Hispanic Heritage in Texas: The Nacogdoches Archives

Clinton Drake, Reference Librarian

Map of Texas, 1835. State Archives Map Collection, 2750. TSLAC. Map of Texas outlining departments of Bexar, Brazos, and Nacogdoches.

The Nacogdoches settlement in Northeast Texas, named for the Caddoan “Nacogdoche” tribe that inhabited the area, once served as the government seat for Spanish and Mexican colonial ambitions in East Texas. On the eve of the Texas Revolution (1836), the territory governed from Nacogdoches extended from the town of Anahuac in the South, the Trinity River to the West, the Red River to the North, and Louisiana to the East [see 1835 map in TSLAC collection]. Colonial records remained at the Nacogdoches county courthouse through the Republic and statehood eras until their transfer to state custody in 1850. Adolphus Sterne, the House member that introduced the resolution to transfer the documents for their historical value, had served as an alcalde of the Ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches during the colonial period.

Joint Resolution Providing For the Removal of Certain Spanish Documents From Nacogdoches County to the State Department. 3rd Legislature, Regular Session (1849-1850), Texas Secretary of State legislative bills and resolutions filed (General and Special Laws). TSLAC. View in the TDA.

The “Nacogdoches Archives” was the name given to this original transfer of documents from county to state custody. These records are not a complete record of the Spanish and Mexican administrations in East Texas. When the Department of Nacogdoches (the larger political unit that included both the settlement and the municipality of Nacogdoches and most of East Texas) was created from the Department of Bexar in 1831 and government records were physically separated according to the new geographical divisions, evidence suggests that items from both departments were intermingled to some degree. (The Bexar Archives are available at the University of Texas at Austin and at the Bexar County Clerk’s Office.) In addition, not all colonial records at Nacogdoches were transferred in 1850: some remained at the county level. 

Since 1850, the “Nacogdoches Archives” has been held by three state agencies: Texas Department of State (1850-1876), Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History (1876-1909), and Texas State Library and Archives Commission (previously named the Texas Library and Historical Commission)(1909-present). The documents remained stored in tin boxes until 1878 when they were inventoried and ordered according to the government organizational structure of the colonial period. When Robert Bruce Blake began his monumental 89-volume transcription of the archives in the 1920s, the documents had been rearranged in chronological order and expanded with Spanish language materials from other collections. In the 1980s, a significant project headed by Dr. G. Douglas Inglis aimed to reverse changes made to the collection over the preceding 130 years. 

Letter from Stephen F. Austin to the governor of Spanish Texas, Lt. Col. Luciano Garcia, on preserving order in the colony, 1823, p.1. Nacogdoches Archives 004-37.1.
Letter from Stephen F. Austin to the governor of Spanish Texas, Lt. Col. Luciano Garcia, on preserving order in the colony, 1823, p.2. Nacogdoches Archives 004-37.1.

Spanning tens of thousands of pages, the Nacogdoches Archives are a rich resource, but given that the documents are written by hand and primarily in Spanish with no comprehensive index, accessing the contents of the collection can require time, patience, and education. For the academic researcher, the records chronicle the intersection of colonialism, cultures, politics, commerce, and settlement in a rugged, rapidly changing frontier. For family researchers, certain types of records document residency, military service, life events, and lived experiences in colonial East Texas. Prior to using the records, a brief introduction to the various resources providing enhanced access–transcriptions, translations, indexes–can save time and improve search efforts.

Accessing the Nacogdoches Archives

Original Spanish documents: microfilm and online
The Nacogdoches Archives documents were microfilmed following their 1980s rearrangement. Original materials from the Nacogdoches Archives are not pulled for research purposes unless the film copy is illegible. An inventory of the microfilm, including a brief content note for each reel, can be found on the TSLAC website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/nacogdoches.html#microfilm. Microfilm access options include:

  • TSLAC Austin location. The Nacogdoches Archives microfilm may be viewed at our TSLAC Austin location. The Reference Reading Room offers microfilm viewers with printing capabilities as well as USB ports for downloading images to personal flash drives. For useful information prior to visiting the library, please visit our website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/visit.html
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL). You can request to borrow reels through your local library for viewing at that library. After you have identified the desired reels, please see our website for more information about ILL: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/ill.html
  • Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com digitized the Nacogdoches Archives microfilm and provides access online. The database containing these records is Nacogdoches, Texas, Spanish and Mexican Government Records, 1729-1836. Texas residents may access this database for free through  Ancestry.com Texas. TSLAC also provides free on-site access to Ancestry.com as do many local libraries nationwide.

Transcribed documents
Robert Bruce Blake produced several series of publications including materials from the Nacogdoches Archives; however, his most important was the 89-volume series begun in 1928. In his transcription, which includes many English language subject headings, but few translations, the original Nacogdoches Archives are thought to be included in their entirety (confirmation would require a comparison of between 20 and 30 thousand pages). The series was also supplemented with Spanish language documents from other collections as well as Nacogdoches documents from the Bexar archives. These transcripts are only available for on-site use at the TSLAC Austin location and can be located in our catalog.

Robert Bruce (R.B.) Blake Collection
In addition to the Nacogdoches Archives transcripts, Blake also produced a 93-volume series of transcribed material referred to as the Robert Bruce (R. B.) Blake Collection, or the “Blake transcripts.” This series includes items from the Nacogdoches archives, the Nacogdoches County Clerks’ office, the General Land Office, the Bexar Archives, and additional archival sources. Although only select documents from the Nacogdoches Archives are included, this series is more widely available at various institutions and online. 

Additional resources

Additional publications held by TSLAC that include indexes or transcriptions of Nacogdoches Archives documents include (but are not limited to) census records, entrance certificates, minutes, book of foreigners, and items related to East Texas.

Census records: [read more about the census records]

Padron de los Indios – Mission San Jose, census page, January 24, 1798. Nacogdoches Archives, 299. TSLAC. 

Census records for Latin America and the Hispanic United States by Lyman Platt

The first census of Texas, 1829-1836 : to which are added, Texas citizenship lists, 1821-1845, and other early records of the Republic of Texas by Marion Day Mulins

Entrance certificates: [read more about the entrance certificates]

Entrance certificate for Thomas J. Rusk, Feb. 11, 1835. Nacogdoches Archives, 4-25/2. TSLAC.

Nacogdoches archives 1835 entrance certificates by Betty Fagan Burr

Nacogdoches archives : Index to 1835 entrance certificates and citizenship applications

Certificates of entrance relative to admission to settle in Texas under colonization laws : translated from the Spanish as contained in University of Texas transcript of Nacogdoches Archives, contained in volumes 76, 80, and 89

Other:

Selections from the Nacogdoches Archives relating to the history of East Texas by Robert Bruce Blake

Minutes of Ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches, Texas from July 17, 1828 to August 8, 1835 by Robert Bruce Blake

Book of foreigners settled at Nacogdoches : with date of application for citizenship and action of the authorities on such applications from 1827 to 1834 by Robert Bruce Blake

For questions about these materials please contact our reference staff at ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.


Bibliography:

Carefoot, Jean. The Nacogdoches Archives. Undated printed manuscript. 8 pages. TSLAC Genealogy Vertical Files, Internal Document. Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.

Long, Christopher. “Nacogdoches County”. Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed August 03, 2022. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/nacogdoches-county.

McDonald, Archie P. “Nacogdoches, TX”. Handbook of Texas Online Accessed August 03, 2022. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/nacogdoches-tx.

Texas State Gazette. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 13, Ed. 1, Saturday, November 17, 1849, newspaper, November 17, 1849; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth80904/m1/4/?q=nacogdoches+records: accessed June 22, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. P . 4

Texas. Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics and History. Twenty-Ninth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History for the year 1903. Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., State Printers, 1904.

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