Oklahoma History and Research Overview

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Oklahoma genealogy research resources


Oklahoma has the distinction of being the only state that was originally two separate territories. The land that became Oklahoma was among the acres Thomas Jefferson acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, though the panhandle was still under Spanish control in 1803. Oklahoma was then part of Missouri Territory in 1812 and Arkansas Territory in 1819.

In 1830, the western part of the Louisiana Purchase, which included Arkansas Territory, was set aside as Indian Territory. There, the Indian Removal Act resulted in the resettlement of many Native Americans from the south and southeast, with the promise that it would be their home. Of course, after the Civil War, partly in response to the Five Civilized Tribes’ support of the Confederacy, the treaties were renegotiated, and approximately 2 million acres were designated as “Unassigned Lands.” In 1889, the federal government purchased these lands from the Native Americans and opened them up for white settlement, the birth of Oklahoma Territory. From 1890 to 1906, Oklahoma Territory began to absorb a number of reservations and other Native American lands, and in 1907, the “twin territories” were combined to form the new state of Oklahoma.

Though the “Unassigned Lands” were not open for white settlement until 1889, many whites settled in Indian Territory from 1865 to 1889, using loopholes in the law that allowed artisans and professionals to contract with the Native Americans for labor.

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Oklahoma genealogy research resources


  • Your white ancestors may have been in Indian Territory during the 1900 census. Examine records for both of the “twin territories.”
  • When researching Native American ancestry, consult the Indian Archives Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society, 2100 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK 73105, Knowing the tribe is the first step.
  • The Dawes Rolls Database-Final Rolls of Cherokee tribe members is searchable online at You can get the necessary identifying information to find the enrollment cards (from the National Archives or the subscription website Footnote), which will then take you to census and other records.


  • Federal census: 1860 (with Arkansas), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • Territorial census: 1890 (Unassigned lands, not Indian territory)


  • All Along the Chisholm Trail, 2 vols., by James W. Parker (J.W. Parker, 1988)
  • American Indian Resource Materials in the Western History Collections, University Of Oklahoma by Donald L. Dewitt (University of Oklahoma Press, 1990)
  • An Annotated Guide to the Chronicles of Oklahoma, 1921-1994 by Carol Welsh (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1996)
  • Applications for Enrollment of the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 from the United States Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (National Archives, 1983)
  • Bible Belt Catholicism: A History of the Roman Catholic Church in Oklahoma, 1905-1945 by Thomas E. Brown (US Catholic Historical Society, 1977)
  • Black Indian Genealogy Research: African-American Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes by Angela Y. Walton-Raji (Heritage Books, 1993)
  • Boundaries of Oklahoma edited by John W. Morris (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1980)
  • Catalog Of Microfilm Holdings in the Archives & Manuscripts Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society 1976-1989: Native American Tribal Records and Special Collections from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Archives Division (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1976-1989)
  • Cherokee Notes by James Manford Carselowey (Yesterdays Publications, 1980)
  • Cherokee Pioneers by James Manford Carselowey (J.M. Carselowey, 1961)
  • The Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma: A Hundred Yesteryears by Robert N. Gray (Sons and Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Pioneers Museum, 1992)
  • The Chickasaw Freemen: A People Without A Country by Daniel F. Littlefield (Greenwood Press, 1980)
  • The Chisholm Trail by Wayne Gard (University Of Oklahoma Press, 1976)
  • The Czechs in Oklahoma by Karel D. Bicha (University of Oklahoma Press, 1980)
  • Directory of Oklahoma Sources (Federation of Oklahoma Genealogical Societies, 1993)
  • Establishing of Churches in the Cherokee Nation, 1866-1908 from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Archives Division (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1976-)
  • Exploring Your Cherokee Ancestry: A Basic Genealogical Research Guide by Thomas G. Mooney (Cherokee National Historical Society, 1990)
  • Family History: A Bibliography of the Collection In the Oklahoma Historical Society by Mary Huffman (the Oklahoma Historical Society, 1992)
  • First Families of the Twin Territories: Our Ancestors in Oklahoma Before Statehood (the Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 1997)
  • The Five Civilized Tribes: A Bibliography by Mary Huffman (Oklahoma Historical Society, Library Resources Division, 1991)
  • Genealogy of Old and New Cherokee Indian Families by George Bell (George Bell, 1972)
  • Growing Faith: General Conference Mennonites In Oklahoma by Wilma McKee (Faith and Life Press, 1988)
  • Guide to Cherokee Indian Records Microfilm Collection: Archives and Manuscripts Division, Oklahoma Historical Society by Sharron Standifer Aston (Ashton Books, 1996)
  • Guide to the Historical Records of Oklahoma by Bradford Koplowitz (Heritage Books, 1990, 1997)
  • A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma by Muriel Hazel Wright (University of Oklahoma Press, 1951, 1986)
  • Guide to Manuscript Collections Western History Collections University of Oklahoma by Donald L. Dewitt (Heritage Books, 1994)
  • Guide to Records in the National Archives Relating to American Indians compiled by Edward E. Hill (National Archives, 1981)
  • A Guide to Regional Manuscript Collections in the Division of Manuscripts, University of Oklahoma Library by Arrell M. Gibson (University of Oklahoma Press, 1960)
  • A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Eastern Oklahoma by Lynetta K. Bingha (Tulsa, Okla., Stake, 1980)
  • History of Oklahoma, 4 vols., by Gatson Litton (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1957)
  • A History of the State of Oklahoma, 2 vols., by Luther B. Hill (Lewis Publishing Co., 1908)
  • Index to Oklahoma Newspapers (Oklahoma Historical Society 2002)
  • Indian Leaders: Oklahoma’s First Statesmen by H. Glenn Jordan (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1979)
  • The Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators and Leading Men by Harry F. and Edward S. O’Beirne (C.B. Woodward Co., 1892)
  • The Intruders: The Illegal Residents of Cherokee Nation, 1866-1907 by Nancy Hope Sober (Cherokee Books, 1991)
  • The Jews in Oklahoma by Henry J. Tobias (University of Oklahoma Press, 1980)
  • Journey Toward Hope: A History of Blacks In Oklahoma by Jimmie L. Franklin (University of Oklahoma Press, 1982)
  • The Kiowa Indians: Their History & Life Stories by Hugh D. Corwin (H.D. Corwin, 1958)
  • Leaders and Leading Men of the Indian Territory by Harry F. O’Beirne (American Publishers Association, 1891)
  • Like A Prairie Fire: A History of the Assemblies of God in Oklahoma by Bob Burke (Oklahoma District Council of the Assemblies of God, 1994)
  • A List of the Records of the State of Oklahoma from the Historical Records Survey (Historical Records Survey, 1938)
  • Missions and Missionaries of Indian Territory by C.W. West (Muscogee Publishing, 1990)
  • Oklahoma Christians: A History of Christian Churches and of the Start of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Oklahoma by Stephen J. England (Bethany Press, 1975)
  • Oklahoma Genealogical Research by Mary Metzger O’Brien (M. O’Brien Bookshop, 1986)
  • Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries, 2nd edition, by Arrell Morgan Gibson (1965; Harlow Publishing Corporation, 1981)
  • Oklahoma, A History of the State and its People, 4 vols., by Joseph Bradfield Thorburn (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1929)
  • The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 by Stan Hoig (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984)
  • Oklahoma Marriages: A Bibliography by Laura Martin (Library Resources Division, 1996)
  • Oklahoma: Records and Archives by Patrick J. Blessing (Universitory of Tulsa Publications, 1978)
  • Oklahoma Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at
  • Oklahoma Research: The Twin Territories by Jean C. Brown (Jean C. Brown, 1975)
  • The Oklahoma Spirit of ‘17: Biographical Volume by W.E. Welch (Historical Publishing, 1920)
  • Oklahoma State, County and Town Records (Oklahoma Historical Society, 2002)
  • Oklahoma: A Student’s Guide to Localized History by Arrell M. Gibson (Columbia University, 1965)
  • The Poles in Oklahoma by Richard M. Bernard (University of Oklahoma Press, 1980)
  • Portraits and Biographical Record of Oklahoma (Chapman Publishing Co., 1901)
  • Prairie Fire: A Pioneer History of Western Oklahoma from the Western Oklahoma Historical Society (Western Oklahoma Historical Society, 1978)
  • Preliminary List of Churches and Religious Organizations in Oklahoma by James W. Parker (Historical Records Survey, 1942)
  • A Seminole Sourcebook by William C. Sturtevant (Garland Publishing, 1987)
  • Smith’s First Directory of Oklahoma Territory, for the Year Commencing August 1st, 1890 (Oklahoma Historical Society, 1986)
  • The Souls of the Just: A Necrology of the Catholic Church in Oklahoma by James D. White (Sarto Press, 1983)
  • Southwest Oklahoma Keys by Willie Reeves Hardin Bivins (Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 1982)
  • A Standard History of Oklahoma, 5 vols., by Joseph Bradfield Thorburn (American Historical Society, 1916)
  • State Records, Manuscripts, and Newspapers at the Oklahoma State Archives and Oklahoma Historical Society by John Stewart and Kenny A. Franks (State Department Of Libraries and Oklahoma Historical Society, 1975)
  • The Story of Oklahoma by W. David Baird (University of Oklahoma Press, 1994)
  • The Story of Oklahoma Baptists by E. C. Routh (Baptist General Convention, 1932)
  • They Carried the Torch: the Story of Oklahoma’s Pioneer Newspapers by Mrs. Tom B. Ferguson (Levite Of Apache, 1989)
  • Tracing Indian Family Histories by Duane Kendall Hale (OCCE Copy Service, University of Oklahoma, 1983)
  • Where Are My Cherokees by Sandi Garrett (Cherokee Woman Publishing, 1997)
  • Women of Oklahoma, 1890-1920 by Linda Williams Reese (University of Oklahoma, 1997)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.