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This page is intended to help those in search of their Native American Ancestry where the Choctaws west of the Mississippi are concerned. It is presented here with the permission of Ruthie McLillan (Ruthie’s Genealogical Realm), who chose to close her site down, and allowed us the privilege of adding her content to our web pages.
I will tell you right now, she tells it like it is, so “Love her or hate her, she tells it like it is!!” Welcome Ruthie!!
Proving your Native Heritage will not make you eligible for a monthly paycheck from the Government of the United States or from the respective tribe.
What it will do is give you a greater appreciation for your ancestors, their beliefs, their triumphs and know that you are passing this information on to future generations!
Where did your Ancestors Live
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Too many times there are family traditions that great-great grandma was a Cherokee Indian Princess. Be assured, no tribe had Kings or Queens and due to the absence of such, it stands to reason, there were NO princesses.
Look at where your family lived in 1900. Were they living in Indian Territory (Present Day Oklahoma)? In order for anyone coming from the above listed tribes to have been enrolled with the Dawes Commission, that person(s) had to be living in Indian Territory, WITH THEIR TRIBE, and claiming Native discordance on the 1900 Federal Census of Indian Territory!
There is the rare occasion where a family is listed on the Indian Schedule yet never made enrollment. In such a case, you should look for possible changes in residence, or may perhaps find documentation where the family did apply, but were denied for other reasons.
The 1900 Federal Census on Indian Territory
The above said census was the first to enumerate Native Americans in Indian Territory. At the end of each township, there is an “Indian Schedule” where each Native was listed, their tribal affiliation, blood quantum, etc. If your ancestor(s) are not listed on this schedule, they are NOT enrolled. It doesn’t mean they weren’t Native. It simply means they weren’t enrolled.
Starting your Search
Start with yourself and work back. Ask your family elders endless questions about your family, family Bibles, pictures and so forth. Keep good records and always record your sources!!
Getting started with Choctaw Genealogy
First of all, realize the Choctaw group of whom I am writing are the Oklahoma Choctaws. These people removed from Mississippi from 1831-1856. Those who stayed in Mississippi until the late 1890’s early 1900’s and emigrated to Indian Territory then are the Oklahoma Mississippi Choctaws. Those who stayed in Mississippi weren’t recognized until 1945 and have a 1/2 degree of blood quantum for tribal recognition. There are also Federally recognized bands in Jena Louisianna and in Alabama.
A very simple method, and only a primer, for Choctaw research is outlined below:
If your family is indeed enrolled, check the Dawes Commission Final Roll Book. There will be two numbers given. The first is the roll number. The second, is the Dawes Census Card Number. You’ll want their Dawes Census Card Number.
Using this number allows you access to the Dawes Census Card and Application Packet. The packet may or may not contain correspondence between the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes and the respective family. Many times, if the family was fullblood, the packets are empty…but it’s always worth a try!
Next, start looking at the Choctaw Census’ beginning with the year 1896. These census’ are sporadic but some will take you back to 1841.
The tribe was divided into the three Districts: Mushulatubbee, Appukshunubbee, and Pushmataha. Within each district were counties. Note which county and district your family resided within for there are also many court records pertaining to the three districts and respective counties available on microfilm.
The Dawes Census Card
Look at the county listed as the place of enrollment and the ages of your ancestors. If they were alive in 1855, go to that payroll record. The county indicated on the Dawes Census Card is probably where they drew their annuity money. If not, check them all!! They’re grouped into families on these records, although the exact relation is not given. You’ll wish copies of this, taking note of the families recorded near them.
A Small Note about Payroll Records
Payroll records date into the 1920’s. If you’re looking for information on family much later than described above, these are excellent and very interesting also. Guardians or persons receiving the payments for others are listed many times.
Where was their Land?
Once upon a time, all land in the Choctaw Nation of Indian Territory was held in common. It belonged to everyone. The U.S. Government in power at that time decided it was necessary to divide the land into allotments, so many acres going to each individual. This effectively ended a great deal of the “communal” spirit of the Choctaw people of that day. These allotments were filed, for the most part, in Ardmore, Indian Territory. An excellent source for finding out the legal description of your ancestor’s land is “Hastain’s Deeds and Allotments“. Information rendered from this includes the name, date of filing, tribe, and roll number. That legal description will enable you to pinpoint exactly where the land was with the aid of a topographical map. The Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman, Oklahoma has great topo maps at very reasonable prices.
Once you have that information, you may wish to check with the appropriate county clerk’s office for further documentation. Examples of what you might find recorded include: cemeteries, land transfers to other family members, notes pertaining to probate records and so forth.
County records offer a lot of potential. If in doubt as to what exists for that county, ask!
Note the earliest date in which you find your Choctaw Ancestors in the Choctaw Nation. When did they arrive? Did they come over in one of the removal parties? Did they travel alone? The Choctaw Emigration List (available on microfilm) may assist you in determining an answer to these questions. These lists are in no way complete, but are the most extensive that I’ve found. A few soldiers did make notes pertaining to births, deaths and “clan” affiliation pertaining to their particular removal party and in these few instances are notated beside the names listed.
Those who stayed in Mississippi
There is a Douglas H. Cooper Roll taken in 1856 of those Choctaws remaining in Mississippi. This roll should be of interest to anyone doing extensive Choctaw research upon having found family members who stayed behind, fighting for their homes and way of life.
Cooper divided this census into “clans”. In actuality, as far as I’ve learned, the Choctaws had three primary regional divisions: Sixtowns, Ahepata Okla, and the Okla Falaya; however some historians argue that the Aiyihup Tuklo ( or Two Lakes) were another regional division. (If anyone has more accurate info.. Please Email me). Then there were town divisions, exogamous clans, sub-clans, and moieties; the moieties seemingly existing for the purpose of organizing who played ball against whom.
Interestingly enough, Cooper not only took the names of all the Choctaws remaining, but there is a tally at the end of said census showing how many were left behind in each clan.
Yet another note of interest, Cooper included those Choctaws residing in Louisiana parishes at the time of this census.
The Choctaw family structure was based upon a benign matriarchal system. Children always belonged to the clan of their mother. It was the maternal Uncle that had primary male responsibilities towards his sister’s children.
Due to this matriarchal system, one may conclude that the members of each clan were related by blood through matrilineal lineage.
To date, I’ve found one error in Cooper’s clan assignments. He mistakenly took Yakanookne, one of the names Ben LeFlore was known by, and assigned it to the Imoklashas aka Mogolushas. As Ben LeFlore was a Captain in the governmental structure of the tribe and was responsible for the Imoklasha people, this was an easily understood mistake.
Once you have gone back that far, you will need to begin looking at the Armstong Roll. The Armstrong Roll was a pre-removal roll, taken ca 1831.
From here, the search becomes a bit more detailed. Yet all the work will have yielded you good solid documented genealogy.
The Civil War and Reconstruction time Period
During the Civil War time period, Choctaw genealogy can become a bit vague.
The Choctaws did side with the south and a roster of those Choctaws serving does exist.
However, when it comes to census material, there isn’t any.
Something I found helpful were the Poll Books. In each county when elections were held, often the heads of family, always male, took part and their signatures were recorded by the Election Judge in their area. Although a bit detailed, this is further documentation of the area in which the family was residing, indicating moves, if they voted in another county and/or district.