Thursday, June 12, 2014

Southeastern Native American Research

Southeastern Native American researchers are pretty familiar with the term "5 Civilized Tribes".  They are the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.  They were deemed "civilized" by the white man for the following reasons:

           "Americans, and sometimes American Indians, called the five Southeastern nations "civilized" because they seemed to be assimilating to Anglo-American norms.  The term indicated the adoption of horticulture and other European cultural patterns and institutions, including widespread Christianity, written constitutions, centralized governments, intermarriage with white Americans, market participation, literacy, animal husbandry, patrilineal descent, and even slaveholding.  None of these attributes characterized all of the nations or all of the citizens that they encompassed.  The term was also used to distinguish these five nations from other so-called "wild" Indians who continued to rely on hunting for survival."  Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, "Five Civilized Tribes",  :  accessed 11 Jun 2014.

While researching my own family lines of supposed Native Americans, I wondered if they had applied for enrollment in the Five Civilized Tribes.  In 1893, an act of Congress approved the establishment of a commission to negotiate agreements with the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee Indian tribes.  The commission became known as the Dawes commission.  The commission was to divide tribal land into plots which were then divided among the members of the tribe.  The Commission either accepted or rejected applicants for tribal membership based on whether the tribal government had previously recognized the applicant as a member of the tribe.  Applicants were categorized as Citizens by Blood, Citizens by Marriage, Minor Citizens by Blood, New Born Citizens by Blood, Freedmen (African Americans formerly enslaved by tribal members), New Born Freedmen, and Minor Freedman.

The first step in locating whether your ancestor had applied for enrollment is to check the index.  Go to the card catalog online at  (If you are not a subscriber to, you might wish to check at your local library or family history center as many of them have subscriptions for their patrons.)

Then you will type in “five civilized tribes” in the keyword field as show below.

Click “Search” and 6 results come up.  You will first need to check the two indexes.  One index is for those applicants who were admitted into the tribes and the other index is for applications that were overturned.

I first checked the admitted applicants index for my targeted ancestor, Jacob Cole, and found no matches.  Next, I checked the overturned index.

I only fill in the name fields and leave everything else blank.  Then click "Search".

My results found Jacob Cole and several other names I recognized!

Use the "Tribe" column and the "Case number" column to find the actual application they filled out.  In this case, I will use Jacob's tribe as Cherokee and the case number 639.  Go back to the card catalog results and choose between the two application databases.

Because I found my ancestor in the overturned index, I would expect to find his application in the overturned applications.  This is the difficult part.  When you click on the database and enter in the name of the person you are searching for, the application or case number, and the tribe; the system only brings up the index page which you have already seen.

Instead you need to enter the information you have in the fields to the right. Choose which tribe in the first field.  I was looking for "Cherokee".  Then choose which roll based on the case number you found on the index.  Jacob Cole was case number 639.  Then click "ALL".

Now the database takes you to that roll of microfilm and guess have to search through image by image until you find the right application.  Don't be discouraged, it is worth it to look through hundreds if necessary!  Here are some of the "goodies" I found in Jacob's application on image number 1408.

This is the only record I have found with the two daughters, Martha age 19 and Mary J. age 1.  Martha was from Jacob's first marriage and Mary J. was from the second marriage.  I do not know what becomes of either of them, but it was a delight to find them in this record and to know of their existence.

Further research into the applications of other family members led to several previously unknown children, a name of an unknown grandfather, and a location of residence for that grandfather.  In areas where birth and death records are scarce, searching unusual databases for information can add to your genealogical data and family history.  If you suspect that you have a Southeastern Native American ancestor, I would highly suggest taking some time to review this neat resource!  Happy Hunting!

Read more about finding your Native American heritage at:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.