Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936

Angela Y. Walton Raji
by Angela Y. Walton Raji
Oklahoma School Records Image 3
“Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSMS-FPZV?cc=1926701&wc=QX9C-CW6%3A1590391732%2C1590392252 : 31 October 2018), Seminole > School census, Wewoka, 1928-1930 > image 2125 of 2771; multiple County Clerk offices, Oklahoma school district offices, Oklahoma.

Today’s featured collection is Oklahoma School Records 1895 – 1936. This particular collection holds school census records as well as rosters for the counties that existed before and after Oklahoma statehood, which occurred in 1907. This collection is significant because it reflects the two territories: Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. After 1907, the new state of Oklahoma is reflected with all of the new counties. For more about this collection one can visit the Family Search website to Learn More about this collection.

What’s in This Collection?

The collection holds census records for each child in each county of Oklahoma. There are categories for race reflecting children who are white, Indian, or Negro. School census records are small, yet detailed cards reflecting families. The primary name on the card is that of the parent, post office or town of residence, street address, and if the family had ties to any of the Native American tribes the tribal affiliation was noted.  Then the name of the children enrolled per household are listed, including the child’s color, gender and date of birth and age.

Oklahoma has a unique history that predated statehood. The presence of Native Americans in the state, and the history of those tribes with the Freedmen of the same tribes, makes this collection somewhat different from school records from other states. To form the new state of Oklahoma, the Indian Territory merged with Oklahoma Territory to the west. But within Indian Territory, there were five tribes, and those tribes had a unique relationship with people of African descent. There was a large classification of people known as “Freedmen” within the land that became Oklahoma.

In addition, before statehood in 1889, lands were opened for white settlement with the Oklahoma Land Rush. As a result the state of Oklahoma had white citizens, Indian citizens and blacks. Within the black population were people known as “Freedmen” those whose parents had once been slaves in the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations. The Freedmen had been freed by the Treaty of 1866, and were citizens of the tribes where they lived. In addition, the identity, culture and lifestyle was deeply rooted in those same tribes.

In contrast, the “State Negroes” entered the vicinity after 1889 and many migrated to Oklahoma after statehood, seeking a new life away from southern violence and hostility in the deep south. The Freedmen and State Negroes were two unique classes of African descended people. As a result, until the 1920s and 30s, many Freedmen held on to their unique tribal culture.

The school system noted this in the early years, and in the example above, Hazel Colbert, and her children are recorded as “C” for Colored, but at the same time, they were Choctaw Freedmen. On the form it states clearly, “If Indian or Freedman, give name of tribe.”  In this case it is clear that their identity was Choctaw and it was recorded as such. In later year, tribal affiliation among Freedmen descendants was not noted as frequently.

Researching From This Collection

The collection is a simple and easy to use. Take the surname Bruner. This is name well known among Seminole Freedmen. There is even a Bruner band still active in the Seminole Nation today. Simply type in the name of someone being searched, and if known, the city or town where they lived.

Oklahoma School Records Image 2

If the name of the child is in the database, the file will be displayed with the child’s name on the school census record.

Oklahoma School Records Image 3
“Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSMS-FPZV?cc=1926701&wc=QX9C-CW6%3A1590391732%2C1590392252 : 31 October 2018), Seminole > School census, Wewoka, 1928-1930 > image 2125 of 2771; multiple County Clerk offices, Oklahoma school district offices, Oklahoma.

A Second Searching Method

At the bottom of the landing page one is given the opportunity to browse through all 3 million plus images.

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By clicking on the link above, one will be taken to a list of all Oklahoma counties. Select one of the counties. The selected is going to be Seminole County.

School census cards for each and every town are presented as an option. Also on the list besides the towns, are the Enumeration Reports.

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These reports consist of rosters of students enrolled for the years between 1929 – 1934. There are three such volumes of the enumeration reports. Though the years are short, they could still prove to be useful.

Oklahoma School Records Example School Census
“Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSM9-V7CP-9?cc=1926701&wc=Q6RQ-3LX%3A1590391732%2C1590391761 : 31 October 2018), Seminole > School census enumeration vol 2, 1931-1932 > image 30 of 412; multiple County Clerk offices, Oklahoma school district offices, Oklahoma.

In the case of Irene Bruner shown in the school census above and her two children Elvie and Charlsetta, can more be found? Absolutely, in fact much on the family can be found after and before Oklahoma statehood.

Bruner Family, 1940 U.S. Census

Oklahoma School Records Image 6
“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89MR-B9YV?cc=2000219&wc=QZXP-FHH%3A790104801%2C798726501%2C798877701%2C798877702 : accessed 14 February 2020), Oklahoma > Seminole > Wewoka City, Wewoka, Ward 3 > 67-43 Wewoka City Ward 3 bounded by (N) 3rd, ward line; (E) city limits; (S) 7th; (W) city limits > image 43 of 78; citing Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012.

On that record, the name of her husband is reflected. His name was Elijah Bruner and he was listed as being 41 years of age at the time. The family will be found in earlier census years as well, including military draft records, 1930, 20 and more. So could he possibly be found among those required to register for the Draft for World War I? Indeed he was.

World War I Draft Card

Having the name of Charlesetta’s father, led directly to finding him in the FamilySearch collection United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, and he is there, before his marriage to Irene, still living in the same vicinity.

Elijah Bruner WWI Draft Registration
“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYTH-96KH?cc=1968530&wc=9FWV-C6D%3A928311001%2C928781301 : 24 August 2019), Oklahoma > Seminole County; A-Miller, Willis J. > image 604 of 3167; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
Elijah Bruner WWI Draft Registration
“United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYTH-96KH?cc=1968530&wc=9FWV-C6D%3A928311001%2C928781301 : 24 August 2019), Oklahoma > Seminole County; A-Miller, Willis J. > image 604 of 3167; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Since this is an Oklahoma based family, and because of the state’s unique history of Indian Territory, Indians and Freedmen, would this new information on Charlsetta’s family lead to finding the family on other records? Remember that the Oklahoma School record did indicate that Iren’s children were “Colored” and were also Seminole. That is a major clue leading directly to the Dawes Roll. In this case the key to the next important record was the name of Elijah Bruner. He was born about 1898 or so, and if found on the Dawes record, which was created between 1898-1906, then he would be a young boy.

Sure enough there was a Bruner family living in the Seminole Nation and Dawes card reflected the family. (See closer image below)

Oklahoma school Records Image 9
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, 93 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Seminole Freedman Card No 699 Field Card No 92

Just by learning his name, this data led to the name of his parents Thomas and Lucy Bruner, and a host of siblings, both full and step-siblings.

Oklahoma School Records Image 10
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, 93 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Seminole Freedman Card No 699 Field Card No 92

The reverse side of the same card reveals even more on this family, including the names of Thomas and Lucy’s tie to an Indian slave holder.

Oklahoma school Records Image 11
Ancestry.com. Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Cards for Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Enrollment Cards for the Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1186, 93 rolls); Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Record Group 75; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Seminole Freedman Card No 699 Field Card No 92

It should be pointed out that in this case Lucy’s father is said to be Caesar Bruner, who was the band chief of the Bruner band of Seminoles.

Elijah Bruner on FindAGrave

A search for information on Elijah’s death is also revealed when a memorial page on Find a Grave is located and an image on Find a Grave.

Oklahoma school Records Image 12
Image placed by Joe Easley. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 February 2020), memorial page for Elijah Bruner (20 May 1898–16 Mar 1962), Find A Grave Memorial no. 128662729, citing Mount Zion Cemetery, Little, Seminole County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .

Land Records for Bruner Family

The purpose of the Dawes Roll is to determine eligibility for the allotment of land. Even young children received land allotments, including Elijah, son of Thomas Bruner. FamilySearch contains the allotment records of the Five Civilized Tribes, which includes Seminoles, in the collection Oklahoma Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907. And there among the many records is a record of Thomas Bruner selecting a parcel of land for sons William and Elijah.

Oklahoma School Records Image 13
“Oklahoma Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6X53-VV4?cc=1390101&wc=MXHG-G68%3A967440201%2C967463401 : 17 October 2016), Seminole Freedmen > No. 1559-1713 > image 64 of 1057; National Archives and Records Administration, Southwest Region, Fort Worth, Texas.

In addition to finding this small land record, there is also a detailed interview with Thomas Bruner, father of Elijah Bruner. In this particular interview he is explaining his intention to select land for himself. He later selects land for his sons. A full description of the land is provided in addition to the type of land that he is selecting for himself. These interviews can also be used to determine where the land allotment is today, because a full legal description of the land is there in the same file.

Oklahoma School Record Image 14
“Oklahoma Applications for Allotment, Five Civilized Tribes, 1899-1907,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6XC9-9VZ?cc=1390101&wc=MXHG-NNG%3A967440801%2C967576201 : 17 October 2016), Creeks by Blood > No. 8976-9082 > image 218 of 1056; National Archives and Records Administration, Southwest Region, Fort Worth, Texas.

Additional Oklahoma Resources at Family Search

Beyond the unique records for Indians and Freedmen, Oklahoma is a state with numerous resources for the genealogist. Family Search offers numerous databases for the tenacious researcher to explore. It is clear however, that a simple Oklahoma school record can take one back to a rich family history. In this case one file reflects a name of children and mother, and those names lead to a wealth of data.

Explore the Related Resources Section Below for more Oklahoma resources reflecting this unique state.

About the Author

Angela Walton-Raji is known nationally for her research and work on Oklahoma Native American records. Her book Black Indian Genealogy Research, African Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes, is the only book of its kind focusing on the unique record sets pertaining to the Oklahoma Freedmen.

A founding member of the well known AfriGeneas.com, website, Ms. Walton-Raji is also a genealogist specializing in information for beginners, via daily and weekly online genealogy chats on AfriGeneas.com. She also serves as the host of a weekly genealogy podcast, The African Roots Podcast a number of instructional videos and has been used in recent years as a genealogical consultant on several video documentaries. Ms. Walton-Raji combines her skills as a genealogist with a warm on camera personality that brings comfort to her viewers through and her video channels on YouTube, while providing her viewers with useful information. Her African Roots TV, and Beginning Genealogist channels have both brought new insights to hundreds of viewers nationwide.

Ms. Walton-Raji’s talents have been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, for over a decade. In the 1990s she was a featured speaker at a number of Smithsonian events, and to date, she is the only genealogist in the nation, to present regular genealogy lectures at the National Museum of the American Indian, in both the Washington DC and New York facilities. She was a awarded the honor of presenting a special series of genealogy lectures to coincide with the Exhibition IndiVisible that officially launched in November 2009, and is now traveling throughout the nation.

Beyond her public appearances, she is a published author, host of 3 blogs a 10 year ongoing message board, 3 websites, and she hosts the only weekly podcast devoted to African American genealogy. Her comfort with language and skills in writing, make her well known and well respected in the genealogy community. In the Spring of 2010, she was featured in a in-depth interview with the Smithsonian magazine online. She is an alumnus of the National Institute of Genealogical Research, she has taught in the Samford Institute of Genealogical Research and has spoken at RootsTech, and has been active for many years in the African American Genealogical & Historical Society, where she now serves on the board of the Technology Education Committee. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Romance Languages and a Master of Education. She lives in MD where she continues to research, write and teach.

Explore More: Related Resources

The FamilySearch Wiki page Oklahoma Research Tips and Strategies offers an overview of resources for Oklahoma genealogy research.

The FamilySearch Wiki page Native American Research in Oklahoma offers an overview and resources for researching Native Americans in Oklahoma.

The Wiki page African American Resources for Oklahoma provides specific resources for African American genealogy in Oklahoma.

To learn more about Oklahoma freedmen, you can view BlackProGen LIVE! Ep 46: Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes.

More FamilySearch Wiki Resources for African American Genealogy

Researching African American Genealogy provides step-by-step guidance for beginning your ancestor search, as well as links to online resources.

Quick Guide to African American Records contains information on beginning research tips, links to suggested guides for beginning your search for African American ancestors, overviews of major record sets, tips for finding the slaveholder, links to tutorials for African American genealogy in the FamilySearch Learning Center, and links to other online and offline resources.

Southern States Slavery and Bondage Collections will help you locate digitized searchable collections as well as digitized microfilms in the FamilySearch catalog related to slavery and bondage. The page is arranged by state. 

African American Genealogy provides links to Wiki pages for researching African Americans in each U.S. state.

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