Oklahoma History

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Effective family history research requires some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends can help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns.

State, county, and local histories often contain biographical sketches of local citizens, including important genealogical information. This may be one of the best sources of information for some families.

Historical Content[edit | edit source]

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Brief History[edit | edit source]

The following important events in the history of Oklahoma affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping

  • 1803: The United States acquired most of the area that is now Oklahoma as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The panhandle remained under Spanish control. The Quapaw, Osage, Oto, and other Indian tribes arrived about this time.
  • 1812: Most of present-day Oklahoma became part of the Missouri Territory.
  • 1819: Most of what is now Oklahoma became part of the Arkansas Territory.
  • 1821: Mexico declared its independence from Spain and the panhandle came under Mexican control.
  • 1830: The western part of the Louisiana Purchase, including the Arkansas Territory, was designated as the Indian Territory. The Indian Removal Act set aside lands west of the Mississippi River for Indian settlement and allowed for the removal of Indians from the eastern states to be resettled in this Territory.
  • 1833: Osage Indians attacked and destroyed a Kiowa village near Rainy Mountain Creek.
  • 1834: Became Indian Territory
  • 1838-1850: Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole) removed to Oklahoma-Indian territory
  • 1845: The United States annexed the Republic of Texas, including the present-day Oklahoma panhandle.
  • 1850: The United States government purchased the panhandle lands from Texas. The panhandle became “No Man's Land,” and was unattached to any state or territory. During the 1850s, much of the land in the Indian Territory was not assigned to any specific tribe. Railroad companies, some federal officials, and white settlers pressured to have these “Unassigned Lands” opened for settlement.
  • 1854: The Indian Territory was limited to the area of what is now Oklahoma.
  • 1860: Greer County was created by Texas in present-day Oklahoma. This sparsely-settled area was claimed by Texas and the United States until it was added to Oklahoma in 1896.
  • 1861: The Five Civilized Tribes sided primarily with the Confederacy and raised the Confederate Indian Brigade and the Indian Home Guard. They fought in battles in the Arkansas and Oklahoma area. Some Indians enlisted in Union regiments early in the war.
  • 1861: Thousands of Indians loyal to the Union flee to Kansas.
  • 1866: New treaties with the Five Civilized Tribes realigned boundaries and allowed the federal government to move other tribes there. Almost two million acres were designated as “Unassigned Lands” in central Oklahoma.
  • 1868: The Cheyenne village of Chief Black Kettle on the Washita River was attacked in November by the Seventh Cavalry under Lt. Col. George A. Custer.Over a hundred Indians were killed, including Chief Black Kettle.
  • 1872: Railroads now crossed the territory.
  • 1874: Red River Uprising- Buffalo War, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche and Kiowa tribes fought white hunters in Oklahoma and Texas in an attempt to save the buffalo herds from destruction.
  • 1889: The federal government purchased the “Unassigned Lands” from the Indians and opened them for white settlement. The first land rush attracted about 50,000 people. For historical accounts of the land run of 1889, see Stan Hoig, The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Oklahoma City, Okla.: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984. [1]
  • 1890-: The Organic Act of 1890 established the 1906 Oklahoma Territory. and Indian Territory existed side by side until statehood in 1907. This act organized seven counties in the “Unassigned Lands” and the Oklahoma panhandle (“No Man's Land”) and provided for the organization of additional counties as Indian governments were discontinued and surplus land was opened to settlers. During this time, the Oklahoma Territory expanded to fill western Oklahoma by gradually absorbing the following areas:
  • Several reservations in central Oklahoma (1891)
  • Cheyenne and Arapaho land (1892)
  • The “Cherokee Outlet” (1893)
  • Greer County (1896)
  • Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache lands (1901 and 1906)
  • 1891: (September 22,) 900,000 acres of Indian land opened for general settlement by Presidential proclamation- land had been ceded by Sauk, Fox and Potawatomi Indians. 1893: (September 16,) Cherokee Strip between Kansas and Oklahoma opened for "Land Rush" 6,000,000 acres had been purchased from the Cherokees in 1891.
  • 1893: 100,000 immigrants were attracted to northwestern Oklahoma when the “Cherokee Outlet” lands were opened.
  • 1897: An oil boom began at Bartlesville and thousands of new settlers arrived.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1907: (November 16,)The Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, known as the “twin territories,” were combined to become the state of Oklahoma. A helpful book about the many boundary changes in Oklahoma is John W. Morris, ed., Boundaries of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1980. [2]
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Oklahoma.

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [3] [4]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [5][6]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Oklahoma are:

  • A History of the State of Oklahoma [7]
  • Oklahoma: The Story of Its Past and Present [8]
  • The Formation of the State of Oklahoma [9]

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [10][11]This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [12] [13]This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [14][15][16]This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about Oklahoma 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Oklahoma history." FamilySearch Catalog Surnames Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. (Family History Library Book 976.6 H2hs.)
  2. (Family History Library book 976.6 E3b; fiche 6,051,502.)
  3. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  4. Worldcat
  5. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  6. Worldcat
  7. Hill, Luther B. A History of the State of Oklahoma. 2 vols. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing, 1908.(Family History Library book 976.6 H2h; film 1,000,353 items 1-2; fiche 6,051,224.)
  8. McReynolds, Edwin C., et al. Oklahoma: The Story of Its Past and Present. Rev. ed. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971. (Family History Library book 976.6 H2mc.)
  9. Gittinger, Roy. The Formation of the State of Oklahoma (1803-1906). Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1917. (Family History Library book 976.6 H2gi; fiche 6,125,891.)
  10. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  11. referer=brief_results Worldcat
  12. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 Vols.. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  13. referer=brief_results Worldcat
  14. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  15. Limited view at printsec=frontcover dq=Webster%27s+Guide+to+American+History:+A+Chronological,+Geographical,+and+Biographical+Survey+and+Compendium%27ei=Vn-xSeS6FJDUlQSby81v#PPP13,M1 Google Books
  16. Worldcat
  17. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  18. Worldcat