Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Finding your ancestor

suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on April 21, 2013

yes, you have to get organized for this to happen.
i recommend that you get a genealogy program.
this is a good one.
the basic free edition is GREAT.

it is as important to know which things you already tried and didn’t find information as it is to know where you find information about ancestors in documents.
you should not just “find” the names in the index, but you should get the documents. sources and citations are important.
how to cite sources:
there are books on this. “evidence!” comes to mind.!/3846.html

basic sources:
state historical societies and state archives usually have newspapers, may have/or know where to find old vital records. they both are familiar with the sources that genealogists are trying to find and can offer advice about their specific area and resources. state historical societies know about local history books that might be accessed through your local public library/interlibrary loan.
state vital records usually have vital records (birth death marriage)
county clerks sometimes have old vital records. you should look here for land records, probate, criminal records, legal records.

i start with the death and work backwards in time.
death record, obituary, cemetery record.
the death record would be at the state vital records or county clerk, if it exists. an obituary might be accessed through your local public library/interlibrary loan program. newspapers can also be found at the state historical society.
cemetery record might be at or this means that the cemetery might have more information.

if i get stuck on an ancestor, i look at the childrens’ records for more clues.

census records fix the family to a location and date. the census was done every 10 years. but the 1890 census was largely destroyed, so we often skip from 1900 to 1880. there are some records between 1880-1900, such as state census records or veterans 1890 census. the census records show dates, locations, approximate birthdates, family members.

military records might be helpful: world war I draft cards, civil war enlistment and pension records. the civil war pension record was often prepared by an attorney and contains much genealogical information.

before 1900, native census records were kept separately. 1900 census and later census records enumerated all people. the 1900 census has an indian population schedule, showing people living in mostly native areas.

start with what you know, gather documents, then go backward in time. do not try to jump back in time to a an older generation without gathering documents for the children.

when social security went into effect 1/1/1937, people had to submit documents to show proof of age. this could be a birth certificate or a delayed birth certificate. you have to request BOTH birth certificate and delayed birth certificate, because these are often filed chronologically at the state vital records office or the county clerk.
the social security application of a deceased ancestor can be helpful in finding documents. SS-5 form can be filed to get a copy of this.
you might be confused about their parents, but the person who filed a document at the time probably was less confused about where they lived, where they were born, when they were born. these documents list parents, locations, dates.

NARA has native records kept by the war department 1800-1930 or so. this is the location of the dawes packets, for instance. they have native census records. the dawes index was transcribed by, along with native census records. if you find a record on, that means there is an underlying record that you need.
for the five major tribes in oklahoma, the dawes index tells you who applied for enrollment, gives you the card#/family group of the person. this will show you the family members and approximate ages. oklahoma historical society tells you the enrollment# if someone was enrolled in one of the five major tribes.
note that there are 63 tribes in oklahoma and many of the tribes are NOT listed on the dawes roll.
location is important with tribal affiliation. the tribal members were under the authority of the tribe. so if someone was living somewhere else, they were probably not a member of that tribe. there are state-recognized tribes, federally-recognized tribes, and tribes still trying to become recognized. look where your family lived 1830-1930 or so and see if there is a nearby tribe. state historical societies or state native commissions might be able to help you with a tribe near where your ancestors lived.
people need to understand that tribes were associated bands of natives. they were not a cohesive general entity.
look at native records. there were databases and rolls, native census records, enrollment records. the records are housed at NARA, has dawes records and is trying to develop a native database. has transcribed many of these records and made indices of the names. if you find your ancestor’s name here, this means there is an underlying record.
natives living on reservation were enumerated on native census records. they were not on the federal census records 1800-1900 because they were untaxed. so if a native was on the federal census records 1800-1900, this means they were living off-reservation and less attached to a tribe. natives living off-reservation would have difficulty proving native heritage and attachment to a tribe.
natives given land grants in lieu of tribal enrollment: this occurred in MS and AL. has databases named “mississippi land records” and “alabama land records” containing homestead records and native scrip land records. those records are housed at NARA. if you find “choctaw scrip” in the citation for a particular land record, and it is your ancestor, then you should get a copy of that land record package to show tribal affiliation. if you find a land record, it is likely that this is the only record you will find for your ancestor that shows tribal affiliation. most of the time, these families did not seek or get enrollment in a tribe. the exception to this is for the mississippi choctaw tribe, recognized around 1930.

most tribes enrolled 1900-1930 or so. so this is a key period about location of ancestors.

you should investigate local genealogy societies near where you live. they often have education programs about genealogy, can give you free advice about records and help you learn about genealogy. they may have a library that would be useful to you.

historical events impact where people lived. so become familiar with events that occurred. the oklahoma land rushes and business opportunities in tribal areas drew people to native areas.

the oklahoma pioneer papers (interviews) and oklahoma chronicles (history books about people in this area) are great resources.
volumes by surname.

messageboards can help you contact other people researching your family. and are excellent, categorizing by surname, tribe, location.
rootsweb hosts webprojects by surname, tribe and location.
you should contact others researching your family, trading information and resources.

i hope this helps you.

suzanne hamlet shatto