Federal Tract Books of Oklahoma [Territory]. 72 volumes. Miscellaneous microfilm nos. 53–74. Indian Archives Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
This database includes 72 tract books containing details on land ownership in Oklahoma.
Land Ownership in Oklahoma
Individual land ownership in Oklahoma has existed for just over a century. In the Indian Territory it began in 1902 with the allotment of lands by the Dawes Commission. Prior to that time, land in the Indian Territory belonged to the respective Indian Nation in which the individual lived.
In Oklahoma Territory, with the exception of Indian allotments, ownership began in 1889 and spread with each of several land openings. The last land opening in Oklahoma Territory, with the minor exception of the salt plains in Alfalfa County, was in 1906. Land ownership in the Panhandle was possible after the first official survey for the area was completed in the 1890s.
Oklahoma became a state on 16 November 1907, joining Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory.
There were eight land openings total: five were done by land runs, two by land lotteries, and one by sealed bid. See the map below for more information. (Map courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)
What You Can Find in the Tract Books
The 72 tract books in this collection are arranged by township, section, range, and sometimes lot. You will discover how much the filer paid for their filing fee, how many acres in the tract, the date they filed for land, and what year they received land (if applicable). Filers had seven years to improve their land, or they could buy it outright. If they didn’t do either, there will be another name on that page of the tract book; some pieces of property have several names. A final certificate number will be given if they were able to make the improvement. (If it was an allotment, it was on Indian land, and the tract book will record the final certificate number and to which land office they had to go to file for that property.)
The best strategy is to enter the name you are researching and locate the images associated with that person. Record all the information you find, including the number of acres and the Homestead final certificate number. If you want to take it a step further, write to the National Archives to obtain the Land Entry papers. The Land Entry files at NARA—Washington, D.C. are another source of information for people found in the Federal Land Tract Books in this collection. The files contain a great deal more information about the individuals, and some even include their naturalization papers.
For plat maps, atlases, and county directories with legal land descriptions for the township a person resided in, contact the Oklahoma Historical Society.
For more information on why land was “opened” the way it was, see the reference to the Free Homes Act of 1900 in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture.