A Historical Overview of the Choctaws U.S. Relations and Historical/Genealogical Records
There are extensive governmental records relating to trade, military affairs, treaties, removal to Oklahoma, land claims, trust funds, allotments, military service and pensions, and other dealings with the Choctaw Indians, which reach back to the early days of the existence of the Republic. A vast volume of records was created during the period of Indian Removal (1831-34), when the Choctaws and their government were uprooted from their homes in Mississippi and Alabama and taken to the area west of the Mississippi in what is now southeast Oklahoma.
In addition to extensive federal records, there are state land and probate records, marriage and death records and educational records in Mississippi and Oklahoma, and other records of consequence in county courthouses and state archives in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. It should be noted that a significant number of Choctaw descendants remain in Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama, as well as in Oklahoma, and that parties of Choctaws continued to remove to Oklahoma throughout much of the nineteenth century. Additionally, many Choctaw claimants from throughout the U.S. applied to the Dawes Commission at the turn of the century for an allotment of land in Oklahoma.
United States government records relating to the Choctaw are located in the United States Archives in Washington and regional federal record centers in East Point, Georgia and Ft. Worth, Texas.
The Choctaw people originally lived in the area that became the states of Mississippi and Alabama and gradually ceded their territories to the U. S. government. The last cession was made in 1830, following the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The most extensive record of Choctaw people and lands in the east was generated as a result of this treaty. The Indian agent William Armstrong took a roll of the Choctaw who were entitled to land under the treaty. This roll, commonly called the Armstrong Roll, has been published in several forms, the most readily available being that which was published in American State Papers: Volume7, part II, Index to Public Lands. American State Papers contain a very good surname index to this volume. The American State Papers series can be found in many public libraries and can serve as an important first step in locating an ancestor if you can identify the name of a male progenitor during the removal period (1830-46).
The removal records also contain lists of emigrants and muster rolls created upon arrival in Oklahoma. These are found in the archives in D.C. but some can be found in the Ft. Worth branch, as well. Almost all U.S. records for all American Indians are found in Record Group 75. Preservation microfilm of some of the emigrant and muster rolls has been made and is available from the National Archives. Other emigration rolls are found in association with the record of an attempt to remove the Choctaws remaining in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi during 1855-56. This microfilm can be purchased as Microfilm A20, titled Cooper Census and Emigration Roll. Some of the emigration registers and names of Choctaws who remained in Mississippi are also available on preservation microfilm 7RA – 116A. Choctaws Who Remained in Mississippi: 1830.
Another major set of records was created as the result of various commissions which were appointed by the U.S. government in response to land claims made by the Indians and frauds being practiced on the Choctaws in Mississippi by its white residents and some eastern land syndicates. The President appointed these Commissions. They included the Pray, Murray and Vroom Commission of 1837 and the Claiborne, Grave, Tyler, Gaines and Rush Commission or 1842-45.
Those Indians whose original land claims had been pre-empted or who removed prior to making claims were issued “script,” which were certificates that could be used for land purchases on unoccupied land in the public domain, or redeemed for cash. There are many pieces of land in Mississippi and Alabama that have been purchased with script, usually that obtained by settlers or land syndicates from Choctaws.
Late Arrivals in Indian Territory and “Net Proceeds Case”
Choctaws in small and large groups continued to travel to Indian Territory throughout the nineteenth century. Most were well received by their brethren previously removed to the territory and did not return to the south. Under the terms of the treaty, Those Choctaws in Indian Territory were eligible to participate in an annuity, which was supposed to be paid them by the United States government to cover the land lost in Mississippi and the costs of removal for those who went to Indian Territory unassisted. The Choctaws remaining in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas were not eligible for this annuity. The annuity was never paid in full, but resulted in an extensive litigation in a claims case (Choctaw Nation of Indians vs. The United States: U.S. Court of Claims No. 12742, 1882) which came to be called the Net Proceeds Case. The records of this case include extensive testimony about the misdeeds of the U.S. agent William Ward, who breeched his trust to the Choctaws by refusing to register many Choctaws who wished to remain in Mississippi.
These records are also full of testimony about names, relationships, and those Indians who did not remove. They are a genealogical treasure trove. Unfortunately, copies of the testimony are hard to find outside of the U.S. Archives. A hardbound edition of the testimony was published for public sale in 1886, but it has never been reprinted. The Oklahoma State Historical Commission in Oklahoma City has a copy of it, as well as an index. There are also copies in the U.S. Archives.
Dawes Commission and Allotment
Despite the assurances of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, Choctaw lands in the Indian Territory were not safe from pre-emption by the U.S. Government. Negotiations between U.S. Agents and the Choctaw government in Indian Territory for allotment of Choctaw Land in Indian Territory an opening of “surplus” lands for white settlement began in 1893. To affect its aim of allowing white settlement of the Territory, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was created by congress. This body, commonly called the Dawes Commission for the name of its chairman, Henry Dawes, was created to negotiate with the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles for the division of their land in the Indian Territory and for the division of their land in the Indian Territory and for the allotment of individual tracts of one-quarter section to each Indian head of family. The land remaining was to be sold to white settlers. The Choctaws were to retain an interest in the lands that contained their natural resources (coal and asphalt).
In connection with obtaining these resources, it became necessary to create a roll of all the members of the Choctaw tribe in Oklahoma. The minutes of the enrolling authorities and the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (and the records of the U.S. district courts that adjudicated contested enrollment) became a comprehensive record that continues to be used by contemporary tribes for enrollment and legal purposes.
An index to the rolls that were created by the Dawes commission is available for sale from the National archives but is found in many libraries and state archives. Individual and family case records are housed in the Ft. Worth, Texas Branch of the U.S. Archives. If you find a name of one of your ancestors on the Dawes Roll, you may obtain a copy of the file concerning the ancestor by requesting it from the Fort Worth branch of the Archives. The file normally contains an enrollment card which list all family members, their relationship to the head of family, a blood quantum of each family, their residence (by district of the Choctaw Nation), and it may contain testimony given to the Dawes Commission concerning he family. Other material concerning the individual case may also be found in the file.
There have been numerous rolls generated as the result of claims cases, and censuses that were taken when the Mississippi Choctaw reservation was created in 1918, and at subsequent intervals since then.
These censuses are found in the National Archives and are available on microfilm series M595. They are as follows:
1885 Choctaws in Indian Territory Roll 623
1926-32 Choctaws in Mississippi Roll 41
1933-39 Choctaws in Mississippi Roll 42
Another useful tool for doing Choctaw genealogy is the correspondence engaged in by the Indian agents with their superiors in Washington, and with the Indians and those living in their jurisdiction. This correspondence is in the National Archives and the incoming correspondence is also available on microfilm series M234 Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-80. Roll numbers follow:
169 Choctaw Agency 1824-31
170 Choctaw Agency 1832-38
171 Choctaw Agency 1839-51
172 Choctaw Agency 1852-53
173 Choctaw Agency 1854
174 Choctaw Agency 1855-56
175 Choctaw Agency 1857-59
176 Choctaw Agency 1860-66
177 Choctaw Agency 1867-68
178 Choctaw Agency 1869
179 Choctaw Agency 1870-71
180 Choctaw Agency 1872-73
181 Choctaw Agency 1874
182 Choctaw Agency 1875
183 Choctaw Agency 1876 (Choctaw Agency, West)
184 Choctaw Agency 1825-38 (Choctaw Agency, Emigration)
185 Choctaw Agency 1826-45
186 Choctaw Agency 1846-49
187 Choctaw Agency 1850-59 (Choctaw Agency Reserve)
188 Choctaw Agency 1833-35
189 Choctaw Agency 1836-37
190 Choctaw Agency 1838-40
191 Choctaw Agency 1841-42
192 Choctaw Agency 1843
193 Choctaw Agency 1844
194 Choctaw Agency 1845
195 Choctaw Agency 1846-50
196 Choctaw Agency 1851-60
Civil War Records
Choctaw involvement during the Civil War was largely on the side of the Confederacy, although Choctaw units participated in comparatively few active engagements. The Choctaw/National Council signed a favorable treaty with Confederate General Albert Pike on July 12, 1861. After the war, the slaves of the Indians were given their freedom and the Choctaws began the process of allowing participation of their freedmen in the affairs of the government. The U.S. Government also demanded that the Choctaws sell major portions of their territory to provide land for their freedman in the affairs of their government. The U.S. Government also demanded that the Choctaws sell major portions of their territory to provide land for their freedman. Records of the Choctaws, other than the treaty proceedings at War’s end, are largely Confederate records. There is also a set of records having to do with Indian applications for military bounty land and Civil War pensions in the U.S. Archives. These applications cover the period 1855-90.
Names and some relationships of Choctaws who attended mission schools prior to removal may also be found in the records of those schools. The major institution was called Choctaw Academy and was located in Kentucky. It closed its doors at removal but it was responsible for educating many Indian (including some Creeks and others) men who later went on to lead their tribes. Information about the Choctaw Academy is contained in reports to the Indian agents and to the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs. These are federal records but may be found in some state archives, university libraries or large public libraries. For Alabamians doing research, reports of the superintendent of Choctaw Academy may be found in the Brantley Collection in the Samford University library in Birmingham.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions also operated schools for the Choctaws in Mississippi prior to removal. Both boys and girls attended these schools that were located in several places in the Choctaw nation. Reports of the missionaries who operated these schools are in the Houghton Library of Harvard University but they are also available on microfilm. Inquiries about these schools should be made to the Houghton Library.
In doing research on Choctaw genealogy, it is useful to combine standard genealogical research with information from federal records. The typical research of records in the county courthouse or state archives frequently leads to other information from the federal records.
Original entry land records (which should reveal information about the first transfer of a piece of land from federal or Indian hands to its first non-Indian owner) are a useful tool. These land records are available in county court houses and state archives (and offices of the secretary of state in most states), and in the records of the General Land Office (Record Group 49) in the U.S. Archives. Useful finders documents, with alphabetical listings of the names of the original entry possessor, can be found in many libraries and archives. These are often organized by regional land offices created for the purpose of apportioning the land for settlement.
County records (duplicates of which are contained in may state archives) may also contain death and marriage information, court proceedings and judgements, school attendance and completion records and other information useful to the researcher.
Church and cemetery records are also frequently useful to genealogist. Many of these are only local records, but if a church is a member of a diocese, convention, syno. Or other ecclesiastical organization, there may be records of value in the central offices of these agencies. Marriage records, baptismal records are the typical kind often found in these sources.
Census records are often quite helpful to genealogical researchers. In addition to federal censuses, many states have conducted their own population censuses. These were usually done in the early days of the existence of the state, and at irregular instances. Many contain only the names of the heads of household and most did not list the race of the householder.
Federal census records are organized by states, counties or other political subdivisions, and census enumeration districts. Race is not always listed, and may be self-reported or noted by the census taker. Early federal censuses contained only the names of the heads of household and the number of men, women, children and slaves. It is therefore impossible to locate the names of wives and children except in the case of those households headed by women.
The federal censuses of 1900 and 1910 contain a special accounting of Indian households, which is a part of the regular census document. These are separate census pages containing information about the Indian’s tribal origins and the tribal origin of his/her parents. This special census was taken only of those whose household was headed by an Indian.
The single best document that can be used to establish Choctaw ancestry is probably the Armstrong Roll of 1830 previously mentioned. The researcher’s problem is that of connecting to some progenitor on a roll of that age. The testimony in the Net Proceeds Case and the Dawes Commission hearings offer possible aid in providing linkages to that roll.
The problem with these two sources is also their relative age and accessibility to those who are doing genealogy at the local level. As previously mentioned, the index to the Dawes Roll is on microfilm, and is in possession of some local libraries and state archives. There is also a separate Choctaw Census in Indian Territory for the year 1885 (see Addendum attaché for Microfilm M-595, Choctaw Census).
More recent information about Choctaw in Mississippi may be found in their censuses beginning in 1926. Information about the Choctaw in Mississippi during the last quarter of the nineteenth century may be obtained from the papers of Henry Halbert, which are in the state archives of Mississippi and Alabama. Mr. Halbert, a teacher in the Mississippi Choctaw schools and later an employee in the Alabama State Archives, wrote extensively about their life after Indian Removal which has never been published. There is also some incidental genealogical information.
National Archives and Record Service
Washington, D.C. 20408
(to purchase microfilm, address Publications Service Branch (NEPS)
National Archives and Record Service (Southeast Region)
1557 St. Joseph Street.
East Point, GA 30344
National Archives and Record Service (Southwest Region)
501 Felix Street Box 6216
Fort Worth, TX 76115
State of Alabama
Dept. of Archives and History
624 Washington Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36130
Arkansas History Commission
300 West Markham
Little Rock, AR 72210
Louisiana Secretary of State
P.O. Box 44125
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History
100 South State Street
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205
Texas State Library
P.O. Box 12927
Austin, TX 78711
Cotterill, R.S., The Southern Indians: The Story of the Civilized Tribes Before Removal. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1954.
Debo, Angie, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1934.
Foreman, Grant, Indian Removal. Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1932.
Foreman, Grant, The Five Civilized Tribes. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1934.
Houghton Library of Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
Credit: Alabama Indian Affairs Commission
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