Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Looking for information on my great-grandmother

Tonya Smith McNamara Tonya Smith McNamara

posted on October 20, 2010 and updated on October 20, 2010

My great grandmother was born on the Choctaw Indian Reservation. Her given name is Alpha Pearl Chatman or Chapman. The story that I was told is that a man either on a cattle drive or just passing through got her mother pregnant. I am trying to locate her birth certificate. If anyone has any information that would help me it would be greatly appreciated.

suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on October 21, 2010

alpha pearl chatman/chapman
no dates, no location, no children, no spouse in your post. i don’t know whether chatman/chapman is a maiden name or a married name.

i don’t know when or where she lived. i assume that chatman/chapman is a maiden name and that she might have married.

if she was alive 1/1/1937, she probably filled out a social security application and submitted a delayed birth certificate to show proof of age. many people on the frontier didn’t have birth certificates, so they submitted affidavits of relatives or friends who attested to their birth location and birthdate. if you ask for a birth certificate, also ask for a delayed birth certificate.

often it is helpful to work backwards in time. in other words, look for her cemetery record, her death certificate, her obituary first, then her marriage license, any census records, and then her birth certificate.

you might be able to access newspapers through the interlibrary loan program with your local public library.

her mother might have been married to alpha’s father and possibly divorced in oklahoma. so you should check the county clerk for divorce papers.

often, when we are stuck on finding documents about a person, we should look at the childrens’ records. they point to the parents, fix the family to a particular date and location.

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.

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.

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.

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 the name is common, you may find too many possible records.

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

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:

texas tribes

oklahoma tribes:

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.

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

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.

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

Tonya Smith McNamara Tonya Smith McNamara

posted on October 21, 2010

Whoa!! You are a wealth of information. Thank you very much. I plan on taking a trip to the cemetery to locate her gravesite but it is out of town and I have to have my mother show me where it is. From what I understand she gave up her rights so that she could get a drivers license.
Thank you again for guidance with this venture.