A Guide to the Boards of Land Commissioners Records, 1837-1841
County Boards and the Traveling Board
County Boards of Land Commissioners
A legislative act of December 14, 1837 established county boards of land commissioners that would be composed of a commissioner who was president of the board and two associate commissioners, elected by a joint vote of congress, and a county clerk (1). A legislative act approved January 26, 1839 changed the composition of the board (2). The chief justice of the county was appointed president of the board and two associate justices and the county clerk made up the other members. These “new boards” were to receive “all the records and papers” from the previous boards. Land Commissioner John P. Borden wrote instructions to the thirty county boards on February 20, 1839, requiring them to “furnish this office with a complete transcript of the testimony had upon each certificate issued by the former board of Land Commissioners for your county” (3). Copies of the minutes and lists of certificates issued were sent to the GLO in response to Borden’s request.
County boards of land commissioners kept a record of their proceedings as they went about their business of issuing headright certificates to eligible applicants. The minutes of their meetings were recorded in the county. The minutes vary from county to county but usually contain the oath taken by the applicant, the names of the witnesses appearing with the applicant and in some cases, information that is pertinent to the individual claim.
Traveling or Examining Board of Land Commissioners
The Traveling Board was created in 1840 to audit the certificates issued by the County Boards of Land Commissioners with a focus on disqualifying certificates found to be fraudulent. The Traveling Board would create a list based on the certificates issued stating whether a certificate was genuine or fraudulent and why. These reports were then filed with the GLO (4).
(3) "Letters Sent 1837 - 1841", Volume 2, p 197, Original Land Grant Collection, Archives and Records, Texas General Land Office, Austin
The records documenting the work of the County Boards of Land Commissioners contains four document boxes and five published volumes.
The records for Harris (formerly Harrisburg) County are unusual. The "Lost Book of Harris County" and the "Minutes of Harrisburg County" document the same County Board meetings, with the Minutes being handwritten copies that were then filed at the GLO.
For about 10 years the original Minutes went missing and were found again in 1850 missing about half the pages. When found, the legislature passed a law giving custody of the Lost Book to the General Land Office. The 2nd class headright certificates section was never found. The found documents comprised of the 1st class headright certificates section became the "Lost Book of Harris County."
In 1980 Gifford White produced a two volume set transcribing the certificates issued and providing some history to both the County Board and the Traveling Board (sometimes called the Examining Board) as they related to Harris County.
The GLO and other libraries hold the two volumes, "Board of Land Commissioners Harris County, Texas by Gifford White (1980)."
The County Board Official series contains correspondence and other records documenting the names of those who became county land commissioners as well as individuals who were recommended to the Commissioner of the General Land Office for service by members of the community.
The Traveling Board of Land Commissioners records contain four volumes contained withing two document boxes. Of the 23 counties documented, only Nacogdoches and Jasper counties have their own volume. The other 21 counties are listed together in two other volumes.
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.).
[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. County Boards of Land Commissioners Records (AR.36.BLC). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
Detailed Description of the Collection