Sunday, November 9, 2014

Exploring the Cherokee 1890 Census

The recent partnership between the Oklahoma Historical Society and Ancestry has brought about more than 3 million records to the public. For Oklahoma researchers this is more than a gold mine, the data contains everything from census records to full color scans of  Dawes Cards, to marriage records, wills, unique tribal records and so much more. One special feature for Oklahoma researchers is the fact that while most US based researchers lament the tragic loss of the 1890 census, but Oklahoma researchers do have data from that year available. Many of the records from the Twin Territories (Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory) were never lost! And now, one does not have to travel to Oklahoma to see them, because one can easily research them online.

Oklahoma Historical Society Description: CHN 04 1890 Census of Cooweescoowee District A - TData from: Indian Marriage and Other Records, 1850–1920. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Ancestry Source: 
Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Marriage, Citizenship and Census Records, 1841-1927 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

I have written articles already about some of these records on my other two blogs. (Choctaw Freedmen Legacy, and African-Native American) However, because of the diversity of the data found within the Cherokee Nation 1890 census, I decided to post this article on my primary genealogy blog, because so many people can benefit from looking at this record set.
The records from the Cherokee Nation in 1890 focused on the four primary groups that lived within its borders. There were 1) native Cherokees, 2) adopted citizens,which included Cherokee Freedmen and Inter-married whites, 3) Delawares and 4) Shawnees. 

It should be pointed out that the qualtity of the scanned images is excellent, and generally load quickly on the site, and navigation is not complicated. The records are divided geographically by the various districts of the Cherokee Nation that existed at that time---Canadian, Coowescoowee, Delaware, Going Snake, Flint, Ilinois, Saline, Sequoyah, and Tahlequah Districts. I am showing images from the Cooweescoowee District below.

It its very clear to see how the citizens were described in the "Note to Census Takers" provided at the very front of the ledger.

Source: Same as above.

The design of the census schedule was different from the standard design of the US Federal Census. Personal information about the citizens was provided such as name, age, gender, race, and occupation.

The census schedule from 1890 census
Source: Same as above

This close up view provides a more detailed look at data collected.
Source: Same as Above.

It is also noted that this particular census schedule focused upon details of the land, and the personal property owned by each citizen, including crops, livestock as well as improvements made.

Additional Agricultural Data Collected
Source: Same as Above

At the end of each district is also a population summary. And one can see that data collected included native Cherokees, Delawares, Shawnees, Whites and Negroes. With the last two categories Intermarried white citizens were simply classified as "whites" and Cherokee Freedmen were simply classified as  "Negroes".

Summary of District's Data

Also it is important to keep in mind that this 1890 Cherokee Nation Census was made of persons who were citizens of the Cherokee Nation and this is not a census of persons considered to be "intruders". However note that there are Intruder census records that were collected in a separate group.

Hopefully many will see the value of one of the critical record sets reflecting the 1890 census year.


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