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Glossary

Learn key genealogy and Freedmen terms

Know the terms
Every local place and history has unique terminology. The realm of Five Tribes Freedmen history and genealogy is no different. Knowing and using proper terms is essential for understanding and communication. 
Key Terms
Explore the key terms below. For a PDF version of these terms, click here. 
  • Allotment Jacket --- The “jacket” is a file folder that contains documents that pertain to the land allotment. The file will contain a formal interview with the person selecting the land. In the case of minor children and sometimes a spouse the head of the household was often the person being interviewed. In addition there are also plat maps, and documents reflecting the legal land description.
  • Birth Affidavit --- This is often a record reflecting the birth of a minor child who was born after the initial interview was made during the Dawes enrollment process. The document contains the name of the child, the parents, the status of the child in relation to the tribe to which the family belonged, and in addition, the name of the midwife or physician attending the birth is often recorded.
  • By Blood --- This is a term used to described individuals recognized as ethnically “Indian”. Mixed blood persons who had white blood were also given this description--with a percentage of the admixture. Those who were mixed bloods who had African ancestry were given status as tribal “Freedmen”, including those who had one parent who may have been full blood.
  • Dawes Card --- During the Dawes Enrollment process information was collected from the enrollee, prior to the interview being conducted. The card contained the name, of the enrollee, placed next to a number which would eventually become their official “roll number” when the name was placed on the “final” roll.
  • Dawes Commission --- A commission was established by Senator Henry C. Dawes to outline a process to determine eligibility for land allotments in Indian Territory. The commission consisted of primary commissioners who interviewed thousands of people from the Five Civilized Tribes. Applicants were sworn under oath, and their interviews were taken down by official stenographers. In addition there were witnesses also present during the hearings.This process was established to bring about land ownership for individuals and to remove the policy of holding land in common. The primary purpose to allot land to citizens of the Five Tribes, and then open up millions of acres of remaining lands for white settlement, which would eventually bring about the admission of the new state of Oklahoma to the Union. The commission met over a decade, from 1893 - 1914, when all lands were allotted.
  • Death Affidavit --- If a person who had appeared in front of the commission passed away before allotment, information about the death was often recorded officially on a document called a death affidavit.
  • Dunn Roll --- Created in 1867, the Dunn roll was a payment roll made to Creek citizens. It is a receipt roll for a per capita payment made to citizens, in agreement with Article 3 of the Treaty of 1866. Data can be found arranged by town then by family group.
  • Enrollment --- This term is often mistakenly assumed to reflect membership into a tribal community. When speaking of the Dawes records and “enrollment” the term actually refers means “en-roll”--meaning simply the act of placing a name on a list (roll). Enrollment--or having one’s name placed on the “final roll” did not place the individual into the tribe with membership status. Many people were already members of their respective nations. And in the case of Chickasaw Freedmen---they were never officially adopted by their birth nation, and thus never given citizenship. Yet---they were en-rolled as Chickasaw Freedmen. Their names were placed on a roll of persons eligible to receive land allotments.
  • Enrollment Packet --- Often called Application jacket or application packets this information consists of additional papers pertaining to the enrollment of the particular individual or family.
  • Enrollment Card --- This is the card upon which data was collected about the household from which applicants came.
  • Freedmen --- people of African descent formerly enslaved in the Five Tribes. The term may also refer to descendants of original freedmen or people of African-descent that were members of the tribal community that had not been enslaved (i.e. free black people in the nations).
  • Tompkins Roll - Created in 1867, the Tompkins roll lists approximately 13,566 individuals who resided in the Cherokee Nation. It contains two indexes to Freedmen arranged alphabetically by the first two letters of the surname in one index and by the first two letters of the first name in the second index.