Texas History and Research Overview

Texas History and Research Overview

Learn about Texas's history and available records in this research guide that includes a map and bibliography.

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
16th-century Spaniards exploring Texas found indigenous people, but not the gold they sought. Later Spanish missions, presidios and villages were the nuclei for modern cities, including El Paso (1682), San Antonio (1718), and Nacogdoches (1779)—the latter well situated for trade with the Indians and with Natchitoches, La. French settlement on the Texas Gulf coast in 1685 was short-lived. When France ceded greater Louisiana to Spain in 1762, Texas and Louisiana were under the same crown. In 1803, the United States tried to claim Texas as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Anglo-American settlement had not begun when Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Under a renegotiated Mexican contract, Stephen F. Austin recruited several hundred families to settle river valleys near his San Felipe de Austin headquarters. Other empresarios also settled the Mexican State of Coahuila and Texas. Newcomers had to swear allegiance to Mexico and Catholicism.

Adventurers and would-be land speculators became disgruntled by the centralist Mexican government and its 1830 attempt to halt Anglo-American settlement. Many colonists were alarmed by Mexican preparations to send an army to occupy Texas. After several battles, Texans declared themselves an independent republic on March 2, 1836. The war for independence was short. The Republic of Texas existed for nine years before the US Congress annexed it in late 1845, accepting Texas as the 28th state. After a war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848, Mexico relinquished its claim to Texas and the United States gained most of its Southwest.

Early settlers arrived largely from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Missouri, as well as other US states, Mexico, the British Isles and German states. Czechs, Scandinavians, and Alsatians began arriving in the 1840s; Poles, in the 1850s. Most early settlers were small farmers, but cotton planters with slaves also moved in. By 1860, Texas had about 604,000 residents, of whom 30 percent were slaves, 7 percent were foreign-born immigrants, and only about 350 were free blacks. Not counted in censuses were numerous Indians, many of whom were eventually relocated to Indian Territory reservations.

Although divided over the issues of slavery and secession, Texas seceded from the United States in February 1861. The state saw limited military action during the Civil War and was readmitted to the Union in 1870.

From the 1820s to the early 1900s, cotton was the money crop and corn sustained life. After the Civil War, cotton, railroads, and cattle and sheep industries expanded rapidly. The 20th century saw economic diversification in agriculture and development of the petrochemical, timber-related, food-processing and other industries.

COUNTY MAP
(click to enlarge)
Texas state map with county outlines

RESEARCH TIPS

  • The Texas State Library participates in interlibrary loan of microfilmed county records through a regional historical resource depository’ program. See lists of regional depositories and available county records at http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/local.
  • Besides the state library and archives in Austin, major research facilities include the Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, http://www.cah.utexas.edu; Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, a unit of the Houston Public Library, http://www.houstonlibrary.org/clayton; the Texas Room, Central Library, Houston Public Library; Dallas Public Library’s genealogy department and Texas/Dallas history and archives department, http://www.dallaslibrary.org/central.htm; and various academic libraries. Numerous Texas public libraries have genealogy collections.

CENSUS RECORDS

  • Federal census: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
  • Federal slave schedules: 1850, 1860 (schedules name slaveholders but rarely name slaves)
  • Special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • Colonial: 1829-1836

GENERAL RESOURCES

  • Bibliography of Texas, 1795-1845 by Archibald Hanna (Fresearch Publishing, 1983)
  • Biographical Gazetteer of Texas: Publication of the Biographical Sketch File of the Texas Collection At Baylor University, an Ongoing Project, 6 vols., (Morrison Books, 1985-)
  • Biographical Souvenir of the State of Texas, 1889 (Southern Historical Press, 1978)
  • Black Churches in Texas: A Guide to Historic Congregations by Clyde McQueen (Texas A & M Univ., 2000)
  • Catalog of Genealogical Materials in Texas Libraries by John Corbin (Texas State Library and Historical Commission, 1965)
  • Citizens of the Republic of Texas by Mrs. Harry Joseph Morris (Texas State Genealogical Society, 1977)
  • Cracker Barrel Chronicles: A Bibliography of Texas Town and County Histories by John Holmes Jenkins (Pemberton Press, 1965)
  • Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas: Lineages of the Members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 3 vols., (Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 1963-85)
  • Four Decades of Catholicism in Texas 1820-1860 by Mary Angela Fitzmorris (Catholic University of America, 1926)
  • Genealogical Records in Texas by Imogene Kinard Kennedy and J. Leon Kennedy (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987)
  • Genealogical Research in Texas: A Bibliographical Guide by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck in National Genealogical Society Quarterly vol. 75 (Sept. 1987) pages 194-215
  • Genealogies of Texas Families: Biographical Notes of Pioneer Settlers by James Pylant (Datatrace Systems, 1989)
  • Guide to Genealogical Resources in the Texas State Archives by Jean Carefoot (Archives Division, Texas State Library, 1984)
  • A Guide to Texas Research by Carolyn R. Ericson and Joe E. Ericson (Ericson Books, 1994)
  • A Guide to the Texana Holdings of the Texas History Library of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 2 vols. (Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 1978)
  • The Handbook of Texas, 3 vols., edited by Walter Prescott Webb (Texas State Historical Association, 1952-1976)
  • The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas, 2 vols., edited by Thomas S. Chamblin (Texas Historical Institute, 1982)
  • History of Early Methodism in Texas, 1817-1866 by Macum Phelan (Cokesbury Press, 1924)
  • A History of Texas Baptists by James M. Carroll (Baptist Standard Publishing Co., 1923)
  • History of Texas and Texans, 5 vols., by Frank W. Johnson (American Historical Society, 1914)
  • Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas by John Henry Brown (1880; Southern Historical Press, 1978)
  • Residents of Texas, 182-1836, 3 vols., (San Antonio: The University of Texas, Institute of Texan Cultures, 1984)
  • Resources of Texas Libraries by Edward G. Holley (Texas State Library, 1968)
  • Spanish and Mexican Records of the American Southwest: A Bibliographic Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources by Henry P. Beers (University of Arizona Press, 1979)
  • Texas Family Land Heritage Registry, 8 vols., (Texas Department of Agriculture, 1974-)
  • Texas Historical and Biographical Record with a Genealogical Study of Historical Family Records by Emory E. Bailey (Texas Historical and Biographical Record)
  • Texas Local History: A Source Book for Available Town and County Histories, Local Memoirs and Genealogical Records by Tom Munnerlyn (Eakin Press, 1983)
  • Texas Newspapers, 1813-1939: A Union List of Newspaper Files Available in Offices of Publishers, Libraries, and a Number of Private Collections (San Jacinto Museum of History Associations, 1941)
  • Texas Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at http://www.familysearch.org/eng/search/RG/guide/texas.asp)
  • Who’s Who in Texas by Emory E. Bailey, et al. (Who’s Who Publishing, 1931)
  • Who’s Who in Texas Today: A New Biographical Survey of Texas by Seymour V. Connor (Pemberton Press, 1968)


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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

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