Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Holden Gate May

Eden Springs Eden Springs

posted on March 24, 2013

I am researching my relative named Holden Gate May who was supposedly an orphaned Choctaw who came out of Henry County, Tennessee, and later moved to Massac County, Illinois. Does anyone have any information about him, or can anyone verify his Choctaw lineage? Thank you in advance for your help.


suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on March 24, 2013

no dates in this post. no children or spouse.

natives had an oral tradition. native languages were only written in the second half of the 1800’s. the natives do not have records.

TN is fairly far up for the choctaw. you should contact the TN historical organization and the TN archives. tribal affiliation is usually involving a close proximity to a tribe. tribes are really associated bands of natives, so you should look for tribes in the area of henry county, TN.

many adoptions before 1940 were informal, not involving government services. the state adoption coordinator of TN might suggest some resources as post-adoption services.

1850 United States Federal Census about Holden N May
Name: Holden N May
Age: 13
Birth Year: abt 1837
Birthplace: Tennessee
Home in 1850: Massac, Illinois
Gender: Male
Family Number: 151
Household Members:
Name Age
Jane May 44
John May 19
Greenberry May 17
Jane N May 10
James M May 11
Abraham C May 10
Solomon T May 5
Holden N May 13
Abijah Harris 26
Lucinda Harris 15
Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: , Massac, Illinois; Roll: M432_120; Page: 226B; Image: 291.

this is well back in time. you should look at this record so that you can see more about birthplaces/birthdates. i would venture a guess that the birth family was solomon on up, and that lucinda was a daughter who married abijah harris.

the 1840 census lists heads of household and only ages/sex for the rest of the family members. apparently may is the adopted family’s surname.

U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 about Jane Palmer
Name: Jane Palmer
Gender: Female
Spouse Name: Holden May
Birth Place: TN
Spouse Birth Year: 1838
Marriage State: of TN
Number Pages: 1

this is only a family group sheet done by a researcher.

this is an interesting record:

1830 United States Federal Census about Holden May
Name: Holden May
Home in 1830 (City, County, State): Henry, Tennessee
Free White Persons – Males – Under 5: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 30 thru 39: 1
Free White Persons – Females – Under 5: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 5 thru 9: 2
Free White Persons – Females – 20 thru 29: 1
Free White Persons – Under 20: 5
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 7
Total – All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored): 7
Source Citation: 1830 US Census; Census Place: , Henry, Tennessee; Page: 36; NARA Series: M19; Roll Number: 177; Family History Film: 0024535.

perhaps holden gate may is related to the may family that adopted him.

1840 United States Federal Census about Holden Maa
Name: Holden Maa
Home in 1840 (City, County, State): Johnson, Illinois
Source Citation: Year: 1840; Census Place: , Johnson, Illinois; Roll: 61; Page: 413; Image: 1422; Family History Library Film: 0007642.
the image is not readable on you should look on heritage quest and see if they have a better image of the census page. i did report this page as unreadable. sometimes it takes a few months before they re-scan the census page.

this is a user-posted story. use it as a guide and not as fact. i differ with some of it.

Holden May was the beginning of the May family. Where he came from and who his parents were will probably always remain a mystery. It is believed that his story began in eastern Tennessee in an area covered by the Appalachian Mountains. Most of Tennessee was still Indian terrritory at that time. Many settlers from Virginia and the Carolinas were pouring into the region. During the 1780’s, “the settlers and Indians were trying to drive each other out of the Tennessee region.” In 1796, about a year before Holden was born, Tennessee became a state. Maybe this is what drew his family to the area.

Holden was born about 1797. Nothing is known of his parents or his origins. It is believed that Holden was found in the woods as a small child of about two or three years of age, dressed like an Indian. Probably his parents were the victims of an Indian raid, although the stories which have filtered down through the family vary. One story says that he was found holding onto a fence inthe month of May—thuss his name, Holden May. An unknown family took him in and raised him.

Holden was about 15 years old during the War of 1812 when Andrew jackson led Tennessee troops to victory against the Creek Indians, allies of the British, freeing Alabama and Georgia from their control. Much of Tennessee, however, continued to be inhabited by the Indians. Nearly all of western Tennessee was still owned and controlled by the Chickasaw Indians until 1818, when they sold their land to the federal government. A large portion of middle Tennessee was still held by the Cherokee.

The fiest records of Holden are found in the 1820 and 1830 tax and census records from Henry County, Tennessee. Henry County is located in the northwestern corner of the state on the banks of the Tennessee River. This county first opined for settlement in 1819, just after the Chickasaw Indians ceded it to the fenderal government. It became a state three years later in 1821.

It is at about this time that Holden, now about 24 years old, married Jane Palmer, a young girl of about 17 years who was born in South Carolina. Although nothing is know about her parents, there were many Palmer families living in the county at that time. It is here that Holden and Jane started their family and had their first ten children—six daughters and four sons. By 1827, the tax records show that Holden owned 31 acres of land. In 1834 and 1835, he purchased more land to bring his total to 58 acres.

It wasn’t until 1838 that the last of the Indians, the Cherokee, were forced out of middle Tennessee. That year the army gathered all of the Cherokee together and began a forced march north and west through central and western Tennessee into western Kentucky. They crossed the river into southern Illinois and passed just north of where Massac County is situated and continued west to Oklahoma. Thousands of Indians died on this march and the route became known as “the Trail of Tears”.

That same year, Holden moved his family of 12 north to Illinois. Perhaps he and his family boarded a boat and floated north on the Tennessee River through Kentucky to its junction with the Ohio River at the southern tip of Illinois. Here Fort Massac was located on the north bank of the Ohio River just west of where the Tennessee River joins it. This area, then known as Pope County and later renamed Massac County, was a rugged, wooded area filled with hills, valleys, and large swamps. Holden setteld his his family here at a time when the “Regulators” (a vigilante group) and the “Flatheads” (outlaws) were in the midst of war.

During the first half of the 1800’s, this are was a frontier and was filled with outlaws. For example, the Cave-in-Rock gang was a band of outlaws that operated on the Ohio River attacking, robbing, and killing travelers. “From 1831 to 1838 horse thievery, arson and counterfeiting were very prevalent.” In response, a vifilante group called the Regulators established itself. The Regulators were so fanatic about destroying the outlaws that they became a problem themselves. For many years, atrocities were commited by both sides as the area was torn by war between Flatheads and Regulators until the state of Illinois finally intervened.

In this atmosphere of violence, Holden established his new home on government land about seven miles north of what is now Metropolis. He built a log cabin and cleared some land. over the next few years, four more children were born while the older children began leaving home and getting married. Holden never owned his land, but according to tax records he had a wagon, several cattle and hogs, and other miscellaneous property. Late in the summer of 1846, on August 9, Holden died and was buried on the home farm.

This left Jane with a new baby boy, Solomon, and a family to raise. This was no easy task. There are court records showing that several of the May sons and grandsons were periodically charged with disorderly conduct, assault, and disturbance of the peace. This is no surprise considering all the violence in the area.

Over the next seven years, all but two of the children married and left home. Jane lived with her single sons, Abram and Solomon, until she died on December 30, 1860. She was buried in the cemetery of the Canaan Church, east of their home. Some years later, Holden’s gravestone was brought to this cemetery and now resides beside Jane’s stone.

you should look for obituaries. but no, i don’t think you will find satisfactory evidence of his heritage, given the circumstances.

genealogists use names, dates, locations, children and spouses to match records. if you have a common surname, you need to give more information rather than less. if you post about women, it is helpful to include the maiden name and the married name and designate which one is the maiden name.

start with what you know, gather documentation, then you can go backward in time. so get your birth certificate, your parents’ birth certificates and marriage license and then you can start on your grandparents. if someone passed away after 1/1/1937, they probably have a social security application on file. if you ask a government agency for a birth certificate, and they were born before 1929, they might have submitted a delayed birth certificate. death certificates, cemetery information and obituaries are helpful. you can usually get a copy of an obituary, newspaper mentions such as birth of a child or marriage, through the interlibrary loan program – see your local public library for this. i usually start with the death and work toward the person’s birth. military records and pension records can be helpful. census records can tell you where they were at particular times, names of family members. the census records up to 1940 are available, although the 1890 census was largely destroyed.

you will need to know who the family members were 1830-1930 or so, where they were located. a good way to do this is by census records.
the first time period to concentrate on is 1900-1930 because most tribes enrolled during this period.
federal census records can help you here. you can get access through your local public library – two databases: 1) heritage quest, 2)

the dawes roll shows the applicants to the five major tribes 1896-1906 in indian territory/oklahoma. if your family applied for this, there would be a census card, dawes application, other supporting documents and testimony. these are located at NARA
try the fort worth, TX office.

obituaries through the oklahoma choctaw tribe is through the history link for the tribe:

social security application for a deceased person:
form SS-5.

your public library probably has a subscription to heritage quest and is another useful database for native records and military records, but they are a subscription. however, many times, their month’s subscription price is less than the price of a dawes packet. you can google fold3 and your ancestor’s name to see if your relative’s dawes packet is available at fold3.
partial names are allowed.

bear in mind that many records are not online. always collect documents, as just the reference to a relative in an index informs you that a document is available.

death records:
death certificate: state vital records or if very old, state archives. ask for the person’s name at the time of death. you can look at death indices, such as the social security death index 1964-present for a date of death on or
obituary: see your local public library, interlibrary loan program. ask for the person’s name at the time of death. approximate date of death is helpful. if old, state historical society or state archives might have historical newspapers.
cemetery record: try or ask for the person’s name at the time of death. if you find a relative, you can click on the county or cemetery to see if others with the same surname are buried there.

marriage records:
state vital records office, county clerk or if old, state archives or state historical society.

birth records:
state vital records office, or if old, state archives or state historical society. if the birth was before 1940, ask for a birth certificate or a delayed birth certificate. many people had to get delayed birth certificates when social security came into effect because they had to show proof of age. this will be under the name used at the time of birth.

census records:
you will want to search for census records 1940 on down to the birth of your relative. the federal census was taken every 10 years, however the 1890 census was largely destroyed by fire. there are also some state census records and native census records and native rolls. and heritage quest are two databases that include many census records. many native census records kept by NARA ( are transcribed at accessgenealogy.
several helpful links for records in the choctaw territory

first of all, heritage and tribal enrollment are two different things. many times natives didn’t apply for enrollment because 1) they didn’t qualify, 2) they were philosophically opposed to enrollment, 3) they didn’t have documentation, or 4) they were mississippi choctaw and their ancestor had accepted land or benefits in lieu of tribal enrollment.

for those people who do not yet have a card, you should research the 1900-1940 census to know approximate dates of birth, birthplaces, family members. this will also tell you if someone is more likely to be on the freedman roll or as applicants to the dawes roll taken 1896-1906 in indian territory/oklahoma for the five major tribes.

applicants can be found here:
partial names are ok. look at the guide link for explanation of the codes.

when you find a possible name, then click on the card# in the card column to see the family group. if it is your family group, and they were likely enrolled, then you can search the oklahoma historical society’s dawes roll link to get the enrollment #’s for particular family members.

if your family was enrolled by council action early in the process or was enrolled by lawsuit, they might not appear on the oklahoma historical society website. you would have to check with the tribe on that.

even if your family was rejected by the dawes process, you may want the testimony, census card, application information for your genealogical purposes.

the federal census will also help you decide which state to contact for vital records.

the dawes roll was taken 1896-1906, so you should trace your ancestors down to that time period. mostly, they had to be living in oklahoma by that time and agree to live there permanently.

history of the dawes roll
wikipedia entries are sometimes opinionated; entered by volunteers.

helpful information about tribal enrollment

freedmen information:

2 ways to search:
this will let you enter partial names to get card#. click on the card# in the card column and you can see other names in that family.
other resources on the left and at the bottom of this webpage. native census records and databases are especially useful.
this will give you card# (family group) and enrollment #. they have some native marriage records too. other oklahoma records listed at left.
if your relative was enrolled by court action, their name might not be on this list.
if the name is common, you may find too many possible records.
you can order the dawes packet from the oklahoma historical society website.

if you find a relative listed on the dawes roll, fold3 may have filmed the record and could be available online.
other resources are NARA

the five civilized tribes book put out by the department of the interior has testimony.
and you can read it online

and these are the microfilms at fort worth TX archives.

there may be additional records about your relative:
contact NARA for these and other records listed on this webpage.

75.23.1 Records of the Dawes Commission
75.23.2 Records of the U.S. Indian Inspector for Indian Territory
75.23.3 General records of the Commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes
(Record Group 75)
oklahoma newspaper and archives search. some of these resources may be available through interlibrary loan/public library.

the tribe has an excellent information to help you. it is found under genealogy advocacy.
some obituaries:

NARA federal records repository. the fort worth, TX office has archives for oklahoma and texas tribes. atlanta/morrow office has archives for the southeast tribes. many offices have microfilmed records for several tribes. note that this web address has changed recently from

freedmen info:
You can ONLY apply for Choctaw Nation Membership, AFTER you have obtained a CDIB card proving your Choctaw Blood lineage to a direct ancestor who actually enrolled, BY BLOOD. Freedmen DID NOT enroll By Blood. When US Congress closed the Final Dawes Commission Rolls, there were no provisions granting Freedmen any benefits after the Dawes Commission closed. The tribe Constitution states BY BLOOD. however, the documents (application, census card and testimony) may help you find out more about your heritage.

about blood quantum laws:
calculations about blood quantum:

mississippi choctaw and choctaw tribe explained here:

jena choctaw tribe in louisiana:

MOWA tribe
MOWA Band Of Choctaws Wilford Taylor 1080 Red Fox Road Mount Vernon, AL 36560 (251) 829-5500. E-Mail:

other choctaw tribes:

chickasaw historical society
Historic Preservation and Repatriation Office
Phone: (580) 272-5325
Fax: (580) 272-5327
2020 E. Arlington, Suite 4, Ada, OK 74820
send mail to: P.O. Box 1548, Ada, OK 74821

chickasaw tribe
Chickasaw Nation Headquarters
520 East Arlington, Ada, OK 74820
Phone (580) 436-2603
Mailing address: P.O. Box 1548, Ada, OK 74821

chickasaw genealogy archive center Tribal Library
Phone: (580) 310-6477
Fax: (580) 559-0773
1003 Chamber Loop, Ada, OK 74820
send mail to: P.O. Box 1548, Ada, OK 74821
oklahoma historical society
marriage records

other historical societies:
some oklahoma genealogical societies:

texas tribes

oklahoma tribes:

some links for the choctaw.
i looked at the land records and those need a lot of work. i have no information about whether or when they will improve some of these categories.

types of records available for native americans:
pages 366-369 in particular although the entire native american chapter is helpful.
The Genealogist’s Companion and Sourcebook:
Guide to the Resources You Need for Unpuzzling Your Past
Emily Anne Croom
you can ask for these particular pages from your local public library. if they don’t have the book, you can get the pages through the interlibrary loan program.
native american records are discussed in pages 352-386.

Tracing ancestors among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians …
By Rachal Mills Lennon
this book could be accessed through the interlibary loan program also.

always find the state archives. some records are online, some records are not. but many times you can find a record not found in other places. you want to see also about newspaper mentions for obituaries, births, marriages in particular.

check courts for probate, civil and criminal cases, marriage records.

if your ancestors lived on a reservation, they might not appear on a federal census because they were not taxed.
1860 census, indian territory.

this book is a good read about the dawes roll and how they implemented it.
The Dawes Commission and the allotment of the Five Civilized Tribes, 1893-1914
By Kent Carter
and you can read this book online. your relatives’ testimony might be in the book.
see the menu at left. you can download it.
you should look at the enrollment application, census card and testimony. this post will tell you how to do that. these documents will tell you more about your heritage, but it won’t help you if your goal is to be enrolled in the choctaw tribe of oklahoma. some people were classed as mississippi choctaw if the family had a native heritage but didn’t qualify for enrollment in the tribe.

there are 63 tribes in oklahoma but only the five major tribes are on the dawes roll. look at your family’s location around 1900-1930 time period (census will help you there) and see if there was a tribe located nearby. it is possible that your relatives were affiliated with another tribe.

if they were mississippi choctaw, there is probably a land grant in MS/AL to a head of household called choctaw scrip land. this was given in lieu of tribal enrollment 1830-1880 time period. has a database of the MS and AL choctaw scrip land records, called mississippi or alabama land records. there are other land records in those databases too,, so you have to look at the authority/source cited. NARA has those land record packages.

the mississippi choctaw was not removed from oklahoma. but they were largely rejected for tribal enrollment.

this website might help you in your search. some people are trying to transcribe applications.
i do not know what they are trying to transcribe, but this is the volunteer page

and this might be of interest to you:
Rights of Mississippi Choctaws in the Choctaw Nation
Index to the Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory
the dawes roll is composed of applications to the five major tribes in oklahoma.

good advice about native research:

if your relatives came from a different geographic location or belonged to a different tribe, try searching google for the state and tribes. you might find a contact for a state-recognized tribe or a federal recognized tribe.

this page can help you set up a targeted google search.

penny postcards. this is a website that features pictures that were on postcards. click on the state to see the postcards that they have.
if you have a penny postcard, you can click on submissions to add your penny postcard to the collection.

these searches will combine several possible search terms and give you the best matches.

i have collected many resources over the years. if you want to write to me, and request the choctaw resource list, i will be glad to send it to you.

i am just a volunteer that wants to empower people to learn how to do genealogy.

suzanne hamlet shatto