Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ancestors Beyond Indian Territory? Census, Slave Schedules and More

Many who have ancestors who were Freedmen from the Five Tribes, often have multiple challenges as they research their families. That is because they also have another line of the family that came from the United States and who migrated to Indian Territory and married Freedmen from the various tribes.

So those researchers are faced with learning how to research their Oklahoma Freedmen based families with Dawes and Pre-Dawes records, AND they have to learn the basics of African American Genealogy and learning how to research families who were once enslaved in the American south. At some point they will reach the "Wall of 1870" where they find their ancestor documented there and can go no further. That is because in the census years before that, their ancestors were enslaved and were not listed in the census by name? So what are the resources and what records are there?

Here is a useful list that might assist you in finding more of your family:

1) Records from The Era of Freedom -This includes records from the Freedmen's Bureau, the Freedman's Bank, Co-habitation Records, Civil War pension files, and various state census records

Pension Index card of Afr. Am Civil War soldier 

2) 1860 and 1850 Slave Schedules - Though the names of the enslaved are not revealed, these documents can be used to learn more about the community where the family was enslaved, and there are clues about the size of the slave community, the number of dwellings, and data if some of the enslaved were fugitives. A detailed article about how to use slave schedules is provided here from the blog, "My Ancestor's Name".

3) Court Records One cannot emphasize the value of court records in genealogical research. The names of slaves are found in probate court records, where wills will often list the names of enslaved people. Also the transfer of slaves often from the slave holder to others in the family can be revealed in these records. Additional records such as tax records, deeds, bills of sale and much more can be found in the court records, especially prior to 1860.

List of slaves in Camden Co. GA being willed by slave holder to his daughter

4) Land Records - The acquisition of land was critical for people wishing to live independently. Many are unaware that their ancestors obtained land through the Homestead Act where federal lands were opened to those wishing to become land owners.  A good way to find out if your ancestors were able to purchase acres of land, utilize the amazing database offered by the Bureau of Land Management. This free database is found HERE.

Image from the BLM Database

These are a few tools that are provided for those who have ancestors from states beyond Oklahoma. Many Freedmen researchers are not sure how to research their non-Oklahoma families, and these are provided as a guide to researching the extended family.

Hopefully the desire to tell the family narrative will extend beyond the boundaries of Oklahoma and these suggestions will assist researchers is expanding their options to tell more of the family narrative.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Researching Native American Slaveholders

Portion of a sample Slave Schedule from Choctaw Nation

Do you have ancestors who were enslaved in Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole Nations? 

When you find that first Freedman Dawes Card and see the name of the slave holder, what can you do to learn more?
Is there a way to find out more about the life and history of the person who enslaved your ancestor in Indian Territory?

The Dawes records reflecting those who ancestors were Oklahoma Freedmen quickly find that there is a unique challenge that they have. For them, there is no easy way to research the history of the slave holder. The basic reason is because from 1870 till 1900, data for the Federal Census was not collected in Indian Territory.

Unlike those whose ancestors were enslaved in the United States, there are decades where federal census records simply don't exist. And likewise, there was no county courthouse where vital records, and land records were held in those pre-statehood years. So, when trying to learn more about who the slave holder was, from the Five Civilized Tribes--many Freedmen descendants are at a loss of what to do next, and where to go to find out more about the slave holder.  So how does one find out more about the slaveholders from Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations?

Here are five suggestions that might be useful for Fr eedmen descendants to use.

1) Search the slave holder's family on the Dawes Card database.When searching the Dawes records on Ancestry, try typing in the name of the slave holder. For Freedmen that name is on every enrollment card. And on the reverse side of Freedmen cards, even the name of the slaveholder of each of the parents is also revealed. Even if the slave holder was deceased by the time of the Dawes Commission, (1898-1914) there is a possibility that the slave holder's descendants were on the Dawes Roll. With the Ancestry database, the names of the parents of Dawes enrollees is a part of the indexed database. By studying the slave holder's family, then one will learn more about the family of the slave holder, and in many cases, their history since removal.

2) Locate the slaveholder's family on any of the tribe's pre-Dawes rolls. Numerous records abound from Indian Territory for each of the five tribes. This is especially the case with records from the 1890s, and 1880s. These records can shed more light on that family.

3) Find the Slave holder's name on the 1860 Slave schedule. This pre-civil war document is part of the federal census and provides a head count of all people enslaved. The only names on these records are those of the slave holders, and this can be quite significant for the researcher.

Firstly, keep in mind that the 1860 slave schedule reveals the actual number of people held in bondage for that year. In some cases the actual "owner" of record may have been the wife or the widow of the head of house. Secondly, by studying the numbers of enslaved people, the researcher may be able to glean more information about the kind of community that the ancestor being held in bondage may have lived. If they were slaves of Robert Jones, for example they experienced a southern plantation kind of life with the big house and slave quarters. On the other hand if the slave holder only had a small number of enslaved people then the life experience may have differed.
Note---with slave schedules, it is important to use them properly. Many people will look at the record and try to guess which person is their ancestor, by making a mathematical calculation. This is not an appropriate use of the record. A document with no name should never be used to declare that an ancestor is reflected on the record. A "guess" is not genealogical evidence, and does not meet the standards of genealogical proof.

4) Include the Indian Pioneer Papers in your research. This collection, which is part of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma should be a standard part of  your genealogical research. This is a 116-volume collection of interviews with people from Indian Territory. People who were "early" residents of the territory or descendants of the early residents were interviewed in the 1930s. This amazing collection of white, black and Indian people should be a standard database used by Oklahoma genealogists. This collection is fully digitized, and searchable, and much valuable data can be studied. In many cases, slave holder data is discussed on multiple levels.

5) Study the Civil War participation of the slave holder. Many slave holders were confederate sympathizers in the war, and served in one of the numerous Indian Confederate regiments. (A fully detailed article on Civil War regiments is being developed in a separate article for this blog.)

Beyond the wonderfully rich data that one finds among the Dawes records, it is imperative that for Freedmen research, that the narrative can be expanded by examining the slave owner's history. The life of the ancestor while enslaved, during the war, and during those early days of freedom will unravel many of the untold mysteries in the family's history. Hopefully the unspoken relationship between the slave holder and the families once enslaved will be explored, and will allow the researcher to tell more of this little studied history.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Free People and Property in Post Civil War Indian Territory

In the years after the Civil War, many citizens of Indian Territory used the services of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen's Bureau. Some needed the Bureau for assistance as they settled into war torn land they once knew as home. For some, the Bureau assisted them with life as free people for the first time. For others, they needed rations, that were provided, and for others, there was an issue of lands abandoned during the War.

Of course, for those once enslaved in Indian Territory the Bureau was a place where many resources could be found. But a group of Creeks who were of African ancestry who were not enslaved also appealed to the Bureau in western Arkansas for assistance. These were people who were born free, and not enslaved. They had lived in the Seminole & Creek Nation as free people, but during the Civil War and the time of conflict, many had to abandon their own lands for safety. Prior to the war, they had settled on lands and had worked their own lands for years, but once the conflicts and issues of the war came closer to their home, like many, they took refuge in Kansas to avoid the chaos and devastation brought by war. After the surrender, many wished to return home, but found much of their property destroyed.

Lewis Moore, who was a leading man of color, first made the inquiry to the bureau officials, inquiring about compensation for the lands that they had abandoned. The officials in the Fort Smith Field office were not certain and in fact wrote to their superiors with the same inquiry. A copy of a letter written about Seminole and Creek people was found among the papers of the Fort Smith Field office of the Bureau. The letter appears below.

The letter was written by the Superintendent of the Fort Smith Field Office of the Bureau, and sent to his superior in Little Rock at the Bureau office there.

There is no response among the letters from the Fort Smith Field office addressing the rights of people and property in the Territory. But the answer can still be learned simply but understanding the bureau, the jurisdiction, and the actions taken.

The bureau, did oversee the issue of abandoned lands in the United States, but the bureau did not restore lands to people in Indian Territory. That is also complicated by the fact that among the Five Civilized Tribes, land was not "owned" in private parcels of land, and private ownership did not take place in the Territory until the Dawes allotment process began in the 1890s.

So although there was no official response found to the letter above, the letter is still revealing as it is one that pertains to the rights of free people of color in the Territory, and it is reflective of a time of post Civil War re-adjustments that were made by all who lived in the Territory.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Institute to Feature Oklahoma Freedmen in 2019

MAAGI – The Teaching Institute
For 2019 – Announcing: A New Track
Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes

For the very first time, MAAGI will become the first genealogy institute to offer a track devoted entirely to the Freedmen from Indian Territory and the Five Tribes: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations. This is focus in the genealogy community, is long overdue as the Oklahoma based Freedmen are uniquely the largest group of African-descended people with the most provable ties to any Native American tribe. For three days the participants will take 12 classes, all devoted to methods of researching the documenting the history of this most under-discussed population.

Terry Ligon (Blogger, researcher, Chickasaw Freedman Researcher)
Dr. Janice Lovelace (Retired Professor, Choctaw Researcher)
Ron Graham (Genealogy Researcher, Lecturer, Creek Researcher)
Nicka Smith (Blogger, Ancestry Researcher, Author Cherokee Researcher
Angela Walton-Raji (Author, Blogger, Podcaster Choctaw Freedman Researcher)

·        Basic Records for Freedman Research
·        Chickasaw Freedmen and Equity Case 7071
·        Before the Dawes Rolls – Exploring Earlier Freedmen Records
·        Military Records & the Oklahoma Freedmen – USCTs and Indian Home Guards
·        Creek Freedmen Records – Dunn Roll, Old Series, Per Capita Payments and Dawes
·        The Case of Joe & Dillard Perry
·        Finding Ike Rogers and other Cherokee Freedmen
·        Oklahoma Freedmen and Pioneer Papers
·        Freedmen Settlements – From Tribal Towns to Freedman Settlemants
·        Freedmen Before Statehood – Associations, Societies, and Educators
·        Freedman Schools. Their History and Their Records
·        IT Freedmen and the Arkansas Freedman’s Bureau
·       The Freedmen Stevensons & Other Large Family Clans
For more information: