Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Finding School Land Records

I was on a business trip to Oklahoma City last week, and my meeting ended at 3:30.  Since it wasn't yet 5:00, I decided to do a bit of genealogy at the Oklahoma State Archives.

According to a snippet of a 1913 plat map that my aunt gave me, my great-grandmother Eva (Pauls) Suderman Richert (1859-1920) leased school land in Kiowa County, Oklahoma, in 1913.  Since she leased land, I am unlikely to find any land records in the Kiowa County courthouse.  But there is another source - the records of the Commissioners of the Land Office, which administers the school lands, are located at the Oklahoma State Archive.  I had found this little bit of knowledge on the Oklahoma Historical Society web page, and added it to my to-do list for Eva Pauls.  (BTW, the J. P. Richert who leased the adjoining quarter became her second husband in 1914).
Eva Sudermann, Lessee, Portion of Plat Map, Harrison Township, Kiowa County, Oklahoma, 1913.  Original held by Viola (Fast) Funk of Corn, Oklahoma.

Once my meeting ended, I headed off to the State Archives, which is located in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries in Oklahoma City.

As is typical in my experience, the archival staff were a bit skeptical when I came in and asked for the school land records from Kiowa County for the 1910s.  But once they realized that I wasn't the kind of genealogist who comes in and asks them to give me everything about my great-grandmother, they became more friendly.

There are scores of volumes of school land records, with copies of leases, lists of every tract leased, lists of every payment received, and many other records.  I picked a few volumes that I thought might give me a record for Eva Suderman.  None of the records were indexed or alphabetical, so I quickly realized that the fastest way to search for her land was to scan the legal description column for the township number 7 (her legal description was NE quarter of section 34, township 7 north, range 16 west or NE4 34-7-16).

I didn't find any lease records for Eva Suderman, but I did find a lease record for her future husband Jacob Richert (she was a widow at the time as her first husband Jacob Suderman, my great-grandfather, was deceased).  But it's a lease for the SE quarter of section 25, not the NW quarter of section 35 that he is shown leasing in the map above, so I don't know what to make of that.

Jacob P. Richert, Lessee, 16 December 1909, School Land Lease Records, 1902-1910, 3 vol., p. 307-308, Record Group 3 Records of the Commissioners of the Land Office, State of Oklahoma.  Held by Oklahoma State Archives, Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
At 5:00 it was time to close up, so I reluctantly had to leave.  There were still a lot of volumes that I had not looked at.  Maybe sometime I'll be able to go back to Oklahoma City and finish the research, so I noted the volumes that I had searched and my meager results so that I won't repeat the same work next time.

I didn't get any results for Eva Sudermann, but at least I did prove the concept.  Now I know how to find Oklahoma school land records, I know there are lots of detailed records, and I can expect that other states have similar records in some repository somewhere.  Although it was a bit disappointing, I did gain some experience.

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