Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

Frances Smith Hand

Mark Pesnell Mark Pesnell

posted on March 4, 2012

I’m looking for information about my maternal great-grandmother, Frances Smith, who we believe may have been a member of the Choctaw Nation. My great-grandfather, Burton Knott Hand, went to Mississippi in the late 1800s and brought Frances back with him to east Alabama as his wife. I know that this was post-removal, however the anecdotal information that has been handed down through our family suggests that Frances was a Choctaw. The Hand descendants of Burton K. Hand have many physical features that suggest that Choctaw blood flows in us.

Genealogy searches on Frances’ ancestors have proven unfruitful, and her family tree starts and ends with her. Do any of you have ideas that may help me in my search?

suzanne hamlet shatto suzanne hamlet shatto

posted on March 4, 2012

this is the website of the choctaw tribe of oklahoma.

the natives tribes had an oral tradition and do not have records. native languages only became a written language in the mid-1800’s. the records that exist were kept by the war department 1800-1900 or so, and they are at NARA local history books, trading post records or local historical newspaper records might be available, but you would have to check with local historical societies or state archives for these. there might be land records or probate/court records at the county courthouse. there might have been a land grant in lieu of tribal enrollment called choctaw scrip also, and the bureau of land management records would be at NARA also.

this is a common post on several family trees on ancestry.comm.
Burton K Hand
Birth 12 Jun 1845 in Georgia
Death 06 Jul 1923 in Cleburne, AL

this might be your frances, before marriage.
Name: Frances P Smith
Age in 1870: 12
Birth Year: abt 1858
Birthplace: Alabama
Home in 1870: Township 19 Range 11, Choctaw, Mississippi
Race: White
Gender: Female
Post Office: Republican
Value of real estate: View image
Household Members:
Name Age
Matthew Smith 57
Bethenia Smith 54
Martha E Smith 31
Mary D Smith 21
John F Smith 18
Emily B J Smith 15
Frances P Smith 12
George W Smith 9
Howard Clarg 9
Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Township 19 Range 11, Choctaw, Mississippi; Roll: M593_725; Page: 468B; Image: 436; Family History Library Film: 552224.

since there are no particular locations, no children in your post, and frances has a common surname, i can only guess at this.

Frances Fannie Smith
Birth 10 Mar 1856 in Alabama
Death 19 Jul 1945

you might get a copy of her obituary and her death certificate.

if she was living in GA/AL/MS, the chances of her being a member of the choctaw tribe in oklahoma are very small. she could be a member of a tribe in those states, however, you would have to contact those tribes. location is a strong factor in tribal affiliation.

if this is your frances smith, and these are her parents, it is more likely that bethina simms is her mother, but this reasoning is a series of possibilities.
Name: Bethany Simms
Spouse: Matthias Smith
Marriage Date: 25 Jan 1837
County: Perry
State: Alabama
Performed By Title: Justice of the Peace
Performed by Name: Wm Chesney
Source information: Jordan Dodd, Liahona Research

1860 United States Federal Census about Berthena Smith
Name: Berthena Smith
Age in 1860: 43
Birth Year: abt 1817
Birthplace: Alabama
Home in 1860: Oktibbeha, Mississippi
Gender: Female
Post Office: Starkville

in the 1800-1880 time period, several natives accepted land in lieu of tribal enrollment, and did not go on the trail of tears in the late 1830’s (from MS/AL to indian territory/OK). the federal government termed these people mississippi choctaw. the mississippi choctaw later became a tribe recognized by the federal government.

there are also other tribes in these areas, some federal recognized, some state-recognized, some still seeking recognition.

i think you need more documents and i suggest some documents earlier in the post. i think previous searches are not fruitful because the names in her birth family are very common and they cannot narrow down the search. but i also think that this could be solved regarding the birth family. look for an obituary, get a copy of her social security application. she would know who her parents were. her delayed birth certificate could be of help, as it would have had to be supported by affidavits of two family members. you might look for a cemetery record.

there are two other difficulties that will make a search difficult – the records kept by the government get much sparser in information. for instance, the census information does not ask much about members of the household before 1850 other than age – no names. and the government did not do a very good job of keeping track of females. most of the records are in the name of the male head of household.

records of natives were also difficult before 1850, as sometimes the names were transliterated and the spellings would vary greatly. worse, there is no tie of a native name of that period to an anglicized name. natives often took names from favorite people, places and things during this time.

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 1930 are available, although the 1890 census was largely destroyed. the 1940 census will be public information in 2012.

social security application for a deceased person:

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.

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

helpful information about tribal enrollment

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.
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.
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 southwest 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.

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