Monday, January 20, 2014

Exploring Choctaw Freedmen Minors and Newborns on Dawes Records

Choctaw Freedman Card No. 777, with small notation made on front of card 
Image from NARA Publication M1186 Choctaw Freedmen

When exploring the history of families who were Choctaw Freedmen, it is important to follow all data and all clues in the files. This includes small notes made on each document. In many cases Dawes Enrollment Cards (M1186) contain additional notes that reflect more family history data beyond the family's primary card. One often sees notes on the bottom of enrollment cards that children of persons enrolled are added on another family associated card. 

Keep in mind that each card usually has an application jacket, which is essentially a file with interviews that corroborate data found on the card. In the case of the additional cards---it is critical that the family historian follow those notes, find the files and find the card and the interview that accompanies the card.

In the case of the Walton family found on Choctaw Freedman Card No. 777, Samuel, his wife Sarah and their children Sam Jr. Houston and a step daughter Louisa are all listed. A note on the bottom of the card points the researcher to another file---NB #230. This means a "New Born" card number 230. However they were eventually put in a category called "Minors" and were classified as "Minor Choctaw Freedmen."  

Minor Choctaw Freedman Enrollment Card #230 
National Archives Publication No. M1186

There is also a file among the Application Jackets. In addition is there found data on the children, but there is also information regarding the relationship to the grandmother of the children, Sallie Walton. The father George Sanders is interviewed in this case, and he makes a reference to a nickname that the family used for Sallie Walton, "Kittie". 

In this particular case, I know that Kittie was a nickname for Sallie, whom I personally knew when I was a child. I later learned that Kittie was also the name of Sallie's grandmother. 

Pages from Choctaw Freedman Minors Card #230
National Archives Publication #1301

It is quite useful to study the notations on all parts of the card not just the names at the top of the card. And of course by reading the associated files other data can be gleaned about the family and their interpersonal relationships. I can recall when I was a small child, an uncle who was visiting, was speaking to my gr. grandmother Sallie, and he asked her, "don't they call you Kitty or Lil' Kittie?"  She smiled, kind of blushed and then simply said, "oh some people used to call me that."  It would be decades later that I would learn who the first "Kitty" was in the family.

The names on the Minor Card fascinated me, because I actually had known John Henry Sanders. He was a mature man when I knew him. He worked at a Texaco station on Dewey Avenue in Poteau, Oklahoma. The Walton and Sanders family had come from what is now LeFlore County, and Poteau is the county seat. And in the 1990s I met another cousin whom I didn't know that well, who was referred to as Aunt Etha. 

I decided to interview her as she was in her 90s at the time. It turned out that this "Etha was actually "Easter" who was on the Dawes card. She said her full name was Annie Easter Sanders and her grandmother was my gr. grandmother Sallie. I then realized that I was indeed speaking with an original Dawes Roll enrollee from our family. This was 1995, and she passed away in 1999. Meeting her was a thrill, as she reminded me so much of gr. grandma Sallie, in her tone, her appearance and the way she carried herself. I was so glad to have met her before she passed.

Annie Easter Sanders in McCalester Oklahoma in sumner of 1995. 
Easter Sanders was one of the last Dawes Choctaw Freedmen enrollees. She died in 1999.

The greater lesson is that the small notes made on the front of a family's card is significant and it is critical that the researcher follow the notations, which can lead to additional files on the same family.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Supplement Freedmen Records With Pioneer Interviews - Case Study: Jack Campbell

National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, Choctaw Freedman 1188 Front & Back

Jack Campbell of Skullyville appeared in front of the Dawes Commission in October of 1898. He applied for his himself and his family, including his wife Lillie and their seven children.

Clearly, when Mr. Campbell first enrolled the family, he was being interviewed as a Chickasaw Freedman, and his interview clearly illustrates the manner in which former Chickasaw slaves were treated. Their interviews are often found to be summaries and not verbatim statements taken under oath. This occurrence was later addressed when acts to defraud the former slaves were brought up before Congress, and several testimonies in the Congressional Record address interviews such as this.

The challenge when researching many of the records pertaining to Oklahoma Freedmen, is that they were as a population often treated differently during the enrollment process. Similar to those formerly enslaved people in the United States, persons with any degree of African ancestry often found that they were still being treated with the badge of slavery- even including those with blood ties to the same nations.  When it came to enrollment for Freedmen, they were to received substantially less land than their neighbors identified to be citizens "by blood". But nevertheless, this was an opportunity to obtain land before eventual statehood, so the Freedmen applied so that they would be eligible for land.

From a genealogical sense, the data is still quite useful to study. In many cases, as stated above, of Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, one will find very short interviews in the applications jackets, which were at times, merely summaries of the data collected. The data however, found in the application jackets, can still provide useful information. Though in the case of Jack Campbell, the interview was brief, the jacket contained several birth affidavits in spite of the notably short interview.

Note that the family was at first enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen. They were later transferred to the roll of Choctaw Freedmen.

This summary of the Jack Campbell interview is found in the Application Jacket. National Archives Publication M1301  Jack Campbell file, Choctaw Freedman 1188

However, the tenatious Freedman researcher is urged to look at other Oklahoma resources to find additional records that tell the story of the former slaves. In the case of Jack Campbell, he was interviewed by the staff of the Indian Pionner Papers, and more data about his life is outlined in a fascinating interview. In fact, not only is data about the life of Jack Campbell outlined, but much of his life in the late 1800s living on the western frontier among Choctaw and Chickasaws is described in colorful detail.

All documents came from the interview with Jack Campbell, and are part of the Indian Pioneer Papers of the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma, Norman Oklahoma

When researching the Choctaw as well as Chickasaw Freedmen, the need to supplement the data found and sometimes not found in Dawes records can truly open doors to a life otherwise under studied and under reported when writing the family narrative.