Indian Lands Research Part 2

There are different types of land records, and different types of searches. Genealogists want to prove their ancestors were Indian. Indian lawyers are interested in showing the extent of the tribe’s holdings according to the treaties.

The earliest records concern reserve or allotment lands issued in connection with a treaty. The issuance of allotments or reserves as part of a treaty changed after 1871, as the treaty process ended, and again after the General Allotment Act of 1887. The search for records was affected again by changes in the record keeping processes of both General Land Office and Office of Indian Affairs about 1907. In any case, information about Indian Land Records generally requires searching back and forth between the General Land Office and the Indian Office.

There are many different reasons people want to see an allotment file, and it helps to find out what they think they are looking for. It seems that each search is different. We have a variety of records that all relate to the allotment process, both in RG 75 and RG 49, since the Indian Office and the General Land Office worked together on this. This includes Registers of Allotments, Platbooks, Tractbooks, Deeds and Deedbooks, Applications for Allotments, Correspondence Concerning Allotments, Survey Records, Requests for Removal of Restrictions, Trust Patents, and Fee Patents, to name a few.  There are Platbooks, Tractbooks, and Allotment books in the BIA records (Entries 240, 341, 341, 343).  We have lists of these that can be checked by tribe, and under a few miscellaneous categories such as allotted lands on the public domains. They are very spotty, by no means a full set of records. Many more are at our regional branches.

Allotment records relating to treaties and particular tribes are sometimes found separately as series in RG 75 (do a word search by tribe name of PI 163).  Associated records in tract books are arranged by location of land (Township, Range, Section, or Lot number).  In the census rolls, allotments can be found by finding the family and noting the allotment numbers.  In the schedules of allotments, look by allotment numbers. These type records are supplemented by the Indian Reserves Files (RG 75, Entries 522-529). There are Reserves Files A, B, C, and D, and Miscellaneous Reserves Files, and a whole bunch of separate Five Civilized Tribes records of reserves. These all can be worked back and forth through the correspondence.

The public land  allotments were set out and surveyed under the Land Office. Most of the Land Office records of allotting and surveying after about 1910 or so were under the supervision of A. E. Dunnington, Topographer in Charge of Indian Surveys. There is a separate file of Dunnington correspondence in RG 49 (UD 472 E ) Before that, there doesn’t seem to have been any unity.

Reservations allotments were usually surveyed under the supervision of the Indian Office.  Some surveys go back as early as the early 1800s. We have some of the earliest surveys in the BIA records, and others in the GLO records. The list of approved allotees went through the Indian Office and the Allotting Agent, with some changes that went to the Commissioner of the Indian Office and to the Commissioner of the Land Office. The Indian Office transmitted a list of approved allotees to the Land Office, and that list is traceable sometimes in the correspondence, of either office. The GLO still retains some documents called allotment books (so I have been told by an occasional researcher, including one from the BLM).

The Land Office recorded the issuance of trust patents to the allottees. The usual process was for a trust patent to be issued which held the land in trust for the person for 25 years. We have records of people who wished to be judged “competent” so that the patent could be changed over to a fee patent and they could sell it.  We have a series of Indian Fee Patents  in RG 49 (Entry UD 2297). The Indian Office supervised the requests for Fee Patents and transmitted the information of approval to the Land Office, where the Fee Patent was issued and recorded in the Tract Book. We only have the tract books for the western states; the rest are still at the BLM. The copy of the Fee Patent was sent by the Land Office to the Indian Office, where it was issued to the Patentee.  The Indian Office also recorded the early transfer of Indian properties from the original recipient to subsequent recipients by Deeds. We have Deed Books and Indexes by Guarantor and Guarantee to the names in those records, up to 1961. We can check these indexes for information about warranty deeds. (RG 75, Indian Deed and Patents, Entries 489-504) The BIA used to have a Land Titles office under Howard Piepenbrink that used these records constantly and were well versed in their use. They do not seem to be referring to them much any more, for whatever reasons.

After 1907 the Central Classified Files of the BIA have allotments records and heirship records under the subject number 313, and 350 for heirship, which can be accessed through the Index up until 1940 by a persons’ name (only by a reference archivist however). Later in the 20th century, there were separate Probate Files kept. We have an Index for these, through 1961 (RG 75, Entry 652A).

The General Land Office in general did not handle Indian records in the same kind of land entry case files as it did for other people who were getting public land. The files in the Land Entry Case Files that are labeled Allottment Records can be very helpful, as for example, the ones listed under the land office of Helena Montana, which contain 228 allotment applications. These were for allotments in the public domain, and today the allotment applications are sought by people seeking to reaffirm their tribal connections. However, there are very few allotment records to be found amongst the land entry case files. The ones we have are listed under the land offices in PI 22 (RG 49).

The so called Indian Fee Patent Files are not the same as the usual Land Entry Case Files. If you look at the image on the BLM site, you will find another number by which the Indian Fee Patent file is filed (RG 49 UD 2297). But when you look at the record, it hardly tells you anything. You can cross reference numbers for the BIA listed on that same image as I.O. numbers. This means it is part of the Central Classified Files. An archivist will have to look up the year and file number to find out the rest of the information you need, the agency and the classification number.

Some of the allotment files have been removed and filed in the BIA records with Special Case 147. It can be checked separately under the name of the tribe.