Friday, March 27, 2020

Genealogy Tips: Researching Immigrants

Photos: 1918 registration documents, courtesy of the Arkansas State Archives.

Researching your immigrant ancestors’ stories can be a long, drawn-out process. For many researchers, it helps to have a strong oral family history to use as a starting point. However, in some cases, such stories have been lost over time.

So, how do genealogists reconstruct immigration stories?

The key is to start with an individual’s life after coming to the United States. But, what if the immigration date, or the immigrant’s country of origin is not known?  This information can often be discovered by referring to the genealogist’s old standby – census records.

From 1850 to 1940, one of the key questions asked by the U.S. Census Bureau was: “Where were you born?” This question gives researchers a starting point, to discover countries of origin in the census data. From 1900 to 1930, the Census also asked, if an individual was naturalized (that is, being granted citizenship) and from 1910 to 1920, the Census included arrival dates.

Most importantly, these records can be used to find where the individual was living at a particular point in time. This clue can help researchers find documents at the local level.  Perhaps surprisingly, such documents can include naturalization. Before 1906, any municipal, county, state or federal court could grant U.S. citizenship. Even now, there exists no comprehensive, nationwide index for these early naturalizations.

For Arkansas, the earliest naturalization records date back to when the state was part of the Louisiana Territory in the early 1800s. The Arkansas Territory was formed in 1819 from the southern portion of Missouri Territory and became a state in 1836. Knowing where an individual lived, and when, will help narrow the choices of where to look for possible naturalization and immigration records.

Another helpful tip is to learn about U.S. immigration history and its process before diving into individual research. Immigration laws changed over time, so knowing the history of immigration will help you understand what documents existed and where those records may be kept.

In the U.S., citizenship historically has been a two-step process. Immigrants first completed and filed a declaration of intent, then completed a petition for naturalization. Those documents led to orders granting citizenship, which were generally approved five years or more after the filing of the declaration of intent. This may sound straightforward, but complications showed up in practice. An immigrant might file his or her declaration in one state, then finish the petition in another state, or another district within the same state. Records might not be kept in one location, and counties often did not create separate, dedicated registers or ledger books to record such documents. That means immigration documents can be found recorded in virtually any municipal, county, state or federal court record book.

No complete nationwide index for early naturalizations exists, but there was an attempt made in the 1930s to create one. It was the work of the Immigration and Naturalization Records Indexing Project, a service division for the Works Progress Administration. The project was ambitious but not complete. It covered the years 1810 to 1906 and listed every immigration document that its staff could find. The information was organized in three categories: counties with records; name of the book where documents were recorded or filed; and the page number of the record. This process created an index of record cards phonetically organized through the Soundex system; a searchable database of this resource is available through The project covers immigration records up to the date that the federal government took over the naturalization process on Sept. 27, 1906, but be advised: Even then, it took lower courts time to stop approving naturalization documents.

The Arkansas State Archives holds many county records created before the Indexing Project. They include declarations of intent that reveal where the person came from and when they arrived in the U.S. The State Archives also has some petitions, which includes information about the petitioner’s family.

Records for after 1906 can be found on, a research database the Arkansas State Archives offers for free at its Little Rock facility. Immigration records are also available at the National Archives. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may also have duplicate records, including certificates of citizenship granted from 1906 to 1956.

Other records may be available, including enemy alien registrations. Following the U.S. entry into WWI, non--naturalized individuals born in the Central Powers nations, including Germany, Turkey, Austria and Bulgaria, were required to register with the U.S. government as a national security measure. The information on these Enemy Alien Registration affidavits included: the non-naturalized resident’s name, date and place of birth, parents’ names and their birthplaces, parents’ residences, the resident’s place of residence, U.S. arrival date, spouse’s name and birthplace and maiden name, if applicable.

The Arkansas State Archives preserves many alien enemy registration affidavits from immigrants who had moved to eastern Arkansas. Alien registration records may also be found online at FamilySearch and the National Archives.

Some naturalization records may be available in Pulaski County for foreign-born soldiers who were naturalized at Camp Pike during World War I. Many foreign-born men signed up to serve the U.S. during World War I in the hopes of earning their citizenship. To encourage immigrant enlistments, the U.S. Congress passed laws that expedited military naturalizations. The measure worked – about 18 percent of WWI soldiers in the U.S. Army were foreign-born.

For more information about Arkansas history, visit Although the Arkansas State Archives is closed to the public due to COVID-19, staff are still accepting research requests and answering questions. Research requests are available online or by calling 501-682-6900.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Letter from the State Historian

Dr. David Ware, state historian and
director of the Arkansas State Archives

As I write this message, I have been in this post for a little over two months.  Over the last 20 years I have approached the Archives or, as it was called, the Arkansas History Commission, as a patron and, periodically, a collaborator; I have always been delighted with its wealth of holdings and by the helpfulness and expertise of its staff. Two months “on the inside” have only deepened my appreciation of the Archives’ collections and the professionalism of those who are my colleagues.

The developments of recent weeks have forced some changes in how we conduct our work, but rest assured, we are still at work and serving our patrons. Like many of you, the Archives staff of our three physical locations have been authorized to work remotely. Our research room, as well as our NEARA and SARA facilities, are closed to the public, but managers and administrative staff are answering queries that reach us by telephone, email, social media and, of course, conventional mail. New blog posts will appear regularly and as for our newsletter – well, here it is!

As importantly, our website and digital collections, effectively our “fourth location,” are available and ready for researchers and browsers alike. The current health emergency has underlined for us the need to refine and expand our online offerings, so several Archives staff members are at work preparing new content to be uploaded for access, beginning this summer, on our new website and digital collections platform. Our aim is to be able to offer more information – documents, images, lesson plans and other materials – through an accessible and intuitive portal.

Other important work continues during this period of semi-closure.  In recent weeks, we have received or retrieved significant items and collections. Our microphotography staff continue work on preparing our contributions to the National Digital Newspapers Program, an undertaking of the Library of Congress in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities. This is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, free searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages, which will be permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. The ASA, with its unmatched microfilmed collection of early Arkansas imprints, is the state’s NDNP partner. Good things will come of this, and we will keep you abreast of progress in newsletters to come.

Our staff have other projects in hand as well, including transcribing our venerable and still-useful card-based Biographical into a searchable digital format. This involves staff members trying to translate previous compilers’ sometimes obscure abbreviated citations for newspapers, magazines and other publications: What seemed perfectly clear to archivists of decades ago may be a little less so for their present-day successors, but the Archives staff are game for this challenge!

It may seem as though the world has ground to a near-halt, but we are here – both to carry on the day-to-day work of the Archives and to serve those who depend upon us. We’ll do our best to share information with you through social media and other outlets. We look forward to hearing from you and, hopefully sooner rather than later, welcoming you back to our “brick and mortar” locations in Little Rock, Washington and Powhatan.

Thank you for caring about Arkansas, past and present!

David Ware

A Conversation with Rebecca Ballard

Becky Ballard, archival assistant. Photo courtesy of
the Arkansas State Archives.
Rebecca “Becky” Ballard is an archival assistant at the Arkansas State Archives. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Central Arkansas. Before joining the Archives’ staff, she worked 15 years as a quality control auditor for a local computer connector manufacture and held a part-time position with the Archives. Ballard took a moment from her busy day to talk with us about her role at the Arkansas State Archives.

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?
A:  I’m an archival assistant.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A: On a typical day at the Archives, I will process collections and assist patrons with research either in person or by doing research requests.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: As far back as I can remember, I have loved history; I believe this comes from my dad who is a big history buff. This love for history led me to explore jobs that dealt with history other than teaching. When I first heard about the Archives, I was amazed there was a place other than a museum where historical materials were assessable or available for the public to view. My junior year of college, I was fortunate to receive an internship at the Archives and just felt at home among all the historical materials housed here. I am in awe daily that I get to do something that I love, and in a sense, go back in time daily while working with the materials here at the Archives.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A:  There are several interesting things I have discovered while working at the Archives. One particularly interesting discovery would have to be the vast quantity of artifacts the Archives hold. This was interesting to me in that individuals don’t always think of the Arkansas State Archives as having artifacts because artifacts are usually associated with museums. Well, in my mind they were.

Another important thing I have discovered while working at the Archives is that all the employees take great care in preserving the historical materials held here. This is important in my opinion because it illustrates to the people of Arkansas that the state’s history is important.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A: The staff at the Archives care about preserving the historical materials and know the history of Arkansas is important. Without the Archives and other agencies like us around the state, Arkansas’s history could very well be lost. Fifty years from now, I want my great-grand kids to have the ability to examine records-materials from now and know what life was like for us and those who came before us. Without the Archives this won’t be possible.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the face of a patron (no matter age) when they see a historical document that gives them insight into their past – whether it be a deed record, an obituary of a relative or a family diary.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A: The major evolution of archiving I see in the future is that everything will be digitalized. At the Arkansas State Archives, we are working diligently to increase our online collections.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A: The Archives is so much more than a place that houses “old” papers. The Archives, in a way, is a window to the past – not just for history buffs or people who like to examine “old” papers, but for families’ pasts and, most importantly, the state’s history.

New Accessions for March

Virginia E. Pryor herbarium, 1855
Our new accessions include a 1968 Winthrop Rockefeller gubernatorial campaign lapel pin (Rockefeller, who was Arkansas’s 37th governor and its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, held the office  from 1967 to 1971); vintage photographs from the estate of Margaret Smith Ross, an Arkansas archivist, history advocate and preservationist; and an 1855 herbarium (collection of dry plant mounts) with well-preserved Arkansas flora. We know Arkansas history, and we have two centuries and more for you to explore.

Visit our digital collections or find our research services at Let us inspire you to discover your Arkansas history.
Archival Materials
·         William E. Russell photographs: Two photographs of Hard Shell Baptist Church and a lumber mill located near Sparkman, Arkansas, in Dallas County were donated by Donna M. Russell of Columbia, Missouri.
·         Margaret Smith Ross collection: 5 cubic feet of documents, books and photographs from the estate of the late Margaret Smith Ross were donated by Jennifer Charlebois of Charles Town, West Virginia. Ross was active in the Arkansas history community and was formerly an associate editor for the Arkansas Historical Quarterly. She also worked, during the 1950s, for the Arkansas History Commission, which is now the Arkansas State Archives.
·         Harriet Wall letters: [digital] letters and transcript of the letters were donated by Dr. Denise L. Baskind.
·         Various publications, photos and maps: Items mostly related to Little Rock were transferred to the Arkansas State Archives from the Historic Arkansas Museum.
·         Winthrop Rockefeller 1968, gold-plated lapel pin: The pin was donated by Arkansas History Commission Chairman Jason B. Hendren of Bentonville, Arkansas.
·         Virginia E. Pryor herbarium: An herbarium collected by Virginia E. Pryor in 1855, in the vicinity of the White Sulphur Springs in Jefferson County, was donated by Mrs. Mary V. Norfleet of Montrose, Colorado. The herbarium was a family heirloom.

100 Years Ago, Quarantine Stopped Deadly Flu

 A hundred years ago, Arkansans found themselves in the grip of fear over a deadly influenza.

Beginning in 1918, a deadly flu hit worldwide and earned the name, “Spanish flu,” because people mistakenly thought it originated in Spain. The flu struck during World War I and decimated troops and civilians alike. 

Between 1918 and 1919, the pandemic killed at least 50 million worldwide, including about 675,000 Americans. In 1919 alone, Arkansas had about 450,000 cases of the flu and about 7,500 deaths. Unlike other flus, the “Spanish flu” often killed apparently healthy, young people within only a few days.

In the spring of 1920, Arkansans were nervous. Communities worked to combat any new outbreak and keep their residents safe. No one wanted to see a repeat of 1919.

Fort Smith, particularly, had reason to worry. Flu cases began to mount in the middle of January 1920, and while officials assured residents there was nothing to fear, simultaneously they were planning their strategy to deal with the epidemic. Dr. H.C. King, a local doctor, told a panel of physicians with the Arkansas Board of Health, “I believe in locking the stable before the horse is stolen. There may be no danger of the disease spreading alarmingly, but necessary precautions should be taken before the disease gets away from us.”

On Feb. 3, Fort Smith officials noted 119 new cases of the flu. The next day, officials announced 90 new cases. Overall, there were 335 new cases statewide on Feb. 4.

Greenwood in Sebastian County was especially hard hit. Greenwood’s health workers found themselves outpaced by the illness. Of the town’s two doctors, one contracted the flu while caring for Greenwood patients, leaving the other to deal with the mounting caseload. On Feb. 4, Greenwood Mayor John McCord sent Dr. C.W. Garrison, state health officer, an urgent request for nurses and doctors to care for the 200 cases in the town’s hospital. Doctors rushed to Greenwood to aid in the care for the sick.

On Thursday, Feb. 5, the Little Rock City Board of Health met to discuss the outbreak. The board thought imposing a citywide quarantine was unnecessary, but by the next morning, conditions had worsened. Statewide, there were 910 new cases of influenza. Fort Smith led the pack with 138 new cases. Star City had 125 new cases, and Arkansas City had 100 new cases.

Alarmed, Little Rock and North Little Rock officials placed the cities under quarantine. School systems, churches and all city theaters shut down. Stores and businesses could remain open only if they left their doors and windows open. Floor walkers in the store were ordered to make sure customers did not bunch up into groups. Customers were asked to move quickly, make their purchases and then leave.

Bible studies and indoor lectures were canceled. Streetcars could only operate if all the windows were left open. Children were discouraged from riding streetcars altogether.

Additionally, all houses with an influenza case had to be placarded to announce the infection to the public and discourage visitors. Any house that had a flu victim was required to notify public health officials within 24 hours or risk a $25 fine. Funerals were now private affairs open to the immediate family only.

Those seeking entertainment in Little Rock would search in vain because all the theaters and pool halls were closed. Instead, people took walks through the city. Main street was crowded with pedestrians, possibly violating social distancing laws.

Fort Smith continued to see an alarming number of new cases. The City Board of Health reported Feb. 9 the city had 107 new cases. The number was down considerably from the previous Friday’s report but still cause for concern. In response, the City Board of Health decided to become more stringent in its quarantine orders.

Hotel operators were required to remove chairs from their lobbies to prevent people from congregating. Coach Earl Quigley of the Little Rock High School Tigers announced he was canceling the game between the Tigers and Pine Bluff High School and possibly the rest of the season.
Pine Bluff followed suit and established a strict quarantine. The city closed all public buildings except for grocers and meat markets. The city also made it illegal for a child to be on the street without a permit. More cities enacted quarantines Feb. 9.

Social life among college students at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville ground to a stop. University officials banned student dating as well as any gatherings at soda fountains.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harrison Hale, a chemistry professor, thought chlorine gas could be a solution to kill the flu virus. He observed towns with chlorine gas factories seemed to have avoided flu outbreaks in 1919. Additionally, no students or professors in the chemistry department caught the disease. 

Perhaps, chlorine was a good preventative against the flu, he thought. He invited students to come inhale 1/1000th of 1 percent of chorine solution daily for one week as part of his experiment. As many as 250 students signed up for the experiment.

By Feb. 11, it was clear the quarantines were working. Fort Smith, which had seen at least 100 new cases a day, had a dramatic drop in new cases. The city reported only 53 new cases. Little Rock, which also had a fall in new cases, decided to lift its quarantine at midnight Feb. 12. Schools, theaters and poolhalls reopened. Even Fort Smith, where the flu epidemic had been so horrible, lifted its quarantine Feb. 15.

By the time quarantines ended, the economic impact had already been felt across the state. Theaters in Little Rock, for example, lost an estimated $6,000 overall during the quarantine.

As Arkansans face a similar situation in 2020, it is interesting to look at the past. The lesson from 100 years ago is that sacrifice is necessary to keep communities safe. Quarantines and social distancing worked in 1920 to reduce the spread of the flu and the likelihood of death. Those measures, once again, will help keep Arkansas communities safe.

For more information on Arkansas history, call 501-682-6900 or email The Arkansas State Archives is closed to the public as part of a widespread effort to reduce COVID-19. Some research services are available by calling the Arkansas State Archives or by visiting

Philanthropic Program Boosts Education for African American Communities

Ila Upchurch, 1950,
Photo courtesy of the
Arkansas State Archives. 

African Americans have fought for their rights to education for centuries. In Arkansas, the goal of equal access to education was helped by the establishment of a program that funded teaching supervisors in rural, African American schools.

In 1907, Philadelphia philanthropist Anna T. Jeanes endowed $1 million for “The Fund for Rudimentary Schools for Southern Negroes.” The endowment would be used almost exclusively to fund the salaries of teachers who would be supervisors in black schools.

The aid was very much needed among rural, African American communities. In the early 20th century, Booker T. Washington, a renowned African American educator, noted black schools in cities and towns were in much better shape than their rural counterparts. He said rural schools were “wretched, the teacher poorly paid and terms last only three to five months.”

Much of the problem stemmed from a lack of will among white politicians to improve the schools. At times, some white politicians demanded taxes paid by white citizens fund white schools exclusively. African Americans should pay for their own schools with their own tax money, they said. The campaigns to segregate funding for schools ultimately failed, but Arkansas’s support for black schools remained paltry.

Under the new program, county school superintendents chose teachers, referred to as “Jeanes supervisors” or “Jeanes teachers,” to work in rural schools, mostly in the South. The program paid the salaries of Jeanes supervisors. After the supervisors had been in place for several years, program funding was expected to slowly dissipate. The idea was to show politicians the benefits of funding African American schools and to create a will among governments to take over funding teachers’ pay.
To qualify as a supervisor, a teacher must have skill in the “practical arts,” such as domestic skills in cooking or sewing or industrial skills in farming or construction. Jeanes supervisors monitored instruction in schools and supported other teachers while promoting homemaking projects and lobbying for better school facilities. They attended local churches, met community leaders and families, and inquired about local health concerns.

Much of the program’s focus on “practical” education was meant to ease the concerns of white communities. Some white landowners, for example, worried African Americans were too focused on education outside of domestic and farm work, the labor landowners needed to operate their properties. To allay these fears, some African American schools advertised the lack of any nonessential educational subjects. For instance, the Hampton Institute in Virginia prohibited the teaching of Greek, Latin and Algebra at their school.

Still, the program caught on quickly in Arkansas, and by 1913, nine counties had their own Jeanes teacher. J.A. Presson, state agent for African American schools, estimated Jeanes supervisors traveled 11,251 miles and visited 156 school in 1917 alone.

One of Arkansas’s most prominent teachers in the program was Ila Dedia Upchurch, who was born in Buena Vista, Mississippi, in 1892. As a teenager, she entered Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute and later attended Shorter College, Philander Smith College and Arkansas A&M University, which today is the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. She completed summer training sessions and received higher education credits. In 1925, Upchurch became a Jeanes supervisor in Nevada County. During a typical year, she supervised up to 58 teachers and taught home economics at Yerger High School in Hope during the summer. For all of this, she was paid $1,350 annually.

By the 1940s, Upchurch had so strongly impacted education in southwest Arkansas that she was named assistant supervisor for African American schools in Nevada County. A teacher training school also was named after her. After retiring from education and opened a sewing and alteration shop. She remained active in the community until her death in 1989.

In another example, Mary Robinson, who worked as a Jeanes supervisor in Fordyce, Arkansas, encouraged members of the African American community to donate money to the local school. She was so persuasive she was able to get the community to donate enough money to buy a range and cooking stove, a dining table, six chairs and three sewing machines.

The program improved the quality of education, access to schools and aid for teachers in rural communities, where resources had been systemically denied. The efforts meant more schools, more teachers and more resources for African Americans in Arkansas. For example, during the 1925-1926 school year, the number of African American high schools and teachers doubled, and the graduation rate increased 68 percent over the previous four years’ totals.

By the mid-1930s, the original Foundation was expanded after receiving money from several well-known educational funds. The move created even more opportunities for more schools to have Jeanes teachers.

The program’s accomplishments were achieved despite the anemic financial support among white communities. This lack of support is best illustrated at the state level, where, in 1921, Arkansas invested an average of $31.74 per student in white schools and $8.92 per student in African American schools.

The program also helped to educate those who would become leaders in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The program continued until 1968, after which some counties took over the program and paid teachers’ salaries.

For more information on Arkansas history, contact the Arkansas State Archives at 501-682-6900 or at Information is also available via the website at

Friday, March 6, 2020

New Commissioners Join Arkansas History Commission

Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently appointed Dr. Shawn Fisher of Searcy, Dr. Brady Banta of Jonesboro and Heather Nelson of North Little Rock to the seven-member Arkansas History Commission. All seats on the commission are now filled.

“We are pleased to have a full commission and look forward to working with new and longstanding commissioners to make sure the Arkansas State Archives remains the go-to resource for Arkansas history,” said Dr. David Ware, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives.

The Arkansas History Commission, which is an advisory board to the State Archives, is dedicated to helping preserve and promote Arkansas history. The new commissioners come from diverse backgrounds. 

Dr. Brady Banta
Dr. Banta is an archivist at the Dean B. Ellis Library at Arkansas State University and serves as associate director of the Heritage Studies PhD. Program. He started at the university in 1997. He previously served as the archivist and special collections librarian at Louisiana State University of Medicine at Shreveport. He served as president of the Louisiana Archives and Manuscripts Association from 1996 to 1997. He replaced Commissioner Bob McCarley, whose commission had expired in 2019. McCarley had continued to serve on the commission until a replacement was found. Banta’s commission will expire Jan. 14, 2026.

Dr. Shawn Fisher
Dr. Fisher is an associate professor of history at Harding University. He earned the James L. Foster and Billy W. Beason Award for 2013 for the best dissertation in Arkansas history from the Arkansas Historical Association. Fisher, whose research includes American history, military history and Southern history, earned his bachelor’s degree at Harding University and his doctorate at the University of Memphis. His work has garnered several awards, including The Major L. Wilson Graduate Paper Prize from the University of Memphis in 2008.

“I’m humbled to be part of the commission, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to help with the important mission to protect and manage Arkansas history and heritage,” Dr. Fisher said.

Dr. Fisher previously served as chair of the Arkansas World War I Centennial Committee until the committee disbanded in 2018. He currently reviews monument requests for Arkansas Heritage. He replaced Commissioner Mary Dillard, whose commission expired this past January. His commission will expire Jan. 14, 2027.

Heather Nelson
Nelson is co-founder and president of Seal Solar, an energy solutions firm. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business and her MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Nelson replaced Commissioner Jimmy Bryant, who left the commission to become director of Arkansas Heritage, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. Nelson’s commission will expire Jan. 14, 2024.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

NEARA Public Outreach a Success

Archival Assistant Taylor Harbin represented NEARA at
the Winter Genealogy Night in Jonesboro in February.
History buffs, genealogists and researchers had the opportunity Feb. 1 to learn about the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives during an event organized by the Craighead County Public Library in Jonesboro.

“We are grateful to the Library for the opportunity to let residents know about the research services and vast historical holdings NEARA has,” said Dr. Fatme Myuhtar-May, archival manager at NEARA. “The Library annually invites us to attend their Genealogy Night events.”

More than 100 people attended the Winter Genealogy Night. Archival Assistant Taylor Harbin represented the Arkansas State Archives branch and operated a display table that showcased NEARA.

“I talked with many people who were experienced in genealogical research or were enthusiastic about history,” Harbin said. “It was amazing to interact with so many people who recognize the importance of studying and preserving Arkansas history.”

Harbin gave a brief overview of NEARA’s history and described some of the research services provided by the Archives. He distributed promotional materials, including NEARA leaflets, and contact information.

Visitors, who had not heard of NEARA before, were thrilled to discover the historical repository exists in Northeast Arkansas. Harbin said most visitors had attempted genealogical research before but were pleasantly surprised to learn NEARA offers free access to at its branch location. NEARA also fulfills long-distance research requests and offers programs, such as collecting oral histories.

Participants were asked to consider donating materials, too. Those materials are preserved at NEARA for future generations. At least one woman said a photo of her family had been donated to NEARA years ago as part of a larger collection, most likely the Tom MacDonald Photograph Collection. She said she plans to email a research inquiry about the photo as part of her research.

For more information about the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives, visit archives.arkansas. gov or call 870-878-6521.

As the Arkansas Territory Grew, Quapaw Nation Shrank

Quapaw Treaty of 1824. Courtesy of the Arkansas
State Archives.
Over the first two decades of Arkansas’s territorial history, the Quapaw, known as “the Downstream People,” were reduced from a population of thousands to only a few hundred. Many tribal members succumbed to disease, maltreatment and starvation. Despite that, the tribe has about 2,000 members today.

During the first two decades of the 19th century, Cherokee groups, urged by the federal government, migrated west from Georgia and South Carolina and settled in Arkansas. The migration led to conflict between the Quapaw and Cherokee over hunting rights.

William Clark, governor of Missouri Territory, decided the best solution was to negotiate a land cession from the Quapaw to provide eastern Native Americans land on which to settle. In 1817, the Missouri Territorial assembly passed a resolution to investigate the Quapaw’s claims upon the land, in what today is the state of Arkansas. Lawmakers thought they needed to “obtain from them (Quapaw) by purchase or exchange such parts of it as interferes most with the settlement and improvement of that part of the Country.” 

On Aug. 24, 1818, Chief Heckaton traveled to St. Louis to negotiate a treaty with the government. In the treaty, the Quapaw ceded to the United States all lands north of the Arkansas River, leaving themselves a tract of land that extended from the Arkansas River on its north to the Ouachita River on its west and Arkansas Post on its east. The remaining land was about 2 million acres. The lost territory covered around 30 million acres. In exchange, the United States granted the Quapaw hunting rights in all ceded territories, $4,000 and a $1,000 annual annuity to be paid in supplies to the reservation.

As more Euro-American settlers began making their way into the territory, they coveted the fertile land occupied by the Quapaw. The territorial government pressed for more land from the Quapaw. Robert Crittenden, acting as governor during one of Territorial Gov. James Miller’s frequent absences, suggested the legislature appropriate $25,000 to buy the remaining land from the Quapaw.

In the meantime, the Federal government had been late in paying the annuity due to the Quapaw under the 1818 treaty. As a result, many of the Quapaw were in a state of financial hardship. In the summer of 1824, about 100 members of the Quapaw Nation traveled to Little Rock to demand their annuity payment. Acting Governor Crittenden received the Native Americans, and in the process of paying the annuity, he began negotiating a new treaty to buy the rest of the Quapaw lands, except a few acres near the Red River. At first, the Quapaw refused to cede the land but asked Crittenden to postpone negotiations.

In July 1824, Crittenden presented a new treaty to the Quapaw. In the treaty, the Quapaw would cede the remaining land in Arkansas Territory in exchange for a tract of land in Louisiana in the Caddo Nation reservation. Negotiations continued through the fall.

On Nov. 15, 1824, Chief Heckaton signed the Quapaw Treaty of 1824. After signing the treaty, Heckaton was dismayed and full of regret. He made a speech after signing the treaty saying, “The land we live on belonged to our forefathers. If we leave it, where shall we go?”

When the Quapaw arrived at their new home on the Red River, they found the land was unsuitable for crops. Antoine Barraque, Gov. George Izard’s sub-agent for the tribe, described the area as “very sandy and not worth much,” noting the only fertile land appeared to be in bayous and creeks.
Before long, the Quapaw began to starve. There was little help from their Caddo neighbors or the government. Both Barraque and the local agent for Indian Affairs, George Grey, seemed more interested in blaming each other than finding a solution. Both wrote to Izard to complain about the other.

At the same time, Quapaw members began to question Heckaton’s leadership. Another chief, Sarasin, split from the tribe after his wife starved to death. He led around 60 Quapaw back to Arkansas to settle near the Arkansas River. Sarasin wrote to President John Quincy Adams saying, “we cannot stay any longer with the tyrant whom we have found in the Red River country… We are forced to leave it or starve.”  Leaving the Red River settlement was likely the reason he and the Quapaw who followed him survived.

Eventually, the remaining Quapaw settled in the northeastern part of Indian Territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma. The Quapaw Nation remains there today, but the tribe owns about 5 acres in Arkansas near the Little Rock Port Authority. The land is a burial site for the Quapaw before their removal from Arkansas.

The exhibition, “We Walkin Two Worlds,” at the Historic Arkansas Museum pays homage to and spotlights the history of the Caddo, Osage and Quapaw in Arkansas.

For more information on Arkansas history, visit the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 215, call 501-682-6900 or email

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Tracing Women’s Family History Poses Challenges

Two unidentified women pose for
a photo in the 1920s. Photo is courtesy
of the Arkansas State Archives. G6156.37
One of the most challenging aspects of genealogy is finding historical information about women. Throughout history, laws and society have limited women’s roles, which has made finding records about their contributions or lineage more difficult.

Women are often referred to as “hidden members of the family.” Early in American history, women had few rights. For example, men usually controlled all the property, including their wives’ property, and a woman often only received an inheritance if there were no males in the family.

So, how do researchers find information that restores women in history?

The first step is to fully document your male ancestors for clues to female family members. For example, you might find a woman’s full name on birth records or mentioned in obituaries for men.
After you have information about the men in your family, you can use the information to create a timeline of events linked to the woman’s life. This could include census, marriage, birth, death and church records.

Not all records will be helpful or available, however. For example, before 1850, women’s names were only listed in census records if they were heads of household. Women who were married or living with a male relative were only counted with a number and age range.

Women were listed with their first and last names, ages and places of birth from 1850 to 1940. By 1880, the U.S. Census included marital status. That means you can start to trace marriages, which will lead you to marriage licenses.

Information on marriage licenses include maiden names. The license may also include a note from the bride’s brother, who vouched for her age, or a note from her father, who gave permission for her to wed. In some states, such as Ohio and Louisiana, parents’ names are listed on the licenses. Marriage licenses are often recorded in county records that are available on microfilm at the ASA, and some may be searched through, which is available for free at the ASA.

Other county records, such as deeds, probate and court records, can provide additional information. Deed records can include a wife’s name and some women owned property. Probate and will records also can help one understand connections between wives, husbands and children. Divorces records can provide a woman’s maiden name, and because women couldn’t legally file lawsuits in early Arkansas, these records may uncover male relatives who filed on their behalf.

Once you’ve combed those records, try searching newspapers and church records. Women often were involved in their communities and churches. Local newspapers filled pages with social columns listing visitors to homes and social events, wedding announcements, ladies club news, sewing hints, recipes, church news and divorces. It can be worth taking time to go through a weekly or daily newspaper for information. Sometimes the information you find in a newspaper can lead you back to a court record you missed. The Arkansas State Archives has newspapers from communities across the state available on microfilm. Select digitized newspapers made be searched by keyword online on Chronicling American or through, which is available for free for Arkansas newspapers at the ASA.

Church records can be a wealth of information. The information in church records may vary depending on the denomination, but all contain vital information, such as godparent names and birth names. You may also find information about baptisms, bat mitzvahs or confirmations, marriages, birth dates and more. Church records on marriages and deaths sometimes recorded more details than civil records.

Military records can also sometimes provide information about women, either those that served or those related to men who served in the military. Widows of soldiers often applied for pensions, such as the Confederate Pensions Applications searchable at the ASA.

In the late 19th century, many women’s organizations and clubs were founded. Some patriotic hereditary organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, offer a treasure trove of information about women and their ancestral lines. Other organizations focused on specific causes and education can provide details of the interests and activities of women in their communities. The papers of many of women’s organizations are housed at the Arkansas State Archives.

The Arkansas State Archives has many collections related to women and women’s organizations in Arkansas. A Guide to Women’s History Resources at the Arkansas State Archives is available online at with a selection of women’s history collections available at the ASA. This is not a comprehensive list, so please contact ASA staff for additional information.

Researching the women in your family is challenging, but patience is the key to success. Stop by our Arkansas State Archives or our branch archives and let us help get you started. 

For more information or to request help with your research project, contact the Arkansas State Archives at 501-682-6900 or visit our website


City Donates Historical Records

Photo of the commission of 
Samuel Ezra “S.E.” Tribble as Blevins mayor. 
Tribble was born in Hempstead County 
and held various jobs, including farm hand, 
transfer wagon driver and dairy laborer. 
He married Grace Stephens in 1916 
and was elected mayor in 1940. 
By 1947, the couple had moved to California, 
where Grace died in 1968. 
Tribble died in 1971 in Blevins. 
Husband and wife are both 
buried in Blevins 
beside their two children who 
preceded them in death. Photo 
is courtesy of SARA.
The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives recently received records donated by the City of Blevins in Hempstead County.

“These records are a fascinating look into what life was like in rural, historical Blevins,” said Melissa Nesbitt, archival manager at SARA. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to preserve these records for future generations and to make them accessible to the public.”

The records date from 1914, when the city was incorporated, through the 1990s. Documents include city council meeting minutes, city ordinances, town incorporation and correspondence of account holders with the Bank of Blevins. Researchers may be most interested in the Mayor’s Docket from the 1910s. Those records list individuals’ offenses, including drunkenness, fighting, carrying a pistol, gambling and disturbing the peace.

Blevins is a second-class city that is often overlooked in historical studies. The settlement, which was named after a landowner in the area, was omitted from reports during the Civil War and was not incorporated until 1914. In the 1890s, the settlement was established as a stopping spot on the Prescott and Northwest Railroad. The settlement received its first post office in 1901.

The roads in northern Hempstead County, including through Blevins, were improved by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Vehicle traffic began to replace railroad traffic, and by 1945, passenger trains were discontinued. All train services stopped by 1980, and the track was removed in 1994.

Although the city’s population has fluctuated between around 200 to 370, Blevins had about 315 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census.

For more information about Blevins or Hempstead County history, contact SARA at 870-983-2633 or visit the branch at 201 Highway 195 in Washington, Arkansas. Queries may also be emailed to

Film Funds Confederate Monuments

David O. Dodd. Courtesy of the
Arkansas State Archives. G2410
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Southern artists, writers, politicians and leaders worked diligently to influence popular memory and understanding of the Civil War by creating monuments and art that immortalized Southern heroes.

In Arkansas, one of the most celebrated heroes was David O. Dodd, who was accused of spying and executed for espionage in 1864. He was largely forgotten after his death until his story was revived as the “Boy Martyr of the Confederacy” in the 1900s.

David O. Dodd was 17 years old when he was captured by Federal troops while visiting Little Rock. The soldiers discovered information about Federal troop strength in his possession. A court martial convicted Dodd of being a spy and sentenced him to death. In January 1864, he was hanged. To honor his memory, Arkansans wrote poetry books, had daylong celebrations and, in 1915, decided to memorialize him through a new medium – the motion picture.

The drive to erect memorials to Dodd began in 1914 as Arkansans marked the 50th anniversary of Dodd’s execution. Social clubs and schools held programs about the young man complete with songs and poems written in his honor.

But, large memorials were expensive, so a group of Arkansans organized the David O. Dodd Memorial Committee to plan and raise money to pay for monuments. The committee decided to explore motion pictures as a fundraising tool. Profits made from exhibiting the film could be used to fund new memorials for the young man.

Ad in the Daily
Graphic, Pine Bluff,
1915. Photo is
courtesy of the ASA.
This was not the first film shot in Arkansas, but it was likely one of the first narrative films made in the state. Most early films in Arkansas were documentaries focused on daily life in the state. For example, a film crew in Little Rock recorded the grand parade during a Confederate reunion in 1911. Over the years, however, filmmaking had taken a shift towards dramatic fictional films.

Directing the committee’s film was Charles M. Simon, who previously directed “The Call,” a film shot entirely in Arkansas the year before. Simon wanted the film to be historically accurate, down to the furniture and costumes. He called for Civil War veterans in Little Rock to lend the film their uniforms and asked local families to lend period furniture to give the film accuracy. Simon consulted local historians, including Dallas Herndon, who was the director of the Arkansas History Commission, to write the screenplay. The Arkansas History Commission is now the Arkansas State Archives.

For the cast, the committee chose local talent, most of whom had no acting experience. Gen. B.W. Green, a Little Rock businessman and commander of the State Guard, played Gen. James Fagan, commander of the Confederate forces in Little Rock in 1863. John Hinemon, superintendent of the Little Rock School for the Blind, played Gen. Frederick Steele, commander of the Union forces that captured Little Rock. Other local dignitaries made cameo appearances as members of the army. Local stage actor Roger Goodman starred as David O. Dodd.

Filming began in September 1915 with scenes of the Union capture of Little Rock. Simon invited Little Rock residents to take part in the film as extras. Most of the action took place near the Oakland Cemetery. Because most of the cast were amateurs, there was little coordination on stunt work for the big battle scene. In one case, a bomb went off under one of the “dead” soldiers on the battlefield setting his pants on fire. Once he discovered he was on fire, the “corpse” immediately jumped up and started putting out the fire. The scene was edited out of the final product.

The filmmakers also took liberties with the story for dramatic purposes. For instance, they invented the character “Betty South,” who plays Dodd’s love interest. She seduces “Capt. Pulaski,” another fictional character, and steals information about troop strength from his satchel. She passes it to Dodd who then makes his way back toward the Confederate lines. While on his journey through the city, Dodd is captured by Federal troops who find the stolen message. Dodd refuses to name South as the source of the information and is hanged.

In reality, historians don’t know where Dodd got his information or whether he acted alone.

Simon chose to film the execution scene in City Park, which is now MacArthur Park, near the actual site of Dodd’s execution. To shield viewers from seeing the gruesome execution, Simon chose to show the execution in shadow. Simon finished the film and traveled to Chicago to work with a team of editors to get the film ready for viewing.

In all, the film cost $1,200 to make with a cast of 400 appearing in the film for free. In November, Simon distributed copies of the film throughout the South with the proceeds going toward the David O. Dodd memorial fund. The money generated by the film was substantial.

Today, the David O. Dodd film, the title of which remains a mystery, is considered a lost film. Negatives and release prints alike have been destroyed by time and neglect. Despite that, Dodd’s fame has survived — there may be more Arkansas monuments to David O. Dodd than to any other Civil War era figure. Many of those memorials were built with proceeds from this long-forgotten film.

For more information on Arkansas history, visit the Arkansas State Archives at 1 Capitol Mall, Suite 215, call 501-682-6900 or email

New Accessions for February

Portrait of Betty Bumpers,
by Betty Dortch Russell, whose portraits of
former Govs. Orval Faubus and Winthrop
Rockefeller hang in the Capitol. She later
became the wife of former Gov. Sid McMath.

Our new accessions include items from the late U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers and his wife Betty; election commission records from Arkansas counties; and a 1957 yearbook from the Arkansas State Teachers College, which is now the University of Central Arkansas. We have records and artifacts you won’t find anywhere else. Let us help you with your next Arkansas history research project!  

Archival Collections
·         Sen. Dale and Betty Bumpers collection: Items purchased at the estate sale of Dale and Betty Bumpers were recently accessioned at the Arkansas State Archives. Dale Bumpers served as Arkansas’s 38th governor from 1971 to 1975 before serving in the U.S. Senate until January 1999. He died in 2016. His wife, Betty, was known for her efforts to promote childhood immunizations and world peace. She died in 2018. Donated items include undated photographs, a framed drawing of Betty Bumpers, tea towel, patch, fan and brochure.
·         Crow Barnes Resort brochure: An undated brochure for the Crow Barnes Resort on Bull Shoals Lake was recently donated by Michael Fagan of Clarkdale, Arizona.
·         Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism: The Arkansas State Archives recently received a transfer of records from the former Department of Parks and Tourism. Records include 2019-2020 travel guides, motorcycling and cycling guides and the magazines Love Where You Live and Living in Arkansas.
·         Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners records: The Arkansas State Archives received 48 boxes of records that included reimbursement files for the cost of elections by county; information on historical voting systems and voting equipment used for past elections; board meeting recordings on tape; and commissioners headshots from 1995 to 2014.
·         Arkansas State Board of Health records: The Arkansas State Archives received 15.21 cubic feet of Board of Health minutes from 1951 to 2008.
·         Arkansas Waterways Commission records: About 3 cubic feet of records from the 1990s through the 2000s were recently transferred to the State Archives.

Published Materials
·         Brickwall Gazette, V. 24, issue 2, February 2020. The magazine issue was donated by the Genealogy Society of Craighead County, Arkansas.
·         “1957 Golden Anniversary Yearbook,” Arkansas State Archives employee April Goff donated a yearbook from the Arkansas State Teachers College. The college, which was created in 1907 as The Arkansas State Normal School, became the Arkansas State Teachers College in 1925. In 1967, the college changed its name to the State College of Arkansas before changing its name to the University of Central Arkansas in 1975.