County Boundary Histories in Texas Statewide Records Project Publications

By Clinton Drake, Reference Librarian

When Texas became an independent republic in 1836, the 23 municipalities created under Mexican colonial rule were converted to counties and further divided as settlement continued, leading to the current 254 counties in the state of Texas. The newest county is Kenedy, created from Willacy County in 1921. Counties as we recognize them today have most likely not always had the same boundaries. There are a variety of resources to assist researchers in determining how a county was formed and where to look for records if boundaries have changed over time.

One often-overlooked resource for researching county boundaries are the maps created in the 1930s and 1940s by the Texas Statewide Records Project. As part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), the federal relief program to provide jobs during the Great Depression, the Texas Statewide Records Project was a community service program that employed historians, lawyers, teachers, and research and clerical workers to prepare inventories of unpublished government records.

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Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog: Telling the Engine Where to Search and How

Birch Griesse, Library Assistant

Search TSLAC’s library catalog online at

Understanding the search options in the Texas State Library and Archive Commission’s (TSLAC) library catalog can help patrons more quickly and efficiently retrieve records pertinent to their research needs. Earlier posts covered The Basics of the catalog search engine and The Secrets to using search fields and Boolean operators. This post takes a closer look at the available search fields – shown in Figure 1 below – and how they can be used in conjunction with the search-type options displayed in Figure 2.

TSLAC catalog’s homepage displays these basic search options:

Below the library drop-down menu is a series of buttons that tell the search engine where – that is, in what fields – to search in the catalog (Figure 1).

Figure 1. These buttons tell the catalog what to search.
  • Words or Phrase. This is the broadest option. It returns any records that contain the search terms, including in the title, in the author’s name, and in the book’s summary.
  • Author. This button looks for the search term in the author field. The author may be a person or an agency.
  • Title. This option looks for the search term within the title only.
  • Subject. This option looks for the search term within all the subjects that have been assigned to items. Subjects are chosen by catalogers from Library of Congress Subject Headings.
  • Series. This option looks for the search term only in the titles of a series.
  • Periodical Title. Similar to Title, this function narrows the search to only the titles of periodicals and journals.

Above the search bar are three options that tell the search engine how to search for your terms within the selections described above (Figure 2).

Figure 2. These options tell the catalog how to search.

When this option is selected, the search engine will display results that include the search term(s) anywhere within the field it is told to search. For example, conducting a Title search for “Texas women” with the Keyword option selected will return all titles that include “Texas” and “women” in the title.

This option tells the search engine to find records that begin with the search term, then returns an alphabetical list of records. Results always first display the record immediately preceding your search results, then the list of titles that match your search terms.

Browse/Title: A Title search for “Texas women” with the Browse option selected returns a list of titles beginning with “Texas Woman’s University, Science and Mathematics Center for Women” followed by “Texas Women” and then ending with “Texas women : interview and images” (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Results of a “Title” search for “Texas women” with the “Browse” option selected.

Browse/Subject: A Subject search for “Texas women” with the Browse option selected returns an alphabetical list of subject terms used in the catalog. A number to the right of each subject tells how many records have been assigned that term. Clicking on the subject term generates a list of these records (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Results of a “Subject” search for “Texas women” with the “Browse” option selected.

Choosing this option tells the engine to look for the search term exactly as entered.

For example, a Title search for “Texas ranger” with the Exact option selected returns ten records with that exact title. “Texas women” returns only one result, as that title is an exact match for only one resource. If there are no exact matches, the engine will return the same alphabetical list that would be generated by a “Browse” search for the same term.

Note that the title in the Item Information may not exactly match the search term, as in the result for “Texas women” in Figure 5 below. This is because the engine is also searching variant titles, which can be found in the item’s catalog record (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The variant title in the Catalog Record matches the search term.

Happy Searching! Feel free to contact reference staff with further questions about the catalog or your research needs: or 512-463-5455.

Please note: Access to our library materials is currently limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many items in our library collections are available online, through interlibrary loan (ILL), or at other libraries. If you are interested in specific library materials found in our catalog, please email with those details and we will be happy to help you with access options.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: Searching with WebCat en Español/Buscar con WebCat en Español

By Birch Griesse, Library Assistant


While most of the books in TSLAC’s collections are in English, some patrons may prefer the experience of using Spanish-language navigation while searching the library holdings. Anyone using a computer with internet access may search TSLAC’s library catalog to discover what we have. Although the library catalog records are in English, there is an option to search the catalog using our Spanish-language interface. Located In the upper right-hand corner of the homepage, the “WebCat en español” link will change the screen to Spanish mode. Please note that the search terms themselves should be entered in English.

Figure 1. The link to WebCat en español
Figure 2. The WebCat en español interface

Navigating WebCat en español

The WebCat en español interface has special navigation buttons, with some in Spanish and others still in English. Instead of a search button or the enter key, there are six different buttons underneath the search box.

There are also navigation links in the WebCat header. “Regresar” is used in place of the browser button to go back. Clicking “Enlazar con página” generates a link to the current page. “Ayuda” opens as new window with more information about WebCat en español, and “Desconexión” logs you out.

Starting a search

Because the majority of TSLAC’s holdings are in English, searching in English will yield more results.

Select one of the blue buttons underneath the search box.

  • Words or phrase. Will bring up any materials that include your words or phrase, whether in the title, the name of the author, or the summary.
  • Author. Search by author. The author can be a person or institution.
  • Title. Search by title.
  • Subject. Search by subject headings. The List of Library of Congress Subject Headings is used to describe what an item is about. Note that the headings are in English and the catalog’s Spanish interface does not translate them.
  • Series. Search by series title.
  • Periodical Title. Search by periodical title.

The radio buttons above the search box are used to change the type of search.

  • Palabra clave. Retrieve records that contain some part of the search term. For example, a title search for “Texas women” would retrieve any record with “Texas” or “women” in the title.
  • Navegación. Retrieve an alphabetical list of titles, authors, or subject headings. The list begins with the record that goes before the search term alphabetically. If the search term is not found, it retrieves the list of records in which it would go second.
  • Exacta. Search the search term exactly as it is written. For example, a title search for “Texas women” would retrieve only records with “Texas women” as the title.

Navigating the results

Figure 3. Results of the title search “Texas women”

At the top of the results you will find the number of records retrieved. Above this, in the header, are some new navigation links. “Refine search” allows you to refine your current search. “Nueva búsqueda” allows you to begin a new one.

“Mis artículos guardados” links to a page where you can save records you want to go back to. Clicking the “Mantener” box to the left of the record saves it in this page.

Navigating a record

Figure 4. The “Información de ejemplar” view of a record, including location

Clicking on one of the results retrieves the item display. The “Información de ejemplar” view gives basic information about the item, including its location. If you find a title you are interested in, contact the Reference Desk: Knowing the call number (“call number” in figure 4) or title will help identify the title more quickly.

Clicking “Registro de catálogo” directs you to more detailed information, which can include subject headings, a summary, or a table of contents.

For other catalog search tips, check out the “Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog” blog series.

TSLAC wishes you good luck with your research. Questions can be directed to the reference staff at: or 512-463-5455.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: Searching with WebCat en español/Buscar con WebCat en español

By Birch Griesse, Library Assistant


Aunque la mayoría de los libros en las colecciones de TSLAC están solamente en inglés, el WebCat en español le puede ayudar con sus necesidades generales de búsqueda.

En el catálogo de biblioteca de TSLAC se pueden hacer búsquedas desde cualquier computadora con acceso a internet. Aunque los registros están en inglés, hay opción de hacer búsquedas en el catálogo en español. En la esquina superior derecha de la página de inicio del catálogo se encuentra un enlace a WebCat en español.

Ilustración 1. El enlace a WebCat en español
Ilustración 2. La interfaz de WebCat en español

Navegar WebCat en español

La interfaz de WebCat en español tiene botones especiales de navegación. Para iniciar una búsqueda, en vez de usar un botón de «Buscar» o la tecla Enter, se puede usar uno de seis botones diferentes que se encuentran en la parte de abajo del renglón de búsqueda.

En la cabecera de WebCat también hay enlaces de navegación. «Regresar» se usa en vez del botón del navegador para volver atrás. Hacer clic en «Enlazar con página» genera un enlace a la página actual.

“Ayuda” abre una página nueva con más información sobre WebCat en español, y “Desconexión” se usa para abandonar el sitio.

Iniciar una búsqueda

Seleccione unos de los botones azules en la parte de abajo del renglón de búsqueda:

  • Words or phrase. Recuperar cualquier registro que contenga el término de búsqueda, ya sea en el título, en el nombre del autor, o en el resumen.
  • Author. Buscar por autor. El autor puede ser una persona o una institución.
  • Title. Buscar por título.
  • Subject. Buscar por los encabezamientos de materia. La Lista de Encabezamientos de Materia de la Biblioteca del Congreso de Estado Unidos se usa para describir lo que trata un libro, articulo o documento. Note que los encabezamientos están en inglés y la interfaz en español del catálogo no los traduce.
  • Series. Buscar por título de serie.
  • Periodical Title. Buscar por título de publicación periódica.

Los botones de opción que se encuentran arriba el renglón de búsqueda se usan para cambiar el tipo de búsqueda.

  • Palabra clave. Recuperar registros que contienen alguna parte del término de búsqueda. Por ejemplo, una búsqueda de título para «Texas women» recuperaría cualquier registro con «Texas» o «women» en el título.
  • . Recuperar una lista alfabética de títulos, autores, o encabezamientos de materia. La lista empieza con el registro que va alfabéticamente antes del término de búsqueda. Si no se encuentra el término de búsqueda, se recupera la lista de registros, en la que el término iría en segundo lugar.
  • Exacta. Buscar el término de búsqueda tal como está escrito. Por ejemplo, una búsqueda de título para «Texas women» recuperaría sólo registros con «Texas women» como título.

Navegar los resultados

Ilustración 3. Resultados de la búsqueda de título «Texas women»

En la parte superior de los resultados se encuentra el número de registros recuperado. Arriba de eso, en la cabecera, se encontrarán unos nuevos enlaces de navegación. «Refine search» le deja precisar la búsqueda actual. «Nueva búsqueda» le deja iniciar una nueva.

El vínculo «Mis artículos guardados» lo lleva a una página donde se pueden guardar los registros a los que quiere volver más tarde. Para guardar el registro que le interesa, haga clic en el cuadrito de «Mantener», a la izquierda del registro.

Navegar un registro

Para ver un registro más amplio del libro, artículo o documento, haga clic en uno de los resultados. La vista «Información de ejemplar» da información básica sobre el libro, artículo o documento, incluyendo su localización. Los números de catalogación en la parte de abajo se usa para encontrar el libro, articulo o documento en la biblioteca.

Ilustración 4. La vista «Información de ejemplar» de un registro, incluyendo localización

Para ir a información aún más detallada, haga clic en «Registro de catálogo», que puede incluir encabezamientos de materia, un resumen, o una tabla de contenidos.

Para más consejos de búsqueda, eche un vistazo a la serie blog “Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog.”

TSLAC le desea buena suerte con su investigación. Se pueden dirigir preguntas al personal del servicio de referencia a: o 512-463-5455.

Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog: Secrets to Search Fields and Operators

By Kelli Dover, Library Assistant

If your library catalog searches for items in the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) collections give you too few or too many results, or you are not finding exactly what you want, this post will help you utilize Boolean operators and special characters to maximize your search efforts.

To perform any catalog search, you will need to open the TSLAC Library Catalog search home page. (If you’re not sure how to get there, see our previous post in this series.) This article will focus on the search buttons (circled in red below). Future posts will address the radio buttons (keyword, browse, exact) and library options on the drop-down menu. For the purposes of this post, we will select the radio button for “keyword” and choose “*TX State Library & Archives Comm” for the library.  You are now ready to search the catalog in keyword mode.

library catalog search screen

On the search home page, there are three radio buttons to choose from, a library drop-down box and six different buttons indicating search type.

After typing in your search terms, click on one of the blue buttons (Words or Phrase, Author, Title, Subject, Series, and Periodical Title) to run a specific search type. It is important to understand what kinds of results each search will yield.

Words or Phrase: Results include your search terms as found anywhere in the catalog record. If you type in your search terms and press enter, this is the default search type used. Below is an example of a catalog record and all of the fields that may include your search term.

Author: Results include your search terms that are found only within the author fields. This can include corporate authors and additional authors. You can use first name, last name, or initials. Including a last name will provide the best results.

Title: Search mechanism limits the options to only the title fields in the catalog record. Note: Periodical Title is a separate search.

Subject: Results will include your search terms as found in the subject index. If you are not looking for a specific item, this search will pull up a range of titles that may be related to your research area of interest. While it may not include every item in our collection on the subject, it will give you an idea of the types of publications in our collection. Clicking on a subject in the catalog record will bring you to a list of items that have the same subject.

Series: Results will include your search terms as found within the series field. Government documents and academic journals are often entered as series. A series covers publications released in intervals though not necessarily with regularity. It may be best to use a Title search or Words or Phrase search if you’re not finding what you want.

Periodical Title: Results will include your search terms as found within the periodical titles field. Periodicals are released at regular intervals and they generally have multiple contributors. It may be best to use Title search or Words or Phrase search if you’re not finding what you want.

Now that you’ve selected the appropriate search type, we will focus on terminology. Search operators and special commands determine how the words will be used to search the catalog. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, refer to the list below. We have described the basic Boolean operators and some special characters you can utilize in your search.

Basic Boolean Search Operators and Special Commands:

AND finds only records containing all of the search words entered.

         Example: Texas AND Architecture

OR finds records containing one or both of the search words entered. This search operator provides broader results than using AND.

         Example: Cooking OR Baking

NOT finds records containing search words but excludes anything following NOT.

         Example: Architecture NOT Texas.

XOR finds records containing only one of the two words entered, not both.

         Example: Film XOR Music

: finds records containing the exact phrase found inside the quotations.

         Example: “Landscape design”

$ works as a stem/truncation search. The search will find records that begin with the stem of the word and are truncated by the $.

        Example: searching gov$ will find records for government, governor, governing,  govern, etc.

$# : If you want to limit the number of letters following the truncation, add the number sign after the dollar sign.

         Examples: gov$3 finds records for govern. gov$5 finds records for govern and governor.

? : this symbol will work as a wildcard letter in searches.

         Example: searching gr?y, will find records for both grey and gray.

Refining your search technique with search types, operators, and special commands will help get you the results you want. Keep checking our blog for more posts on how to use and navigate the catalog.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: Featured Collections and New Book Displays

By Maria Barker, Library Assistant

Although the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has “closed stacks” — meaning certain materials are pulled by staff and brought to researchers in the reading rooms rather than allowing patrons to publicly browse — there are tools to help unlock the information held within. Over years of processing materials and roving the stacks, staff members have identified a number of themes that go beyond their classification on the shelf. To highlight these hidden collections and to showcase the stream of titles coming into the library, about every six weeks staff create book displays in the Reference and Genealogy reading rooms for patrons to enjoy.

An aisle in one of the seven floors of closed stacks at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The New Books displays feature books that are new to our collections.  In addition to regularly reviewing and acquiring titles through our collection development efforts and depository commitments, the library also receives donations and suggested titles from the public. If you’re interested in the library’s donation policy or have suggested titles, please email

The Genealogy New Books display is located in our Texas Family Heritage Research Center.

The Featured Collection contains books selected and arranged by library staff around a particular theme or event. The current display showcases the variety of Texas Children’s Books in our collection.  Previous displays include “Oh the Places You’ll Go- Texas Style”, an exploration of Texas’ vacation spots, a WWI centennial display, and a display focusing on Texas Music and Film.

In our reference reading room, located on the 1st floor of the Lorenzo De Zavala building, the Featured Collection display and New Books display sit side by side near the reference desk.

If you can’t visit our book displays in person you can find updates on the latest Featured Collection here, through the Out of the Stacks blog.

To see a list of new titles, visit the library catalog and click on “New Materials”.

The “New Materials” link is on the gray menu bar near the top of the webpage on the library catalog at

Click on a collection name to see a list of recently acquired material for that collection.

Click on a collection name to see a list of new material.

Click on a collection name to see a list of new material.

When you click on “TSLAC Genealogy” from the New Material Lists page, you are directed to a list of titles. Click on a title to see further details about our holdings and the catalog record.

Stay tuned for more library catalog features, tips and tricks, and walkthroughs in our upcoming posts!

To learn more about searching the catalog, check out our previous post, Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: The Basics.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: The Basics

By Stephanie Andrews, Library Assistant

By searching the library catalog, many of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s titles and holdings can be discovered from the comfort and convenience of home. In the library catalog, you can find publications covering topics such as: Texas history, Genealogy, United States federal documents, and much more! In fact, the State Archives’ finding aids can also be found in the library catalog. In this blog series, we will explore the features, functions, and various search strategies that you can use for navigating the library catalog.

Today, we will start with the basics. To get to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s (TSLAC) library catalog, first visit our website at  and then click “Archives & Reference.”  Next, click “Library Catalog” on the following page.  To access the catalog directly, you can type into the address bar of your web browser and press the Enter key. Here you can conduct multiple types of searches, access your patron account, and find contact information for the Reference staff. In this post, we’ll look specifically at the search box, search results, and how to get item details.

The TSLAC library catalog homepage.

The TSLAC library catalog is a shared catalog. It stores our titles as well as those for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) which leads us to our first few quick tips:

  • Click “Keyword”, “Browse”, or “Exact” depending on the type of search you are doing. An in-depth look on the types of searches you can do will be covered in an upcoming post.
  • Select “TX State Library & Archives Comm” under Library. This limits your search to titles in our collections. Otherwise, you may see items held by the TCEQ.
  • Pressing “Enter” on your keyboard will default your search to a “Words or Phrase” search. Try using the other search buttons, ”Author”, “Title”, “Subject”, “Series”, or “Periodical Title” to narrow your search. We will take a closer look at these search options in a future post, as well.

Let’s try a search using these new tips! I’ll do a keyword search for the word bluebirds. You can try this same search at home by typing “bluebirds” into the search field then selecting “Texas State Library & Archives Comm” and pressing Enter on your keyboard.

Once you do, you should be redirected to the same results screen as pictured below. If you searched for bluebird instead of bluebirds, you probably see a different set of results. Hint: when doing searches, try different variations of spelling(s) and/or variations on plural/singular spellings to find different titles.

A search results page, listing several results in blue.

Once the search results appear, you can click on a blue link to be redirected to more specific information about the keyword, title, subject, author, publisher, or periodical you searched for. For this search, I’ll click on the top result that appeared; “Bluebirds in Texas” by Noreen Damude and published in 2016.

The Item Details screen shows you detailed information about the title.

In the image above, we have highlighted the two main sections that you need to know. The first shows the item information which is highlighted by the purple box. Here you can see the item’s title, author, publisher, publication date, and even a physical description of the item.

The second portion shows the TSLAC holdings information which is highlighted by the green box. Here you can see the item’s call number, number of copies, type of material (book, DVD, etc.), and the item location. The first and last pieces of information here are important because the call number and location is what staff need to know to retrieve the item for you. It’s also important to note the location may say TSLAC or Liberty. TSLAC denotes that it is at our location in downtown Austin and Liberty denotes that it is at our location in Liberty, TX.

Not finding what you’re looking for? Use the Reference Desk contact information found on the right side of the catalog homepage to get in touch with a Reference staff member for assistance.

That’s all for this blog post, but stay tuned for future tips, tricks, and walkthroughs from the TSLAC Reference staff. Happy searching!