Friday, July 18, 2014

Dawes Records are only Part of the Story

Two cards reflecting Charles Alexander Creek Freedman
When researching families from Indian Territory, especially those whose families are reflected on the Dawes rolls it is important to know that the entire story does not rest with Dawes Records.  The Dawes Records began when the allotment process started in the 1890s that would eventually lead to Oklahoma statehood in 1907. The Dawes records primarily cover the years 1898-1914. In those final years the New Born and Minor children were completed to include those children born after the initial interviews had begun. Nevertheless the Dawes files do reflect a useful record set for those who descend from families tied to the Five Civilized Tribes, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations. With Freedmen files the data is especially treasured, because the information can reflect the parents, and the names of slave holders as well.
However---not every file was completed in the same manner, and it is always wise to look at earlier documents. The tenacious researcher will benefit greatly from exploring as many documents as possible. It is hoped that the ultimate goal is to tell the family story. Unfortunately for some people the only goal is citizenship, and many once completed they might terminate their research. And some, if tribal enrollment is not obtained, they too abandon the research although much more data might be found on the family's unique history.  The greater loss is that the family may be missing out on more details of a rich family history. Hopefully these few records might encourage the researcher to keep going.
In the case of Creek Freedman Charles Alexander whose card is shown below, one sees a man from the Creek Nation, who lived in Bearden I.T. His card was on Creek Freedman card 1855. He was a member of North Fork town, and his name had also appeared on the Dunn Roll.
National Archives Publication M1186 Creek Freedman Card #1855
Unfortunately, the reverse side of his enrollment card yields no information about his parents, nor any additional ties to the nation.
The reverse side of the card for Charles Alexander revealed no additional information
Prior to the creation of the Dawes Rolls the Creek Nation had begun their interview process earlier and a set of records that still exists is known as the Old Series Cards. The Old Series Cards preceded the Dawes Cards, an in some cases additional information about the family can be obtained.  Charles Alexander had a card that was part of the Old Series and it reveals a good amount of information about him.
Old Series Card of Charles Alexander, Card #12
From the Old Series card, it is learned that he is the son of Isaac Alexander of the Chickasaw Nation, and Polly Ann Grayson Alexander. He is the uncle to Priscilla and Sam King, who were residing with him at the time. All were residents of North Fork Town (colored) and the relationships are clearly spelled out.
The Old Series Creek Cards need to be addressed more in depth, for in many cases they can unlock doors into more of the family history, and may be the key to revealing more family stories. These cards are arranged by district and card number, and they typically do not correspond to the Dawes cards by numbers. More information about the Olds Series Cards can be found HERE.
In some cases both cards will provide good information. The Old Series cards, often describe the relationships between family members in more detail, and explain relationships often more clearly.
A good example is the case of Caroline Bruner, another Creek citizen. The data is rich on the Old Series Card bearing her case.
The hand written piece on the right side of the card describes clearly several relationships between parties listed on the card. 
Front Side of Caroline Bruner Card
National Archives Publication M1186 Creek Nation Card #523
Reverse Side of Caroline Bruner Card
The Dawes Card reflects people in the household but not as clearly as the written text on the Old Series Card. However, the critical information pertaining to the identity of the Creek slave holder on the Dawes Card, and this is data useful to the family historian, and information that the careful researcher will want to incorporate into the family data.
These are two small examples of how all records bearing the name of the family are essential to telling the story completely and accurately. Hopefully it will inspire others to look at earlier records as part of the research process.