Monday, February 11, 2008

Early Records – What are the ROLLS? - Last part

Cherokees who were living in (Oklahoma Territory) Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Texas and Louisiana registered on the Dawes Roll between 1896 and 1902. The Cherokee Citizenship Rolls of 1886 were used as a beginning and these people on this Roll do not have a ‘postal district’ recorded on the Final Roll. All other Cherokees had the postal district listed where they made their application.

Choctaw Indians also had a large contingent that was still living in Mississippi. They are recorded on the Dawes Roll under Choctaw – MCR (Mississippi Choctaw Restricted) status. This is because their names were recorded between 1880 to 1890, with the expectations that they were to relocate to Oklahoma before 1900. The people on the MCR list remained in Mississippi through 1900 and most of them were ‘stricken’ from the Final Dawes Roll’.

Census Cards, or ‘field cards’ were filed out by the white registrars, showing the persons name, their age (or apparent age) at the time of registration, their sex, and blood quanta. They also listed this data for their spouse and any minor children still living at home. Unmarried older daughters (spinsters) were allowed to be listed on the Census Card of their parents. Married children and sons over the age of 17 were required to file separately, with married daughters being listed under their married names. Each applicant and their spouse were required to list their parent’s names.

Each Census Card had a unique serial number that captured a ‘snapshot’ of the family as it was at the time of registration. The Dawes Commission then scanned the Drennen Roll and the Old Settlers Roll to identify the names of the applicant’s parents. If the parents name was not readily apparent, the applicant was classified as ‘doubtful’ and was required to appear in court with witnesses, to determine if they were entitles to ‘free land’.

Blood quanta numbers were not subject to verification. However, any Cherokee that registered as half-blood to full-blood was considered to ignorant to manage their own affairs. The government appointed a white ‘overseer’ to each of these families to tend to the business aspect of their farms. Most of these overseers were ex-slavers and treated the Cherokee families as their slaves, running the farm into false bankruptcy with faked bank documents, and then selling the farm to their accomplices for pennies on the dollar. When this trend became apparent, other Cherokees with high blood quanta began registering with lower numbers. This was not a problem as far as the Tribe was concerned, as there was no minimum blood quanta. There is still no minimum blood quanta requirement for new members, but you must have a direct ancestor on the Final Dawes Roll.

Several categories of people were not allowed to register, were considered doubtful of Indian ancestry, or were simply ‘Stricken’ from the Final Roll when it was published in 1917. This group included parents of Dawes Applicants unless they registered separately, Intermarried Whites that had married after 1875, anyone who’s ancestors were not listed on the Old Settlers Roll or the Drennen Roll, anyone who missed the registration deadline, everyone who had left Oklahoma Territory after 1850 and had not returned by 1880. Continuous residence in New Indian Territory from 1850 to 1900 was a requirement for Dawes Roll registration. The Cherokee National Census (West) of 1880 was used as a qualifying document.

Tens of thousands of Cherokees refused to make an application to the Dawes Roll. The main reason for this was the Dawes was the result of another Treaty where the Cherokees lost several million acres of land that the government wanted for settlers, railroads, and oil exploration. In the Treaty of 1846, the Cherokee Nation was granted all of the land south of the Missouri River to the northern border of Texas, from the Rocky Mountains (Continental Divide) to the Mississippi River.

During the US Civil War, the Cherokees were active in the Confederacy and in the Union, but the government declared that the Cherokee Nation had succeeded from the Union and all previous Treaties were voided. The New Treaty that resulted in the Dawes Roll, restricted the Cherokee land to the North Eastern five county area of Oklahoma. Cherokee Chiefs that refused to sign this new Treaty were imprisoned or murdered.

According to my research, the Dawes Commission only needed a ‘simple majority’ (51%) of Cherokee Chiefs to sign the Treaty for it to become law. If a person or family refused to make an application, they and their descendants were forever banned from becoming members of the Tribe or even being allowed to call themselves Cherokee. Government estimates say that only about half of the eligible Cherokees who were living in Oklahoma Territory, actually applied for the Dawes Roll.

The most common form of the Dawes Roll was a ‘government friendly’ list that was in numerical order. There have been attempts to alphabetize the Final Dawes Roll, but they scatter family members and make it very difficult to determine which of the people on the Roll with the same name, are your ancestors. The only realistic way to find out which ‘John Smith’ was your ancestor, is to compare their year of birth against family records, and then sort through 640 pages of tiny print.

While noting ‘likely suspects’ in your ancestor hunt, you must record their individual Census Card numbers. This is the KEY to the Dawes Roll. Since they did not have addresses as such, their Census Card numbers serve that purpose. You literally have to go through the Dawes Roll again and again and note the names and ages of everyone with the same Census Card number as your list of ‘likely suspects’.

Breakthrough…. The entire Dawes Roll, all Five Civilized Tribes, has been alphabetized, years of birth calculated based on their age and their date of registration, and their Census card numbers recorded in an easy to use CD. By sorting everyone by Tribe and Census Card number, and putting the Census Cards in numerical order, entire families have been reassembled as they first appeared on the original Census Card. The family lists include both spouses even if only one was still alive, spouses and applicants parents names, spouses maiden names, children’s names and birth years for those born before the application date and still living at home, and parents of the children if they were from a different parent via divorce or remarriage, adopted cousin, etc. These listings also show all applicants even if they were later declared doubtful, rejected, or ‘stricken’ from the Final Roll that was published in 1917. It also includes people that were added as late as 1914-1915 by an Act of Congress, as a result of applications for the Miller Roll of Eastern Cherokees in 1906.

The US government had commissioned this study, but during the bidding process the project was dropped due to budgetary constraints. My wife and I spent 7 years compiling this information and checking it for accuracy. This CD makes looking up a Cherokee ancestor, or member of another ‘civilized Tribe’ as easy as using a phone book. There are over 250,000 names on this CD with connections to at least one other person on the Dawes Roll or the earlier Drennen or Old Settlers Rolls.

For a description of the CD and examples of research, please go to my web site Cherokee by blood. This CD is currently being sold over the internet or by mail order for $27.00, flat rate with shipping expenses included,