruelty.  Well now someone has effectively done that. The past is there, but so are the descendants, the survivors.

Thankfully, there are new scholars who are looking into this history and I personally await the fruits of their labor. I hope to read the stories from Tahlequah to Idabel--because there are the scholars among us, who have this area as specialty, as a home, and as an academic focus.

A wider audience not only wants to hear and to read more, we need to have these stories, and Cherokee Rose is the beginning.

I urge you to obtain a copy of the book, as I think it is a critical one to have in your library.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Resources for Cherokee Freedmen Family History

The newly digitized in color images have been a pleasure to explore ever since they were announced when Ancestry partnered to bring more Oklahoma records to subscribers. Among the many new records now digitized, are some excellent resources for family history. Cherokee Freedmen, like descendants of other tribal Freedmen will be particularly thrilled to find the original color images of Dawes Cards.

Cherokee Freedman Card #850  National Archives Publication M1186 (Front Side of Card)

Back side of card

Source for Both Images: Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, 93 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C. [Note Ancestry has color images of original Dawes Cards.]

I am happy to point out  that there are additional resources for family history research for Cherokee Freedmen. Some reside on subscription sites while others reside on free sites. As many of these resources as possible should be used to construct the family history. Most are described for you here.

The Wallace Roll
This roll was conducted between 1890 and 1896, and it was compiled by John Wallace, who was a Special Agent. The roll was later rejected by the tribe and was not used for enrollment when the Dawes Commission began several years later. However, the roll still exists and it resides on the National Arhives website in its entirety. 

Image of a page from the Wallace Roll

Source: Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793-1999, 
Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen in Indian Territory 1890-1896

Researchers can access the entire Wallace Roll HERE, where it resides on the National Archives website.

A Break for the 1890 Census
Most genealogists are aware of the lack of records reflecting the 1890 census year. Oklahoma researchers, and Indian Territory researchers in particular have many records to explore reflecting the years between 1890 and 1900 that this missing census year is not an issue for genealogists with Oklahoma ancestors. Ancestry has captured many of these records as well as other free sites, and they should all be explored. The better news is that the collections now available include hundreds of pages of census that even preceded the Dawes Rolls and the Wallace Rolls. 

Cherokee Census of 1896
In this particular census, Cherokee Freedmen were enumerated at the end of each district section. In the image below the "Adopted" Freedmen appear in the Tahlequah District, on final pages after the Cherokees "by blood" were enumerated. (This comes from the National Archives in Ft. Worth and has the reference number of 7RA-19). Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Selected Tribal Records. The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas. Group 7RA-19 Cherokee 1896 Census

1893 Cherokee Census
Many researchers are not aware that in 1893 another census was conducted in the Cherokee Nation. And like later records they also had pages reflecting Freedmen in each of the Districts of the Nation. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT,  USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Selected Tribal Records. The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas. Group 7RA-54 Cherokee 1893 Census

In some cases notes were made in the "remarks" column to explain a bit of additional data about the family enumerated.

(Notes made about family enumerated on census page.)

The 1890 Cherokee Census 
During this census year an enumeration of residents was also conducted in Indian Territory.  There are 6 reels of microfilm for this record set, and all are digitized on Ancestry. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Within this short collection are six different census schedules. 

Schedule 1 consists of those considered Cherokee Citizens, This schedule included Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation
Schedule 2 consists of children identified as orphans, and 
Schedule 3 consists of those considered "non-citizens."
Schedule 4 consists of those not classified as citizens but who claimed citizenship.
Schedule 5 consists of those who were considered "intruders" upon Cherokee land.
Schedule 6 consists of non-citizens who lived on Cherokee land with permission.

Sample page from Schedule 1: This page reflects Cherokee Freedmen. It clearly states their entitlement to citizenship.

1890 Cherokee Nation Census 1890 Schedule 1
This second image reflects a closer view of the names listed on the document.
(Closer view of same image)
Source for both images: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Brief look a schedule 6

Many persons who were considered to be non-citizens were also captured in the census of 1890, on Schedule 6. The heading clearly indicated their non-Cherokee status. This particular census year is interesting, because one should note that in the year before, in 1889 the first Oklahoma Land Rush occurred. As a result many non-Cherokees were present even in the Cherokee Nation itself and were simply enumerated as "American"  and in latter pages as "white" under the column for "Race or Nationality" 
Page from 1890 census showing Non-Cherokee residents

Cherokee Freedmen were not listed on this non-Cherokee census schedule.

It is helpful when using census records of any source to pay close attention the instructions that census takers were given. The descriptions for each of the schedules for this 1890 Cherokee Nation census are spelled out clearly.

Full description of 1890 Cherokee Nation Census schedules.

Source: Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

Land Allotment Applications
A final suggestion for Indian Territory research is to look at the records for Freedmen Land allotment applications. These are fully digitized images and they reflect the actual location of the original land allotment of the family members that were approved on the Dawes Rolls. All of these pages which number over a million, are located on the Family Search website and can be accessed free of charge.

Earlier Cherokee Freedmen Records
There is a unique set of records covering a wide span of years, which are strictly Cherokee Freedmen Records.  The records like most of these images come from the Federal Record Center in Ft. Worth Texas. This is the set of records known as Cherokee Freedmen Rolls and Indexes 1867-1897. 

Within that collection, one will find the 1880 Cherokee Freedmen Census.


Original data: Selected Tribal Records. The National Archives at Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas. Group 7RA-51 Cherokee 1880 Freedmen Census

Hopefully these sample documents will provide more information for Cherokee Freedmen historical researchers seeking to learn more of the people in the Freedmen communities and who they were, and how they lived. Using these records will assist many historians, and genealogists, and they will thereby aid in telling the story more effectively for generations to come.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Records on Ancestry Open Doors for Oklahoma Researchers

Ancestry: Oklahoma and Indian Territory Indian Census and Rolls:
Adopted Whites, Delawares, Shawnees and Freedmen
Tahlequah District

For those researching family based in Oklahoma and who lived in the communities of the Five Civilized Tribes that resided in Indian Territory, it is important to understand all of the data, and to utilize all of the essential record sets reflecting the various populations.

On Ancestry, an amazing collection has been made available for Oklahoma researchers. But it can be tricky to learn how the records are organized and how they can be found. In the community reflected above, the image was found in a larger collection called, "Oklahoma and Indian Territory Indian Census and Rolls 1851-1959. That is a span of over 100 years. With such a span of years---it is recommended that first one confirms that the family is Oklahoma based and was for several decades before statehood, which occurred in 1907.

If the family did not live in the land that became Oklahoma for at least 4 decades prior to 1907, a search for an ancestor among these records, might be futile. (Of course there are exceptions, which included to those who migrated to the Territory, during the years of the Land Rush (1889) and other subsequent years.) However, most people found in this category of records, will be found in many other records, in particular the Dawes records. In other words, it is suggested that one not begin a search for an Indian ancestor with this collection, before exhausting the Federal Census, and then the Dawes. These records will be the beginning point for additional ties to the nations. Of course after obtaining the extremely data rich information with census and Dawes records, then earlier records such as the 1896 roll, reflected above will add additional flavor to the family narrative.

In the case of the collection above, this reflects the 1896 census of the Tahlequah District of the Cherokee Nation, and this particular collection included the populations adopted by the Cherokee Nation: Adopted Whites, Delawares, Shawnees and Freedmen--(former Cherokee slaves, and their children.)

Because of the enormity of this collection---it is important to look at all of the pages of the collection. In the case of Adopted Freedmen, about every four or five pages, a notation appears at the top of the page. A line is drawn through the words reflecting Blood quantum, and the notation points out that the data collected in that column reflects the data,  "Where Born" in regards to the birthplace of the persons enumerated. C. N. is an abbreviation for Cherokee Nation. See the following illustration:

Top of page for 1896 Census showing Adopted Freedmen

Close Up of column reflects the data recorded in the "blood" column on page for Adopted Freedmen. The words "Where Born" reflect the information recorded. C. N. means "Cherokee Nation"

For the person who is just beginning Indian Territory research, it is important to know that everyone reflected on a census such as this one, there will be much for data on the family by researching the Dawes Rolls. Hopefully Dawes records have already been obtained. (Dawes records are found on Ancestry and Fold3

A word of Caution

If the genealogy process is new to you, then it is emphasized that you must look at 20th century records first and connect your family to the generation to preceded it. Connect yourself to your parents,  your parents to your grandparents, the grandparents to the great grandparents. And there should be a sound geographic element for the family--even in the family migrated at some point in time.

This is mentioned because there can be a major temptation start the genealogy process by choosing to first look at 1800s Indian census records in order to "prove" Indian ancestry, before embarking on 20th century basic census and vital records research. Also remember to connecting the family year by year, to the community from which the family came. For example, if the family being researched always lived in Tennessee, but the name being researched appears on an "Indian census" in what is now Oklahoma, there is a possibility that there might be a coincidence of names, and the Indian Territory document might not be the Tennessee based family being researched. In fact it is most likely that the Indian Territory document is not the Tennessee based family. 

Also note that many names are frequently common names. So surnames such as Williams, Jones, McIntosh, Ross, Davis etc. appear in many communities in Indian Territory and also in the United States.  So it is important that one is certain of family ties to the Territory. If the family lived in Tahlequah District, then they will also be found in the 1900 and 1910 communities in the Tahlequah District. Always  ask yourself: Is this your ancestor? Or is this someone who bears the same name?

Finding the Records

Since Ancestry has recently digitized many new records from Indian Territory and Oklahoma, it is important to know how to find them.The most efficient way is to go to the Card Catalog and type in the name of the collection, and when the search box opens, one can then place the names of the persons being researched. In the case below, by typing in the words "Oklahoma and Indian Territory" the image shown below will appear.

Finding Indian Territory Records on Ancestry via Card Catalog
This screen shot illustrates what will appear,

 The collection is enormous and is an amazing collection of records from multiple tribes. There are 41 different collections to research.

The new collections recently digitized have begun to open more doors for Oklahoma based researchers. Tjere are new records to examine and this newly digitized collection should assist many genealogists in exploring their pre-Dawes era ancestry.