Posted by Juliana Szucs on November 5, 2014 in Collections, Research, Website
Lorene Alexander, A Chickasaw Indian, from Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Photos, 1850-1930

In 1893, the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, under the leadership of Henry Dawes, was established to convince the leaders of the Five Civilized Tribes – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole – to accept individual land allotments in exchange for tribal lands. The challenge was determining who was eligible; the Dawes Commission was tasked with compiling a list of eligible tribal members.  Those eligible for enrollment were entitled to allotments of land. When land allotments ran out, some received cash in lieu of land.

The Dawes Commission began accepting enrollments in 1896, but with the enactment of the Curtis Act in 1898, these enrollments were declared invalid and new enrollments began later that year.

Those who enrolled via the 1896 applications had to reapply under new guidelines to qualify for land allotments. Although the 1896 roll was overturned and those included are not necessarily going to be found in the final rolls (1898), there is still valuable genealogical information that can be found in the records. (Note: There are no 1896 records from the Seminole tribe because they made a separate arrangement with the Dawes Commission and bypassed the application process at that time.)

The later enrollments became known as the “Dawes Rolls,” which, after closing in 1907, became the official roll of tribal citizenship in the Five Civilized Tribes. (An additional 312 individuals were enrolled under a 1914 act.)

Ancestry has the U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes (Overturned), 1896  and the Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914, as well as the Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914, among its historic American Indian collections.

Searching the 1896 Overturned Applications

Searching the 1896 applications is a two-step process. When you locate an ancestor using the search, you’re accessing an index to the actual records. Note the applicant’s name, tribe name, and application number. Once you have this information, use it to locate the appropriate application images through the browse feature by selecting a tribe followed by an application number range. That will put you in the correct section of images; then use the image viewer to browse to the images of the file you want. Each application starts with an image of the folder with the application number; these folders appear mostly blank in the filmstrip so they’re easy to spot. Using the filmstrip, you can browse to the cover pages and zero in on the application.

For example, we find Becky Blue in the 1896 index to Choctaw Freedmen.


Note that her application is #31. From the drop-down browse to the Choctaw Freedmen applications 1-39.


Open the filmstrip so you can easily spot the cover pages.


Since application 31 will be near the end of this group (applications 1-39), I skipped to 300, which landed me right in Becky’s file. Using the filmstrip, I can see that image 295 appears blank and sure enough that is the start of her file.


Understanding the Records

To best understand the records in the new American Indian collections, be sure to read the descriptive materials for each database located below the search form on each database page. You can learn more about American Indian research with our latest free research guide, which can be found here:  (Click the blue box on the right side of the page to download the guide.) You can learn more about individual collections by selecting a collection from the list below the search form.

Best of luck with your searches!

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Cheryl

    Perkins family history has always contained American Indian wife of Thomas Perkins 1770-1850. We don’t know what tribe or name, How can we find her,

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