Friday, March 9, 2012

Society Saturday - Texas Relatives? Don't Miss This!

Say "Cheese!", Amie!
East Bell County Genealogy Society held a meeting on February 21st and had an excellent speaker in Amie Oliver.  Amie is the Coordinator for Use and Access Services for The Texas Collection at Baylor University.  She gave a wonderful and information presentation, “Genealogical Resources at The Texas Collection.”  All I can say after hearing everything The Texas Collection has to offer, is that I wish I had ancestors that lived in Texas!  If you have ancestors that lived Texas, you don’t want to miss out on this collection!

So what exactly is meant by a “Special Collection”?  Well a special collection is a library or archive devoted to one specific type of information, in this instance, Texas history.  The Texas Collection is a closed stack library, which means that someone will retrieve the books/materials that you wish to look through.  And just like in other closed stack libraries and archives, you can submit a request for materials to be pulled before your arrival so they’re waiting for you!

Some of the information in The Texas Collection that you can peruse includes:

            -135,000+ volumes of printed materials on Texas, both rare and current and approximately 150 books are added each month!

            -Microfilm (a genealogist’s bane true love)!  Seriously, though everything isn’t on line so good old-fashion microfilm scanning is essential and The Texas Collection is not lacking here.  They have the census records, both microfilmed as well as electronic versions.  Another neat aspect here is the Regional Historical Resource Depository (RHRD).  What’s that?  Well, they are county records!  Of Texas’ counties 167 have chosen to have their records microfilmed.  There are 25 RHRD depositories in Texas and The Texas Collection at Baylor University is one of them!  More awesomeness needed?  Well most microfilm is available through Inter-Library Loan (ILL).  So if you find something you’d like to take a look at and you don’t live near one of these depositories, you can make a request through ILL.  If it's not one of the items that is available through ILL the worst you'll hear is "no", but nothing ventured nothing gained! Records that may be found in the RHRD include, naturalizations, vital records, muster rolls, voter registrations, probate, divorce records, etc.  Criminal cases (sadly) are not microfilmed, but tax records from the formation of a specific county through 1910 are!

            -Various area histories (an often neglected resource)

            -Biographical Gazetteer of Texas – This is unique to the Texas Collection.  Almost 200 books with biographical sketches were taken, gone through and a database was created so that you can search for a person’s name and find which books they are mentioned in.  The database can even be searched via their website!

            -Telephone books and City directories – they have been digitized through 1923 and as copyright limitations expire, more will be added!

            -Periodicals – There are over 100 genealogical titles

            -Vertical Files – These are cataloged, not digitized.  The files are on specific people, places, or events and many have family history data in them.

            -Church histories of all faiths – sure the South is known for Baptist churches but The Texas Collection has church histories for all faiths.  These histories may include membership information, baptisms, cemetery records, births and information on the clergy.

            -Family histories – these can be found in books, vertical files, and oral memoirs.  Family histories can be difficult to come by because when someone publishes theirs, they tend to only make enough copies for immediate family.  Is your family from Texas and do you have a family history that’s been published (bound or digitally)?  Send the Texas Collection a copy.  Trust me…the want it!

            -Funeral home records – Always a great source of information and while some of the information may also be found on a death certificate there may be other tid-bits that you don’t want to miss out on, including who paid for the funeral.  That may help you demolish a brick wall or two!

            -Military records – Lots of Civil War records here, and the military records are in both book and microfilm form.  Some of the information includes, County rosters, cemeteries, branch of service, pension applications, muster rolls, etc.

            -School annuals/yearbooks – All levels here from Kindergarten through college.  If you have an old yearbook that you’ve been looking to get rid of send it to The Texas Collection!  Does your child’s school have extra yearbooks that they’re looking to get rid of?  Send a copy to The Texas Collection!

            -Cookbooks – All kinds from church to business to family to school.  An often over-looked source of family information, these cookbooks can include genealogical gems and pictures!

            -Manuscript Archive – Filled with diaries, letters, photographs and more.

            -Oral Memoirs – Some have even been digitized and may be available online!

            -Newspapers – OK, maybe you anticipated this one, but they’ve got more than just Texas newspapers!

            -University Archive – Includes university records, policies, organization, planning, decisions operation, procedures, etc.

            -Photographs – An estimated 250,000 images!

            -Maps, Maps, Maps! – 14,000+ including historic Texas maps, highway maps, urban renewal and topographical.

Now that you know why going to Baylor University’s Texas Collection is well worth your while, here are some good things to know before arriving:
            -Photo ID is required
            -All bags must be placed in a locker (you can keep out your paper, pencil, and laptop)
            -No food or drink in the reading room
            -Please take all cell phone calls outside (don’t you just hate it when someone doesn’t!)
            -You can bring a thumb drive and scan items instead of making photocopies.
            -Copy orders can be filled for you for a cost.  You do not make your own copies.
            -Bring a sweater, because it’s cold inside!
            -There is no trained genealogist on staff.

You can follow the Texas Collection on Facebook by clicking here, on YouTube here, their blog here or on Twitter @texascollection. You can check out the Texas Collection's website by clicking here.

Now if you've got Texas roots, get on out there and get researching!


  1. Do the relative had to reside in Texas? Like for instance Texarkana is a twin city, and I have relatives who crossed over from Texarkana, AR and Texarkana, TX.

  2. Thanks for the tip! The public library in Waco has a great genealogy collection, but I've never been to the Baylor library. I'll have to check out this collection for sure.

  3. Amy - I never knew about The Texas Collection before the Society had a speaker come in. It's very exciting to have something so wonderful so close! Now if I only have Texas relatives...

    Shel - You'd be surprised at what could be found there. I think with Texarkana being the way it is, you might find stuff.