Relatively Speaking: General Land Office Saves Texas History

Nov. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.

By Martha Jones

The theme for the inaugural Save Texas History Symposium was Discovering Spanish & Mexican Texas. Sponsored by the General Land Office Preservation and Education Program on the first Saturday in November, my husband and I attended this exciting and informational event held in the Stephen F. Austin Building, Texas General Land Office in Austin. Commissioner Jerry Patterson and the Land Office Staff welcomed the more than 100 participants to the GLO and commented on the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff.

I can attest to this fact because each time I step into the GLO Archives office, I am greeted as if they have been waiting for me to arrive and are most anxious to help me find my ancestor's land records.

Moderator Galen Greaser, noted GLO Spanish translator, introduced the morning sessions' three noted collegiate historians: Jesus F. de la Teja, Light Cummins and Feliz D. Almaraz, Jr., who offered overviews of Spanish, Mexican and Texas history as recorded in numerous Land Office archival records, maps, and early Texas leaders' correspondence.

Professor de la Teja, of Texas State University, provided an overview of Spanish-Mexican land settlement practices as they evolved on the northern frontier and how these were applied in the area north of the Rio Grande River and south of the Nueces River.

Professor Light Cummins, of Austin College and current State Historian of Texas, discussed the frontier movement of Anglo settlers from the United States in Spanish Louisiana and Texas after the American Revolution. As land colonization contracts between the Spanish and Mexican frontiers were revealed, the significant roles of Baron de Bastrop and Moses Austin were recognized for their major effect initiating the empresario era of Texas history.

Professor Feliz D. Almaraz, Jr., of the University of Texas-San Antonio, noted that even though 1821 marked Mexico's independence from Spain, Mexican Texans continued to observe many customs and traditions from Spanish rule. He noted that many documents reflecting these cultural references are found in the archives of the Texas General Land Office.

I was privileged to lead off the afternoon sessions in the adjacent Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum with a session on beginning genealogy. What a delight to work with historians and genealogists interested in tracing their early Spanish, Mexican, Tejano and Anglo heritages in early Texas records and wanting to discover the resources available to them. My only regret is that I could not spend three more hours assisting the participants with their quests.

Other concurrent sessions included pioneer land surveying exercises from the GLO to the Texas State Capitol, a hands-on printing press, demonstrations in paper-making and touring the General Land Office Archives and map vault.

Plans are being made for next year's Save Texas History Symposium and, at this time, the staff wants to focus on the Texas Revolution. Doesn't this stir your historical interest? I will offer more details when I receive them, but for now, set aside November 5, 2011 for the Save Texas History Symposium at the Texas General Land Office in Austin.

Meantime: Happy Texas ancestral researching.

E-mail genealogy queries to VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.



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