Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pre-Citizenship Records of Choctaw Freedmen

The Choctaw Nation made an official move to adopt their formal slaves as citizens in 1885. An official census was conducted and later produced the first official document reflecting the population of Choctaw Freedmen. In order to determine who was going to be considered eligible for citizenship, preliminary data was collected. And now these records are available on Ancestry and can be used to tell more of the story of Choctaw Freedmen.

Source: CTN 07 Choctaw Citizens and Freedmen 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.


These records are extremely useful for African American genealogists, with Choctaw Freedmen ancestors, because they lay out the family structure as it was in 1885. Keep in mind that this was more than a decade before the Dawes Commission started, and therefore these records provide a unique opportunity for Freedmen researchers to look at the family much earlier in time.

To Find These Records:

The 1885 Choctaw Freedmen census records themselves in their entirety can be accessed on Ancestry. One can tell by looking at the microfilmed images, that entire ledgers were copied. I am zooming in on some of the pages found Ancestry, to show the kinds of data collected by the Choctaw Nation in the 1880s.

On Ancestry, the collection is called: Oklahoma and Indian Territory Marriages, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927. There are more than 800 pages in this database.The most useful pages in this collection are the first 285 pages of this 816-page collection.

The beginning of the collection starts with an area simply called "1st District". This census is significant because it reflects the composition of the family as it was in 1885. On the left side of the page, the categories reflected the names of the persons enumerated, including the head of the household, the names of the children and their age range.

Source: Same as above


The second side of the ledger reflect additional data, including the nationality of the citizen being enumerated, the former slave holders for those who had been enslaved, and also additional information about real property and livestock owned.

Sourc: Same as above

The value of looking at this record is that it reflects the family more than a decade before the Dawes Rolls. In some cases people died between 1885 and 1898, so there are some names shown of people who never made it to the Dawes Rolls. Many of whom were in their 60s and older, died before the Dawes enrollment process began, so this is the opportunity to see the family grouping even earlier. Unlike those whose families lived in the United States after freedom, families in Indian Territory do not have the benefit of having been enumerated on the 1870 and 1880 census schedules. So this record from 1885 is useful.

A Case Study - Searching for My Perry Ancestors
I was able to locate my own ancestors on the document, but interestingly, the document created more questions than it answered.

My great grandmother Sallie Walton was named after her grandmother Sallie who was frequently also called "Kitty". I see an older Sallie who is possibly my "Kitty", on the record, as my Sallie's mother Amanda Perry. I recognize the name of others such as Jackson Perry Sallie's uncle, (who would later be known as Jackson Crow), and the name of Davis Frazier, an orphaned cousin appears with the family. But my own Sallie was not there, on the document.

Surprisingly another name that has often been noted on early documents appeared--that of the Flacks. And the Sallie that I saw was not Sallie or Kitty Perry, but a Sallie "Flack". On the ledger it said that Eliza Flack was said to be the slave holder before emancipation. If this is my older Sallie (or Kitty) this is new information, because the Perry's were said to be the exclusive Choctaw slave holders of the family. Yet, this record from a decade earlier than the creation of the Dawes roll, suggests something else. However, there is no evidence, so the Sallie Flack could also be a simple accident of geography--and perhaps she was a mere neighbor, and not connected.

A decade later when the Dawes roll data was collected, an interview with Nail Perry, a well known Choctaw Indian in the Sugar Loaf area of the nation, stated that Sallie's mother Amanda was freed under his sister Emeline Perry.

Yet, here is Eliza Flack who is listed on this 1885 document at the slave holder before emancipation. So the greater question arises--who are the Flacks? Are they connected to my family? Seeing Eliza Flack as a previous slave holder proves a new avenue of research to pursue.

Source: Same as above


Some Elected To Leave the Nation

In that collection are several volumes or ledgers of records, and volume 3 contained the names of people who opted to leave the Nation and not be adopted into the tribe. The expectation was that they were going to get a $100 payment in addition to relinquishing their citizenship. And surprisingly, the name of Kitty Perry, my gr. gr. gr. grandmother appeared on that list.

There was an" X" by her name and a notation (see arrow on bottom right) in the lower right corner. Kitty had submitted papers to identify who she was for her to be deemed eligible for the $100 per capita payment. This notation is not made with other most other names on this ledger. So now, the question arises---who was Lizzie Perry? Was this a relative of Nail Perry, or Emeline or others in the Perry clan?

Kitty's name later appeared a few pages later on a small list of less than 10 people who had submitted identification papers.


As one moves through the ledger there are other categories, of Choctaw Freedmen, some of whose citizenship was deemed "doubtful", and more pages with Freedmen from additional districts such as Red River, Red Oak and more.

Notes About the Collection
These documents reside at the Federal Records Center in Ft. Worth Texas. They were microfilmed in the 1970s and can be found on CTN 07 at the Oklahoma Historical Society. And they are all now digitized on Ancestry. When locating the Ancestry digitized collection, look specifically for CTN07 which was the Oklahoma Historical Society number

In order to find them on Ancestry easily, one must locate the collection called, "Oklahoma and Indian Territory Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927". (I have occasionally found it easier to access from outside of Ancestry via Google. By typing in the name of the collection on Google, it is easier for me to locate the database, which will take me directly to the database that I want to see.) There are additional rolls of Indian Territory Freedmen, that I shall list on another blog.

The value of exploring earlier records is immeasurable. Some researchers might be tempted to focus exclusively on only the Dawes records, and feel that looking at earlier records is not valuable. Nothing could be father from the truth. As genealogists, and researchers, we should see ourselves as storytellers, and as we seek to tell the stories of the ancestors, each and every document bearing their name should be studied and analyzed to see if additional facts from the past can be unlocked and brought to light.

1 comment:

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