Colonial Records of Texas

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Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Colonial Spanish Borderland Research
Catholic Sacramental Records
Civil Legal Documents
Military Records
Catholic Church Diocesan Records
Spanish Land Records for the United States
Locating Colonial Records of Genealogical Value
Colonial Records of Texas
Colonial Records of New Mexico
Colonial Records of Arizona
Colonial Records of California
Colonial Records of Florida
Colonial Records of Louisiana
Colonial Records of the French and Spanish in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi
List of Useful Resources for Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article originally appeared in "Colonial Spanish Borderland Research" by George R. Ryskamp, JD, AG in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy


At the time of its independence in 1836, Texas did not include the area south of the Nueces River, then part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, or the western area around El Paso, then part of New Mexico. While under Mexican rule, Texas was divided into two provinces: one on the west with its capital in San Antonio and the other in east Texas with its capital in Nacogdoches. Both were part of the larger state of Coahuila-Texas, with its capital in Saltillo, Mexico.

Early settlements in Texas were classified as missions, presidios, or pueblos. The Franciscan Order supervised the missions, military commanders governed the presidios, and each pueblo, a civil settlement developed at or near a mission or presidio, was partially self-governing. Each local government had a cabildo or ayuntamiento (municipal council) composed of regiodores (councilmen) presided over by the alcalde (mayor). Generally, there were two alcalde ordinarios (municipal judges), the alguacil mayor (sheriff), and the mayordomo de propios (administrator of public lands). The mayordomo de propios also functioned as the procurado (attorney). Escribanos kept the cabildo minutes, served as notaries, prepared legal documents, took depositions, and maintained the local archives. Existing local governmental records for Texas are divided among three archives: the Bexar Archives, the Nacogdoches Archives, and the Laredo Archives.

Bexar Archives

The Bexar Archives contain over 250,000 pages of manuscripts and some 4,000 pages of printed material covering the years 1717 to 1836, reflecting the administration of civil affairs, ecclesiastical matters, exploration, local history, immigration, colonization, and genealogy. The collection of 172 microfilm rolls is prefaced by a general description of the material with a detailed inventory of each roll. Copies of the microfilm are now available at major educational institutions nationwide. Translations done to date are also available on microfilm. Adán Benavides has compiled a comprehensive name guide to the Bexar Archives, based on all substantive documents as they are entered in the microfilm edition.<ref>Adán Benavides Jr., comp. and ed., The Bexar Archives, 1717-1836: A Name Guide (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1989); Chester V. Kielman, Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Bexar Archives, 1717-1836, 3 vols. (Austin: University of Texas Library, 1967-71).</ref>

Nacogdoches Area Archives

The Nacogdoches Archives covers the years 1731 to 1836, with documents arranged in chronological order and classified according to the administrative organization of the Mexican government from 1824 to 1836. Presently located at the Texas State Library, Archives Division, Austin, Texas, the Nacogdoches Archives have been transcribed in eighty-nine volumes, with a card index to the transcriptions. Transcribed copies and other records have been deposited with the University of Texas Archives; the Stephen F. Austin State College Library in Nacogdoches; the North Texas State College Library in Denton; and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Transcriptions of other Nacogdoches records are in custody of the Nacogdoches County clerk.

Seventy-five bound volumes of the Nacogdoches Archives, covering the years 1744 to 1837, prepared by Robert Blake, are kept in the Blake Collection in the Houston Public Library. This collection includes correspondence, diaries, censuses, election returns, bills of sale, a record of foreigners who settled in Nacogdoches from 1827 to 1834, lists of foreigners residing in Nacogdoches, judicial proceedings, marriage contracts, accounting and financial papers, orders, commissions, and other documents. A calendar of the Blake Collection is available at the University of Texas Archives.

Records of the Nacogdoches District Court for the years 1834 to 1862 are in the Stephen F. Austin State College Archive Collection, with copies of court proceedings in the University of Texas Archives. The Texas History Collection of Baylor University has Nacogdoches records from 1770 to about 1900.

Records of the municipality of San Felipe de Austin (where the Texas Provisional government was formed in 1835 and their Declaration of Independence was drafted), covering the years 1810 to 1837, are found at the Belleville County clerk's office. City records of Brazoria, similar in content to those previously described, are in the custody of the county clerk at Angelton.

Laredo Archives

After the Velasco Treaty of 1836 removed all Mexican troops from the region south of the Rio Grande River, the region between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers became a no-man's land. When the Mexican War broke out in 1846 after American soldiers occupied Texas, Laredo and all its records became property of the United States. This collection consists of some eight thousand documents, most for the years 1768 to 1868 with a few as early as 1749, including census reports, vital statistics, allotments of land, tax renditions, wills, settlements of estates, and civil and criminal litigations. Transcription of these records was completed in 1941. A partial set of transcriptions, covering only 1755 to 1830 with many gaps, is in the Texas State Archives. The original collection of the Laredo Archives is now in the custody of St. Mary's University Library in San Antonio and is available on sixteen rolls of microfilm covering 1749 to 1872. Access to the original manuscripts is possible with special permission. The Laredo Archives have also been microfilmed for the Southwest Collection at Texas Technological University, Lubbock, Texas, with microfilm copies in many educational institutions. See the St. Mary's University (San Antonio, Texas) Library Catalog online for a complete listing of several indexes of and transcriptions from the collection that have been published in recent years.<ref>Robert D. Wood, comp., Indexes to the Laredo Archives, 2nd ed. (San Antonio: St. Mary's University Press, 2000).</ref>

Census Records of Texas

Often mixed with the civil records or found in other collections, census records are of particular value to the family historian. The charts on the following pages identify census records for each state together with their location. Some of these censuses list only the head of household, but most list complete families. Military type censuses have generally not been included unless they list all residents.

Spanish Censuses of Texas

Locality Year(s) Reference*
General 1774 AGN CA 39:2 20'149
General 1777 BNM
General 1829'36 unknown
General 1840 unknown
Adaes 1739 AGN PI 182:1 1'127
Atacosita 1826 unknown
Barrio Laredo, V.S. Fernando 1809 ROT 2:42'46
General 1790 ROT 1:58'74
Capistrano 1794 ROT 1:165'166
Capistrano 1795 ROT 1:220'221
Cia. Volante of San Carlos de Parras 1807 ROT 2:1'5
El Paso 1692 AGI
El Paso 1784 unknown
Espada 1793 ROT 1:147'149
Espada 1794 ROT 1:164'165
Espada 1796 ROT 1:222'223
Espiritu Santo 1804 ROT 1:385
Galveston 1779 LGR 27:367
Galveston 1783 LGR 27:367
Galveston 1793 LGR 27:367
La Bahía 1790 ROT 1:47'58
La Bahía 1804 ROT 1:381'384
La Bahía 1810 ROT 2:46'64
La Bahía 1811 ROT 2:74'90
La Bahía 1825 UTANLB 1:74'83
Nacogdoches 1792 ROT 1:104'114
Nacogdoches 1792 TSG 13:15'23
Nacogdoches 1793 ROT 1:151'163
Nacogdoches 1794 UTANLB 1:94'104
Nacogdoches 1794 ROT 1:172'180
Nacogdoches 1795 ROT 1:181'193
Nacogdoches 1796 ROT 1:246'257
Nacogdoches 1797 ROT 1:282'294
Nacogdoches 1798 ROT 1:299'310
Nacogdoches 1799 ROT 1:313'327
Nacogdoches 1803 ROT 1:355'371
Nacogdoches 1805 ROT 1:404'418;421'423
Nacogdoches 1806 ROT 1:423'435
Nacogdoches 1809 ROT 2:10'35
Orcoquisac 1807 ROT 2:5'7
**Paso del Norte/Ciudad Juarez 1787'1805 UTEP
**Paso del Norte/Cuidad Juarez 1834 UTEP
**Paso del Norte/Cuidad Juarez 1841'44 UTEP
Purísima Concepción de Acuña 1792 ROT 1:102'104
Purísima Concepción de Acuña 1793 ROT 1:149'150
Purísima Concepción de Acuña 1798 ROT 1:296'297
Purísima Concepción de Acuña 1799 ROT 1:310'311
Purísima Concepción de Acuña 1809 ROT 2:38'39
Real de Barranco, Villa El Paso 1844 unknown
Refugio 1804 ROT 1:386
Rosario 1804 ROT 1:385
San Antonio Valero 1792 ROT 1:93'95
San Antonio Valero 1798 ROT 1:297'299
San Antonio Valero 1804 ROT 1:378'380
San Antonio Valero 1806 ROT 1:435'437
San Antonio Valero 1808 ROT 2:7'8
San Antonio de Béxar 1784 TSL
San Antonio de Béxar 1792 TSL
San Antonio de Béxar 1795 UTANLB 1:5'13;29'36;49'55
San Antonio de Béxar 1803 UTANLB 2:58'66;77'86
San Antonio de Béxar 1803 UTANLB 2:112'117
San Antonio de Béxar 1804 ROT 1:371'377
San Antonio de Béxar 1805 TSL
San Antonio de Valero 1795 ROT 1:215'218
San Antonio de Valero 1796 ROT 1:224'226
San Antonio de Valero 1797 ROT 1:262'265
San Fco. de la Espada 1790 ROT 1:46
San Fco. de la Espada 1792 ROT 1:98'100
San Fco. de la Espada 1795 ROT 1:218'220
San Fco. de la Espada 1797 ROT 1:260'262
San Fco. de la Espada 1803 ROT 1:353'354
San Fco. de la Espada 1804 ROT 1:386'387
San Fernando de Austria 1782 ROT 1:39'44
San Fernando de Austria 1792 ROT 1:75'92
San Fernando de Austria 1793 ROT 1:114'141
San Fernando de Austria 1795 ROT 1:193'215
San Fernando y Presidio de Béxar 1803 ROT 1:327'352
San Fernando y Presidio de San Antonio de Béxar 1797 ROT 1:265'282
San José de Aquallo 1790 ROT 1:44'46
San José de Aquallo 1792 ROT 1:95'98
San José de Aquallo 1793 ROT 1:141'145
San José de Aquallo 1805 ROT 1:419'420
San José de Aquallo 1794 ROT 1:169'172
San José de Aquallo 1797 ROT 1:258'260
San José de Aquallo 1798 ROT 1:294'296
San José de Aquallo 1799 ROT 1:311'313
San Juan Capistrano 1792 ROT 1:101'102
San Juan Capistrano 1793 ROT 1:145'146
San Juan Capistrano 1797 ROT 1:257'258
San Juan Capistrano 1798 ROT 1:294
San Juan Capistrano 1804 ROT 1:377'378
San Juan Capistrano 1809 ROT 2:36'38
San Jose de Palfox 1815 unknown
San Jose de Palfox 1816 unknown
San Marcos de Neve 1809 ROT 2:40'42
Sindic & its ranches 1810 ROT 2:64'73
Terre aux Boeufs 1779 LGR 27:367
Trinidad 1809 ROT 2:8'9
San Antonio Valero 1794 ROT 1:166'169
Valenzuela none LGR 27:367
Ysleta 1790 UTEP
Ysleta (religious census) 1805 UTEP
  • AGN CA: Collections found at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City in the section Californias.

AGN PI: Collections found at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City in the section Provincias Internas.

AGI: Archivo General de las Indias.

BNM: The Biblioteca Nacional de México, Mexico City.

LGR: The historical manuscripts section of the Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

ROT: Residents of Texas, 1782'1836, a three-volume set containing the Texas census in translated form with an index, published in 1984 by the Institute of Texan Cultures at the University of Texas.

TSG: Texas State Genealogical Society, Quarterly.

TSL: Texas State Library (Mexican Collection), Austin.

UTANLB: University Texas, Austin, Nettie Lee Benson.

UTEP: University of Texas at El Paso Library, El Paso.

Six- or seven-digit numbers with no other reference are film numbers from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This information was taken primarily from Latin American Census Records by Lyman D. Platt, with permission from the author. Where possible, a citation to an archive or library in the United States has been preferred, even though that library may only hold a microfilm copy of the original.

*Paso del Norte is comprised of the villages of Senecú, San Lorenzo, Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario.

Catholic Church Records

Catholic missions in Texas and other states had a two-fold purpose: converting the Indians to Christianity and promoting settlement. Missionary efforts by the Franciscans in what is now Texas had begun as early as 1659 with the establishment of the Mission Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Paso at El Paso del Norte (Ciudad Juarez, Mexico). By the close of the eighteenth century, the missions had nearly achieved their goals of frontier settlement; by about 1793, records of the numerous missions were placed in the hands of parish churches.

The following chart sets out those parishes and missions of Texas with existing sacramental records from before 1836 and the current location of the originals. Microfilms are available through the FHL and Family History Centers as marked. A more detailed description of these records, the mission histories, and other locations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California where microfilm and/or photocopies can be consulted is found in Chapter 18 of Spanish and Mexican Records of the American Southwest, by Henry Putney Beers.

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