The oldest of Texas agencies sets its principal goal to preserve Texas history through its archives.
That agency is the Texas General Land Office, or GLO as most refer to it. The GLO was created Dec. 22, 1836.
“The GLO was first established because land was so important in Texas,” said James Harkins, director of Public Services and Outreach, Archives & Records, who was the featured speaker at the Bayside Historical Society’s quarterly presentation Saturday, Aug. 10.
Harkins added that the only thing of real value in Texas back in 1836 was land because it had no money.
“No money but lots and lots of land,” he said.
He said the GLO divides Texas into 38 land districts, with the Bexar Land District being the largest land district.
The district system is easier than a county system because of the number of counties in Texas (254).
Harkins said the documents used to be folded into thirds, but with the GLO’s “Save Texas History” program, documents are no longer folded.
He added that PDFs are being made of the old documents.
People doing research can search by names or locations, as well as a surname search at the archives in Austin. An online search by GLO staff is available for a fee.
Harkins said the public can look at land records in the GLO’s archives. The GLO has the most complete records on land in the United States.
Harkins said about 80,000 maps are in the archives in addition to its 35.3 million documents. Maps can be purchased from the agency’s website:
“Every piece of land has its own historical record or chain dating back to the sovereignty,” he said.
But land records also can tell people what land their ancestors may have owned and where it is located.
So for genealogy, the GLO is a great resource.
Harkins said there are four main groups – among the numerous collections – of research records dating back to 1720: Spanish Collection, Texas Revolution, Republic of Texas and Confederate Scrip Vouchers.
Maps can be viewed online at the GLO’s website: archives@glo.Texas.gov. They can be purchased from $20 to $40 each. The money is used to continue the preservation of Texas history.
Also, free tours can be arranged at the GLO archives by scheduling in advance: Phone 800-998-4456.
Harkins made note that the GLO recently took charge of the Alamo by an act of the Texas Legislature on Sept. 1, 2011.
An all-day symposium called “Mission and Myth” will be held Sept. 7 and hosted by Commissioner Jerry Patterson of the GLO. The sessions will involve the history of the Alamo, battles and architecture of the structure.
To make reservations, phone Harkins at 512-463-3289. The seminar, being held at the Menger Hotel, will include these speakers: Anres Tijerina, Alwyn Barr, Col. (retired) Thomas T. “Ty” Smith, Frank De La Teja, Stephen Hardin, Gilberto Hinojosa and Kristi Miller-Nichols.
An after-hours reception and night tour of the Alamo also can be arranged.
“The GLO is more than just maps and documents,” Harkins said.
He said some of the things the GLO does include being the coordinating agency for disaster recovery, oil spills, public beaches vs. private beaches, Veterans Land Board, veterans retirement home and veterans cemetery, manages 7.5 million acres of public land and another 7 million acres off the coast about 10 miles out.
The GLO is responsible for $321 a student every year in its Permanent School Fund. Also, GLO manages the coastal program including offering its beach and bay guide.