Cherokee Freedmen Rolls

freedman enrollment

Freedmen is one of the terms given to emancipated slaves and their descendants after slavery was abolished in the United States following the American Civil War. In this context, “Cherokee Freedmen” refers to the African-American men and women who were formerly slaves of the Cherokee before and after removal to Indian Territory. It includes the descendants of the former slaves, as well as those born in unions between formerly enslaved or enslaved African Americans and Cherokee tribal members.

During the American Civil War, the Cherokee who supported the Union abolished the practice of African slavery by act of the Cherokee National Council in 1863. The Cherokee Freedmen became citizens of the Cherokee Nation in accordance with a treaty made with the United States government a year after the Civil War ended.

After their emancipation and subsequent citizenship, the Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants had to struggle to be accepted as a legitimate part of the Cherokee Nation. Some Freedmen have been active in the tribe, voted in elections, ran businesses, attended Cherokee stomp dances, knew Cherokee traditions and folklore, knew the Cherokee language, and served on the tribal council, with several holding district seats.

In the early 1980s, the Cherokee Nation administration amended citizenship rules to require direct descent from an ancestor listed as “Cherokee by Blood” on the Dawes Rolls. The change stripped descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen of citizenship and voting rights unless they satisfied this new criterion. About 25,000 Freedmen were excluded from the tribe.

The controversy surrounding the Freedmen’s tribal status and right continues today.  You can read more about the dispute here.

There were two separate rolls or schedules taken of the Cherokee Freedmen which have been extracted today for surnames.

Wallace Roll of Cherokee Freedmen in Indian Territory – 1890

The digitized document is a schedule of names of Cherokee freedmen created by Special Agent John W. Wallace. Individuals on the schedule were entitled to share with the Shawnee and Delaware in the per capita distribution of $75,000, appropriated by Congress in October 1888, and issued under the supervision of his office. These records are held by NARA’s Textual Archives Service Division Old Military and Civilian Records Unit (Washington, DC).

Kern-Clifton Roll of Cherokee Freedmen – 1897

Census of the Freedmen and their descendants of the Cherokee Nation taken by the Commission appointed in the case of Moses Whitmire, Trustee of the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation versus the Cherokee Nation and the United States in the Court of Claims at Washington, D.C; the said commission being appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, and Composed of William Clifton, William P. Thompson and Robert H. Kern, this roll being made from the testimony taken before said Commission in the Cherokee nation between May 4th and August, 10, 1896, in accordance with the provisions made and entered in the final decree of record in the above cause. Second, Contesting Freedmen and their Descendants found by this Commission entitled to be enrolled as citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and to share in the distribution of funds found in said decree.

You can read more about the rolls and land records here and find further history here.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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9 Responses to Cherokee Freedmen Rolls

  1. Tammy Rowan says:

    Hello.. I’m 1/4 Cherokee Indian. And my last name of Ancestors is Freeman. Could you Please help me to give me the information on where to start? My email: My name is Tammy Moore-Rowan. Please Any information you have on how to direct me Please contact me!! It would be greatly Appreciated! Thank you, Tammy

    • I’ve removed your personal information so you don’t receive unwanted contacts. On the main page of this blog is a search field. Enter the words “5 civilized” and you will get a list of articles with resources.

      • Anna F Sayre(Parrott) says:

        Looking up my great grandfather and great grandmother. Also hear that mag grey house help with peace between white and Indians which kin to me also. I know my grandmother when and stay at a Indian revelation,after my great grandfather die.But do not know how look.

  2. Tammy Rowan says:

    Please help me! Read below:
    I’m trying to get a Roll number but I don’t know where to begin? Please Contact me.. Thank you soo much, Tammy

  3. RICK RATLIFF says:

    My great-grandma and grandma were cherokee indian women, i want to know,her mary brazil black i think i spell it right, I’m not sure on the spelling. brazzille could be spell that way also, black could have been a married name. thanks

  4. Sandreaq Pearson says:

    My mother has found her paternal grandmother and other family members on the actual “Cherokee
    Nation Freemen Roll”, Dawes Roll #, birth certificate of her dad, and death certificate of her paternal grandmother that is named on the C.N.F.R. What are our next steps? Thank you for your help.

  5. Years ago saw an article in book “southern planters” had a black Cherokee Freedman named John R Glover that built a plantation on Mississippi river. The plantation was prettiest until river took it. He came back to buy his wife of African descent and five sons out of slavery. There was a photo of them spanned top half of two pages. Book was at Destrehan or SanFrancisco plantation in Louisiana

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