Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Estate Record in Cherokee Nation Bequeathing Slaves

Estate record of John Sanders, of Cherokee Nation, 17 April, 1847
OHS Microfilm: CHN 38  Digitized by Ancestry - Original Title: Old Marriage Record - Flint District, 
Image 214 of 717

(WHOLE IMAGE BELOW)
***********************************

(Transcription of two paragraphs from above image):

"To Charles Sanders, my son, one Negro Man by the name of Alfred, and his wife Tilda. My farm lying on Salisaw Creek, known as the farm, whereon I have formerly lived, and one yoke of oxen, one wagon, all my stock of hogs, and also one half of my stock of cattle."

"To my daughter Elizabeth, I give her one half of my stock of cattle, and I give unto my daughter Pagy, one Negro girl Lucy."



*************

While examining the thousands of pages from the Cherokee Nation that were digitized 2 years ago, I was surprised to come upon some estate record. This set of records comes from an Oklahoma Historical Society microfilm, CHN 38 and is entitled Old Marriage Records Flint District. However, it was a surprise to see that within this small set of records a ledger that begins with a last will of a Charles Sanders leaving his children enslaved people as part of their inheritance.

A majority of the records entered into the ledger were dated after the Civil War, but this document from 1847 is rare for many reasons. First, it is uncommon to find estate records from pre-Civil War Indian Territory. The county system and court-house repositories from that time period do not exist and if there are probate records of any kind from the Territory, they may be private collections and are not in the public domain.

Secondly, to find a document prior to the Civil War from Indian Territory reflecting ownership of slaves by anyone living in the Territory is rare. Slavery as an institution practiced on the western frontier is not widely studied and rarely taught. Slavery in the Cherokee Nation, and likewise in the other tribes where slaves were held in bondage, is not included in the historical narrative of the tribes themselves, so it is truly remarkable that such a document survived, and that such a document was microfilmed.

Thirdly, the discourse of slavery in the Territory and has yet to unfold. Some of it has become known to a larger audience when descendants of the enslaved have sought to have their rights as citizens recognized. Similar to that in the deep south, true historical scholarship on American slavery unfolded as the occurrence of a struggle for rights of oppressed African Americans increased. Perhaps as the struggles of oppressed people increase, so too one sees an increase in the history of the same population.

Several years ago I studied runaway slave ads in Indian Territory press, and have found some in the Choctaw Intelligencer, as well as early issues of the Cherokee Phoenix & Indian Advocate. The discussion of slavery brings about discomfort for many. But discomfort among those of the dominant culture is also the discomfort that brings about change. It is that discomfort that makes people examine their own values, and pre-conceived notions about people whom they have never sought to know, and often later learn that there are more similarities than differences.

In the earlier days of the "current" movement from the Freedmen community, many would whisper that Freedmen were descendants of "slaves" as if that in itself put the shame upon those who never enslaved themselves--and many would use the term as if the ancestors of the Freedmen, had committed the crime of their enslavement themselves. The fact being of course that many (not all) of the ancestors of the dominant culture were the actual perpetrators of the heinous act of enslavement of others.

But---with more exposure, and voice from the oppressed, comes the courage to look at the history with a different eye. Not an eye of discomfort and distance, and disdain, but with an eye of comfort--with oneself and one's ability to see oneself, and to see the humanity of those once oppressed as part of the human family.

Partial list of the slaves of John Ross, from 1860 Slave Schedule
"Lands West of Arkansas" 1860 Slave Schedule, Tahlequah District p. 26
Image can be accessed on Internet Archive (Image 863 of 865)


And that gives one freedom to study the history objectively and not to hide it. That gives all of the tribes to mention the practice of slavery among their historical leaders, from Ross, to Pitchlynn, to Love, to Bowleggs, to McIntosh. To tell the story of American history without mentioning slavery is to put a gaping gash of omission on that historical narrative which leaves it flawed. To tell the story of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminoles, without the story of slavery is to put a gash of omission on that historical narrative as well.

Hopefully more documents will emerge to tell some of that story. The purpose of studying them, is not to accuse, but to learn more about the human family of which we are all a part.



(Entire image. For citation, see above)


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

African American Families from the Mississippi Choctaw Files

National Archives Publication M1186, Enrollment Cards
Mississippi Choctaw Rejected MCR 1112
Color Image Source: Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2014.

The rejected files of the Mississipi Choctaw (MCR files) reflect rich data for family history and those with ties to Mississippi, and who have heard that there are family ties to Choctaws, and to Choctaw communities, will find that this record set could yield some amazing data.

Do not be dismayed that this information comes from a record set marked "Rejected". There are many reasons why an ancestor's history could be found among these records. Some of the reasons are cultural, some political, some historical and some social. All of the reasons were used with the MCR files, and vary from one file to another. But it should be understood that these records were created by persons in the late 1800s, and early 1900s who stated that they had Choctaw family ties, and many of them provided remarkable family information. Regardless of the reason for the final outcome of the case the status of the family record among the MCR files should not prevent the family researcher from exploring the files.

In the case above, the application was for Frank Nicholas, and his children Rosaline and Frank Jr. They lived in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

The Dawes Commission interview went into great detail about the family background and sought to determine how the Choctaw blood was part of the family history.

National Archives Publication M1301 MCR 1112
Applications for Enrollment of the Commission to the
Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914
Image Source: Fold3.com



In this case the detail extracted from the applicant went into detail about the source of the Choctaw ancestry. The applicant was examined as to whether claim was being made under Article 14 of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit. This line of questioning was common among most cases in the MCR category. In this case the applicant repeated what had been told to him most of his life about his own ancestry.
Source: Same as above


Source: Same as above

The application jacket for this family was closely connected to additional files, it is imperative that all of the files are combined to glean thorough information about the family. From the same files for Frank Nicholas, references are made to additional family members who also submitted applications.

Source: Same as above

After analyzing the cases of the additional relatives it was decided that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the Choctaw connection, since there was no attempt in earlier  years to be enrolled as Choctaw citizens.

In spite of this decision--it is also clear that an unexpected gem awaits the researcher. In the course of the many interview questions, careful notes were taken on the case and this was one of the cases where a hand drawn, multiple generation pedigree chart was included. For any researcher this is a real treasure to find. Because of the complex questions asked, additional names of relatives and they were included in the Frank family file.
Multiple generation pedigree chart in file
Source: Same as above

It should also be pointed out that there are over 35 pages in the family file. These pages along with the files for the additional family members are extremely valuable in piecing together the family narrative.

Regarding the family tie to the Choctaws, there may have truly been one, with the evident mixed race ancestry of the family, but because the cultural ties had long been cut, this particular family was not officially identified by the Dawes commission, and was thus placed among the MCR files. Thankfully, the family data will still direct the researcher to the family members, and from that information, more of the family story can be told.

***** ***** *****
Additional Files Related to Frank Family



All files shown above are from National Archives Publication M1186 and all persons mentioned on the above enrollment cards have ties to the same family as Frank Nicholas. There are accompanying application jackets (M1301) and all will hold some unique facts that will be useful to the researcher.

It is strongly recommended that persons of Mississippi ancestral ties explore these records. The images of the enrollment cards reside on Fold3, as well as Ancestry, with the Ancestry images presented in color. (The application jackets NARA publication M1301, are only in black and white on each site.)

There are more than 7000 MCR files and a first examination of the MCR files indicate that over 2000 of them reflect African-American families stating family ties to Choctaws of Mississippi.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In the Press: Creek Freedmen in the Dawes Era

(This is part of a series of articles that I shall devote on this blog, to Indian Territory Freedmen. Many newspapers throughout the region frequently carried stories about Indian tribal Freedmen, and these publications can be useful tools for researchers seeking more of the greater story.This is also a companion series to Gems from the Black Press found on another blog, My Ancestor's Name.)


Source: Daily Ardmorite, August 23, 1898, p1
  • The Daily Ardmoreite. (Ardmore, Okla.), 28 Aug. 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Accessed HERE.
Both 19th and 20th century newspapers reflect much local history and I continue to use them as tools to tell more of the story. Sometimes the story can also be reflected in the press from the local territory. In 1898, the daily paper from Ardmore Oklahoma known as The Daily Ardmoreite, contained an article about Creek Freedmen. In this particular article, references to the earlier Dunn Roll of 1867, are made, noting the growth of the population of Creek Freedmen from the time of freedom to the time of the Dawes Commission.

(Source: Same as above)

Interestingly the article also makes a reference to the education of Freedmen in the Creek Nation. The "orphans home" that was mentioned was actually Evangel Mission, which today is the home of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum. The school was a Baptist Mission, and was established in 1883. (Note that in 2011 I wrote a detailed article about this school on the blog.)

Evangel Mission

Throughout the years, especially during the era of the Dawes Commission, articles about Indian tribal Freedmen appeared in the press. In 1904 an article from The Muskogee Cimeter described the last "rush" for Creek Freedmen to get on the rolls.
The Muskogee Cimeter, August 25, 1904 p. 1
The Muskogee cimeter. (Muskogee, Indian Territory, Okla.), 25 Aug. 1904. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. Image Accessed HERE.

(A Closer View of article)


Interestingly is the mention of the hopefully enrollees coming from great distances. What caught my attention was the mention of two Creek Freedmen (unnamed) who were know to have emigrated to West Africa. Interestingly there is a story of a community of Creek Freedmen who departed from an area not far from what is now IXL, Oklahoma

News in Other States 

Many publications in the Territory as well as in the United States frequently addressed the acquisition of land. From Missouri, an interesting article can be found in 1904 as well, and this article addressed the fact that many lands of Creeks were being swindled away from the land owners. The St. Louis Republic reported that more than 150,000 acres had been sold away from the original allottees.


St. Louis Republic, May 8, 1904 p 1
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress
Image Accessed HERE.



Though not directly genealogical in nature, articles from late 19th century and early 20th century can reflect many events and can assist researchers in enhancing the family story. By sharing the challenges that Dawes enrolled ancestors faced both during and after alltments, a better version of the family story can be told.

It is hoped that these articles will encourage many others to explore the many digitized newspapers and will find more

Monday, January 25, 2016

In Search of Diana Fletcher

Courtesy of University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection

We have all seen her image, a dark skinned woman in Kiowa attire. She is referred to as Diana Fletcher, and her image is found on many sites devoted to African-Native history. Her face has been seen on promotional posters, book covers, but the question remains: who was Diana Fletcher?

There is only one photographic image of her. The photo resides in the University of Oklahoma, Western History Collection, Photo lab. There is no biography of her, and no details about the origin of the photograph. However, many sites that celebrate African-Native history, culture and facts, use the photograph frequently.

However, the are several "biographies" about her, citing ancestral ties to Virginia, then Florida, then Seminole and lastly Kiowa. I have been curious about her history have wanted to know how much of her life could be documented. And the few articles that give her history---none of them contain any source citations.

Statements about her life are few and here are some of the statements that I often see about her:

1) Her father is said to have been born in Virginia and later a runaway slave.
2) He was said to have gone to Florida and married a Seminole woman.
3) Her mother was said to have died during the removal.
4) Diana was said to have attended Hampton Institute, Indian School
5) She was said to have been under pressure "from American society" to hide her Indian identity but she maintained her Black Indian identity.
6) She is said to have learned Indian crafts from a Kiowa stepmother.

There are many websites that promote her biography:

Sites that mention Diana Fletcher

ILoveAncestry.com provides a story of Diana Fletcher. On that site a small bio appears about Diana Fletcher, and the site makes a reference to statements that Diana was at one time a school teacher. She was said to have learned crafts from a Kiowa "step mother". She was said to have been separated from her father and that the Kiowa family adopted her. The site makes a reference to Carlisle Indian school, but does not provide definitive statement nor citation that Diana had studied there.

Women in History Ohio, provides a brief history with basically the same information. Dates of birth and death are unknown, as well place of death. However, note it is said that her mother died on the Trail of Tears, the removal to the west.

Alibi .com featured an article about an actual search to learn more about Diana. Yet, there was no success is locating anything about her either.

*Outlaw Women is a site that no longer exists but it was referenced in the article on Alibi. Apparently it was suggested that Diana attended Hampton, and resisted "pressures" to deny her Indian heritage, but she was able to maintain it. Again, no citation of sources was noted.

The fact is, most articles that feature her photo will then go into general history about the Five Civilized Tribes, and make broad statements about 19th century history. In spite of the fact that some sites make broad statements about education in Freedmen Schools, and suggest that she may have attended the Hampton Indian School, or Carlisle, and that she may have taught in Freedmen Schools of Indian Territory, there is no evidence to support these statements.

I have decided to look more closely at the data as presented. I have found some pieces of information that seem to be conflicting.

Conflicting information:
It is said that her mother died on the "Trail of Tears".  Yet it is also said that Diana was born in Indian Territory. If her mother died during the removal, then Diana's birth could not have occurred later in Indian Territory after Seminoles arrived. The site then goes on to say that she lived and was taught skills among the Kiowas, and it states that she she taught in "Black Indian schools" operated by the Five Civilized Tribes. It has to be understood that neighborhood schools in the Five Tribes were run by individual tribes, and many of these schools are fairly well documented.

Furthermore, It would be most irregular for a Kiowa woman to teach in a Freedman School, with little to no exposure to their culture, having been raised Kiowa. The Freedmen from the Five Tribes, lived within their own cultural context, and a Kiowa woman would have little cultural knowledge of the Five Tribes, in which the Indian Freedmen from the Territory lived.

To be specific, the Five Tribes from which the Freedmen come are Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw Creek and Seminole nations. The Kiowas are not among the tribes known as the Five Civilized Tribes. How would a Kiowa woman become a teacher in the schools mentioned? And in which school specifically did she teach?

From the Choctaw, Creek and Cherokee schools that I have studied in depth, they were staffed with trustees from the local community and most teachers came from the states.

Researching the Facts:Diana's tribal affiliation was said to be Kiowa, though her father was Seminole. Nothing states how or why her father did not become a part of the the Bruner or Barkus bands, which are part of the 14 bands that comprise the Seminole Nation, to this day. And during the years of removal, there is no surname of Fletcher that appears among the John Brown, or Jim Lane bands of Africans who relocated with the Seminoles in 1838.

The Kiowas themselves, originally from western Montana were removed from Montana to Colorado, and eventually ended up in what is now southwestern Oklahoma, where Diana is said to have lived. They arrived in the Oklahoma Territory (not Indian Territory) after the Civil War in 1867. So, the Kiowas did not arrive in the Territory until almost 30 years after the Seminoles arrived in Indian Territory. And this was 30 years after Diana would have been born.

 And if her mother died during the removal, the Kiowas arrived in Indian Territory, 30 or so years after Diana was born, thus making her a young adult when they arrived. And if her father married a Kiowa woman, it would have taken place after Kiowas came to the Territory after the civil war.

The Basic  Questions: 
Question: What are the other names affiliated with her?  Answer: No other names.
Question: What was her father's name?  Answer: His name has never been known.
Question: How was it known that he was a runaway and that he lived with Seminoles? Answer: No evidence.
Question: How is it known that he remarried, and that Diana had a stepmother? No evidence.
Question: Who was her stepmother? Answer: Name never given.
Question: How was it known that her step mother taught her crafts? Answer: No evidence
Question: And what crafts specifically did she learn? Answer: No evidence
Question: Again---when did her father meet the Kiowa stepmother? Not known.

Problems With the Story of Diana

1) It is said that Diana's father escaped from Virginia to Florida, and joined maroons in Florida and became part of the community of Seminoles. There is no knowledge of Diana's father's name. If he was Seminole, he would be documented, because like the other Five Tribes--there are ample records. But--the name of the man said to be a runaway slave from Virginia, has never surfaced. PROBLEM: If we assume that the surname was Fltecher, note that there was no name of "Fletcher" on the name of the early bands of Black Seminoles that were removed. This would include the Jim Lane Band, the John Brown Band, and the Pompey Payne Band, These bands later merged and became the two Freedman band that still exist today--the Cesar Bruner Band, and the Dosar Barkus Band.

2) Her mother is said to have died on the Removal--the Trail of Tears. PROBLEM: Various sites state that Diana was born in Indian Territory. If her mother died during the removal, then Diana would not have been born after the Seminoles arrived in the west. In other words she could not have been born after her mother had already died.

3) Her father remarried a Kiowa woman and Diana was raised and taught crafts by her Kiowa step-mother. There is nothing wrong with her father having re-married. However, the timing is essential here. PROBLEM: The Seminoles arrived in Indian Territory in 1838,  The Kiowas did not arrive in Indian Territory until after the Civil War in 1867. Assuming that Diana was born between 1838 and 1840, and the Kiowas did not arrive in Indian Territory almost 20 years later, Diana would have been a fully grown woman by the time the Kiowa mother would have arrived in the Territory

4) Diana was said to have been educated at the Carlisle Indian school on one site and on another site she was said to have attended the Hampton Indian School. PROBLEM:
Both schools were established in the late 1870s, almost 40 years after Diana was born. The typical student at the Indian Schools were young children to adolescent in age, and they were not individuals in their 30s and 40s.

So, What do the records reflect?

*There was no Seminole with the surname of Fletcher on the Dawes Rolls, nor was there a Fletcher to be found on the Black Seminole bands that preceded today's Bruner band and Barkus bands. (There are numerous records that reflect the names of the Black Seminole Bands)

*There is no teacher called Diana Fletcher reflected from faculty of any of the Freedmen Schools of the Five Tribes.


I have already written several articles of the Freedmen schools, on my blogs. In addition there are a few addidtional links that also describe the history of those schools.
-Choctaw Freedmen Schools
-Oak Hill Academy (for Choctaw Freedmen-Presbyterian run)
-Cherokee Colored High School (click for link to OHS article about the school.)

-Dawes Academy was in the Chickasaw nation, but not run by the tribe. (In fact the Chickasaw nation did not provide tribal supported schools for their former slaves and children.) This school was supported by Calvary Baptist Church an African American church in Berwyn Oklahoma.


Searching Official Records

In spite of statements that records are lost or don't exist--there are numerous records from the Kiowa nation that are quite abundant. The Oklahoma Historical Society, formed a partnership with Ancestry in 2014 to provide access to the records of multiple tribes that were microfilmed several decades ago. Now those images are available on Ancestry as well. Included among those records are several thousand pages of Records of the Kiowa Indians. I decided to search the records of the Kiowas for Diana Fletcher.



Screen shot of Search page of Oklahoma & Indian Territory Records
Source:Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Among the Oklahoma digitized Indian records there are literally thousands of pages reflecting data of Kiowa Indians to research. The following image reveals the size of the collection of Kiowa Indians.

The numbers in red were added to show the size of the databases that pertain to Kiowa Indians. After searching this Ancestry collection, no Diana Fletcher was found.


Some Thoughts about Diana Fletcher

There is a possibility that there may have definitely been someone called Diana Fletcher who lived among Kiowas. However, the story that has evolved about her over the years could be a combination of real fact, mixed with conjecture. If the story about her mother is correct, then she may have been orphaned and raised by a step mother, but not a Kiowa woman. And this would have occurred before the Kiowas arrived in the Territory, therefore making the story of the step-mother quite unlikely.

It is possible that a woman called Diana could have chosen on her own to spend time with people who were Kiowa. However, it is possible that her exposure may have come during her adult years, not and not childhood years from a Kiowa "stepmother".

There is the possibility that a woman called Diana Fletcher had some contact with an Indian School in Oklahoma Territory, instead of Indian Territory.

There is the possibility that a woman called Diana Fletcher was "adopted" into the Kiowas, and welcomed into the community. But this may have occurred when she was much older, and not during years when she was a child, decades before the Kiowas were relocated to the Territory.

Unfortunately, so far, there are no documented facts about the beautiful woman in the photo. There is great temptation to invent her story, but some of the stories so far conflict with history and historical timelines. There is possibly the  "hope" that her story would ring true, was simply that--a hope for a romantic story to tell about the mysterious woman in the photo.  But as much as we may want to believe in the romance of being taken in, and cared for, and taught the traditions of an indigenous people, we cannot make it so.

Placing her in schools when she was already an adult, make the story of Diana a fragile story.
Putting her birth sometime after the death of her mother, also weaken the story of Diana.
And creating a relationship with all others whose names remain unknown, make her story more fictitious than fact.

What we do have however, is the evidence of the photo itself--a beautiful woman called Diana in Kiowa dress. She may have been an "adopted" person but my guess is that her "adoption" was later in life and not as a child.

Unfortunately, to "invent" her story with facts that can easily be chipped away, is simply not necessary.

Her photo alone speaks to a woman proudly standing, with confidence as she faced the camera.
Her photo speaks to her presence, and reflect her confidence and dignity, but the other statements about her presented as fact, make her story simply --- a story.

Whoever Diana was, simply her presence can be presented simply as we see her. A beautiful woman whose name can be called.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Historical Society Partnership Brings Forth New Records

Databases on Ancestry For Oklahoma & Indian Territory Research

In the fall of 2014 a special partnership between the Oklahoma Historical Society and Ancestry was announced. It was announced that some unique collections and holdings at OHS had been digitized by Ancestry, and they were now being made available to the public. One feature that many Oklahoma researchers learned right away were the images of the Dawes Cards, in the original color. This was a welcomed treat, because of the differences that the color images present.

However, it is clearly understood that one record set does not present the entire story and that there are many more records for those who have Indian Territory history as an interest. Thankfully the partnership has brought to life some amazing records previously unavailable outside of Oklahoma. These records are no in themselves "new". They are "new" in terms of their availability to the public more easily and are "new" to a wider audience.

Now, it is widely known by many that there are thousands of pages with images of records created decades before the Dawes Rolls, and for the tenacious researcher, they also should be examined in order to tell more of the ancestral story. These "new" records were made years before the Dawes Rolls, and the hold incredible information for researchers.


I have recently written two articles recently reflecting some of my own finds among these new records, and those articles can be read my Choctaw Freedmen Blog.

And since last fall's announcement, it has taken several months for me to analyze the actual content of the various databases and to note the differences between them. In addition, I have also found my own way of locating them quickly, and I am happy to share what I have been able to learn about them with my readers. 

The four databases listed above are massive, and each one holds a wealth of data, that I have outlined with screenshot images below.

Finding The Databases Quickly:

I have personally found, that the quickest way to get to them is to go outside of Ancestry to get back in. I make quick Google search with the following words: Ancestry, Oklahoma and Indian Territory.

By typing these words, this will bring all four of the databases to one page on the google search. See the following screen shot:



Google Search Results for New Oklahoma Collections on Ancestry


When on the Ancestry site, simply click on the desired collection and begin the search. It is important however to fully understand what each database holds, so I have inserted some screen shots from the site to illustrate the contents of the database.

1) Oklahoma and Indian Territory Indian Census and Rolls 1851-1959

When on Ancestry, when clicking on the "Browse" Button the holdings appear like the illustration from the screenshot below.


                  The following screenshot reflects is a list of all of the holdings found in that database.



2) Oklahoma and Indian Territory Dawes Census Card for Five Civilized Tribes 1898-1914


This is where the Dawes cards, often called Enrollment Cards can be found. NOTE---there is another category on Ancestry that says Enrollment cards, but it is really an INDEX to the Enrollment Cards, and not the cards themselves. To see the actual Dawes Card--this database is the proper index to find them.

The following screenshot reflects selections that consist of the following:




3) Oklahoma and Indian Territory Marriage, Citizenship and  Census Records 1841-1929

Included in these records:





4) Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Land Allotment Jackets, for Five Civilized Tribes 1884-1934

The choices in this collection are seen in this screenshot image:



Hopefully this explanation of some of these new databases will assist many Indian Territory researchers in exploring their ancestral story. For many years, the focus has been exclusively on one set of records, but now as a result of the partnership and this recently digitized set of records, options are available for researchers, to explore families more easily and more efficiently.

In a future post, I shall present examples of the data to be found in some of the individual collections.

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


Arkansas Colored Town, Creek Nation

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