Background Sources for Oklahoma

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott Ph.D., FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Oklahoma Family History Research series.
History of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Vital Records
Census Records for Oklahoma
Background Sources for Oklahoma
Oklahoma Maps
Oklahoma Land Records
Oklahoma Probate Records
Oklahoma Court Records
Oklahoma Tax Records
Oklahoma Cemetery Records
Oklahoma Church Records
Oklahoma Military Records
Oklahoma Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Oklahoma Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Ethnic Groups of Oklahoma
Oklahoma County Resources
Map of Oklahoma


An understanding of the development of both Indian and Oklahoma Territories is essential in Oklahoma research. Sources include:

  • Baird, W. David, and Danney Goble. The Story of Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. Text was written for National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
  • Clark, Blue. Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock: Treaty Rights and Indian Law at the End of the Nineteenth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994. An easily understood description of laws, it is a good study of the topic that includes maps and bibliography.
  • Collins, Hubert E., ed. Warpath and Cattle Trail. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1998. With a foreword by Hamlin Garland and introduction by William W. Savage, Jr., and James H. Lazalier, it discusses Cheyenne, Arapaho, and the Chisholm Trail.
  • Federation of Oklahoma Genealogical Societies. Directory of Oklahoma Sources. Oklahoma City: Federation of Oklahoma Genealogical Societies, 1993.
  • Gibson, Arrell Morgan. Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries, 1965. Reprint. 2d ed. Norman, Okla.: Harlow Publishing Corp., 1981. A standard, well-known history.
  • Gittinger, Roy. The Formation of the State of Oklahoma, 1803–1906. 1917. Reprint. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939. Relates the historical events under French, Spanish, and Mexican jurisdiction and the territorial periods.
  • Goble, Danney. Progressive Oklahoma: The Making of a New Kind of State. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.
  • Gray, Robert N. The Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma: A Hundred Yesteryears. Enid, Okla.: Sons and Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Pioneer Museum, 1992.
  • Hill, Luther B. A History of the State of Oklahoma. 2 vols. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1908. Details the history of the territories up to statehood.
  • Jackson, A. P., and E. C. Cole. Oklahoma! Politically and Topographically Described. Kansas City, Mo.: Miller and Hudson, 1885.
  • Littlefield, Daniel F. The Chickasaw Freedmen: A People without a Country. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.
  • McReynolds, Edwin C., Alice Marriott, and Estelle Faulconer. Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People. Rev. ed. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
  • Morgan, H. Wayne, and Anne Hodges Morgan. Oklahoma: A Bicentennial History. New York: W. W. Norton, and Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1977. Includes a good bibliographic essay on various aspects of the state’s history.
  • ——. Oklahoma: New Views of the Forty-Sixth State. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.
  • Newson, D. Earl. The Cherokee Strip: Its History and Grand Opening. Stillwater, Okla.: New Forums Press, c1992. Includes maps and an index.
  • Parker, James W. All Along the Chisholm Trail. 2 vols. Yukon, Okla.: the author, 1988.
  • Reese, Linda Williams. Women of Oklahoma, 1890–1920. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997.
  • Thoburn, Joseph B., and Wright, Muriel H. Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People. 4 vols. 1929. Reprint. Tucson, Ariz.: W. C. Cox, 1974.
  • Wickett, Murray R. Contested Territory: Whites, Native Americans, and African Americans in Oklahoma, 1865–1907. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000. Discusses Anglos, Native Americans, ex-slaves, and African Americans.
  • Zellner, William W., and Ruth L. Laird, eds. Oklahoma: The First Hundred Years. Ada, Okla.: Galaxy Publications, n.d.

Writings on Native American history and culture in the state are extensive, but a good place to start is with Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United States (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), which has a fine bibliography for more comprehensive reading. See also Debo’s “Major Indian Record Collections in Oklahoma” in Indian-White Relations: A Persistent Paradox, edited by Jane Smith and Robert Kvasnicka (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1976). Debo also authored numerous other books on Native Americans.

Two reference works are Mary Huffman, comp., The Five Civilized Tribes: A Bibliography (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, Library Resources Division, 1991); and a dated but helpful study: Francis Paul Prucha, Indian-White Relations in the United States: A Bibliography of Works Published, 1975–1980 (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1982). Other suggested readings include:

  • Carlson, L. A. Indians, Bureaucrats, and Land. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981. Concerns Oklahoma Native Americans and land policy.
  • Coffer, William E. [Koi Hosh]. Phoenix: The Decline and Rebirth of the Indian People. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980.
  • Dickerson, Philip Jackson. History of the Osage Nation: Its People, Resources, and Prospects: The Last Reservation to Open in the New State. Pawhusk, Okla.: n.p., 1906.
  • Foreman, Grant. Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes. 1953. Reprint. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.
  • King, Duane H., ed. The Cherokee Indian Nation: A Troubled History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1979. Provides historical glimpses of the Cherokees before, during, and after removal.
  • LeMaster, Arlene. Eastern Oklahoma Indians and Pioneers: Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. 3 vols. Poteau, Okla.: Family Heritage Resources, 1992.
  • Smith, Robert E., ed. Oklahoma’s Forgotten Indians. Vol. 15 in the society’s Oklahoma Series. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1981.
  • Tyler, Lyman S. A History of Indian Policy. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973. Details policy and its constant changes.
  • Wright, Muriel Hazel. A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951.

For reading on the land runs, see:

  • Hoig, Stan. The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984. Provides a historical overview of the land rush including its problems and opportunities.
  • Thiel, Sidney, comp. The Oklahoma Land Rush. Washington, D.C.: Historical Records Commission, n.d.
  • Wood, S. N. The Boomers or the True Story of Oklahoma. Topeka, Kans.: Bond and Neill, 1885.

Background reading in the role African Americans played in Oklahoma’s settlement is available in several works (see also Ethnic Groups of Oklahoma):

  • Aldrich, Gene. Black Heritage of Oklahoma. Edmond, Okla.: Thompson Book & Supply Co., 1973.
  • Baker, T. Lindsay, and Julie P. Baker. The WPA Oklahoma Slave Narratives. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, c1996.
  • Tolson, Arthur L. The Black Oklahomans: A History, 1541–1992. New Orleans: Edwards Print Co., 1994. This work includes a lengthy bibliography.

A guide for doing research in the Twin Territories is Bradford Koplowitz, Guide to the Historical Records of Oklahoma (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1990). This guide lists numerous records and repositories in which specific records are maintained for all counties, many municipalities, and five general repositories.

A statewide compilation of genealogical and historical printed materials, books and journal articles, for Oklahoma is Paul Follett, "Printed Sources for Oklahoma Genealogical and Historical Research" (Lawton, Ok.: Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 2004.) There are three sections: State History, Indian Sources, and a County-by County Guide. Listed are every library, museum, and society in Oklahoma with a genealogy or local history collection as of 2004. Societies that publish a journal or newsletter are noted.

A helpful, although not completely current, publication for Oklahoma research is Patrick J. Blessing, Oklahoma Records and Archives (Tulsa, Okla.: University of Tulsa Publications in American Social History, No. 1, 1978). This guide includes maps and access information for vital records statewide. Record holdings described are those of the Secretary of State, Commissioner of Land Office, Department of Interior, State Election Board, WPA, Historical Records Surveys, Vital Statistics, miscellaneous, theses, dissertations, Public Works, and guides.

Some Internet sites that provide information on various aspects of Oklahoma history include www.rootsweb.com/~okbeaver/NoMansLand/nomansld.htm, www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/okl/OKHistLinks.html, and www.rootsweb.com/~oknowata/OOOT.htm.

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