Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bettie's List ~ Julia Jackson


Bettie’s List ~ Julia JACKSON
Choctaw Freedmen # 1213
Choctaw Chickasaw Citizenship Court # 66

Julia Jackson and her children were part of the complainants in Equity Case 7071. They sought to be transferred from the Dawes Choctaw Freedmen Roll to the Choctaw by blood roll; their actions left a record that becomes further evidence not everyone who possessed Choctaw blood got on the blood roll.

Like so many people classified as freedmen the record to establish their blood ties for citizenship are incomplete and require a great deal of deep research. The information contained in the Choctaw Chickasaw Citizenship Court records provided some insight into the paternity of the transfer cases.


Joe and Dillard Case Files #F-66 Julia Jackson et al.,
This document summarizes the facts of the case for transfer from the freedmen roll to the by blood roll for Julia Jackson and her children.

It purports to give accurate information that reflects why she considers herself and her children as people who possess Choctaw blood and therefore entitled to be listed as a “Choctaw by Blood.”

In this document supposedly fifty-six year old Julia informs the Dawes Commission her father was a Choctaw by the name of Ben Gilbert who was the son of a Choctaw by the name of John Gilbert.

If that is the case then Julia rightfully concludes all of her children would also be descendants of Ben and John “Gilbert” and should have been placed on the Choctaw by blood roll.

Historically we know that the Dawes Commission did not enroll everyone with Choctaw blood on the by blood rolls and it appears they went to great lengths to prevent people like Julia Jackson her children and her grand children from being placed on the proper roll.

This record would seemingly be factual and contain all the correspondence received from the attorneys of the Jackson family but as I continue to look at the available records some things just don’t add up.

In the first paragraph of this letter it mentions a petition was filed on February 12, 1906 by attorney Albert J. Lee “praying for the transfer” of Julia and her children. Looking through the entire file the correspondence from attorney Lee is nowhere to be found.

I would think in such an important matter as this that the record of the Dawes Commission should be complete but this is another case where the commission fails to maintain a clean record in the case of people placed on the freedmen roll who sought to be transferred.

The reason this is important becomes clear when you look at the rationale commissioner Tams Bixby gave for denying a transfer in this case.

Joe and Dillard Case Files #F-66 Julia Jackson et al.,
The importance of a clean record in this case has to do with the method the Dawes Commission determined their cases and how that record was  forwarded to the Secretary of the Interior for a final decision.

The Secretary of the Interior could only give a judgment based on the information he was given and it appears two important pieces of information may have never been provided.

It is an established fact that when a file was sent to Washington D.C. for the approval or disapproval of the Secretary of the Interior, the actual Dawes Card was never included in the packet of information. Secondly, the oral interview that resulted in the information placed on the Dawes Card did not and does not exist in the majority of the transfer cases. In the vast majority of cases a summary of the interview is all that remains in the record.

The only time we will see any question and answer interview would be the result of some follow-up interview that occurred after the person enrolled or when there was doubt about their connection to the tribe in question.

In the case of Julia Jackson and her children we have the rare question and answer oral interview but it was not by her; it was given by her husband and in the response to this application the commission is quick to note there was no evidence of an attempt to be enrolled as a citizen by blood prior to 1906.

The other curious factor in this case is the name the Dawes Commission gives as the name of Julia’s father and grandfather; Ben and John Gilbert respectively. Had the clerks or commissioner provided the actual petition for transfer and the original Dawes card they may have caught their errors.

The commission stated there is no record of Ben or John Gilbert and that may be true but it is not the name given to their clerk during the time Julia’s husband Isom gave testimony when he allegedly enrolled the family as Choctaw Freedmen in 1899.



It is possible the names of the individuals given to the commission could have been misspelled because there is some phonetic likeness to Gilbert and McGibrey or McGilberry or McGillivray all of these factors meant it was imperative the commission get it right and have a complete record, which in my opinion they came up woefully short.

We don’t have much information about Ben Gilbert or probably more accurately; Ben McGillivray, but there is some information about a John McGillivray that fits the description of who might have been the grandfather of Julia Jackson.

Don Martini "Who's ?Was Who Among the Southern Indians a Genealogical Notebook 1698-1907"
Don Martini "Who's ?Was Who Among the Southern Indians a Genealogical Notebook 1698-1907"

It will take further research to determine whether one of those male children between ten and twenty was named Ben to see if there is any truth to the rumor that this may have been Julia’s grandfather but clearly the Dawes Commission was completely inaccurate about the name of Julia’s father.

For the record, I’m also perplexed that there is no correspondence from Albert J. Lee correcting this obvious mistake of Gilbert as it is portrayed in the letter from Tams Bixby and McGilbrey/McGillivray as it is noted on the rear of Choctaw Freedmen card number 1213.

There is one more oddity concerning the Dawes Card of Isom and Julia Jackson; there are no slave owners indicated on the front of the card. Because of their ages, they would have them born in slavery, yet only during the interview given by Isom in 1899 he refers to his enslaver. There does not appear to be any information regarding Julia being enslaved.
This appears to be another case where the clerk at the Dawes Commission got it wrong or omitted what should have been important information just to establish the Jackson family to the Choctaw nation for citizenship as freedmen.


The transfer cases continue to bring home the question of how serious the Five Slave Holding Tribes are concerned about their "real" history? 

We see many articles in scholarly journals, history books and on their own websites that advocate the history of their tribes with great fanfare about preserving Indian nations for "Indians." Here are cases in the thousands that clearly point out there are some "Indians" that were left off the rolls and marginalized because their mother's happened to be of "African descent." 

There is no question that "race" was at the heart of these decisions. There is no question that what the tribal leaders did in conjunction with the Dawes Commission was an effort to rid itself of all connections to those slaves who bore the children of Choctaw and Chickasaw men who were entitled to three hundred and twenty acres of land like the children who were given birth by "white" women and Indian fathers.

Problem is, can anyone today say with a straight face the descendants of these men and women do not possess Choctaw and or Chickasaw blood?































Monday, December 12, 2011

One Hundred Years Ago Today...


December 12, 1911

Daily Ardmoreite April 14, 1907 p6c5
What was once thought to be the “most important suit filed” in Indian Territory on April 13, 1907; became a memorandum: just a footnote in the records of the United States Supreme Court!

Bettie Ligon et al., v Douglas H. Johnston, Green McCurtain and James R. Garfield, Secretary of the Interior is commonly known as Equity Case 7071 and the ramifications of this case should have turned Indian Territory upside down.

What happened on this day at the United States Supreme Court defies logic and understanding. The lawsuit involved millions of dollars in land that could have potentially been in the tens or hundreds of millions based on the natural resources like oil, gas, coal and asphalt that was known to be in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations following the Civil War.

The foundation of the claims of citizenship for fifteen hundred to two thousand individuals and their descendants in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations was predicated on one simple truth; we are the product of our ancestors.

In genealogical terms the 1,500 to 2,000 men, women and children who were claimants on Equity Case 7071 were the children of Choctaw and Chickasaw men and therefore should have been placed on the citizenship by blood rolls of their ancestors.

Unfortunately, like most things that involve race, their efforts at obtaining citizenship were thwarted at every turn. The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations allowed the institution of slavery among their citizens prior to the Civil War and based on their antebellum concepts of race.

The Dawes Commission as well as the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations determined that a child was considered to be the race of their mother and if that mother was determined to be black, Negro, or of African descent, then so was the child.

This of course had to include the absurdity of completely ignoring and denying the father who was a Choctaw or Chickasaw citizen by blood. It also was in complete contradiction of the established law on lineal descent that was established at the time. It also worked to prevent the possibility that we see today that none of the descendants of the original complainants involved with Equity Case 7071 are citizens of the Choctaw or Chickasaw Nation.

What we have on this day, one hundred years later a “continuing wrong” that is nothing more than a memo of the United States Supreme Court.

U.S. Supreme Court Memorandum December 12, 1911


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Death of Bettie Ligon ~ November 21, 1911


Bettie Ligon died today from lumbar pneumonia. Bettie Ligon was the lead litigant on Equity Case 7071 involving approximately 2,000 so called Chickasaw and Choctaw Freedmen who were seeking full “rights and privileges” as citizens in the respective nation of their and their parents birth. 

The litigants in this lawsuit were seeking recognition from the two nations and the United States government as citizens based on being progeny of a parent who was considered a Chickasaw and/or Choctaw “by blood” on the Dawes Rolls.

Bettie Ligon's  death comes almost a year after the decision by the United States Supreme Court of December 12, 1911. The decision by the court was rendered without any oral arguments on the merits of Equity Case 7071. 

 The defendants attorneys did not appear before the court and written briefs were not provided as stipulated, yet these 2,000 “Black Indians” and their descendants today are not considered Chickasaw nor Choctaw and are not citizens of their respective nations as stipulated in ALL legislation applicable to them.

The dismissal in this lawsuit begs the question of why didn’t the brief’s for such an important case worth millions of dollars failed to be filed for a hearing before the Supreme Court?

From the initial filing on April 13, 1907 until almost six years later; Bettie Ligon et al., was deemed one of the most important cases in Indian Territory history, yet, when given the opportunity to argue their case before the highest court in the country, attorneys failed their fiduciary responsibility to file the required papers to stand before the justices of the Supreme Court.

For this case never to be argued before the Supreme Court meant a great deal for the state of Oklahoma, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and ultimately for the descendants of the more than fifteen hundred men, women and children involved.

The state of Oklahoma was being rushed by its politician's and corporate leaders so the natural resources of the state could be exploited.

The Choctaw and Chickasaw Nation's were to benefit from a great deal of the wealth that was to be thrown their way based on allowing companies like Standard Oil and the multitude of railroads to intersect the territory, all providing funds to the leading men and families in the respective nations.

Yet the publisher's of the Daily Ardmoreite, a paper that was not sympathetic to the plight of blacks or Indian Territory freedmen understood clearly the importance of this challenge to the tribes and the country.

The addition of this many African-Native people could in their eyes go against everything they understood about race and how the descendants of former slaves and slave owners should be viewed when it came to sharing in the land and possible revenues from the natural resources located in their respective nations.

The difference was large enough to make a difference and quite possibly interfere with the interest of the coal, asphalt, railroad, oil and gas corporations that were licking their lips to establish their business in the territory.

Fifteen hundred people could be  the difference between giving up sixty thousand acres of land as opposed to four hundred and eighty thousand acres of land; this would affect the profits of oil production by requiring royalties to the owners of that land. That much land wealth would have created a class of substantially wealthy blacks that could have challenged the status quo in the new state of Oklahoma?

The latter number would have posed a possible threat to the development and exploitation of what we now know was and is a huge amount of wealth based on those same natural resources in the land.




Monday, October 10, 2011

Alice Lamey et al.

Alice Lamey was one of those brave women of Indian Territory who persisted in her claims of possessing Chickasaw blood and was determined to have the Dawes Commission and the Chickasaw Nation acknowledge her family as Chickasaw Indians by blood.


Image Courtesy of
Carlotta "Kemp" Wheeler
Design by Terry Ligon
 It is unfortunate the decisions of the Dawes Commission and the so called customs of the Chickasaw Nation denied the ancestry of Simmion Lamey and his children. They were enrolled as Chickasaw Freedmen despite the insistence of Simmion’s father being a full blood Chickasaw.


Senate Document 298 (59th Congress, 2nd Sesson p.2)

The actions of the Dawes Commission with the approval of the tribes meant that thousands of people who actually possessed “Indian blood” were left off the citizenship rolls based on the antebellum custom of determining race by the “status” of their mother.


Senate Document 298 (59th Congress, 2nd Session p.8)

In other words if you mother was a slave your "blood" was contaminated and you were not considered to be an "Indian by blood." Only if you mother happened to be "Indian" or "white" you would be considered an Indian. It would appear these attitudes continue with the leaders in the Five Slave Holding Tribes today.  

Senate Document 298 (59th Congress, 2nd Session p.5)


When the attorney’s for the freedmen sought a transfer to the “citizens by blood” roll the Dawes Commission and the tribes completely ignored the mandate that people with Indian blood should be placed on the blood roll; in other words, basic genealogy and lineal descent.



When analyzing documents of “mixed blood” African-Natives we begin to see the pattern and nature of the Dawes Commissions refusal to acknowledge everyone who possessed Indian ancestry.

When the Dawes Commission refused to accept an application for citizenship by blood based on Simmion Lamey’s father, they used the status of his mother, Rose Alhuntubby being an enslaved woman and completely ignored established laws on lineal descent. Their decision was enough to deny this family and all of their descendants to ever be considered Choctaw or Chickasaw.


Alice Lamey et al. F-100 Joe & Dillard Perry Files

As the records will bear out the Lamey family was not alone in having their rights refused which resulted in another miscarriage of justice. Each member of this family would have been allotted three hundred and twenty acres of land that was given to those with Choctaw or Chickasaw. Along with the rights and privileges of citizenship the Lamey family to this day has not been properly acknowledged as being Chickasaw.


Image of Tippie Lamey Courtesy of
Carlotta "Kemp" Wheeler
Graphic Design by Terry Ligon
  
Clearly the Dawes Commission’s actions have made it difficult for all of the “transfer cases” on Bettie’s List to prove their “Indian blood.” The fact that most of the Five Slave Holding Tribes disingenuously claim they will accept anyone with Indian blood on the Dawes Roll, probably doesn’t mean this class of people?

It will take a great deal of moral courage on the part of the tribes to acknowledge the many wrongs their ancestor’s have done.

It will take even more courage for the people and leaders of these tribes to acknowledge that there are people with "Indian blood" who are today being excluded based on some racist custom rooted in slavery.

Note: Lamey family researchers may want to look at additional records concerning this family's claim for Chickasaw citizenship by blood. These files are located at the NARA Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX and the file are listed in the Joe and Dillard Perry database as F-100, F-219, F-64 and so on.


I have a special request if you obtain the files. Since I'm compiling a database with all of the documentation for Bettie's List I could use a copy of each file except F-100 Alice Lamey.


856
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Tippy
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-100
90C
857
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
William
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-100
90C
2059
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Eddie
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-219
90C
405
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Robert
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-064
90C
404
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Dewey
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-064
90C
403
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Elizabeth
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-064
90C
1173
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Irena
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-156
90C
853
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Noah
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-099
90C
858
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
William
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-101
90C
855
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Mary
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-100
90C
891
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Robert
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-110
90C
859
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Albert
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-101
90C
860
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Charley
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-101
90C
861
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Daisy
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-101
90C
862
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Evalina
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-101
90C
863
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Tommie
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-102
90C
889
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Sampson
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-110
90C
890
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Dewey
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-110
90C
854
Choctaw-Chickasaw
Lamey
Bessie
Joe and Dillard Perry
F-100
90C



Monday, July 11, 2011

A Time For Discoveries!

My research visit to Oklahoma in May of 1995 held many new fascinating discoveries and the first one was easily the best. Before I left home in northern California to meet up with my father in Los Angeles my wife became worried that she was having some health issues. Several days prior to my leaving she complained about soreness in her breast and because her mother died from complications of breast cancer she understandably was concerned.

However, I noted to her about a week earlier when she picked me up from the BART (public transportation for those of you who don’t live in the Bay Area) that I thought she had this glow about her. Her skin was soft and flawless. We didn’t think much about it and went on about our business. When she mentioned her breasts were sore and she was going to see a doctor while I was away on the trip to Oklahoma.

For some reason I asked to request the doctor run a pregnancy test on her while she was there. Trust me, I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV but my instincts seem to point in this direction. Now, at this time we had been married for fifteen years and had given up on the possibility of becoming parents. This was one of those things that I didn’t think about but was certain about the outcome.

As you know from the previous post, I did make the trip to Oklahoma and the first night there as my father and I were about to relax and plan our schedule for the next day while enjoying a veggie pizza, the phone rang! It was my wife and she sounded very excited and she asked me “what to you want, a boy or girl?”

She hadn’t gone to the doctor because her appointment was a day or so away so I asked her what was she talking about. She repeated the statement, “WHAT DO YOU WANT! A BOY OR GIRL! So I responded, you’re pregnant aren’t you? She screamed YES! I asked her how did she know, and she told me she couldn’t wait to see the doctor and bought a home pregnancy kit and the thing turned purple from the fumes.

This became the very first discovery of my trip to Oklahoma, I was going to be a father and from that point on my son and my research have been a joy for me.

Copyright ©2011 Terry Ligon
As a result of my time spent at the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Chickasaw Nation headquarters in Ada, I was loaded down with documents that for the first time seem to corroborate the stories my father had been telling me. I had this document of his grandmother that listed his father on it and they were somehow connected to the Choctaw Nation as the title on the document known as a Dawes Card was called.

Choctaw Freedman Card# 106 front Bettie Ligon et al

Choctaw Freedman Card# 106 rear Bettie Ligon et al
I was still new to genealogical research and a novice at researching the Dawes Commission records but I quickly realized the value of these particular records when it came to identifying several generations of ancestors. Each Dawes card had the potential to document three generations of a family and I was able to locate both of my father’s parents, his four grandparents and his great grandparents on these documents; WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!!!

Choctaw Freedman Card# 107 front Martha Christian et al

Choctaw Freedman Card# 107 rear Martha Christian et al
What was amazing about this discovery is both of his parents, grand parents and great grand parents were on cards 106 and 107, living in the same town!

During the course of our trip to the archives and later as we made our way to Ardmore, my father had the good sense to take me through the area where his mother, father, and grandparents lived at the time these cards were created. Looking back, I think he shrewdly did this so I would become exposed to the land of his father and grandfather’s. So I could touch the soil they walked upon and by doing so, it would provided support I would need to continue researching when I would become frustrated and thinking about abandoning the research.

When I began to process the information on the cards I became excited. My father and I had come back from our little excursion to Ada where I got copies of the Dawes records for quite a few of our ancestor’s.

There was so much information, so many names and with each new page and name it would trigger a memory in my father that would add more layers to this unfolding story that was just to incredible to be believed. Then, I noticed it! The words that would alter my direction and consume my days with research;” Robert Love-Chick Ind.”

Perhaps the old man was telling the truth but I still was not completely sure what to make out of it. Apparently the father of Bettie Ligon was a man named Robert Love and apparently he was a Chickasaw Indian? At this point even my father was excited to learn the stories he heard while eavesdropping on “the grown folks” had some truth to it, his grandmother may have been “part Indian!”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1995 My First Genealogical Visit to Oklahoma

Chapter 3

Discovering the Dawes Commission Records

Throughout 1994 my father and I spoke on a regular basis. I was still compiling and editing the family photo history and with each new discovery there were more questions. Also about this time I became familiar with an online community of researchers who were able to give me some general knowledge and guidance for my family research.

Of all the people I met online it was Angela Walton-Raji who seems to have any knowledge about the genealogy and history of people from “Oklahoma.” Angela encouraged me to read more and when I had the opportunity she urged me to visit Oklahoma Historical Society as well as the National Archives in Dallas­-Ft. Worth, TX.

I located copies of Angie Debo’s book “And Still the Waters Run” as well as Arrell Gibson’s book, “The Chickasaw’s” and began to discover there was a history of blacks being owned as slaves by Native Americans. This was a history I was never taught in school and apparently very little is still being taught on this subject.

During this time I became familiar with the process of genealogy. One of the main things I discovered during this time was the use of the Soundex system for locating names in the census records. This was to become very useful when my father began telling me more names of relatives and ancestors he knew and who also originated in Oklahoma or Indian Territory.
.
The conversations I had with my father began to expose more and more of our family history and I was becoming more aware of a larger family of ancestor’s I never knew before. Other than my California Adair cousin’s the only name at this point I was familiar with was the Christian surname because of my “Uncle Willie Christian” and I was soon to discover there was more about Uncle Willie I had not known.

Now armed with these soundex codes I was able to locate more ancestors in the 1900 census records which became a lot easier because now I was more familiar with the census records and used the “system” known to genealogist as copy five census pages before and after the one you locate you ancestor’s.

Despite having all of this information and now realizing my family had a history far beyond anything I knew, I still had not come any closer to determining if my father’s story of his “Indian grandmother” had any basis in fact. I found census records for more of my father’s (our) ancestors and it proved the old adage of copying five pages in front and five pages in back of the census record for your ancestor is a wise practice.

The more I spoke with my father about my new learned knowledge he began indicating his desire to take me back to Oklahoma for a visit and see if we could locate some of the history on his family

My conversations with Angela and Robert helped me determine the places I needed to visit if I was going to be successful in locating more information on my father’s “Indian grandmother” and it meant I would probably need to make a trip to the Oklahoma Historical Society. We also thought it would be a good opportunity to visit the Chickasaw Nation Headquarters in Ada as well as take a trip down to Ardmore and visit with family, many I would meet for the first time as an adult.

I was able to get the week of Memorial Day for a vacation bid at work and this was the plan for our scouting mission as my father called it and I felt well prepared for the trip.

One early morning I was half asleep and half awake and evidently my wife left the television on when I suddenly sat straight up in bed when I heard something about a little girl by the name of Ligon had been injured in a bombing.

This was about a month before I was to fly down to Los Angeles to meet up with my father and together fly to Oklahoma for our scouting mission. This was of course the April 15th bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City and I didn’t know what to make of it or if it would affect our trip in May. I tried to get more information on the girl who was actually a Liggin as I recall or if she was somehow related because now every time I heard a name I would ask the question; is that one of my relatives?



We soon learned the bombing would not affect our trip and I made an appointment to meet with Robert at the Oklahoma Historical Society building so he could help me locate some records and this was also the first time we would meet face to face.

It was not until we made a trip to Ada where the Chickasaw Nation headquarters was located was I able to get copies of my father’s grandmother Bettie along with some records for his great grandparents John Taylor, Sallie Christian and his grandfather Caro Christian. We spent the night at a little motel just outside of Ardmore and it was then I began to piece together the first layer to our family’s genealogical history.



One of the more intriguing aspects of my visit to Ada was the exchange I had with a woman who was working in the archives. I noted that on this card for my great grandmother there was the section for “tribal enrollment.” Since my father was convinced his grandmother Bettie Ligon was an Indian I found this section very interesting. I didn’t know much about these records and I thought the woman who was supposedly a librarian or someone familiar with the documents could answer my questions regarding the document.

So I asked her, “What do these numbers in this category mean?” Her answer perplexed me and to this day I find it lacking credibility. In my mind this was a government generated document and everything on it should have some significance; but she was adamant that a form indicating several people with tribal enrollment numbers; as she said, “they don’t mean anything!”

Her behavior after that became suspicious because when she helped me locate the information she found it in a set of books that I later found out were hard bound copies of the Dawes Commission’s Final Rolls. Here again I found her behavior defensive and unwarranted; when I asked to look at the books myself she insisted I couldn’t be allowed to handle them.

Fortunately this has not always been the reception I received when visiting various repositories but I have noted there is a certain “politics to researching” the genealogy and history of the so called Five Civilized Tribes when it comes to the "Freedmen."

What I have observed through the years when visiting certain archives in Oklahoma you really need to know what you are looking for, if you don’t ask the right question some people will not be “helpful” when you require assistance. What was amazing about this, for the most part these were people who were providing a public service and except for the Chickasaw headquarters in Ada, they were workers paid in part or whole with taxpayer dollars. 


I was in a hurry because for some reason my father did not want to come into the Chickasaw headquarters while I did my research. It was in May and the weather was hot and humid, my father sat in the car waiting on me to return. Realizing I couldn’t leave a seventy three year old man in the car in that kind of heat I ignored the antics of the “librarian” gratefully accepted the assistance she provided, paid for the documents and headed back to the motel where we were staying; we grab some grub and pored over the documents trying to make sense out of what we found.



All of this information was new to me and my father! What he knew of these people were basically names he heard as a child. What was becoming more obvious to me was the idea that this story I thought my father was making up out of whole cloth may have had some validity to it. This was the beginning of a story that kept getting more interesting the more I dug for information. What was really amazing to me and my father was the wealth of documentation on his family! What I didn’t know was, this was just the tip of the iceberg and there was a great deal more to come when we traveled into Ardmore for the Memorial Day weekend.



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bettie’s List Chapter 2 Discovering Sallie Ligon?


When I first started working in the photo lab as a large reprint specialist, I initially signed on guaranteeing I would work for at least one year. It seems getting good people who had an eye for color correction was difficult and the owner’s wanted someone who would be around for at least a year. Committing to one year of work seemed okay for me and since it was paying me good money for part time work it seemed like a good deal.

During that year of work I made time to conduct some copy negative work so I could reprint the photos my father expected me to share with the rest of the family. Organizing all of the photos took time considering I was working full time and part time but I felt I would have plenty of time to finish the project. Needless to say that was an incorrect assumption on my part; things tend to have a rhythm of their own and this was no exception. However, when pushed for time I seem to work more efficiently.

When it was coming up on the anniversary of committing to a year of working in the lab I felt the desire and need to move on. With a deadline approaching I went into another gear to finish all of the copying and reprinting of the family photographic history.

During my year of copy work I began noticing more photographs of people I had no clue about and this began the process of calling my father on a regular basis to see if he could identify the individuals I was seeing for the first time.

During my copy work sessions I soon made another surprising discovery! The day I was going to copy the image of Bettie I had to take it out of the frame so I could eliminate the glare from the glass. What I found underneath Bettie’s portrait was an image of another woman. I was excited about this discovery but as usual I had no idea who this woman was or why her portrait was in the same frame.

Margaret Ann Wilson nee Alexander
Immediately I phoned my father and told him about the discovery; he was not positive about the woman but thought it was the mother of Bettie’s husband, his grandfather Hadley Ligon. My father then told me this woman’s name was probably Sally and since I had nothing else to go on, accepted this as a fact.

From 1990 through 1994 I occasionally took the time to organize the photos put them in various albums according to their generation and put together packages of photos that I would send to other family members.

It was also during this period that I became mildly interested in genealogy. My father was telling me this fantastic and in my mind unbelievable stories of his grand parents. Bettie was supposed to be part Indian but he wasn’t exactly sure which tribe. His grandfather, Bettie’s husband he described as a runaway slave from Louisiana. All of these stories were heard by me for the first time and I couldn’t understand why he never spoke about them before now.

It was around 1994 I purchased my first desktop computer with an amazing 425 mb hard drive! It had 4mb of memory and a modem that allowed me to go online and seek information on my family’s “Oklahoma” roots for the first time.

I still didn’t have much knowledge on genealogical research and only knew a few things about my father’s people however, it was around this time two things occurred that began to shape my research and lead me in the direction of knowledge that I am eternally grateful.

The first thing that happened was I became familiar with some people online who were also new to the internet but they were genealogist who knew how to conduct research. One of the people I became familiar with lived right down the street from me and knew a great deal about genealogical research; she and a few more people in the area thought we should form a genealogical society so we could help each other learn the proper way to conduct research. One day we all met at Electra Price’s home to form the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California which is still going strong today I’m proud to say. 

The other people that played a significant role in my development as a researcher was an online introduction to Angela Walton-Raji and Robert Broome, both genealogy researchers familiar with Oklahoma. Angela became very significant as I will explain later. It was these three people and events that finally got me on track to conduct research on my family and led me to the discovery of my father’s “Indian” grandmother.
From 1990 through 1994 I would talk with my father occasionally and ask him about a new face among the many photographs in the boxes he gave me. I would describe an individual and together we would determine who that person was and what relationship they were to my father.
Gladys Ligon

We would discuss the people he knew like his grandmother Bettie, his grandfather Hadley and his father Mitch. My father would  tell me about his aunt Gladys and other members of his extended family like his great grandfather John Taylor or grandfather on his mother’s side; Caro Christian.

Some of them he knew personally and some he knew through stories he overheard as a young boy eavesdropping on the stories of his elders. It was after seeing the photo of his aunt Gladys I began taking some of what my father said about his Indian grandmother a little bit more seriously. Like a lot of people I saw in her photo what are typically considered physical features of what an “Indian” looks like.

As I stated earlier, the AAGSNC was my first introduction to genealogical research methodology and subsequently I became familiar with census research and the Church of the Ladder Day Saints. It must have taken me three months to finally locate his grandmother and father on a census record. The first thing I learned was spelling on census records is not correct and prior to 1907, the state of Oklahoma to my surprise did not exist!
1900 Census Indian Territory E.D. 168 p17b; T3S, R1W

This was the first time I experienced what genealogists refer to as the “happy dance.” When I began my research all I basically had were photographs and my father's questionable memory. The "old man" could only provide a few names he recalled from his childhood; Bettie, Hadley, his father Mitch and Aunt Gladys.  Combine those names with the misspelling on the census form I was certain this was the family I was searching for and soon realized there was more to this story than I first thought.

The more I looked at this document the more something began drawing me in for more inspection. There was another person in this household that I was not aware of and someone my father didn’t have an explanation.


The 1900 census indicated that the mother of Hadley (Atty Liggon) Ligon was a woman seventy eight years old by the name of Margaret Ann Wilson!!! I couldn’t wait to tell my father how wrong we were about that picture in the same frame as Bettie’s. According to this record, Hadley’s mother was living with him and his family and her name was not Sallie but Margaret Ann. Talk about scoring big time this had to be it. I was soon to become more surprised because again, census records can be totally incorrect yet hold the kernel of some truth.