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.