In doing research on Choctaw genealogy, it is useful to combine standard genealogical research with information from federal records. The typical research of records in the county courthouse or state archives frequently leads to other information from the federal records.
Civil War Records
Choctaw involvement during the Civil War was largely on the side of the Confederacy, although Choctaw units participated in comparatively few active engagements. The Choctaw/National Council signed a favorable treaty with Confederate General Albert Pike on July 12, 1861.
After the war, the slaves of the Indians were given their freedom and the Choctaws began the process of allowing participation of their freedmen in the affairs of the government. The U.S. Government also demanded that the Choctaws sell major portions of their territory to provide land for their freedman in the affairs of their government.
Records of the Choctaws, other than the treaty proceedings at War’s end, are largely Confederate records. There is also a set of records having to do with Indian applications for military bounty land and Civil War pensions in the U.S. Archives. These applications cover the period 1855-90.
Names and some relationships of Choctaws who attended mission schools prior to removal may also be found in the records of those schools. The major institution was called the Choctaw Academy and was located in Kentucky. It closed its doors at removal but it was responsible for educating many Indian (including some Creeks and others) men who later went on to lead their tribes.
Information about the Choctaw Academy is contained in reports to the Indian agents and to the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs. These are federal records but may be found in some state archives, university libraries or large public libraries.
For Alabamians doing research, reports of the superintendent of Choctaw Academy may be found in the Brantley Collection in the Samford University library in Birmingham.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions also operated schools for the Choctaws in Mississippi prior to removal. Both boys and girls attended these schools that were located in several places in the Choctaw nation.
Reports of the missionaries who operated these schools are in the Houghton Library of Harvard University but they are also available on microfilm. Inquiries about these schools should be made to the Houghton Library.
Some Suggestions for Choctaw Researchers
Original entry land records (which should reveal information about the first transfer of a piece of land from federal or Indian hands to its first non-Indian owner) are a useful tool. These land records are available in county court houses and state archives (and offices of the secretary of state in most states), and in the records of the General Land Office (Record Group 49) in the U.S. Archives. Useful finders documents, with alphabetical listings of the names of the original entry possessor, can be found in many libraries and archives. These are often organized by regional land offices created for the purpose of apportioning the land for settlement.
County records (duplicates of which are contained in may state archives) may also contain death and marriage information, court proceedings and judgements, school attendance and completion records and other information useful to the researcher.
Church and cemetery records are also frequently useful to genealogist. Many of these are only local records, but if a church is a member of a diocese, convention, syno. Or other ecclesiastical organization, there may be records of value in the central offices of these agencies. Marriage records, baptismal records are the typical kind often found in these sources.
Census records are often quite helpful to genealogical researchers. In addition to federal censuses, many states have conducted their own population censuses. These were usually done in the early days of the existence of the state, and at irregular instances. Many contain only the names of the heads of household and most did not list the race of the householder.
Federal census records are organized by states, counties or other political subdivisions, and census enumeration districts. Race is not always listed, and may be self-reported or noted by the census taker. Early federal censuses contained only the names of the heads of household and the number of men, women, children and slaves. It is therefore impossible to locate the names of wives and children except in the case of those households headed by women.
The federal censuses of 1900 and 1910 contain a special accounting of Indian households, which is a part of the regular census document. These are separate census pages containing information about the Indian’s tribal origins and the tribal origin of his/her parents. This special census was taken only of those whose household was headed by an Indian.
The single best document that can be used to establish Choctaw ancestry is probably the Armstrong Roll of 1830 previously mentioned. The researcher’s problem is that of connecting to some progenitor on a roll of that age. The testimony in the Net Proceeds Case and the Dawes Commission hearings offer possible aid in providing linkages to that roll.
The problem with these two sources is also their relative age and accessibility to those who are doing genealogy at the local level. As previously mentioned, the index to the Dawes Roll is on microfilm, and is in possession of some local libraries and state archives. There is also a separate Choctaw Census in Indian Territory for the year 1885 (see Addendum attaché for Microfilm M-595, Choctaw Census).
More recent information about the Choctaws in Mississippi may be found in their censuses beginning in 1926.
Information about the Choctaw in Mississippi during the last quarter of the nineteenth century may be obtained from the papers of Henry Halbert, which are in the state archives of Mississippi and Alabama. Mr. Halbert, a teacher in the Mississippi Choctaw schools and later an employee in the Alabama State Archives, wrote extensively about their life after Indian Removal which has never been published. There is also some incidental genealogical information.