Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

A Guide to the Land Certificate Index Collection, 1836-1904


Creator: Texas. General Land Office.
Title: Land Certificate Index Collection
Dates: 1837-1880
Abstract: Land Certificates were issued by the Republic, later the State of Texas entitling a grantee to a specific quantity of land in the unallocated public domain. Certificate indexes were created, updated, copied and re-copied throughout the 19th Century as the Republic and later the State managed the many land grant programs. There are 44 volumes included within this collection. Many can be grouped into sets. A few are not certificate indexes but are nonetheless related to the granting of lands to individuals.
Identification: AR.74
Quantity: 1.6 Linear feet, (1 oversized box)
Location: OVR: Patent Room; File Vault
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

Historical Note

A land certificate is a document issued by the government of the Republic and State of Texas, usually by a County or District Board of Land Commissioners, the General Land Office, the Texas Court of Claims, the Adjutant General, or the Secretary of War, entitling a grantee to a certain number of acres of land in the unallocated public domain. No specific parcel of land was connected to this document—it was the responsibility of the grantee to find their own land and have it lawfully surveyed. These certificates could be sold or transferred. The right to locate, survey, and patent the land passed to the assignee, although for the purposes of reference the name of the original certificate holder is retained as a means of identifying the surveyed tract. For some types of grants two certificates were issued—a conditional and an unconditional. A conditional certificate was issued in order to give the grantee the right to occupy a portion of the public domain, while the unconditional certificate was issued only after the completion of certain requirements (i.e. the land had to be lived on for three years, a portion of the land had to be cultivated).

Scope and Contents of the Records

The Collection consists of 44 volumes of certificate indexes, 1836-1904 and undated.


The indexes are grouped into sets by class of certificate. Each volume includes a list of column headings intended to give the researcher a sense of what, if any, information of value is included.


Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

Index Terms

Land Certificates
Land Grants
Land ownership--Texas
Public Lands--Texas.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Land Certificate Index Collection (AR.74). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

General note

The volume contains much of the same information as a two volume set entitled "Record of Third Class Certificates." However, the Index contains more information and is arranged differently.

It is possible that this volume was used as a means of investigating land fraud. In 1840, "An Act to Detect Fraudulent Land Certificates" ( Acts 1840, 4th R.S., General Laws of Texas) created the traveling board of land commissioners to travel the state auditing certificates issued at the county level.

Whereas the Record set is arranged by surname, the Index is arranged first by County, then by surname. There are additional columns of information. The Remarks column of the Index reads "illegal" next to a few of the certificates listed. There are also pencil marks, check marks, and other additions to the Index clearly made by another hand at another time.

The Index contains the following information:

The Remarks column notes whether a certificate was originally issued as conditional or unconditional. There are a few entries that mark the certificate as "illegal".

For more information about classes of land grant certificates, see here: Categories of Land Grants in Texas.

At the end of the volume is a list of surveyors and contractors who were awarded certificates in lieu of payment to begin work directed by legislation entitled "An Act ot open and establish the Central National Road of the Republic of Texas"( Acts 1844, 8th Congress, Republic of Texas, General Laws of Texas).

Detailed Description of the Collection

Headright Certificates, 1837-1880; undated

OS 85 Index to 2nd and 3rd Class Headright Certificates, 1840s