Texas Tragedies That Inspired Innovation

by Stephanie Brown, Reference Archivist

Extra! Extra! Eyes of the World on Texas, the new exhibit now on display in the Texas State Library Commission (TSLAC) lobby, features major news events of the past that made headlines beyond the state’s borders. The historic events were sometimes triumphant, such as the legendary moon landing in 1969, but many were tragic. After such devastating occurrences as the New London school explosion in 1937 and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, there were some positive outcomes meant to help prevent future tragedies. From legislation to technical innovations, this exhibit includes some of the results still in use today. For instance, Texans built a seawall to protect citizens from coastal flooding, created a network of radar stations to improve storm detection, and passed laws regulating the dispensing and odorization of natural gas. These innovations made an impact that laid the groundwork for changes on a national level.


colorized postcard of a scene at the Galveston sea wall. The text reads, The Sea Wall Boulevard, Beach and Murdock Bath House, Galveston, Texas. Pedestrians walk along a boardwalk atop the sea wall and others on the sand below.
Sea Wall Boulevard in Galveston, 1915. Postcards of Texas collection, AC61/8-152, PP105.

The Great Storm of 1900

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in United States history, killed an estimated  8,000 people and damaged or destroyed more than 3,500 homes and buildings. At the time of the great storm, the highest point of elevation on the island was 8.7 feet above sea level. The 15-foot storm surge easily inundated the island, causing widespread erosion and destruction of property.

As Galvestonians began the slow process of recovery and rebuilding following the devasting storm, leaders looked for ways to prevent future catastrophes and loss of life. The Texas Legislature passed a resolution signed by Governor Joseph D. Sayers on September 7, 1901, allowing for the construction of a seawall to protect the island from deadly storm surge. Legislation also authorized Galveston County to issue bonds to raise funds to build the seawall.

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Battleship Texas Plans and Records Now Online at the State Archives

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is pleased to announce a major digitization effort that provides online access to more than 3,000 ships plans and records from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) collection documenting the USS battleship, Texas. Also known as BB-35, the dreadnought was commissioned in 1914 and participated in both World War I and World War II, including as flagship during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. USS Texas went on to become the first memorial battleship in the United States and serves as a national historical landmark.

State Records Center Imaging Specialist, Melanie Saegert prepares to digitize materials from the TPWD battleship Texas collection. Thousands of plans and records from the collection are now online in the TDA.

The recent addition to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records online collection is the culmination of a multi-faceted initiative involving conservation work, preservation, processing and archival housing of oversized materials, and a successful collaboration between TSLAC’s Archives and Information Services Division (ARIS) and the State Records Center (SRC) to engage in a mass digitization initiative together. SRC staff converted the thousands of blueprints, documents, manuals, booklets, and other paper materials into digital files for ARIS staff to organize, manage, describe, and ultimately upload to TSLAC’s digital repository, the Texas Digital Archive (TDA). Visitors to the site will find information about the battleship in the finding aids and an extensive series of detailed images of plans and records from the entire lifespan of the Texas.

TSLAC Conservator, Heather Hamilton demonstrates the protective measures the State Archives staff are employing to preserve oversize materials from the battleship Texas collection. Learn more about the State Archives’ conservation efforts on this project on the Conservation blog.

The battleship Texas records include oversize schematic drawings up to six feet long. Conservator Heather Hamilton analyzed the preservation challenges the size and nature of the drawings presented and determined the best solutions for repair and housing. Tears in the plans had been taped in the past and the paper was breaking along the creases created when folded and stored in boxes. The new housing employs archival quality plastic sheeting and the plans will be rolled as opposed to folded to help prevent further damaging the paper. Read more about the project on the Conservation blog.

While the State Archives is taking care to preserve the original plans and records for the battleship Texas, the digitization project has opened access to the collection for anyone with an internet connection. No need to pull the enormous plans from the stacks if one is able to click on a link to a digital image and download as needed. The partnership between the Archives and the SRC on this effort offers a model for future mass digitization projects.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records, 1900-1990s, undated

Creator: Texas. Parks and Wildlife Department.
Title: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Battleship Texas ships plans and records
Dates: 1900-1990s
Abstract: 
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) manages the conservation of the state’s natural and cultural resources, conservation education and outreach, and interpretation of cultural and historical resources. The USS battleship Texas served in both World War I and World War II and was decommissioned in 1948 in Texas to become a memorial and exhibit. The ship was first managed by the Battleship Texas Commission, then in 1983 administration transferred to TPWD with input from the Battleship Texas Advisory Board.

In 2019, the ship closed to the public for a major restoration effect. These records document the ship during both active duty and as a memorial and exhibit. Materials consist of original ships plans and plans reproductions, prints, posters, audiovisual materials, and records of the Battleship Texas Commission and the Battleship Texas Advisory Board. Records are dated 1900-1990s, undated. Most of the original ships plans, as well as all of the reproductions, prints, posters, and audiovisual materials have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Click here to enter the records

Click here to access the online finding aid


Celebrating Archives Month in Texas

SAA American Archives Month promotional image with various media formats represented.
The Society of American Archivists encourages archives to celebrate American Archives Month each October. The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) coordinates with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to promote the event as Texas Archives Month.

Each October, archivists raise awareness about the vital work being done to collect, preserve, and provide access to the materials held in repositories around the country through the American Archives Month campaign. In Texas, the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) coordinates with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to celebrate with Texas Archives Month initiatives.

THRAB and TSLAC produce a themed poster and webpage, which this year is Documenting Disability History in Texas. The poster is available for download and highlights collections from the State Archives, University of Texas at El Paso’s C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections, Forth Worth Public Library Archives, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, and the Texas Disability History Collection at the University of Texas at Arlington’ Special Collections. The poster webpage offers additional resources from these institutions with images, video, and links to finding aids relevant to the theme. THRAB and TSLAC also maintain a Texas Archives Month webpage with a calendar of events, Archives Month proclamations, and links to archival exhibits online and on view in Texas.

THRAB commemorates Texas Archives Month each year by announcing the recipients of their annual archival awards. Awards recognize individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to ensure the preservation and availability of the historical record of Texas. The awards bring attention to the extent and variety of repositories in the state and acknowledge the work of individuals within their institutions. The 2021 award recipients were from Archives of the Big Bend, the archives held by Sul Ross University in Alpine and the Dallas Historical Society, a non-profit organization documenting local history in Dallas. Visit the archival awards webpage to read more about the current recipients and view a list of past winners. The THRAB webpage also announces professional development opportunities they offer throughout the year and recordings of past webinars to view on-demand.

Visit the Texas Archives Month webpage to find out more about the events, activities, and resources being promoted throughout October. Happy Archives Month!


New Online: Recent Updates to Finding Aids and Digital Images Available Online

As our archives staff work on an ongoing basis to arrange, preserve, describe, and make available to the public the materials under our care, we spotlight new additions to the website in a regular feature from Out of the Stacks. The column lists new and revised finding aids recently made available online. We close out the piece highlighting fresh uploads to the Texas Digital Archive, our repository of electronic items.


New Finding Aids

Manuscripts

Price Daniel Audiovisual Materials and Related Papers
http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00041/tsl-00041.html

Price Daniel served as Texas attorney general, US senator, and Texas governor. These audiovisual materials and related papers date 1952-1962, 1980, undated, and encompass Daniel’s service in these offices, as well as his US Senate and Texas gubernatorial campaigns, and contain one item from after his political career.

Topics covered include narcotic laws, segregation, states’ rights, traffic safety, and Texas business and agriculture. The most common film format is 16mm black-and-white film, and audio materials include open reel audiotapes and instantaneous recordings. Some audiovisual materials include accompanying documents. These materials and accompanying documents have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Texas State Archives Broadsides and Printed Ephemera Collection http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/12014/tsl-12014.html

The Broadsides and printed ephemera collection is an artificial collection assembled by Texas State Archives staff beginning in the early 20th century. It consists of approximately 700 documents related to Texas and United States history. Printed ephemera was produced to distribute information as events unfolded, and it offers unique snapshots of Texas’s and the nation’s past.

Image: $1000 Reward, 1873. Broadside 276, Broadsides and printed ephemera collection. TSLAC. View in the TDA.

The ephemera in this collection includes both originals and copies of various formats, dating 1645-1999, bulk 1835-1930s. The original documents in this collection have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Local Records

Newton County (Tex.) District Clerk Records
http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00042/tsl-00042.html

Record of jurors, 1852-1884, Newton County (Tex.) District Clerk records. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, TSLAC. View in the TDA.

District courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in law and equity, which includes criminal cases of the grade of felony and misdemeanors involving official misconduct, divorce, cases of title to liens on land, election contests, and civil actions where the amount in controversy is at least $200. The district clerk serves as the clerk and custodian of all records for the district courts, indexes and secures all court records, and collects filing fees. These Newton County (Tex.) District Clerk records consist of civil and criminal docket books of the district court, a fee book, a district court minute book, and a record of jurors for the district court. Records date 1847-1898, with the bulk dating 1860-1879. The last two items listed are in digital format and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Newton County (Tex.) Tax Assessor-Collector Records
http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/00040/tsl-00040.html

Newton County (Tex.) Tax Assessor-Collector records reflect the office’s duties related to the assessment and collection of taxes and voter registration. The records include tax assessment rolls, delinquent tax rolls, abstract books, poll tax receipts, and voter registration receipts of women voters. Records date about 1846-1936, bulk 1847-1932. A 1912 Newton County tax roll is in digital format and is part of the Texas Digital Archive.

State Records

Texas National Research Laboratory Commission Records
http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/40147/tsl-40147.html

Established in 1985 by the 69th Texas Legislature, the Texas National Research Laboratory Commission oversaw the process of siting the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas. Records include correspondence, memorandums, minutes, agenda, meeting summaries, meeting supporting documentation, reports, financial reports, studies, plans, agreements, settlements, contracts, proposals, photographs, maps, drawings, speeches, news releases, news clippings, publications, transcripts, audiocassettes, videocassettes, magnetic tapes, design specifications, environmental impact statements, socioeconomic studies, property inventories, research files, construction schedules, biographical sketches, administrative records, and notes, dating 1980-1997. Subjects include the site characterization and selection process of the Superconducting Super Collider, costs for the design and construction of a particle accelerator, geological features of Amarillo and Ellis County, collection and analysis of environmental data, and potential socioeconomic impacts of the project. External entities reflected include the US Department of Energy, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Morrison Knudsen.

Texas Comptroller’s Office Executive Administration Division Correspondence
http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30202/tsl-30202.html

The Texas State Comptroller’s Office is responsible for collecting state revenue, tracking state expenditures, and monitoring the financial condition of the state. Documenting those duties, these are records of the Comptroller’s Office Executive Administration Division consisting of administrative correspondence (both incoming and especially outgoing letters, emails and memoranda, and attachments), superseded correspondence concerning executive orders and directives, legislative correspondence, and unprocessed correspondence on microfiche, dating 1940-2017, undated, bulk 1991-2017. Typically, correspondents are state legislators, state agency officials, the lieutenant governor, the governor, local officials (at the city, county, and school district level), federal officials, and corporate entities.


Revised Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Comptroller’s Office Executive Administration Division Records
https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/50101/tsl-50101.html

The Texas State Comptroller’s Office is responsible for collecting state revenue, tracking state expenditures, and monitoring the financial condition of the state. These records document those duties, representing activities of the various division directors, the deputy comptrollers, and comptrollers Bob Bullock, John Sharp, Carole Keeton Rylander Strayhorn, and Susan Combs. The records consist of correspondence, memorandums, reports, speeches, clippings, invitations, thank-you notes, computer printouts, press releases, and other administrative documents, dating 1948-2000, bulk 1973-1988, as maintained by the Executive Administration Division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

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Balmorhea State Park Pool

After a two-year closure for a renovation project, the Balmorhea State Park pool in West Texas has reopened, offering visitors the opportunity for a refreshing dip into the spring-fed waters once again. In celebration of this Texas landmark, let’s dip into the collections at the State Archives for a look at historic images related to Balmorhea.

The popular summer swimming destination has been attracting travelers for decades. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the park and its structures, including the pool, as part of the federal government’s effort to provide employment and a reliable paycheck for Americans suffering poverty during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Image: Swimming pool springs 4-miles out, Balmorhea, Texas, 1936. William Deming Hornaday Photograph Collection,1975/070-5412. TSLAC. View in TDA.

The State Archives has in its collections the CCC drawings for Balmorhea and other Texas State Parks. Explore the collection online through a searchable database specifically designed for these materials here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/apps/arc/CCCDrawings/

An extensive gallery of archival images of the Balmorhea project is also available for easy browsing online through the State Archives’ Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasstatearchives/albums/72157623645126618

Balmorhea State Park – Master Plan Cover Sheet – SP47-100
https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasstatearchives/4443594888/in/album-72157623645126618/
Balmorhea State Park – Development Plan, Solomon Springs Area – SP47-100-3
https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasstatearchives/4520436989/in/album-72157623645126618/

Texas State Parks Board records housed at the State Archives include images, promotional materials, correspondence and other items connected to the Balmorhea project. Though most of these records have not been digitized, several images below offer a glimpse of the kinds of research materials one might discover in these files.

San Solomon Springs – #558 – Balmorhea, Texas, 1939. Acquisition and development files, 2005/041-11. Texas State Parks Board records. TSLAC.

In a 1944 letter, the district engineer for the Texas Highway Department seemed perplexed by a request from the Texas State Parks Board to “place a reflectorized sign at the entrance to Balmorhea State Park.” The sketch in the image below was provided as evidence of the work having been completed several years prior.

Letter to Quinn from Killner, March 4, 1944. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-11. TSLAC.
Sign design for Balmorhea State Park, September 28, 1940. Administrative subject files, 2005/041-11, Texas State Parks Board records. TSLAC.

Would you rent a bathing suit at a swimming pool? According to this “notice to the public” about Balmorhea, bathing suits for sale or rental were available on site.

Notice to the public, undated. Acquisition and development files, Texas State Parks Board records, 2005/041-11. TSLAC.

The State Archives library collections also have publications on Balmorhea State Park and related topics. Here are examples of titles with links to the records in the online catalog:

Balmorhea State Park activity book / P500 B215AC 1998 / Texas Documents Collection

Birds of Balmorhea State Park & vicinity : a field checklist / P500 B215B 1992 / Texas Documents Collection

General community profile on Balmorhea / I400.7 G286BALH 1978 / Texas Documents Collection

Rebirth of a desert wetland : the San Solomon Ciénega / P500 B215SA 2004 / Texas Documents Collection

For information on how to find these and other materials about Balmorhea State Park, please contact our reference staff at ref@tsl.texas.gov or call 512-463-5455.

New Online: Recent Updates to Finding Aids and Digital Images Available Online


As our archives staff work on an ongoing basis to arrange, preserve, describe, and make available to the public the materials under our care, we spotlight new additions to the website in a regular feature from Out of the Stacks. The column lists new and revised finding aids recently made available online. We close out the piece highlighting fresh uploads to the Texas Digital Archive, our repository of electronic items.

Archivists create finding aids for collections once they are processed and add these descriptive guides to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). TARO hosts finding aids from institutions around the state and researchers may determine whether or not to limit searches to the State Archives. Not all collections have been processed and therefore the list of finding aids does not represent the entirety of our holdings. The Archives & Manuscripts page of the TSLAC website provides more information and guidance on how to access archival collections.

Contact ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455 with questions about using TSLAC’s archival resources. For a comprehensive list of all recently added and updated finding aids visit Archives: Finding Aids (New & Revised).


New Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Attorney General’s Office bound briefs – AG II.05

The attorney general is the lawyer for the people of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas, represent the State in litigation, and approve public bond issues. Records consist of bound volumes containing briefs to litigation in which the Texas Attorney General’s office played a part or had an interest, dating 1913-1938. Subjects include banking, conflicts with other states, oil and gas, railroads, taxation, and transportation.

San Jacinto River Authority minutes – TCEQ I.11

The San Jacinto River Authority, established by the Texas Legislature in 1937, develops, conserves, and protects water resources of the San Jacinto River Basin. The agency activities include supporting municipal and industrial water supply, water quality management, wastewater treatment, and water and soil conservation projects. Records consist of minutes dating 1990-2019.

Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission Office of the Hearing Examiners hearing files – TCEQ I.10

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission was charged to protect the environment and public health and safety by reducing the release of pollutants and contaminants in the air and water, regulating the management and disposal of waste, and expediting the cleanup of contaminated sites. Records consist of hearing examiner files compiled by the commission’s Office of the Hearing Examiner’s predecessors—Texas Air Control Board, Texas Department of Health, and Texas Water Commission—as part of the permit application process, dating 1920s-1996, undated, bulk 1977-1992. The majority of the records dating prior to 1977 are exhibits.(A portion of these records are available in the TDA.)

Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission minutes – OAH II.040

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, established in 2009 and administratively attached to the Texas Historical Commission, ensures that resources are available to students, educators, and the general public regarding the Holocaust and other genocides. These efforts aim to prevent future genocides. Records consist of commission meeting minutes, dating 2010-2018. (All records are electronic and available through the TDA after review for restricted information, upon receipt of a researcher request.)

Manuscripts

United States Bureau of Reclamation Region 5 (Texas) reclamation studies – MS I.11

The United States Bureau of Reclamation is the federal agency responsible for managing water resources in the western United States. Originally, management projects focused on reclamation of lands considered inhospitable due to lack of water through irrigation, but over time they have come to include maintenance of existing projects and development of environmental protection strategies for water resources. These records, from the bureau’s Austin Development Office, document water reclamation studies undertaken in Texas related to the bureau’s proposed and completed projects within Texas borders and include memorandums, reports, and plans regarding various infrastructure projects for water resource diversion, distribution, use, and development, dating 1940-1967, bulk 1946-1966.

Samuel E. Asbury papers – MS XII.23

Samuel Erson Asbury was a chemist, Texas historian, and collector of Texana and materials of prominent Texans of the Revolution-era. The Samuel E. Asbury papers comprise research correspondence, papers, photographs, primary source transcriptions, and genealogy notes about prominent Republic-era figures and Texas Reconstruction, dating 1922-1951.

Revised Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Attorney General Mark White records – AG II.11

As the chief legal officer of the state of Texas, the attorney general is charged by the Texas Constitution to defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas, represent the State in litigation, and approve public bond issues. Records of Mark White’s tenure as attorney general from 1979 to 1983 include correspondence, memorandums, newspaper clippings, photographs, legal briefs, court opinions, press releases, and newsletters, dating 1975-1982, undated, bulk 1979-1982.

Subjects include the drafting and explanation of attorney general opinions, filings of lawsuits, analyzing proposed legislation at the state and federal levels, enforcement of the Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the state’s criminal justice system, energy issues, Minister Lester Roloff’s children’s home and the enforcement of the Child Case Licensing Act, public education issues, and drug paraphernalia and illegal drug dealing. Image: Governor Mark White

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Resources for African American Genealogy Research at TSLAC

Studio photo of group of three African American individuals. Two women seated and one man standing.
Group portrait of two women seated with hats in lap and a man standing between them, 1905. Tina Q. Odim photograph collection, 2015/109-7. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. (View in TDA)

Genealogy researchers tracing family lines through African American ancestors, especially those who may have resided in Texas, may find the collections and reference resources at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) helpful. TSLAC’s Genealogy Collection is part of the expansive library of publications and resources that includes family and county histories, city directories, birth and death indexes, cemetery records, newspapers, and other information essential to genealogists. Online services like Ancestry.com Texas offer digital versions of some State Archives collections. The State Archives houses the official record of the government of Texas throughout the history of the state, along with papers from organizations, families, businesses, and related Texas groups. If individuals interacted with the government on official business, it is possible that their names are on file.

Washington Edwards, 103 years old, 1889. According to the writing on the back of this photo, Edwards was brought to the United States from Africa, leaving behind a wife and family. He came to Texas shortly before the Mexican War. He never forgot his native African language. Prints and Photographs Collection, 1905/11-1. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The history of the lives of African Americans in the United States is intertwined with the long legacy of chattel slavery. The majority of Black Americans living in the South during the 19th century before the Civil War were owned as property. Tracing family lineage is difficult, as individuals were often only referred to by gender, a general age range, and perhaps a first name. In another blog post [https://www.tsl.texas.gov/outofthestacks/a-girl-named-loise-19th-century-documents-record-hidden-lives/], Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath described how he uncovered the history of an enslaved girl named Loise through historical records. He wrote that, “Deeds, wills, court cases and tax records are some of the evidentiary documents establishing intermittent timelines of those whose lives intersected with legal transactions, including those considered, under the law, as property.” In this case, Harris County tax documents and records from court cases illuminated the course of this young person’s life.

Image: 13th Legislature, 1873, Liberators of Texas, [included African American representation]. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Find out more about representation in the online exhibit Forever Free.

After the Civil War, Black Texans began participating in communities in new ways that offer opportunities for genealogists. For example, ancestors may have entered public office, owned property, and registered to vote. Researchers should investigate federal census records, voter registration lists and other files available through the State Archives. The Texas Genealogy Trails site lists African Americans in government office during the Reconstruction Era here: http://genealogytrails.com/tex/state/aapolitics.html.

The Freedmen’s Bureau was a federal agency that provided various means of support for former enslaved people and opened field offices in southern states, including Texas. Digital collections of these records are available online through genealogy services like FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1989155) and particularly useful for African American heritage searches.

TSLAC Reference staff maintain a page on the Archives and Reference website with a list of popular resources used for Genealogy research. Many of these are searchable online. Much of the list is reproduced below. These entries cover only a portion of the hundreds of collections and publications that may contain references to ancestors. Patrons may also search the library catalog for more titles and search finding aids for more archival material.

                                Access the library catalog.

                                Access archival finding aids.

Texas State Archives Collections

The Index to Confederate Pension Applications provides the name, county of residence, and pension number for some 54,634 approved, rejected, and home pensions issued by the Texas government between 1899 and 1975.

Texas Adjutant General Service Records, 1836-1935. The Service Records Series combines both official service record files from the Adjutant General’s Office and alphabetical files created by other agencies which contain records related to an individual’s service in a military unit. The database provides the name, the military organization, and the call number. Please note that the listing does not include the names of ALL persons who served in Texas military organizations. It indexes only the names of persons who have files in this record series.

Republic Claims. This series is now available in digital form as well as microfilm. It includes claims for payment, reimbursement, or restitution submitted by citizens to the Republic of Texas government from 1835 through 1846. It also includes records relating to Republic pensions and claims against the Republic submitted as public debt claims after 1846.

Confederate Indigent Families Lists. View the names of families that received aid through the 1863 “Act to Support the Families and Dependents of Texas Soldiers.”

1867 Voters’ Registration. On March 23, 1867, Congress passed legislation that called for a registration of qualified voters in each military district. The text of this legislation can be found in the Statutes at Large in volume 15, page 2 (15 Stat 2). The commanding officer in each district was required to have, before September 1, a list of these voters from each county. These lists would be used to determine all who would be eligible to vote for any proposed constitutional convention in the state.

Texas Convict Record Ledgers and Indexes. The record ledgers are excellent sources of individual convict descriptions and information regarding their incarceration. Although the original records are too fragile to be used, they have been microfilmed and may be viewed on-site or borrowed through the interlibrary loan program.

Republic of Texas Passports. The collection of 55 documents has been digitized and a complete listing of names is available.

Library Reference Resources

Vital statistics indexes are an important part of the genealogical resources available at the library. While we do not have access to the certificates themselves, the library does own selected indexes to Texas births, deaths, marriages and divorces. The indexes are available for on-site use.

Texas County Tax Rolls on Microfilm are available for on-site use from the early years of each county through the late 1970s.

Index of County Records on Microfilm is available online, along with instructions for borrowing rolls through interlibrary loan. Although the microfilm is housed in depository libraries throughout Texas, the Genealogy Collection houses the film for the following counties: Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bexar, Blanco, Caldwell, Comal, Frio, Galveston, Gillespie, Grayson, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kinney, Llano, McMullen, Medina, Uvalde, and Wilson.

City Directory Research at the Texas State Library and Archives. Our city directories include print and microfilm city directories.

Newspaper Research at the Texas State Library and Archives. Our newspaper collections include newspapers on microfilm, original print newspapers, and online newspaper subscriptions.

Ancestry.com Texas

The following data collections are included free to Texans via Ancestry.com. Find out how to access these digital collections here: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/ancestry.

  • Alabama, Texas and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958
  • Texas, Prison Employee Ledgers, 1861-1938
  • Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900
  • Texas, Wills and Probate Records, 1833-1974
  • Texas, Convict and Conduct Registers, 1875-1945
  • Texas, Court of Criminal Appeal Indexes, 1892-1947
  • Texas, Capitol Building Payroll, 1882-1888
  • Texas, Memorials and Petitions, 1834-1929
  • Texas, Bonds and Oaths of Office, 1846–1920
  • Texas, Index Card Collections, 1800-1900
  • Texas, Voter Registration Lists, 1867-1869
  • Nacogdoches, Texas, Spanish and Mexican Government Records, 1729-1836
  • Texas, Land Title Abstracts,1700-2008 (original records held by the Texas General Land Office)

For more information on the collections and services available at TSLAC, check the website here or contact Reference Staff at ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.

TSLAC Bids Farewell to Assistant Director for Archives, Laura Saegert

As 2020 comes to a close, TSLAC bids a fond farewell to long-time employee and Assistant Director for Archives Laura Saegert, who is retiring after 39 years with the agency. Laura began her tenure at the State Archives with a grant project in 1981 and came on board full time in November of that year. She was led to the profession through her interest in history. While a graduate student at the University of Texas School of Library and Information Science (now the iSchool), Laura’s graduate advisor believed she would find archival work appealing and introduced her to Dr. David Gracy. The rest, she says, “is history!”

TSLAC Assistant Director for Archives, Laura Saegert

Laura first served as an assistant archivist then moved up through the ranks of archivist I, II and III. Following the retirement of both the state archivist and assistant director in 2009, Laura assumed many new duties as “team lead” for archives. This new chapter began during the final stages of the renovation of the Lorenzo de Zavala Building, tapping Laura’s project management skills.

By the time the new State Archivist Jelain Chubb arrived in June 2010, Laura was ready for even more challenges. She assumed the role of assistant director of archives in September 2010. According to Jelain, “Laura impressed me immediately with the depth of her archival knowledge, insights into the collections, and how well she had managed all the new responsibilities that came her way. She was undoubtedly the right person for the job.”

Laura Saegert (right) during her early days at the State Archives.

Though it is difficult to imagine the archives without Laura and her encyclopedic knowledge of the collections, she leaves an impressive legacy. In an ever-evolving landscape, she has guided her team through technological innovations in archival processes and improved online access to primary sources.

Recent efforts like the implementation of content management system ArchivesSpace and the creation of the Texas Digital Archive have kept us moving forward in our mission to preserve the historical record. The archives profession was obviously a true calling for Laura and her expertise will be missed.

We asked Laura a few questions about archives, her career with TSLAC and her future plans.

Q: What is an aspect of archival work that changed the most over the years?

A: Processing. When I started, we were doing a lot of item level processing (maps, photographs), and processing agency records was slower, spending more time on arrangement and description and producing very detailed finding aids. Over the years, due to the backlog and the sheer volume of records we have to deal with, the level of processing has moved to less time spent reviewing the records and providing less detail in the finding aids. The concept of processing is the same, but the time spent on each collection is less.

Laura Saegert reviews a collection.

Q: What will you miss most about the archives?

A: Interaction with my staff and working with the records.

Q: Is there an item or a collection that is a particular favorite and why?

A: My favorite collection is the Historic Map Collection. I have always been fascinated by maps, even took a cartography course in college and learned how maps are created. I worked on the map collection part-time for 10 years and set up the online map application.

Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico, Segun lo organizado y definido, par los varias actas del Congreso de dicha Republica; y construido por los mejores autoridades, 1828. Texas State Archives Map Collection, #1022. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/apps/arc/maps/maplookup/01022

Other favorite collections are records involving the state prison system and the Texas Youth Commission. I processed most of the records in these groups. Life in the prison system or the juvenile delinquent system is so different than what I experience and in working with these records you see some things in a whole new light. You also see how badly these systems were managed in the past and realize that history repeats itself regarding management of these institutions.

Q: How will you spend your time in retirement?

A: For the next 12 to 18 months, starting in January, I will be taking care of my new grandson part of each weekday while my older daughter goes back to work. I will be doing more quilting, reading, and when things get closer to normal, doing some traveling.

Laura Saegert, front row, third from right, poses with Archives and Information Services staff in 2018.

We truly appreciate Laura’s impressive service to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and wish her a happy and pleasant retirement.

Postcard Puzzlers for Holiday Fun: The Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection

Our Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection offers the ideal imagery for the meditative pastime of assembling jigsaw puzzles. The collection captures the scenery of twentieth century life in that region of the state and adds a bit of nostalgia to the pleasure of piecing together a moment in time. Choose your favorite postcard and start your online puzzle. Come back when you feel like taking on another scene!

A color-added photograph of Green Avenue in Orange. The street itself is not visible, only a sidewalk and the adjacent buildings. The First Presbyterian Church is visible in the center background. Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection,1991.183-840. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. [View in TDA]

A color-added photograph of a paddle steamer navigating the Neches River in Beaumont. Several men and women in formal dress are visible on the decks of the steamer. Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection, 1991.183-416. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. [View in TDA]

A color-added photograph of several men operating a rice thrashing machine. The leavings are accumulated in a large pile to the right of the machine. Rows of bags of harvested rice are visible in the right foreground. Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection, 1991.183-510. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. [View in TDA]

A color-added photograph of the interior of the Newport Bar in Port Arthur. The bar is visible in the center. A seaside mural circles the two walls in the background. Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection, 1991.183-1249. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. [View in TDA ]

Browse the Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection in the Texas Digital Archive.

New Online: Recent Updates to Finding Aids and Digital Images Available Online

As our archives staff work on an ongoing basis to arrange, preserve, describe, and make available to the public the materials under our care, we spotlight new additions to the website in a regular feature from Out of the Stacks. The column lists new and revised finding aids recently made available online. We close out the piece highlighting fresh uploads to the Texas Digital Archive, our repository of electronic items.

Archivists create finding aids for collections once they are processed and add these descriptive guides to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). TARO hosts finding aids from institutions around the state and researchers may determine whether or not to limit searches to the State Archives. Not all collections have been processed and therefore the list of finding aids does not represent the entirety of our holdings. The Archives & Manuscripts page of the TSLAC website provides more information and guidance on how to access archival collections.

Contact ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455 with questions about using TSLAC’s archival resources. For a comprehensive list of all recently added and updated finding aids visit Archives: Finding Aids (New & Revised).


New Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Health and Human Services Commission advisory committee meeting files – OAH V.132

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is the oversight agency for certain state agencies with health or human services functions. Records are the meeting files of many of the commission’s advisory committees, dating 1996-2019. Records are electronic as well as paper.

Texas Prescribed Burning Board meeting minutes and agenda and other records – AGR I.06

The Texas Prescribed Burning Board (PBB) was created within the Department of Agriculture in 1999, for the purpose of establishing minimum standards for prescribed burning in Texas. The PBB certifies commercial, private, and not-for-profit prescribed burn managers to ensure they have the proper training to execute prescribed burns designed to confine fire to a predetermined area and to accomplish planned land management objectives. Records include board meeting minutes and agenda, research and publication development files, Prescribed Fire School documents and curriculum, planning records, personnel documents, and audiocassettes, dated 1995-2018 and undated, bulk 1998-2010. The audiocassettes have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.

Texas Senate recordings – LEG I.04

The Texas Senate is one arm of the Legislature of the State of Texas (the other being the Texas House of Representatives), which the Texas Constitution (Article III, Section 1) vests with all legislative power of the state. Senate recordings contain floor debate, press conferences, speeches, interviews, hearings, ceremonies, and joint meetings with House committees. They span the 62nd Legislature, 4th Called Session, through the 79th Legislature, Interim Term. These digital copies of the original audiotape recordings, created by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission with grant funding provided by the Library Services and Technology Act, Institute of Museum and Library Services, are part of the Texas Digital Archive. The Texas Senate Recordings search page allows searching of these recordings by legislative session, date, committee name, recording number, and keyword.

Revised Finding Aids

State Records

Texas Tourist Development Agency photographs and audiovisual materials – OAH VIII.213

Texas Tourist Development Agency photographs and audiovisual materials document the activities of the Texas Tourist Development Agency (TTDA) and its work to increase the state’s share of the national tourist market using a variety of mass media. The materials include photographic color slides, transparencies, negatives, photographic prints, videotapes, motion picture films, and audio tapes and date from 1964 to 1997 and undated. Portions of the slides and negatives have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive. In addition, a portion of digitized slides is available through the Texas State Archives Flickr page.

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