21 October 2014

Back On-Line!...Probate Extraction Progress


     In August of last year my daughter went to France for a year’s study abroad. We bought her a new laptop and I inherited her “old” laptop (5 years old). Before then, my laptop was a Mac that was about 8 years old. So with a “new” computer, I set aside my Mac and started using my daughter’s old PC. Unfortunately, the PC died earlier this year (in early June). So I have gone back to my old Mac. Unfortunately, the operating system is not supported by many web sites and web browsers, nor is it upgradable. But I continue using it for lack of another computer to use at home.

     As Murphy would have it, on my old Mac I cannot access my blog for updates. So I am now using my work computer. The next several posts will be updates of the progress I have made in accessing and abstracting records of deaths in Oklahoma prior to 1920.

     Oklahoma probate records are available on FamilySearch for all but 14 counties in Oklahoma. For the past two years I have been going county by county through those records. This is very time consuming and slow, but very beneficial in the information encountered. So far I have finished 26 counties:

Adair                     Custer                   Okfuskee

Beaver                  Dewey                  Okmulgee

Beckham             Ellis                         Roger Mills

Blaine                    Harmon                Rogers

Canadian             Harper                  Texas

Carter                   Haskell                  Wagoner

Cherokee            Major                    Washington

Cimarron             Mayes                  Washita

Cotton                  McIntosh            

 

     Currently I am working on Tillman and Woodward Counties. Since I cannot access FamilySearch at home, I am extracting info for an hour before work, a half hour during lunch, and a half hour after work, each day. I can finish one county a month in this fashion. As I said, slow going, but lots of good info. Occasionally I check entries against findagrave and okcemeteries.net and notice that about 15% of extracted probate entries are for people who have no tombstones marking their graves.
 
     Next report: Newspapers: Death Notices and Obits.

16 March 2014

Probate Records Part 2: Special Oklahoma Related Statutes

     Each state in the Union has its own unique probate laws and statutes. Records sometimes appear where you least expect them. Fore example, one of my Swedish immigrant ancestors was naturalized in the Cook County (IL) Criminal Court. Oklahoma has its own unique situations, mostly related to our having been the "Twin Territories" of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory AND due the way part of the state was opened to settlement.

     The Dawes' Commission spent many years "enrolling" Indians who resided in Indian Territory (and elsewhere, in some cases). A multitude of records exist purely as a result of Federal Laws and Dept. of Interior regulations that determined who would be enrolled. Even more records were created during the adjudication of disputes/appeals/ ect. to the rulings of the Dawes' Commission, Dept. of Interior, Tribal authorities and courts.

     It kind of reminds me of when I first started playing card games with my older siblings. It seemed that just as I got the hang of a game, my siblings would add a new rule. Multiple new rules. All very confusing and sometimes contradictory. Once Indian rolls were closed, "New Born" rolls were established. Inter-marrieds were allowed citizenship...then disallowed...then re-allowed. At least this is how the Daily Ardmoreite described it.

    Of importance regarding probate records are the following:
1) At the turn of the century (1900-ish) Indians were not considered capable of legally taking care of themselves and had to have a legal guardian. Then they were legal if they could speak/write English. Then children were allotted, but could not conduct legal transactions without having a guardian appointed. If a child died, a legal guardian had to be appointed to sell or lease the child's property. All these situations provide legal "fodder" in the form of court cases...many of which are in the form of probate files.
2) Remember that PROBATE includes estate and will, as well as guardianships, curatorships and lunacy/incompetency. (At least this was the case in territorial and early Oklahoma.)
3) Many of these probate records are available on-line at Family Search's website.
4) Most of the Indian records (Dawes' Commission records) are available on Fold3. These can be accessed through many libraries as a library card holder. The Oklahoma Metropolitan Library System allows access to Fold3 by logging in with your library card. And you can do it from home.

     THE other situation I referred to above is related to the way Oklahoma was opened to settlement. There were land runs and lotteries. "Original" settlers were issued land patents (original deeds) after a certain number of years of residence and improvement of there homestead. In many cases the original settler died before the patent was issued and the patent was then issued to the "heirs of" the original settler. This created a cloud to the title if the estate of the original settler was never probated. I have noticed in each western Oklahoma County from which I have extracted probate information a spate of probates from late 1919 to about 1922 for people who died 10 to 30 years earlier.

     Recently I came across a probate filed in Washita County records that explained this. It cited Senate Bill #60 of 1919 Session Laws of the State of Oklahoma...for the Determination of Heirship. I have not been able to track down a copy of the actual bill, but it allowed the current land owner to prove in court the history of the transfer of title back to the original patentee, file for determination of the heirs, and clear title to the land. So you may have had an ancestor who died in, say 1903, and he had filed on land in the Kiowa,Comanche & Apache opening of 1901. His death occurred before the required time to receive a land patent. The patent would have been issued to his wife/heirs if they proved up the property. However, this legally left a cloud on the title. Senate Bill #60 allowed the title to be cleared through the probate process. but only after mid-1919. So his probate file would be dated 1920 or 1921.

     If you are like me, you check the records on about 3 to 5 years on either side of the death. It would be easy to miss the later filings allowed by Senate Bill #60. Nor would you, like me, think to look for a probate file for a deceased infant or minor child. However, if the infant/child was an Indian allottee, there would have to be a probate file to legally transfer title to the land. So be aware of legal issues and laws regarding probates for time period your ancestors lived. They vary from state to state and period to period. But they are a treasure trove of information.

01 January 2014

Probate Records Part 1: Guardianships

     I've spent a lot of time the past 12 months reading through probate records. I find it interesting the the causes generating probate records can be different whether in Indian Territory or Oklahoma Territory. I will address this in detail in a later post.

     There are three main types of probate records: Administration of Estate, Probate of Will, and Guardianship. Another, less common one, is Adoption.

     It has always been obvious to me that the first two types of records are probates, but I never really understood how Guardianship records were "probate" records.

     As I understand it now, reading through thousands of these records, a guardian is appointed to protect the legal interests (estate) of, usually, a minor. Since a minor legally cannot enter into a contract, a guardian is appointed to conduct business for the minor.

     In Indian Territory, guardianships were needed for the majority of enrolled Indian minors. These under age Indians were allotted land, and when it came time to sell or lease the land, the minors could not legally do that. So a guardian had to be appointed to dispose of (sell) the land or lease the land (farm leasing and oil/gas leasing).

     So when you see a guardianship record, DO NOT assume that the minors listed have deceased parents.

     Similarly in Oklahoma Territory, many of the guardianship records were for children who inherited land or money from a relative. For the minor to do anything with the inherited estate, a guardian was appointed as the legal representative of the minor. These records often list the names of the parents and other relatives.

     There are also what I always thought a guardianship was: the parent(s) of a child died and someone was appointed by the court to look after the best interests of and raise the child.

     Another type of guardianship I have seen is when a guardian is appointed for an incompetent person. In reading obituaries of elderly persons who also had guardians appointed for them, I would bet the incompetent persons had old age dementia or Alzheimer's.

     Don't overlook the Guardianship as a valuable genealogical record. It will often give the ages or birth dates of the minors, list the names of the parents and other relatives living in the county that could care for the minors, and give the names and locations of those from whom the minors inherited property. For those with Indian ancestry, these records could be the most valuable record you have missed!

29 December 2013

End of 2013 Update

     2013 is nearing its end. I've made lots of progress, but the records extraction is very slow going. here are the highlights of the new records added to my Pre-1920 Oklahoma Death Index:


  • Cherokee County Probate Appearance Dockets v2-5 (1907-1917)
  • Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore OK) 1 Jan 1906 through 10 May 1906
  • Ellis County Gage Dist. Probate Packets #225-765 (1896-1921)
  • Harmon County Probate Case Files #1-193 (1907-1921)
  • Mayes County Probate Appearance Docket v1-3 (1907-1919)
  • North Central Oklahoma: Rooted in the Past/Growing for the Future 1995 v1&2
  • Okmulgee County Probate Appearance Dickets v1-2? (1907-1909)
  • Pioneers of the Chickasaw Nation IT 1997 by Nova Lemons v1&2
  • Rogers County Probate Appearance Dockets v1-5 (1908-1919)
  • Rose Hill Burial Park (in Oklahoma City) Sexton's Card File  A-Z (first burial in 1917)
  • Wagoner County Probate Appearance Dockets v1-6 1907-1919
       Each of these sources requires page by page reading to find the information on early Oklahoma Deaths. Sometimes I find only 10 to 15 per hour. However, from Nov 16th to Dec 29th I have added 4072 entries to the databse.

     This brings the grand total to 464,109 entries!!!

20 October 2013

Progress Update

     Today I added 1833 new entries bringing the total in my Pre-1900 Oklahoma Death Index database to 458,295. My goal for 2013 was to have 500,000 entries in the database, however, it looks like I will only reach the 470,000 mark. I have exhausted the "easy" sources (indexes) and am now slogging my way page by page through sources that require more intense study.

     Sources consulted for the 1833 entries added today were:

  • The Daily Ardmoreite (May and June 1905)
  • The Inola Register (5 Oct 1906 through 29 Mar 1907)
  • Carter County Probate Packets (1906 through 1909)
  • Cimarron County Probate Case Files (1907 through 1922, finished)
  • Harper County Probate Case Files (1907 through 1913)
  • Texas County Probate Case Files (1915 through 1922, finished)
  • Oak Hill Cemetery & Mount Calvary Cemetery in McAlester by PCGS
  • Pioneers of the Chickasaw Nation IT published in 1991 (vol 1 through p257)
     For probate records I have been consulting those that are available on FamilySearch. I am concentrating on those counties that do not have any scanned probate indexes. Earlier this year I went through the scanned index books, so am now concentrating on counties that did not have any scanned index volumes. Since I have spent so much time and effort on records from Indian Territory the past two years, I decided to start my way in far west Oklahoma and work my way east. So the Panhandle counties of Cimarron, Texas and Beaver are finished and Harper County is nearly half way completed.

     Continuing projects include:
  • Dawes' Roll Enrollment Cards: working on Chickasaw; have completed Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.
  • Minor Tribes Census Rolls: currently working on the Kiowa Agency Rolls. These include censuses for the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache and Wichita tribes. So far I have over 500 deaths from the 1879, 1881, 1881-1883, and 1883 censuses.

     The work is "slow going" these days what with reading each page of the sources looking for death information. And I am a "one man show". That is by design. However, the database is now big enough that I have been able to help quite a few people find references to the deaths of people they are searching for.

     Another update in about two weeks!

06 October 2013

Indian Census Records

     Most genealogists are told (and believe) that there are few death records for Indians (Native Americans) who resided in what is now Oklahoma. In fact, I have personally heard librarians who specialize in Indian records state that the only place you might find a death record in the US District Court records and maybe the Dawes' Roll enrollment forms and packets. This, however, is far from the truth!

     On day last year I downloaded the "Catalog of Microfilm Publications" for the Archives and Manuscript Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. I printed it, not realizing that it is a 221 page document. It lists many records, including the microfilmed collections of various tribes in Oklahoma. It is not limited to the Five Civilized Tribes, but includes what are often referred to as the minor tribes.

     Usually the first few rolls of a specific tribe's/Agency's records are what are referred to as Censuses. These are Census Enrollments of Indians living within a specific Agency's jurisdiction. Most are dated 30 June or 1 July of a certain year. The earliest Rolls list the head of household (not always a man) and state that someone in the family died during the year following the census date. Other early forms list head of household and numbers of females, male kids under and over 7 years of age and the same for female children. These early censuses were not meant to be death registers. Yet you can find death information scattered across the pages. Sometimes a name will be crossed out with "dead" written next to the name. Sometimes the 1 for the child will be changed to 0 with a note at the end of the row "dead". More commonly at the far right of the row it will state that the woman or child died on a certain date or just in a certain year. If the male is listed as dead (often with a death date) the name of his "woman" will be listed.

     In later censuses, the Agency superintendent would have the Census Roll typed. These are much easier to read. They are clearly labeled as "dead" and more often than not the death date is listed. These later records are complete lists of household with reference to the family number on the immediate past Census Roll.

     I have spent about 2 to 4 hours most Saturdays since January 2013 reading through these Census Rolls gleaning death information. The numbers listed below are somewhat misleading. If the dead Indian is listed by both Indian name and English name, I include two entries for that person, one under each name. For each entry, I include the alternate name in the relationship/comments column of the database.

     Following is a list of the Census Rolls by Tribe and number of death entries I today added to my master database of pre1920 deaths in Oklahoma:

* Iowa..............................................................25
* Kaw............................................................308
* Mexican Kickapoo........................................84
* Citizen Pottawatomie...................................154
* Sac & Fox..................................................258
* Absentee Shawnee......................................241
* Miami (and associated tribes)......................180
* Cheyenne and Arapaho(e).........................1144
* Kiowa/Comanche/Wichita/Apache..............332

     Granted, these are not huge numbers, but for a people group for whom most will claim records from the time period do not exist or are rare, this is a lot! And the Kiowa/Comanche/Wichita/Apache Census Roll number listed above is by no means complete. That 332 entries covers only part way through the 1881-1883 Census Roll. I still have 27 years of Census Rolls to go through!

     There are lots of records out there that the average person knows nothing about. Even the "expert" librarians don't know much about these records. So get out there and "dig" through records that might help you with your research! Get excited and have fun!

03 October 2013

Government Shutdown, etc...


  • The "government shutdown" has actually affected this project! I was opening the National Archives' Chronicling America page to continue abstracting obits from the Daily Ardmoreite. When opening, an error message stated that until further notice, this page is shut down. This newspaper is also in the digitized newspapers on the Oklahoma History Center's website. However, links from issue to issue do not exist (at least not that I have found). So for the time being, I have started on an Inola OK newspaper.
  • I uploaded another 2084 records. Some are from a couple of published books (one on Chickasaw Nation, one on Oklahoma South of the Canadian). But the majority are from the Daily Ardmoreite newspapers (Dec 1904 through May 1905) and from the Dawes' Roll Enrollment Cards: Cherokee Doubtful and Rejected. Thus finishes the Cherokee Enrollment Cards. The only Enrollment Cars to finish are the Chickasaw, however, they are very dim and I don't hold out much hope for adding many from this source.
  • The total for the database is now 454,072 entries. 
  • I started on Texas County Probate Packets and Carter County Probate Packets. It's interesting to come across probate packets for people from the Dawes' Roll Enrollment Cards for the Choctaws and Chickasaws. Some of the probate packets give death information on heirs as well as the person the file is for. In one case there is death info on the deceased, two of her daughters, two of her sisters and three of her nieces/nephews. All in one file!
  • Progress will continue on Carter County and Texas County probate packets, Chickasaw Enrollment Cards, Apache/Comanche census records, Daily Ardmoreite death notices, and other records I come across.