Research In The Lonestar State

Special Records in Texas

The Catholic Archives of Texas in Austin is the only state Catholic archives in the United States. Parish Collection files at CAT provide information on the history of each parish's community. There are many primary sources within the Parish applications. Clergy Collection files and parish files are updated continuously with new information.

There are many ethnic newspapers in Texas. Many of Texas' ethnic newspapers are being preserved on microfilm by the Texas Newspaper Project. Many old newspapers can be ordered through inter-library loan.

The first United States census in Texas is 1850. There are many other special census records that can be found in Texas. Many have been published and date between 1792 and 1840.

The Texas State Library contains a wealth of information to assist your research. Many of their records include biographies, local histories, pension and military records, and much more. You may inquire about a search via email. They charge a reasonable fee for copying and postage.

If you suspect a Republic of Texas ancestor, inquire at the Texas State Library for a Republic claims search. The index is also available online. Microfilm is available by interlibrary loan.

The Texas General Land Office is another wonderful location for information about your Texas ancestor. Write to the General Land Office Archives and Records Division in Austin. These records are filed by name. One must designate the type record to search: Spanish and Mexican Land Grants, Headright Land Grants, Bounty and Donation Land Grants, Pre-emption (homestead) Land Grants, Scrip Land, and School Land. There is a small search fee per name and per search. You will receive a detailed list of the items located.

There are many special collections available at different libraries. Many have been transcribed and available in books or microfilm. There are Colonial collections that will assist your research in Texas. Many of these have been transcribed are are available in book form. Some are not indexed.

There are many libraries and genealogical societies in Texas. Many contain a wealth of information to assist with your research.


Vital Records in Texas


Texas began statewide registration of births and deaths in 1903. They are available from the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin. Indexes are available to the public.

Marriage records have been forwarded to the Bureau of Vital Statistics since 1966. Prior to this time these records are available from the county clerk. Prior to 1836, only Catholic Churches could perform marriages.

Divorces were filed at the Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1968. Records prior to this time, are located at the district clerk of each county.

Probate records and guardianship records are kept by probate clerks in each county.

Naturalization records are usually at the district court clerk; however, many can be found at the county clerk. Naturalizations after 1906 are located at the National Archives, Fort Worth Branch.

Tax rolls are available by county. Some of these records are available very early and depends on the county.


Land Records in Texas


The most interesting records in Texas are located at the General Land Office. The General Land Office in Austin contains all of the original records from colonial days to the present. Texas is a state-land or nonpublic-land state. The laws of the Republic required the settler to give a sworn statement containing personal information. These statements are filed and are accessable to the public. Complete lists of all land granted have been published.

Under Mexican colonial law, a head of a family was entitled to a league of land. A single man 17 years or older could receive one-fourth league. If he married later, he could apply for an "Augmentation" to a full league.

During the Republic of Texas, immigrants arriving before March 2, 1836 were settlers of the First Class. These settlers were entitled to one league and a labor as heads of families. Single men age 17 or over were entitled to one-third league. These propertieswere assumed to be immediately owned and could be sold at any time. This led to fraud and abuse.

Settlers arriving between 2 March 1836 and 1 October 1837 were given land under the Second Class. This prevented the abuses of the First Class. The Second Class were conditional. They included 1280 acres to heads of families and 640 acres to single men over 17. The settler was to occupy the land and remain a responsible citizen for three continuous years.

Settlers of the Third Class, arrived between 1 October 1837 and 1 January 1840 were given conditional rights and 640 acres and 320 acres of land.

The later arrivals often referred to as Fourth Class, extended an additional 2 years. The General Land office has indexed these with Third Class.


The Spanish collection mostly dates from the Mexican period. Some include the settlement of the Spaniards, Mexicans and Christianized Indians. Included in this collection are government communications, correspondence, and legal records.

This collection is 142 bound volumes and 3,500 individual documents. This is a unique resource. This is a Spanish collection. The Texas Land Office does employ at Spanish translator and research specialists to provide assistance.


The Republic and State of Texas collections provide many records. The transactions included are many different grants, patents, field notes, colony contracts, commissioner of claims reports, clerk returns, and other records.


Maps are also very interesting and they are also located at the General Land Office. Included are original land grant surveys, historical maps, land districts, colonies and railroads.


Proceed to Lesson Three

 

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