Texas legislative petitions online
So The Legal Genealogist has spent the past few days in Texas, speaking at the Dallas Genealogical Society’s 2019 Summer Seminar and then doing some research.
Into my family.
Yeah, occasionally I do insist on doing my own research.
And in one volume of abstracted records tucked away on a shelf in the Dallas Public Library came a clue to a record I hadn’t heard tell of before.
In an appendix to a book on pre-emption lands1 was a transcription of a memorial — a petition — to the Texas legislature urging the creation of a new county:
Your petition(er)s legal Voters of Tarrant County respectfully represent to your honorably body that Settlements have Spread all over this Country and are increasing. They furthermore represent that they are laboring under a great disadvantage in attending to their County business on account of their remoteness from the County Seat of Tarrant County. They therefore pray your honorable body that you pass an act creating a new County out of the Territory West of Tarrant County.2
And in the transcribed list of signatures… my third great grandfather Martin Baker and his son J.A. (Josiah Alexander) Baker.3
Now any time you can get your hands on a signature of an ancestor, you want it. Especially when we’re talking sometime in the 1850s — Parker County was actually formed in December 1855,4 so the petition had to be before then.
So… how to put my hands on the petition?
I asked that question while riding with Texas genealogist Kelvin L. Meyers back from the cemetery where Martin Baker was buried. He promptly called Teri Flack, a long-time Texas genealogist who volunteers at the Texas State Library and Archives and who, of course, knew the answer right off the top of her head.
The memorials and petitions to the Texas State Legislature are at the Texas State Library and Archives — and they’ve been digitized. And are online. At Ancestry.5 The collection is described this way: “Now you can find out if your great-grandparents tried to mess with Texas.” Or if you prefer the full detail:
This database contains petitions and similar correspondence made to the State of Texas. They include requests for action on civic matters and for aid. You might find documents addressing town incorporations, judicial district changes, appropriations, stock laws, liquor levies, requests for bridges, poor relief, divorce, permission for free blacks to settle in the state, and myriad other items.
These documents can provide names and dates and sometimes information about when people entered Texas, where they settled, military service, and other details.6
The collection is partially indexed — volunteers from the Ancestry World Archives Project contributed — but the indexing isn’t perfect. Neither Martin Baker nor J.A. Baker can be found in an index search. In many cases, finding a petition means browsing rather than searching — the petitions are organized in a roughly alphabetical way and there’s more than one petition in each folder you can browse.
But the petition is there, along with the others, in full color scans. And those signatures, from the early 1850s, are glorious:
So if you have ancestors from Texas, give a hat tip to Teri Flack, to the Texas State Library and Archives, and to Ancestry and its Ancestry World Archives Project volunteers — and check out the collection “Texas, Memorials and Petitions, 1834-1929.”
That’s where I’ll be for a while yet…
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Lone Star memorials,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 9 Aug 2019).
- Jerry Wright Jordan, Abstracts of Parker County, Texas Pre-Emption Land Records, 1850-1858 (Bowie, Md. : Heritage Books 1998). ↩
- Citizens of Tarrant County, Petition to create a new county (no date); digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Aug 2019); citing Memorials and Petitions, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas. ↩
- Jordan, Abstracts of Parker County, Texas Pre-Emption Land Records, 1850-1858, Appendix 2. ↩
- See “An Act … to create the County of Parker,” 12 December 1855, in H.P.N. Gammell, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, 10 vols. (Austin : Gammell Book Co., 1898), 4: 183-185; digital images, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu : accessed 9 Aug 2019). ↩
- “Texas, Memorials and Petitions, 1834-1929”; digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Aug 2019). ↩
- Ibid., “About Texas, Memorials and Petitions, 1834-1929.” ↩
Love finding an ancestor’s signature. We’ll done! Martin Baker would be my 4th Great Uncle, brother to my ancestor, Dorothy Baker Davenport.