Get to know your own rich Heritage within your immediate Family during Black Heritage Month.
I was thinking about the above post on Facebook as I was going through some school records for Oklahoma 1895-1914. In connection to "Black Heritage Month" and enriching our lives with our family heritage I thought I would illustrate how much we are NOT taught about "black history" and how researching our family history can be very rewarding.
|Oklahoma School Records 1895-1936 FamilySearch.org Carter County Woodford District 36|
This document is a census of the students attending school in rural Oklahoma circa 1914. At first blush it may seem like an innocent document but as you look deeper at the information and other documents that can be associated with it, a very deep understanding our family history can reveal so much that is not in any history book.
Before Oklahoma became a state in 1907 it was known as Indian Territory. Everyone on this document was alive at the time of Oklahoma statehood but they were not citizens of the United States until November 1907. Consider that for a moment, every individual on this document did not have a country they belong to.
The card does supply a great deal of other information that can either corroborate family history or reveal new information, dates of birth, what was the township and community where they lived Akers and Newport respectively.
The card reveals that the patriarch Hadley LIGGON was not able to write his own name, implying he could not read because he had to make his mark on this document. The fact Hadley could not read or write reminds us how our names can sometimes be misspelled based on someone else making assumptions about that spelling because there was no one to correct them?
One of the crucial things noted on this card is the designation that the people enumerated on it were Choctaw Freedmen. For those who are unfamiliar with this particular history the label is an indication that someone in this family had been enslaved by a Choctaw Indian and once they were “emancipated” they became freedmen of that Indian nation.
There are at least two other documents that can shed more light to this history and they consist of records that were generated about fifteen years earlier by the Dawes Commission. The first is known as a Dawes Card which list all the individuals who were applying and entitled to receive forty acres of land because they or an ancestor was enslaved by a Choctaw Indian.
|NARA Record Group 75 M1186 Choctaw Freedmen Card #106 Front|
There are three children listed on the school record that also appear on Choctaw Freedmen Roll Card number 106; Gladys, Shadrach LIGON and Sopha DOUGLAS. The other two children though not named specifically are none the less mentioned on Dawes card #106 in the notations that indicate they were newborns on other documents (NB# 163 and NB# 164.)
|Record Group 75 M1186 Minor Choctaw Freedmen #163|
As you can see when you begin to put all of these documents together along with family oral history it is possible to establish a historical timeline and geography of were these ancestors lived and how they became integrated in their community of Newport, Chickasaw Nation.
Again, all of these documents provide a window into some history that is well documented but not well known. It is and should be a vital part of what is deemed Black History, Native American History and more importantly, American History because so many lives would be enriched with this knowledge.