Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and other explorers from Spain came to the area that is now Texas throughout the 1500s and 1600s. Some Spanish explorers actually settled near what is now El Paso in 1685, in an area they called Ysleta. Then, in 1685, a French colony was established at Matagorda Bay by Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle. Although, that colony didn’t last very long.

In 1821, a group of Americans settled near the Brazos River. Stephen F. Austin led that group, which came to the area shortly after it gained independence from Spain and came under Mexican control. A very short war took place between the government of Mexico and the American settlers around that time. Then, in 1836, the Independent Republic of Texas was formed. Sam Houston was soon named the president of that republic. That short war included the battles of San Jacinto and the Alamo. The Mexican War then took place between 1846 and 1848, due largely to border disputes stemming from Texas gaining its statehood in 1845.

Texas entered the union as the 28th state on December 29, 1845. It has 254 Counties.

Getting Started with Texas Genealogy and Family Trees

Methods for Searching for Texas Genealogy Data – Massive and historic, the State of Texas is also a land where an amazing number of people and families have connections. This is why there are so many resources for those seeking for Texas genealogy materials. Whether you want to learn about an ancestor in the early days of the state or a connection to the Civil War, you will have a good chance of locating the data here.

Looking for Texas Genealogy Information – Today, we get details anything through the Internet, and this is why all genealogists should begin their research at a computer. When starting any search for Texas genealogy information you can go online and use the digital archives available, and even obtain copies of historical materials or documents.

Of course, even though there is a lot online, it does not mean that all that you might require for Texas genealogy will be available digitally. This means that any research for Texas genealogy has to also take the many different offline locations into consideration too. Once you identify your best offline resources for Texas genealogy, you can search more effectively.

Best Approaches for Texas Genealogy Research – Most state genealogy research work starts in the public records, and these tend to fall under three headings or categories. You must learn the differences as you begin searching for Texas genealogy, and they are:

  1. Vital Records – these are birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives. They can include cemetery or obituary information, census records, newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for Texas genealogy.
  2. State Records – ranging from probate information to surname lists, state census information, private manuscripts, newspapers, military or veterans information, marriage details, maps, land records, genealogical folders, estate information, deeds, death records, cemetery information, birth certificates and more, these are available as online and offline resources for Texas genealogy.
  3. Local Records – state research will generally start in a county clerk’s office or website, and then move on to historical societies, local genealogical societies, small local libraries, and school or college libraries for Texas genealogy materials. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.

Best Sources for Texas Genealogy Information – What are the best sites and resources for Texas genealogy information? Below, we have listed details and links for some of the best for Texas genealogy work:

  • Vital Statistics Unit, Texas Department of Health, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040; Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/texas.htm .
    This is the way to obtain birth, death, marriage and divorce records either via a written request or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, Capitol Complex, 1201 Brazos St., Austin TX 78711-2040;
    Website: http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc/genfirst.html .
    This website and location provide a seemingly unlimited number of resources for Texas genealogy research. From information about Confederate Prisoners to telephone directories, it is possible to get an impressive array of materials.

The three websites below will provide a lot of significant state-specific details to those in search for Texas genealogy data.


Texas Ethnic Group Research

Native Americans – Several Native American tribes have lived in Texas throughout its history. Those tribes include the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Crow, Wichita, Ute, Creek, Arkokosa, Attacapa, Caddo, Coahuiltecan, Karankawa, Nacogdoches, Nasoni, Neche, Tonkawa.

In 1859, most Native Americans who still resided in Texas were forced to move to Indian Territory. However, some Comanche tribe members fought to stay in Texas, eventually surrendered in 1875. The state is still home to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs holds records for Texas Native Americans from 1845 onward. Copies of those records can be found at the National Archives. The Oklahoma Historical Society, Indian Archives Division, Historical Bldg., Oklahoma City, OK 73105 holds a large collection of documents relating to Native Americans in Texas.

On February 19, 1846, President Anson Jones surrendered control of the Republic of Texas to the United States, and Texas became a state. Documents relating to the original Republic of Texas settlers are still extant today and documents from “Austin’s Old Three Hundred” are particularly useful.

African Americans – African Americans have been present in Texas for a long time. Although, most Texas records don’t give much information about them. However, the 1809 Nacogdoches census does list 33 slave owners. In the 1820s, slavery in the state increased. Then, when the area was under the jurisdiction of Mexico, anti-slavery sentiments increased. In 1824, a slave code was started in the Austin colony. When slaves had babies after the 1827 constitution of Coahuila and Texas was passed, those babies were considered free people as soon as they were born. Bondsmen’s contracts were limited to 10 years in 1832. However, slave owners often ignored both of those laws. Slavery was legalized in Texas in 1837.

Antebellum Texas was settled primarily by people from southern states. Many of them brought slaves with them to the area. Nevertheless, in the 1850s only about 33% of Texans owned slaves. Most of the African Americans who lived in the state at that time, whether they were free or enslaved, lived in the eastern part of the state.

Slave owners’ records can be helpful in tracing enslaved ancestors who lived before 1865. Estate inventories and wills are particularly useful, since slaves were often listed with property. Slave names, ages, and descriptions may be listed. Family information may also be included. Slave information may also be found on bills of sale and deeds, in cases where slaves were transferred from one owner to another. Some slaves and their owners may also be listed in certain court records. African American records from 1865 onward are filed at the state and local level with all other records from the time period, rather than in separate African American files.

Mexican Americans – In the early days of Texas, there were two major colonies established by Spain. They were the Tejas colony (founded in 1690) and the Nuevo Santander colony. The former was established near the Nueces River, while the latter was established in the Rio Grande Valley. From 1749 to 1755, 24 smaller Spanish settlements were established.

The population of Tejas was under 5,000 in the early 1800s. However, the population of Nuevo Santander had ballooned to 15,000 by 1835. After Texas gained its statehood, Latinos living in the state often were treated unfairly by the courts. They also faced problems regarding language, customs, religion, and property rights. As of 1850, about 5% of the Texas population was Latino.

Around 3,000 Tejanos joined the Confederate Army during the Civil War. However, many of those who joined later became deserters. Some Tejanos also became Union soldiers. In 1868 bounty-land grants were given to those who served on the Union side. Soldiers who served for 6 months received 8 acres. Soldiers who served for at least one year received 320 acres. The Reconstruction process led to a lot of Latinos who served on the Union side becoming citizens of the United States.

The 1920s was a time when many people migrated to Texas from Mexico and other areas in the southwest. There were 1,448,900 Latinos living in Texas in 1960. Most of them lived in the counties of El Paso, Bexar, and Hidalgo. Many of them have moved to urban areas in the last several years.

Further Reading

  • Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas. 1978. Reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1988.
  • Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas: Facts Gathered from Survivors of Frontier Days. New York: Argosy, ca. 1964.
  • Indian Depredations in Texas. Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1985.
  • Biographical Directory of the Texas Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845. 1941. Reprint. New York: Antiquarian Press, 1959.
  • Compiled Index to Elected and Appointed Officials of the Republic of Texas: 1835–1846. Austin, Tex.: State Archives Division, Texas State Library, 1981.
  • Founders and Patriots of the Republic of Texas, the Lineages of the Members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. 3 vols. Dallas: Huggins Press, 1963– 85.
  • Nacogdoches: Gateway to Texas, a Biographical Directory, 1773–1849. 2 vols. Ft. Worth, Tex.: Arrow/Curtis Printing, 1974–87.
  • The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Salado, Tex.: Anson Jones Press, 1959.
  • Citizens of the Republic of Texas. Dallas: Texas State Genealogical Society, 1977.
  • Sons of the Republic of Texas Lineages of Members. Microfilm, 37 reels.
  • Black Texans: A History of Negroes in Texas, 1528– 1921. Austin, Tex.: Pemberton Press, 1971.
  • “Slavery in Early Texas,” Political Science Quarterly 13 (1898): 389-412, 648-88.
  • An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
  • Racial Borders: Black Soldiers along the Rio Grande. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002.
  • The Negro in Texas, 1874–1900. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1971.
  • Time of Hope, Time of Despair: Black Texans During Reconstruction. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1981.
  • The Free Negro in Texas, 1800–1860: A Study in Cultural Compromise. Published for The Journal of
    Mexican American History. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1976.
  • “Land Speculation as a Cause of the Texas Revolution,” Texas Historical Association Quarterly (1906): 76-95.
  • Race and Class in the Southwest: A Theory of Racial Inequality. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.
  • A Statistical Profile of the Spanish-Surname Population of Texas. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas, Bureau of Business Research, 1964.
  • “Mexican Migration.” Paper presented at Conference on Demographic Study of the Mexican American Population. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas, 17–19 May 1973.
  • The Mexican Population of Austin, Texas. San Francisco: R & E Research Association, 1971. Reprint of a thesis, University of Texas, 1925.
  • “The Mexican Immigrant in Texas,” Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly (June 1926): 33-41.
  • The Social and Economic Effects of the Mexican Migration into Texas. San Francisco: R & E Research Association, 1971. Reprint of a thesis, 1929.
  • Latin Americans in Texas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946.
  • Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Bexar Archives, 1717–1803. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Archives Microfilm Division, 1967.
  • Mexican Migratory Workers of Southern Texas. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1941.
  • A Documentary History of the Mexican Americans. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
  • After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1936–1841. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1963.
  • The Franciscan Missions in Texas, 1690– 1793. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1927.
  • Texas and Our Spanish Southwest. Dallas: Banks Upshaw, 1960.
  • Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest: “The Sacred Right of Self-Preservation.” Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1981.
  • Vaqueros in Blue and Gray. Austin, Tex.: Presidial Press, 1976.
  • The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.