Texas land records are very historic. The history of the land records offers an interesting look at their origin and destination. The records can vary from country to county and can be found in a variety of quantities. Some records have been maintained very well, while others have not.
Several jurisdictions created the Texas land records. These jurisdictions were the Republic of Texas, the State of Texas, Mexico, and Spain. In 1836, 11 land districts were formed. Each district contained several counties, totaling 254 that exist today. After Texas gained its statehood, land grants that were previously granted remained honored. After 1836, over 150 million acres were distributed.
Before this time, Texas was not a federal public land state. There were no real records kept of the land distribution. Early land records of distribution before this time can be found at the Texas GLO. Some records that were found there date as far back at 1700s, and should include some land records.
There were several different types of land grants that were issued in Texas. Here is a description of a few and how they affected the land records
- Headright Grant: These were issued from 1836-1842 to try and encourage people to move to Texas. The land allotments were 1/3 league for single men. This is about the same as 1,476 acres of land. Families were allotted one league and one labor which was about 4,600 acres. If these land grants were accepted, the inhabitants had to agree to live on the land for at least three years. As years passed these grants offered smaller and smaller amounts of land.
- Squatter Grants: These grants were also known at pre-emption grants. These were issued between 1845 and 1854. These grants included around 320 acres of land or less. If you accepted one of these grants, you had to agree to live on the land for three years. After 1854, married men received only 160 acres, single men 80 acres. After 1898, no more of these grants were given out.
- Bounty Grants: If you served in the military between 1837 and 1888, you were given a bounty grant. The acreage varied with these grants. After 1881, this grant expanded to include surviving veterans and widows. Each person was only able to receive one grant.
- Contract Grants: During this time, there were a few people with contract grants either with the State of Texas or the Republic of Texas. These people were given land in exchange for helping to create new colonies in Texas.
Texas County Boundaries
Over the years, the Texas county boundaries have changed. If you are trying to locate the land records for a certain area, it is important to go back to the original county boundaries in order to determine the correct grant land records for that piece of land. County names have also changed, making the location of these land records difficult.
Each county has their own records. It is the responsibility of these counties to maintain the land records. This does mean however, that since each county is responsible for their records, there are no records at the state level.
There are 26 depositories across the state containing the different land records. These records are made up of originals and manuscripts. Of the 254 county courthouses, only around 80 have had an inventory done of their records. Fires and floods have destroyed many records, so it is difficult to determine or find some exact records.
In some cases, grantee and grantor indexes exist and can help in finding the correct land record information. Each county clerk office should include a copy of these files and be able to direct you to the correct place to find the land records you are looking for.