To become a member of the First Families of the Twin Territories you have to prove your descent from an ancestor who lived in Oklahoma—in Indian Territory or Oklahoma Territory--before the day Oklahoma became a state, November 16, 1907. All four of my grandparents lived in Oklahoma before statehood, and my goal is to submit qualifying membership applications for all four.
In 2007 I became a member by proving my descent from my grandmother Cora Bell Wheat Altstatt, who was born in Indian Territory and was living with her parents, Thomas J. and Cornelia Bell, in Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, on the 1900 census. In fact, my great-grandparents were living in Chickasaw Nation as early as 1893 when they got married in Woodford, Pickens County, Indian Territory, so I could have become a member based on their residence, but I decided that qualifying on each of my grandparents was a do-able goal that I wanted to pursue.
|Bell family on the 1900 census, Chickasaw Nation,|
The problem was—even though each of my grandparents was here before statehood, it was going to be hard to prove for the other three. I really wasn’t sure when my grandfather Wheat came to Oklahoma; in fact, on the 1910 census he was living in Cottle County, Texas. However, fairly recently I found out that he spent a 3-year enlistment in the U.S. Army starting in 1906. And he enlisted in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, on 5 March 1906, stating that he lived in Blackburn, O.T. I submitted that information along with proof of my descent from him and received my second membership certificate from FFTT yesterday!
My next goal is to apply for my grandpa, Weaver Harris Smith, who was born in 1895 in Catoosa, Indian Territory, but of course, long before required birth certificates. The biggest problem is that I have never been able to find the Smiths on the 1900 census. My grandpa’s mother Francis died in 1905 and is buried in Oologah, but I’m not sure that a headstone by itself proves anything. The family did make application for membership in the Cherokee tribe after they moved to Indian Territory, and my grandfather is listed in that document, so I am hoping that the OGS will accept it as proof of his residence in Indian Territory.
|Application for Guion-Miller Roll|
Ironically, the one grandparent that I might not be able to prove is the one that actually remembered the day that Oklahoma became a state. The Castle family had moved to Davenport in Oklahoma Territory the summer before statehood, and my grandmother remembered hearing the bells ring on that November day. Since they had moved to Oklahoma so recently, I don’t know what document would ever prove they were here. All I can do is keep looking and hope that something will turn up—a newspaper article, maybe?
By the way, if you’re not from Oklahoma (or even if you are), you might assume that if your ancestor was in Indian Territory before statehood, he or she was able to prove Native American ancestry. Or, on the other hand, that they were in Oklahoma Territory because they had participated in a Land Run. I can tell you that neither of those things was true for any of my four grandparents.
I would encourage anyone that thinks they might qualify to check out the application process at http://www.okgensoc.org/firstfamilies.htm. If you’re thinking about joining the DAR or some other organization that requires proof of ancestry, the FFTT application is a fairly stress-free way to get acquainted with the proof that is required for membership. Just don’t expect to get your certificate right away. The OGS members that read the applications are volunteers. My first certificate came fairly quickly, but the second one took about four months.