About Regional Historical Resource Depository (RHRD) System - Details
The RHRD program started in the early 1970s and most accessions of records by the depositories were between the 1970s and the early 1990s. All local records in the custody of TSLAC within the RHRDs fall under the jurisdiction of the Archives and Information Services Division (Texas State Archives). The depositories were set up to house permanent/archival local government records the local agencies could no longer maintain. Record series found at the regional depositories have fulfilled their administrative, legal, and fiscal values, and are permanent only because of their historical value. Without the RHRDs, many of these records would not be as accessible to the public if the local governments retained them in their possession. And, in some cases, historical records of counties may have been destroyed without the availability of a depository to manage records the local government could no longer maintain. There are 23 depositories located throughout the state in academic libraries and other institutions. Each depository has its own space limitations, so the volume and number of records series vary at each location.
Transfer of Records to RHRDs
A local government agency, such as the County Clerk’s Office, transfers series of records to the custody of TSLAC and the records are then housed in the regional depository assigned to that county. The transfer of records is voluntary on the part of local governments. However, once transferred, TSLAC retains title to the records.
Typical records series you can find in most RHRDs:
- Deeds and deeds of trusts
- Birth, death and marriage records
- Tax records, delinquent tax rolls
- Tax assessor abstract books, property assessment records
- Land abstracts
- Chattel mortgages
- Civil and criminal dockets and case files
- Probate dockets and case files
- Inquest records
- Scholastic census and other old school records
- Poll tax records
- Voter registration records
Preservation and Accessibility
RHRD facilities sign an agreement with the State Archives, requiring them to take the following steps to preserve and make the records accessible:
- Prepare an inventory for the public to use
- Provide public access
- Keep the materials in locked stack areas
- Store the records in suitable environment (climate controlled).
Accessibility and Use of Records
Many researchers are unaware of the availability of these records
- Finding aids are spotty or non-existent
- Some depositories do not see these records as high priority, so they are not acknowledged on their websites
- The length of time most of these records have been at a depository and staff turnover has led to a loss of institutional memory – staff may not know they exist
- Lack of researcher knowledge about the existence or research value of the records = lack of demand to see the records = leads to the conclusion that these records are unimportant = difficulty in locating the records.
What happens when an RHRD leaves the program?
If a depository is full or pulls out of the program the records are transferred to the State Archives and Library building in Austin unless another suitable institution in the region applies to TSLAC to gain repository status. Two depositories have pulled out of the program in recent years (in San Antonio and Houston) and a couple of others are too full to take in any more records. There were not RHRD’s able to take in the records from Galveston County or the counties housed in the San Antonio RHRD, so dozens of series of local government records were transferred to the State Archives, in addition to thousands of early case files from the 1st and 14th Appeals Courts in Houston, and the 4th Appeals Court in San Antonio.
Funding for RHRDs
The State Archives does not provide any funding or staff assistance to RHRDs. When the program was established, staff assistance was available. Archivists assigned to the RHRD program eventually transferred to the TSLAC’s State and Local Records Division. The Legislature has not designated any funding for the RHRD program in our budget in recent years. The assistant director for archives provides limited assistance to RHRD staff through email and phone calls. Through legislation, certain filing fees gathered by county and district clerks are to be used to preserve the historical records. RHRDs, to the best of my knowledge, do not receive any of the filing fees from the counties whose records they house.
Other government records found in RHRDs
While the original function of the RHRD program was to house local government records, series of other government records can now be found in some RHRD facilities. Some RHRDs house records of Appeals Court records, such as the 8th Court of Appeals records at UT El Paso or the 9th Court of Appeals records in Liberty at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. In recent years, the State Library and Archives Commission has allowed legislators to deposit their records in a university in the state, most of these legislative records are in RHRDs. The Legislature passed legislation a few years ago that allows the governor to designate a repository for his records, again most of these records are in an RHRD. As with the records of local governments sent to RHRDs (or universities not in the RHRD system), the records still belong to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. We allow these legislative or gubernatorial records to be housed in the repositories as long they abide by agreements signed between TSLAC and the repository.
The State Archives receives use statistics of RHRD records used from their host repositories. Outside of 2 or 3 facilities, usage is low, largely focused on using the county records microfilm instead of the original records. Please visit an RHRD and use the records. There is great genealogical and historical value in records of local governments. A fact sheet and list of RHRD’s is available as a handout for this presentation. An inventory of local records found in the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center is posted on the TSLAC website. We hope to post inventories (or links) from records at other RHRDs in the near future.