Francisco Vásquez de Coronado first explored the region for Spain in 1541. The U.S. acquired most of Oklahoma in 1803 in the Louisiana Purchase from France; the Western Panhandle region became U.S. territory with the annexation of Texas in 1845.
Set aside as Indian Territory in 1834, the region was divided into Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory on May 2, 1890. The two were combined to make a new state, Oklahoma, on Nov. 16, 1907.
On April 22, 1889, the first day homesteading was permitted, 50,000 people swarmed into the area. Those who tried to beat the noon starting gun were called “Sooners,” hence the state’s nickname.
The State of Oklahoma was organized as Indian Territory in 1834, the region was divided into Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory on May 2, 1890. It entered the union as the 46th state on November 16, 1907. It currently has 77 Counties.
Getting Started with Oklahoma Genealogy and Family Trees
Oklahoma Genealogy Tips & Hints – Most research begins in public records, since these are the most readily available of the online resources for Oklahoma genealogy. One of the most unique states has to be Oklahoma simply because it contains such a wide array of cultures. Equal parts farming and prairie as well as highlands and mountains, it has witnessed a lot of growth, immigration, and different periods of history. This is why people in search of their Native American, agricultural, or even military heritage will do a search for Oklahoma genealogy information.
Searching for Oklahoma Genealogy Data – Because most people head to their computer to do research, a lot of archives and libraries have ensured that access is available to their materials through the Internet. While it is a very effective way of allowing the most people to do their research, it is not yet something available with all resources; though most websites will identify the contents of their collections.
This means that it is necessary to spend time learning which resources for Oklahoma genealogy will be primarily online tools, and which require some sort of trip in order to retrieve the genealogy materials.
Resources for Oklahoma Genealogy Materials – Most state research tends to begin with public records, and these are usually divided into three categories. You should know the differences as you begin looking for Oklahoma genealogy materials.
- Local Records – state research will normally start at a county clerk’s office or website, and will then head on to the small local libraries, historical societies, local genealogical societies, and school or college libraries for Oklahoma genealogy materials. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.
- Vital Records – these cover the birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives. They can also include immigration and naturalization details, cemetery or obituary information, census records, newspaper items, military records, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for Oklahoma genealogy.
- State Records – from probate information to private manuscripts, surname lists, newspapers, state census information, marriage details, military or veterans information, land records, maps, estate information, genealogical folders, death records, deeds, birth certificates, cemetery information and more; these are available as online and offline resources for Oklahoma genealogy.
Modern Tools for Oklahoma Genealogy Information – Where can you begin to find these records? Below is a list of the primary online resources for information for Oklahoma genealogy:
- Vital Records Service, State Department of Health, 1000 Northeast 10th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73117; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/oklahoma.htm. This is the location or website in which anyone can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even through an online form.
Additional state and local records can be found at the:
- Oklahoma State Archives, State Records Center, 426 East Hill Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-3298
All other collections and services are housed in the
- Allen Wright Memorial Library, 200 N.E. 18th Street., Oklahoma City, OK 73105-3298; Website: http://www.odl.state.ok.us/oar/resources/genealogy.htm.
Also, consider using the resources in the Oklahoma Genealogical Society website at: http://www.okgensoc.org/.
The three websites below will give researchers a large amount of state-specific details for those in search for Oklahoma genealogy data.
- Oklahoma Genealogy Network (facebook.com)
- USGenweb – Oklahoma Genealogy (okgenweb.org)
- The Oklahoma Family Group Sheet Project (fgs-project.com)
- Free GenForum Message Boards – Oklahoma (genforum.genealogy.com)
- Free Rootsweb Message Boards – Oklahoma (boards.ancestry.com)
- Cyndis List Oklahoma Links (cyndislist.com)
- Oklahoma Mailing List (rootsweb.ancestry.com)
- Oklahoma American History and Genealogy Project (usgennet.org)
- Oklahoma (wikipedia.org)
- Oklahoma Genealogy Look Ups (geneasearch.com)
- USGenWeb Archives Project for Oklahoma (usgwarchives.net)
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma (digital.library.okstate.edu)
Oklahoma 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 are among volumes in the series:
- The Poles in Oklahoma. by Bernard, Richard. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
- The Czechs in Oklahoma. by Bicha, Karel D. 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.
- 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.
- Lynch, Russell Wilford. “The Czechs in Oklahoma.” Oklahoma A & M College Bulletin 39, no. 13 (June 1942).
- Franklin, Jimmie Lewis. The Blacks in Oklahoma (Newcomers to a new land). Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
- ———. Journey Toward Hope: A History of Blacks in Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.
- Tolson, Arthur L. The Black Oklahomans: A history. 1541-1972. New Orleans, La.: Edwards Print Co., 1974.
Due to the government’s regulations, modern-day Oklahoma includes members of 65 Native American tribes. The state contains traditional county and state records, but it also contains many Native American records. Those include many held at Ft. Worth’s Southwest National Archives branch. The Bureau of Indian Affairs also houses a lot of records, with branches existing in all of the following: Anadarko, Ardmore, Concho, Okmulgee, Pawhuska, Pawnee, Miami, Shawnee, Stewart, Tahlequah, Talihina, Wewoka.
You can see George J. Nixon, “Records Relating to Native American Research: The Five Civilized Tribes” or Blessing, Oklahoma Records and Archives, and Koplowitz Guide to the Historical Records of Oklahoma for more information on Native American records for the area.
The FHL and the Oklahoma Historical Society library house some Native American census records. They can be found in order according to BIA agency, tribal name and enumeration date. It is possible for more than one agency to have a specific tribe’s listings, due to changes made in agency jurisdictions over the years. Each tribe’s census schedules from 1916 onward may list the names of individuals in alphabetical order.
If you are researching Native American ancestors, the land allotment records can be a great source of information. Any applicant trying to obtain land was required to provide a documented line of descent. Transfers of land after a death required the permission of any heirs that the original owner had, which meant that complete lists of heirs needed to be kept. There are later records called “Heirship Records” that contain a lot of information, including relationships, names and dates of birth. Although some individuals did get patents for their lands, most lands eventually became reabsorbed by the tribe that had jurisdiction over the land.
The top two sources for information on Native American records for the state of Oklahoma are the National Archives and the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Indian Archives Division. Between them, they house the work of Grant Foreman and other private information collections, as well as many state government records.
The Oklahoma Historical Society’s Archives and Manuscripts Division is home to about 6,000 bound volumes and 3,000,000 pages of information relation to Oklahoma’s Indian Agencies and covering the years 1870 to 1930. Any archival records from 1860 to 1906 for the Seminole, Creek, Chicksaw, Choctaw and Cherokee nations are held at the archives. The archives is also home to Mekusukey Academy records and other special collections, as well as to agency records for the following tribes: Cheyenne, Cantonment, Pawnee, Quapaw, Chilocoo, Shawnee, Kiowa, Arapaho.
The collection includes Executive Library Cherokee Nation information spanning 1,4000 volumes. Also included in the collection are issues of the Cherokee Advocate newspaper, which began in 1844.
Records for the Cherokee nation and other tribes are maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are also Cherokee records available at the Cherokee Registration Office.
- Oklahoma, Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907 (familysearch)
- Oklahoma, Applications for Enrollment to the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 (familysearch)
- Osage Indian Bands and Clans (search.ancestry.com)
- Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen, 1890-93 (search.ancestry.com)
- Oklahoma Native American Books (amazon.com)