Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Age discrepancy with relative on Dawes Roll

Brad Littlejohn Brad Littlejohn

posted on January 19, 2011

I have an interesting question when it comes to tracking down my ancestors, and would like some input from you.

First, I’m easily able to track down my ancestors going back to the Dawes Roll, but that also is where the trouble begins. Recently someone else in my family tried to register for the CDIB card, which they were rejected, because the person whose roll number they used could not have been my grandmother’s father, as he would have been 15 years old when my grandmother was born, and that my grandmother was the 2nd youngest child out of 4. So in doing a bit of research, I found out that there were two people with the same name on the Dawes Roll, who were born 13 years apart (one was listed as age 14 on the roll, while the other was listed as age 1). In short, we were using the wrong roll number for the right name, but wrong person.

Doing the research, and talking to my family, I found out where my relative (paternal great grandfather) died, and found his marriage license application and death certificate. With that, comes my question.

The Dawes roll has him listed as 14 years old around 1902. Choctaw Country, OK has a marriage license application for him and his wife in 1908, listing him as 21. That date would match, relative to the Dawes Roll. Doing the math, that would have placed him as being born in 1888 per the Dawes Roll, and 1887 per the marriage license application.

His Death certificate, on the other hand, lists him as born on Sep. 9th, 1885. That doesn’t square with the Dawes Roll, nor the Marriage license application. That would place him at 17 years around 1902, and 23 years old for the Marriage License.

Everything else matches for place of death. Place of Birth is unknown, as both where he was born (Oklahoma) and where he died (Arizona) were not states at the time. Everything else matches as far as marriage, and place of death.

So that means either the age on the Dawes Roll is wrong, or the Marriage license application is wrong, or the death certificate is wrong. Is there a way to corroborate the ages? I’m positive we have the right person, but I don’t know if the tribe looks at ages in their research or just bloodline. Any insights to this would be greatly appreciated.



suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on January 20, 2011

not necessarily. did you get a copy of the enrollment application, census card and possibly testimony for the family group? info about where to get that is in this post.

the dawes roll was taken 1896-1906. people who applied were listed with their age at the time of application.

and i have found that many people filed for an earlier birthdate than their actual birthdate at the time that social security came into effect. they could retire earlier. they had to submit a delayed birth certificate with affidavits from relatives. also, sometimes peoples’ memories become dimmer over time. someone could have given an incorrect birthdate for his death certificate too.

do you have a copy of the marriage license? you can contact oklahoma historical society for that. a link for them is in this post.

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 for a birth certificate, and they were born before 1929, they might have sumitted 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. the census records up to 1930 are available, although the 1890 census was largely destroyed. the 1940 census will be public information in 2012.

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:

other choctaw tribes:

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

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

Brad Littlejohn Brad Littlejohn

posted on January 24, 2011

Thank you for the reply, Suzanne.

To answer your first question, no, yes, and yes. I don’t have my great-grandfather’s enrollment application, but do have the enrollment number. From that, I found the Census Card number.

Should I be worried that the OK. Historical Society’s results do not match what returns?

For your next question.. So if he were listed on the Dawes Roll as age 14, that would be exactly what his age is in 1902 (according to the OK. Historical Society and the National Archives), correct? If so, that would square with the Marriage License application. Speaking of..

I haven’t found the actual license, but the application for it. The OK Historical Society doesn’t appear to have it on file, as they have all of the counties around Choctaw County, but not Choctaw county itself. I did find the application for their license at the Choctaw County Genealogical site.

What concerns me is this.according to the above Dawes Roll entry, if he were 14 in 1902, and allegedly he was born on 9/16, he would be 19 years old until his birthday in 1908, which he’d turn 20. On the Marriage License application, which is dated 11/7/1908, his listed age is 21. But the name matches my great-grandmother’s name. Should I be worried that my great-grandfather’s age is one year off, compared to the Dawes Roll?

Everything else, I appear to have: My birth certificate, my father’s birth certificate, my paternal grandmother’s birth and death certificate, and my paternal great-grandfather’s death certificate. My biggest concern is the age. I am not entirely sure how exact age has to be with a CDIB application. According to all of the documentation, there may be a 1 – 2 year gap in age, and I’m not sure if that would be enough to reject a CDIB application.


suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on January 24, 2011

you need the application. something could have been mistranscribed. you can get it from NARA or OK historical society. how do you know WHEN the enrollment application was filed?

i would not be “worried”. but you should pursue it. you will find, if you do genealogy, that many things will not match exactly. these are things you should resolve. how will you know what to say to the tribe when you try to enroll, if you don’t have the enrollment application? one of the differences between accessgenealogy and OK historical society is that accessgenealogy shows the family group. this might be important to you. (card #=family group. when you find a name you are interested in, click on the # in the card column and it will show you the family group.)

you know, you haven’t given any name here, and i can’t look up any information about your relative. in my opinion, i think you are being too exact, but i don’t know. i am not affiliated with the tribe. i just voluntarily answer questions about genealogy.

one of the problems is that around 1900, age was not a primary identifying piece of data. some people had name differences at that time too. some people had birthplace differences and there were few birth certificates.

so i think this is probably a small problem. but i can’t speak for the tribe.

Jennifer Mieirs Jennifer Mieirs

posted on August 11, 2011

It is not uncommon to see the Choctaw vary in ages. Many of the family members in 1885 are different ages on the dawes roll. The reasons vary, but in some cases it just may be because they were poorly educated. If you know you have the right death, marriage, etc, then you know you have the right person. I often see the WWI draft and SS birthdates off by a year in all families whether or not they are choctaw, then you go to the tombstone and the date will be different on the birthdate or death date. Keep in mind, death certificates are provided by family members, the information is only as good as the information provided.

the 1885 census is online at footnote and ancestry (paid) under the indian census, union category.
You can look for the parents of your granddad there. They will be named on his dawes card. If he’s on the 1885 then maybe he was born then.