Allotments were made and “trust” patents were issued by the GLO, which kept the land in trust for the individual for a period of 25 years after which he could sell the land for himself. Prior to that time, he/she could petition the Secretary of the Interior to release him/her from guardianship and allow him/her to sell the land. The landowner would be issued a “fee” patent that gave him/her the right to sell the land.
Paperwork involved: papers were filed in both the General Land Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Both the “trust” patent and the “fee” patent were issued by and recorded by the GLO. Applications for a fee patent went from the BIA Commissioner to the GLO Commissioner. Correspondence concerning the process was filed in the GLO by a letter number.
Files: The records in the holdings of the National Archives, in Record Group 49, Bureau of Land Management (formerly the GLO) include a series of files called the Indian Fee Patent Files, UD 2297. These files cover from 1902 through 1911. They contain a copy of the application for a fee patent, correspondence concerning its approval, and sometimes the returned trust patent, with the new fee patent number stamped on this file. The amount of personal information varies from just the name and land description, to quite a lot including mention of heirs and personal descriptions.
The Indian Fee Patents Files in UD2297 actually have several subparts. The first 84 boxes are broken down by year, and by file number. This file number may be an “application number” but it may also be an incoming letter number assigned by the GLO. Box 1 starts with a few files from the end of 1902 followed by 1903 (1902/31654 - 1903/59823) but I have not identified any predecessors to this series. There is new numbering each year, but it does not necessarily start with number 1, and there are many gaps.
The second part, “serial patents” in Boxes 85 through 241 consist of files numbered in order, with no year, from 152992 through 2146328. These consist of forms and correspondence, usually amounting from 1 to 4 pages. The types of form include “Report on Cash Sale of Allotted Indian Land When Patent in Fee is to be Issued,” and “Report on Application for a Patent in Fee.” These are followed by two boxes (242 and 243) marked “New Series, 40000 to 61942.
The third part is labeled “unclaimed patents files” and starts over with box 1, #201,450 through Box 19, #1,149,454. The “unclaimed patents” consist of a certificate that identifies the name and the land. There is no personal or family information.
Some of the file numbers seem to represent correspondence numbers assigned by the GLO. Sometimes you can get this number from the top left hand side of the page or image shown by the BLM when you click on patent. On the occasions when an Indian Trust Patent number appears on the file it does not correspond to the document file number. In other words, the Indian Trust Patent number is not the file number. The information contained in these documents includes the final fee patent number, and often the original trust patent number. But, they are filed and are only accessible by a number assigned by the GLO. To find the BLM incoming letter number look at Entry 2006 Index to LR re Indian Lands and National Forests, 40 index card boxes, arranged by names. Look up name and get number of the correspondence. But this does not always work when you go to the Indian Fee Patent files, for whatever reasons!
The correspondence, if there is any, consists of letters of transmittal accompanying an application for a fee patent, transferred from the BIA to the GLO, reasons for approving an application, and a letter transferring the fee patent back to the BIA, from the GLO. The Fee Patent was delivered to the landowner by the BIA.