Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicken or the Egg?

I have been working on a database for the more than 1500 claimants on Equity Case 7071 or as I like to call it now, “Bettie’s List.” The database I’m constructing will contain many documents from various sources which include Dawes Cards M1186, the interview packets and census records.

One of the census records I've been considering including in the database was the Choctaw Freedman Roll of 1898-1900 that is part of the Green McCurtain Collection. What became evident when I constructed this montage was the information that is reflected in these two documents.

First I was under the impression that the Choctaw freedmen were citizens of the Choctaw nation and therefore they were duly documented in various tribal census records since 1885.

I was also under the impression the information contained on the Dawes cards was derived from person to person interviews conducted during the Dawes Commission allotment activities from 1898 to approximately 1914 when the rolls supposedly closed.

The fact that the information regarding tribal enrollment number and the age of the enrollee on the Dawes card was supposed to be generated from an interview conducted when the “freedmen” “applied” for their forty acre allotment?

Clearly if there was an interview of the enrollee the information on the front and rear of the card should be reflected and documented in a verbatim interview. I have concluded long ago the so called Dawes “Interview” jackets were essentially summaries of the interview and in the majority of cases omitted pertinent information that is reflected on the card without any reference of it in the summary.

For example, in the case of the people on Bettie’s List in practically every instance when one of these individuals indicated they had a parent (male) who was Choctaw or Chickasaw “by blood” the name appears on the rear of the card but does not appear anywhere in their interview.

As I recall the Chickasaw Nation didn't have a census for their former slaves because they did not adopt them as citizens and felt no special need to document them. However, the Choctaw Nation did adopt their former slaves and their descendants and there are at least two census records that reflect this, the 1885 and the 1898-1900 Choctaw Freedman Censuses.

It appears in this case the 1898 Census was created from the information received during the Dawes Allotment period. I would imagine the Choctaw Nation did not have a full accounting on who was a citizen in their nation when it came to the freedmen until 1898?


  1. This is a GREAT project Terry! I would also love to know how many living descendants there are of the people on Bettie's List. My guess is that there are now tens of thousands of descendants of the people on Bettie's List.

    I delve into the Choctaw censuses pretty deeply in my article: Indian or Freedman?: Enrollment, Race, and Identity in the Choctaw Nation, 1896-1907, published in the Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 4 (WINTER 2011) (pp. 458-479). That article is available from any library that has the JSTOR database. Alternatively, if people want to email me, I will send them a .pdf version. Email: Jesse_Schreier@brown.edu. It's a pretty complicated article, but there's lots of good information in it if you dig into it.

  2. Hi Jesse, good to hear from you!!!

    First, I will be emailing you for a copy of that article so I can read your views. As you know these are some complex issues and it will take some research to provide answers or at least shed some much needed light on the subject.

    Jesse I also agree with the speculation that there could be tens of thousands of descendants for those on Bettie's List, most probably have no idea they have a connection.

    If a sizable number of the descendants could be located I firmly believe it could add more to the body of work concerning the history of Choctaw and Chickasaw freedmen. I always come across people who discover their family's history late in life and have artifacts that could be useful in illustrating and telling the story.

    Good to hear from you my friend, you can send that PDF to:

  3. Hi Terry,

    I applaud you on your research efforts.

    I have a question. What database program are you using to compile your information?

    I'm embarking on a project to track the Buffalo Soldiers who settled in New Mexico. I haven't decided on a database program. I do know that I hope for it to be cloud-based.
    Any tips?

    Peace & Blessings,
    "Guided by the Ancestors"

  4. Hi George,

    I appreciate the encouragement, I've been working on this database for years. I finally completed copying ALL of the Dawes cards for the Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen and their minor cards in addition to some pertinent by blood cards that are significant to this project. If I had known what I know now...????

    One thing I must say as I continue to create and construct the DB, with each addition to the list I become more enlightened by the complexity of the relationships among the freedmen and the so called by blood communities. In the end I'm convinced there are several individual studies that can emerge from the data. (And that's all I'm gonna say about that!)

    I'm like you in quandary on which program to use. I'm not very good with MS Access but clearly I need to learn it ASAP.

    Right now I'm working with a LOT of images that form the basis of the data which I won't bore you with here. Basically I'm gathering all the information I can on each individual or family and creating PDF files.

    In the beginning I utilized MS Excel to create a list (index) of individuals with pertinent info that could be linked to the PDF files I'm creating later.

    Quite frankly if you or anyone else have some ideas you would like to share I'm open for suggestion. We can discuss this online in one of the Facebook forums or email me privately.




  5. Thanks Terry,

    Recently, my FB account got hacked, but I'll get back to it.

    To the task at hand; I've started to use Google Drive. There, I can easily create docs, spreadsheets, and presentations. There's the collaboration capabilities, but I'm hesitant to use that at this point. Good search abilities, but does it make for a solid database? I'll bring this conversation to one of the FB forums.