Monday, February 23, 2015

A Visit to Austin, Texas: Genealogists’ Treasure Trove

No visit to Austin is complete without a visit to the Texas State Library and Archives (TSLA).  This state agency is located in the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building at 1201 Brazos Street across the street from the Texas State Capitol.  The Capitol Visitor Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto is the best place to park.

Check in at the front desk and get a visitor badge to access the Texas Family Heritage Research Center, the Reference Library and the Texas State Archives. The Archives Room is on the first floor and the Reference Library and Texas Family Heritage Research Center (TFHRC) are on the second floor.  A reference librarian gave me a tour of the Research Center.  When I asked about African American genealogy resources, the librarian gave me a handout from a workshop that was held on the subject earlier in February for African American History month.
Washington Edwards, 103 years old, 1889, Prints & Photographs, 1905/011-1. Edwards was a former slave brought to the United States from Africa. He arrived in Texas prior to the Mexican War and lived near Columbia, Texas. Source: Texas State Library

The Genealogy Collection at the TFHRC includes print and microfilm records including print indexes to Texas vital statistics (birth, death, marriage and divorce), city directories, county tax rolls, Federal census records, newspapers on microfilm, family histories and county histories.  Most of their microfilm can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.  In addition, the genealogy research center has several computers with free access to online resources such as, Family, Fold 3, Heritage Quest and the Texas collection at Newspaper Archive.  The library is equipped with computers, microfilm printers and book scanners that will save images on your USB drive.  The Reference Library has books from Texas and most U.S. states and some foreign countries in two stack areas.

The TSLA website is the first point of entry for all users.  Select “Genealogy” from the quick links drop down menu in the upper right hand corner.    The Genealogy page summarizes a variety of state records with genealogical value including military service records, Confederate pensions, Republic claims, muster rolls, 1867 voter registration, Confederate indigent family lists and convicts record ledgers and conduct registers. 

The search strategy for African Americans in the early Texas records is to look for free blacks or slave owners in the online indexes.  Many blacks served in the Texas State Police during Reconstruction.  State Police pay records have been digitized and are available in the Texas Adjutant General collection. Another collection that includes significant numbers of African American males is the “Voter Registration of 1867.”  The voter records are available on microfilm through interlibrary loan or digital images are available on

George Thompson (G.T.) Ruby
Born: New York, 1841; Died: New Orleans, Louisiana, October 31, 1882; 
Political Life: Delegate to 1868-69 Constitutional Convention from Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda Counties; Delegate to 1868 and 1872 National Republican Conventions; Senator in 12th (1870-71) and 13th (1873) Legislatures from Galveston (Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda Counties); Elected from predominantly white district; Involved with the Freedman's Bureau and Union League; 
Personal Life: Also worked as a reporter, editor, organized laborer and teacher; Beaten by a white mob while trying to establish a school; Wife Lucy

For anyone interested in African American history in Texas, I recommend you visit the online exhibit entitled “Forever Free.”  These illustrated web pages summarize the history of fifty-two African-American men who served Texas as either state legislative members or Constitutional Convention delegates during the last three decades of the 19th century.   ForeverFree Online Exhibit 

Here are some links to other records provided by the Texas State Library of value to African American researchers:


  1. Thanks for the tips about he library. I'm wondering if the library offers anything for Franklin County, Ohio or Ontario, Canada. I'll have to check out the links you shared to answer my question.

  2. Look for "Online Catalog" in the quick links in the upper right hand corner of

    A quick search for Franklin County, Ohio found these two sources:

    Title History of Franklin County : a collection of reminiscences of the early settlement of the county, with biographical sketches and a complete history of the county to the present time Author Martin, William T., 1788-1866. Pub date1969 Holdings 1 copy available at *TX State Library & Archives Comm in At TSLAC, Genealogy Collection

    Title Register of Confederate dead, Camp Chase Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio : in memory of Mrs. Albert S. Porter, past president, Ohio Division, U.D.C Author Crocker, Margaret Harris. Pub date 1960 Holdings 1 copy available at *TX State Library & Archives Comm in At TSLAC, TSLAC-MAIN Collection

    Funny that you should mention Franklin County, Ohio. My great grandfather, Joseph Hanson Mayne 1849-1938, retired from the United Brethren Church and settled in Westerville, Franklin County, Ohio. He and his wife, Anna Elizabeth Banford 1860-1938 ran a small grocery store there. They both died there, Anna on 6 Jan 1938 and Joseph two days later.

    PS: The Clayton Library catalog has over 20 sources for Franklin County, Ohio. I used the search terms Franklin County Ohio Genealogy.