Texas Settlers Land Records

The transfer of public lands to individuals in the region of Texas began under Spanish rule in the eighteenth century. Then, after Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821, the number of these grants increased significantly. It was not until after the Texas Revolution in 1836, however, that the rush of individuals to obtain land in Texas took on explosive proportions.

Both Mexican and Republic of Texas laws required specific documentation that each applicant was required to furnish under oath. This documentation provides the basis for the abstracts of land record information contained in The Texians Database. Land records have been abstracted and included in the database beginning with grants issued under Mexican rule, but the large majority of the records are from the period of the Republic of Texas.

Spanish Land Records

Several thousand grants were issued by the Spanish government to early settlers in the region that is now Texas. Most of these records are kept in the Spanish Archives of the General Land Office (GLO) in Austin. Currently, there are no records in the Texian Database based on these early grants.

Mexican Land Records

Soon after Mexican independence, Stephen Austin followed through on a colonization plan started by his recently deceased father, Moses Austin. Thus, the younger Austin negotiated contracts with the Mexican govenment to colonize a region of fertile lands centered along the Brazos River. As a result, some three hundred families from the United States settled in Austin’s colony and received land patents–mostly in 1824-25. Detailed information on these families can be accessed in the Other colonies soon emerged, and Austin later brought in more settlers under new contracts.

In addition to the settler grants issued under the colonization contracts of Austin, about a dozen other empresario contracts were awarded by the Mexican government. Those presently abstracted and included in the Texians Database include records from Austin’s first colony and from the colony established by Green DeWitt centered at the town of Gonzales.

Information in these records includes a settler’s name and date of arrival, the date of the title and amount of land issued, as well as other miscellaneous notes and comments. Refer to Distance and Area Measurements Used in Early Texas Land Transactions for an explanation of the units of measurement used in the land records from the Texian Database.

Republic of Texas Land Records

After the Texas Revolution and the formation of the Republic of Texas in 1836, the pace of settlement from the United States accelerated even more. Altogether, more than 50 million acres of public land had been deeded by the time of statehood in 1845.

The basic laws for acquiring land from the Republic of Texas were passed in 1837 and put in place with the opening of the land offices in February of 1838.

The primary factors that determine the amount of land granted were the date that the applicant first entered Texas, and whether single or a married head of family (see Class Designations for Settlers of the Republic). Single applicants received less, but their original grant could be augmented if they later married, or if they were later joined by their family from outside of Texas.

The process for acquiring land in the Republic of Texas was generally as follows:

  • Application made at county of residence; certificate issued.
  • Applicant located desired land (not necessarily in the county where certificate was originally issued)
  • Survey made (usually by surveyor hired by applicant)
  • Certificate issued by General Land Office

The grant could be conditional or unconditional, depending of the designated Class of the applicant. If conditional, the grant was subject to the applicant establishing residency in Texas for at least three years.

Abstracts of the records for the these grants currently comprise the largest portion of the Texians Database. When available from the records in the General Land Office, information contained in each record includes the name and date of arrival of the settler, the designated class and amount of land for which the settler applied, and where and when both the conditional and the unconditional certificates were issued. In addition, miscellaneous notes about the settlers age, marital status, etc. have been provided if available from the records.

Land Records for Grants After Statehood

While at a much-reduced pace, public land continued to be granted to individuals long after Texas became a state. However, there are currently no records in the Texian Database covering the post Republic period.

About Lyman

Lyman Hardeman has held a deep interest in Texas history. He spent his youth in College Station, Texas and received a degree in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M in 1966. In 1995, Lyman created Lone Star Junction, a popular Texas history website that later merged with TexasProud.com. Lyman is a life member of the Texas State Historical Association and the author of Texas A&M The First 25 Years.