Ethnic Groups of Oklahoma

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott Ph.D., FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Oklahoma Family History Research series.
History of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Vital Records
Census Records for Oklahoma
Background Sources for Oklahoma
Oklahoma Maps
Oklahoma Land Records
Oklahoma Probate Records
Oklahoma Court Records
Oklahoma Tax Records
Oklahoma Cemetery Records
Oklahoma Church Records
Oklahoma Military Records
Oklahoma Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Oklahoma Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Ethnic Groups of Oklahoma
Oklahoma County Resources
Map of Oklahoma


Native American

Because of the federal government’s removal policy, sixty-five different tribes have made their home in present-day Oklahoma. The sources for research are enormously varied from the kinds of materials generally associated with county-state record patterns. In addition to the sources held in the National Archives and its Southwest regional branch in Fort Worth (see page 12), materials for research on both natives and nonnatives who lived in the Twin Territories can be found at all agencies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (see page 16), including those in Anadarko, Ardmore, Concho, Okmulgee, Pawhuska, Pawnee, Miami, Shawnee, Tahlequah, Talihina, Wewoka, and Stewart. What is covered here are some general categories of records found regarding Native Americans in the state. For a more extensive and detailed discussion, see Blessing, Oklahoma Records and Archives, and Koplowitz, Guide to the Historical Records of Oklahoma (both cited under Background Sources for Oklahoma).

Research guides for specific Oklahoma Nations or tribes are available, such as:

Mooney, Thomas G. Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry: A Basic Genealogical Research Guide. Tahlequah, Okla.: Cherokee National Historical Society, 1990.

Olsen, Monty. Choctaw Emigration Records. 2 vols. Calera, Okla.: Bryan County Heritage Association, 1990.

Sturtevant, William C. A Seminole Sourcebook. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987.

Some copies of census records on Native Americans are available at the Oklahoma Historical Society library and the FHL. These censuses are alphabetically arranged by BIA agency, then tribal name, and then date of enumeration. Since agency changes were made, a specific tribe may have been under the jurisdiction of two or more agencies. Beginning about 1916, the registration of individuals’ names may be alphabetically arranged within the tribe’s census schedule.

Land allotment records can be a valuable source of information about Native American ancestors. To obtain a parcel of land, each applicant had to include documentation of descent. Final rolls list those who received land allotments. When the land was to be sold or the individual had died, all heirs were identified since transfer of land required permission from all heirs. This data was usually registered in allotment or family registers. Later lists of heirs may be located in records entitled “Heirship Records.” Each person is usually identified by age or birth date and relationship. Most allotted land eventually returned to tribal jurisdiction, for few individuals received patents to their holdings (see also Oklahoma Land Records).

Enrollment records, on which land allotments were based, were drawn up by the Dawes Commission for the Five Civilized Tribes. Under the Dawes Commission, information was abstracted onto data cards entitled Enrollments Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes: 1898–1914 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1981). Cards were made from both approved and rejected applications of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole tribe members. Microfilm of these packets and records is available at the Oklahoma Historical Society, the National Archives, and the FHL. Original applications are housed at the National Archives—Southwest Region in Fort Worth. A guide and index to these records is included in the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes’ publication, The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, n.d.).

Another valuable source is the Guion Miller records, which are contained on 348 reels of microfilm entitled Eastern Cherokee Applications of the U.S. Court of Claims, 1906–1909 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1981). A separate index is available for this collection of court records for individuals who applied for government compensation for lands confiscated from the Eastern Cherokees during the 1800s, east of the Mississippi River. Claims include data with documentation showing claimant’s lineage back to the Eastern Cherokee. It was also required that the claimant prove no other tribal affiliation. Billy Dubois Edgington and Carol Anne Buswell, transcribed and edited a comprehensive work, Vital Information from the Guion Miller Roll (Court of Claims), 1906–1909 (Mill Creek, Wash.: Indian Scout Publications, 1998). This massive work is an alphabetical arrangement that includes surname, given names, Miller Roll application number, gender, married name of female applicant, birth year when available, birth state or territory, residence city, county, and state.

Second only to the National Archives in Native American research for Oklahoma is the Indian Archives Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Included are federal and state government records and private collections, particularly the extensive work of Grant Foreman (also see Oklahoma Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections). The society’s collection is listed and described in Lawrence Kelly, “Indian Records in the Oklahoma Historical Society Archives,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 54 (1976): 227-44. Other issues include data relating to the Native Americans in Oklahoma and their records. Among many such articles are “Public Land Policy of the Five Civilized Tribes,” 23 (1945): 107-18; “Provincial Indian Society in Eastern Oklahoma,” 23 (1945): 323-37; and “Cherokee Allotments in the Outlet,” 59 (1981): 401-21.

The Archives and Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society has approximately three million pages and 6,000 bound volumes from Indian Agencies in Oklahoma for 1870 through 1930. The archives is the national repository for records of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations for the period 1860 through 1906. The archives also maintains agency records for Cheyenne, Pawnee, Quapaw, Chilocoo, Shawnee, Kiowa, and Arapaho as well as for the Cantonment agency. The Mekusukey Academy records and many special collections are also held there. There are 1,400 volumes of the Executive Library Cherokee Nation in the collection. The newspaper collection includes The Cherokee Advocate which began publication in 1844 in Indian Territory.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Muskogee Agency, 4th Floor, Federal Bldg., Muskogee, OK 74401, maintains records of the Cherokee and other tribes. The Cherokee Registration Office, P.O. Box 119, Tahlequah, OK, 74464, has records pertaining to the Cherokees. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, W.C.D. Office Complex, P.O. Box 368, Anadarko, OK 73005-0368, covers the Anadarko, Concho, Horton, Pawnee, and Shawnee Agencies.

The University of Oklahoma Library has many significant sources, including two manuscript collections for the Cherokee and the “Duke Indian Oral History Collection.” A guide to the holdings is Donald L. Dewitt, American Indian Resource Materials in the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).

The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art Library in Tulsa, Oklahoma, holds records pertaining to the Choctaw, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. The institute’s older publication provides a guide to its collection: A Guidebook to Manuscripts in the Library of the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art (Tulsa, Okla.: The Institute, 1969).

A few selected private collections in the Indian Archives Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, include transcripts of the Office of Commissioner Indian Affairs and Superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes in the Grant Foreman transcripts, Frederick B. Severs Collection for the Creek Nation, Grant Foreman’s numerous collections and WPA project interviews, John H. Adair Collection of early Cherokees, and the G. A. Root collection of newspaper clippings for Oklahoma Land openings.

Some Internet sites of interest include www.choctawnation.com and www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/ok/nations/.

The following publications include valuable source material:

  • Armstrong, K. M., and Bob Curry. Chickasaw Rolls: Annuity Rolls of 1857–1860 and the “1855” Chickasaw District Roll of 1856. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1995. Includes transcribed enumerations but no index.
  • Baker, Jack D. Cherokee Emigration Rolls, 1817–1835. Oklahoma City: Baker Publishing Co., ca. 1977.
  • Bogle, Dixie. Cherokee Nation Births and Deaths, 1884–1901. Owensboro, Ky.: Cook and McDowell Publications, 1980. This publication was sponsored by the Northeast Oklahoma Genealogical Society and contains abstracts from two newspapers, Indian Chieftain and Daily Chieftain.
  • Bogle, Dixie, and Dorothy Nix. Cherokee Nation Marriages, 1884–1901. Owensboro, Ky.: Cook and McDowell Publications, 1980. This publication was sponsored by Abraham Coryell Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and it contains abstracts taken from Indian Chieftain newspapers.
  • Campbell, John Bert. Campbell’s Abstract of Creek Indian Census Cards and Index. Muskogee, Okla.: Phoenix Job Printing, 1981.
  • ———. Campbell’s Abstract of Seminole Indian Census Cards and Index. Muskogee, Okla.: Oklahoma Printing, 1925.
  • Chase, Marybelle W., comp. 1842 Cherokee Claims: Tahlequah District. Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives, 1989. This volume contains reproductions of handwritten records and is indexed.
  • ———. A Survey of Tribal Records in the Archives of the United States Government in Oklahoma. N.p., n.d.
  • Corwin, Hugh D. The Kiowa Indians: Their History and Life Stories. Lawton, Okla.: author, 1958.
  • Gormley, Myra Vanderpool. Cherokee Connections. Reprint. 1995. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2003. Helpful description of sources with a brief bibliography.
  • Kelly, Lawrence. “Indian Records in the Oklahoma Historical Society Archives.” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 54 (Summer 1976): 227-44.
  • Oklahoma Genealogical Society. A Compilation of Records from the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Genealogical Society, ca. 1976.
  • Sober, Nancy Hope. The Intruders: The Illegal Residents of Cherokee Nation, 1866–1907. Ponca City, Okla.: Cherokee Books, 1991. Provides detailed background and eight appendixes with various lists of names, which are not included in the book’s index. Well documented, the notes provide bibliographic reference material.

Other Ethnic Groups

A series entitled “Newcomers to a New Land” was sponsored by the Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association. These books analyze the role and impact of major ethnic groups in the state. The following resource list includes some of the volumes in the series:

  • American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. Harvester (Oklahoma) Chapter. German-Russian Heritage: Steppes to America. N.p.: American Historical Society Germans from Russia, 1991.
  • Bernard, Richard. The Poles in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Bicha, Karel D. The Czechs in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Blessing, Patrick J. The British and Irish in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Brown, Kenny L. The Italians in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Burton, Arthur T. Blacks, Buckskin and Blue: African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Frontier. Austin, Tex.: Eaton Press, 1999.
  • Hale, Douglas. The Germans from Russia in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Rohrs, Richard C. The Germans in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Smith, Michael M. The Mexicans in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Tobias, Henry J. The Jews in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.

For Czechs in Oklahoma, see also:

  • Lynch, Russell Wilford. “Czech Farmers in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma A & M College Bulletin 39, no. 13 (June 1942).

In addition to general sources for African American genealogical research (see pages 14-15), there are specific works for Oklahoma:

  • Franklin, Jimmie Lewis. The Blacks in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • ———. Journey Toward Hope: A History of Blacks in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982. Both of Franklin’s works include helpful bibliographies.
  • Walton-Raji, Angela Y. Black Indian Genealogy Research: African American Ancestors among the Five Civilized Tribes. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1993. Includes appendixes with lists of freedman surnames on the five tribal rolls.
  • Williams, Nudie. “The Black Press in Oklahoma: The Formative Years, 1889–1907,” Chronicles of Oklahoma 61 (Fall 1983): 308-19. Text and notes include most early newspapers for African Americans in Oklahoma.
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