Oklahoma Land Records
This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott Ph.D., FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Oklahoma is a Public-Domain State.
Before 1889, the first year Oklahoma was officially opened for nonnative settlement, many nonnatives contracted for labor with the Five Civilized Tribes in exchange for land tenancy. Land records for the nations were filed under their respective Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agency.
After some areas were opened for nonnative settlement, the common holdings of the tribes were divided into individual allotments to tribal members, with the federal government remaining guardian over the allotments. This freed up other land that was then made available to nonnative settlers. No centralized repository exists for the land allotments given the natives, but original allotments for all but the Five Civilized Tribes are on microfilm at the Indian Archives at the Oklahoma Historical Society. Outright payments made for land in the Cherokee Outlet are included in this microfilm. Arrell Morgan Gibson, Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (1965; reprint, Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981), describes allotment history and details for several tribes.
Land allotments given to Native Americans between 1889 and 1906 freed more land for nonnatives. The Indian Archives at the Oklahoma Historical Society holds land descriptions and plat maps for some of these allotments, although originals are either at the BIA in Muskogee, Oklahoma, or the National Archives—Southwest Region (see page 12). Related publications include:
Chapman, B. B. “Cherokee Allotments in the Outlet,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 59 (Winter 1981–82): 401-21.
Cook, Fredrea, and Marlyn Hermann. Forgotten Oklahoma Records: Cherokee Land Allotment Book. Vol. 1. Cullman, Ala.: Gregath Co., 1981.
A majority of the nonnative settlers in the territory of Oklahoma obtained their lands through homestead claims. Case entry files, original tract books, and plat maps for homestead claims are maintained by the BLM. Patents and copies of both tract books and plat maps are at the Bureau of Land Management, Box 27115, Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115. The Oklahoma Historical Society has seventy-two volumes of Oklahoma Federal Tract Books on microfilm that can be used in determining land descriptions to obtain homestead files. These are records of the homesteaders in Oklahoma Territory and a relatively few homesteaders (volume 63) for Ottawa and Delaware counties. Although not indexed by name, but by land description, a surname index has been compiled for each reel. A statewide index is currently being developed.
Helpful for those researching land records in the state is Oklahoma Historical Society’s information about land records at www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/lib/OKLND.htm. A brief overview of both Native American land records and Oklahoma’s township and range coordinates based on present-day county boundaries is presented in E. Wade Hone, Land & Property Research in the United States.
Homestead papers associated with the claim usually contain some genealogical information, including details such as age, birthplace, marital status, and number of family members, along with data concerning land use and improvements. If the homestead applicant was a naturalized citizen, or in the process of becoming one, the homestead files include a copy of the naturalization papers. If the homesteader was a Union veteran, the file may contain a copy of the discharge paper.
To locate homestead claims in the BLM records, which were finalized prior to 1908, either the land description from the tract books (including county, township, range, etc.) or the date of entry and name of land office is required. For claims finalized after 1908, the number assigned to the case at the time that the land was patented is required. It is best to include a legal description of the property. In all cases, the full name of the homesteader must accompany the request for file copies.
A legal description of the land or the number assigned to the case may also be on file with the respective county clerk’s office in which the land was originally located. These records are filed separately in the county but are usually fully indexed by landowner’s name.
Land was, and continues to be, identified according to the rectangular survey method of measurement. Records from Oklahoma’s several local land offices (open from 1889–1927) are housed at the Division of Archives and Records, Oklahoma Department of Libraries (see Oklahoma Archives, Libraries, and Societies).
Since statehood in 1907, the respective clerk of the court or registrar maintains land and property transactions between individuals. Oklahoma land records usually include an abstract of title (property ownership) from the date of patent or first sale. Many Oklahoma land records are microfilmed and available at the FHL, for example:
Philamathic Museum (Anadarko, Oklahoma). Original Deeds and Government Sale Land Purchasers, 1901. Microfilm. Salt Lake City: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1996. Subjects include Indians of North America, land tenure in Oklahoma, land and property records, and Caddo and Anadarko land and property records.
Published land records include works such as:
- Chapman, Berlin Basil. Oklahoma Territory and the National Archives: A Study in Federal Lands. N.p.: 1982. Includes bibliographical references.
- Garrison, Linda Norman, comp. and ed. Successful Bidders of the Big Pasture Land Opening, 1906. Lawton, Okla.: Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society, 1992.
Examples of online sites for Oklahoma lands include:
- Landowners in Kingfisher County in 1906 at www.rootsweb.com/~okkingfi/landowners.html; or
- Original owners in Lincoln County arranged by township at www.rootsweb.com/~oklincol/first_names.html.