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Land Grants by Spain and Mexico
Large tracts of land were granted by Spain and Mexico between 1716 and 1836. From 1823 to 1830, Mexico established a colonization policy providing land for immigrants to settle in colonies under impresarios such as Stephen F. Austin. Each colony had its own land office. All land offices were closed by the provisional government of Texas in November 1835 due to the pending revolution.
Lists of early settlers and landowners that have been transcribed and published include:
Taylor, Virginia H. Index to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in Texas. Austin, Texas: Lone Star Press, 1974. (Family History Library book 976.4 R2tv.) This includes records not found in the Class 1 Headright Grants described below.
An Abstract of the Original Titles of Records in the General Land Office. 1838. Reprint. Austin, Texas: Pemberton Press, 1964. (Family History Library book 976.4 R2u; film 1000607 item 10; fiche 6051319.) This lists the land records of several colonies for the years 1791 to 1836.
Records of headright grants prior to 1 March 1936 are now at the state land office, and are described below.
Grants by the Republic and State of Texas
After the revolution, the General Land Office of the Republic of Texas was established at Austin in February 1837. The Republic of Texas recognized all previous grants and settled any disputes in the state courts. In 1845 Texas became a state-land state and the land office continued to administer land grants.
Land was granted for various reasons. The General Land Office, Austin Building, 17th and N. Congress, Austin, TX 78701 at http://www.glo.state.tx.us/archives/landgrant.html has over 10,000,000 documents including patents, plat maps, and indexes, for the following:
Headright grants, 1836 to 1842. These are records of grants issued to heads of families and single men who settled in Texas. The records are filed and indexed by time periods called classes:
- Class 1. Settlers who arrived prior to 1 March 1836 (grants by Spain and Mexico)
- Class 2. Arrivals from 2 March 1836 to 1 October, 1837
- Class 3. Arrivals from 1 October 1837 to 1 January 1840
- Class 4. Arrivals from 1 January 1840 to 1 January 1842
Some of these headright grants have been published in First Settlers of the Republic of Texas: Headright Land Grants, 1840, 2 vols., 1841, Reprint. Nacogdoches, Texas: Carolyn R. Ericson, 1982—. (Family History Library book 976.4 R2er.) This includes the class 1-3 grants.
Preemption Grants, January 1845 to 1899. These are homestead or settler's claims given to persons who lived on a tract for three years.
Contracts made by the German Emigration Company, about 1845-46. The German Emigration Company was created to help German immigrants come to Texas and obtain land. The records include 19 volumes of contracts made with emigrants emigrating from Europe around 1845. The records are in German.
School Lands, April 1874 to present. These are records of public lands sold to provide revenue for schools. The records are indexed.
Bounty and Donation Lands, 1836 to 1888. Warrants were issued as payment for service in the Army of the Republic of Texas in 1836 when Texas declared its independence from Mexico.
Confederate scrip lands were issued to Confederate veterans who were permanently disabled in the Civil War and to widows of soldiers who were killed during the Civil War. Some of these records can be found in:
Miller, Thomas Lloyd. Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835-1888. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1967. (Family History Library book 976.4 R21m; film 1000608 item 9.)
Miller, Thomas Lloyd. Texas Confederate Scrip Grantees. N.p., 1985. (Family History Library book 976.4 R2mt.)
Public lands sold by the land office. The land office still sells the public land in the state.
Numerous name lists of settlers and landowners have been transcribed and published. These include:
Abstract of Land Titles of Texas Comprising the Titled, Patented, and Located Lands in the State. Galveston, Texas: Shaw and Blaylock, 1878. (Family History Library films 397783-4.) Arranged by counties from about 1833 to 31 August 1877 and alphabetically by county.
White, Gifford. Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas. [Austin, Texas: G. White, 1985.] (Family History Library book 976.4 R2c.) This includes genealogical data for 1821 to 1835. These character certificates were required by Mexico in order to obtain land.
Abstract of Land Claims, Compiled From the Records of the General Land Office. Galveston: Civilian Book Office, 1852. (Family History Library film 874497.) These are private land claims submitted up to 1852 for land previously granted by Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the State of Texas. It is alphabetical by district.
From 1847 to 1870 the office of the Texas Adjutant General was responsible for verifying land claims of veterans. A fire in 1855 destroyed the records of this office except for copies of the muster rolls of the War of Texas Independence from Mexico from 1835 to 1836. After the fire, a Court of Claims was established in 1856 for persons who had been entitled to land grants from the Republic of Texas but had never received them. The muster rolls were used to verify eligibility for a land grant.
County Land Records
After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions, including deeds and mortgages, have been recorded by the county. You can obtain copies of these land records by writing to the county clerk at the county courthouse.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of deeds, trust deeds, and mortgages of many counties. The library's holdings include:
- Bexar County Spanish land grants, 1736 to 1836 (5 films); county clerk's deeds, 1837 to 1889, and index, 1830 to 1890 (49 films)
- Galveston County deeds, 1838 to 1902, and index, 1838 to 1890 (49 films)
- Harris County deeds, 1837 to 1886, and index, 1836 to 1904 (44 films)
- Texas Historical Commission, "Texas Historical Sites Atlas (online)," Features nearly 300,000 site records, with data on markers, places, courthouses, museums, and sawmills.