History Day 2016 – Celebrating our Alumni

Thank you to everyone who came out to join us for our 9th annual History Day! We had a great time catching up with our former elected officials and staff, as well as current ones. We particularly appreciate the participation of Commissioner Margaret J. Gomez as master of ceremonies and County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir as our special speaker, the hard work of our committee members, and our sponsors (Austin Bar Association, Austin History Center, Travis County Archives, and the Travis County Historical Commission). We hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did!

Stay tuned for information about our 10th annual event, which will occur at the end of October, 2017. We have some exciting things in store!

Herón Martínez Mendoza exhibit in the Hall of Goverment

In Hall of Government at 700 Lavaca Street is the latest exhibit from the Austin Friends of Folk Art collection at the Travis County Archives. This exhibit features the work of Herón Martínez Mendoza, a celebrated potter from Acatlán de Osorio, Puebla, Mexico.

Photo by Chuck Snyder – 1982

On display are numerous pieces by Martínez, both large and small. Following in his family’s footsteps as a potter, Martinez began his work with utilitarian pieces; one of his early designs, a container to carry water that prevented the handles from breaking, was so successful that people lined up to buy them.

This success moved him into making pots and planters, and over time, these became more and more creative as he changed their forms to represent animals, fish and various types of birds. As interest in his work grew and folk art stores sought to collect it, he let his burgeoning creativity loose to make different types of much more complex and sophisticated pieces. There are many collectors of Martínez’s work, that ranges from unique trees of life to whimsical zoomorphic pieces (animales fantasticos and animales grotéscos), pots, churches, masks, wall plaques and more.

Martínez died in November 1990.  In an interview given in the 1970s, Martínez said that he wanted his legacy to be that he had produced “a great seed for the pueblo, and he wanted the art not to perish.” His legacy survives:  Mexican potters still emulate him, his work graces the pages of almost every book on Mexican folk art, museums hold exhibitions dedicated to his art, and aficionados from many countries rejoice in adding new examples of his work to their collections.

Be sure to stop by to view several magnificent Martínez pieces from local Austin collectors in the Hall of Government.

Property research in Austin & Travis County

Interested in researching your property in Travis County? The Austin History Center has produced a handy guide about the variety of resources available to assist in your research.


Property records in the Travis County Archives include Tax Rolls and County Surveyor Records.


Tax rolls at the Travis County Archives

Tax records provide the names of property owners and the tax assessed for each property. A significant increase in taxable value is usually an indicator of an improvement to a piece of land and can be an indicator of building construction.

Travis County tax rolls date from 1861-1933 (with some dates missing). The tax rolls are arranged in alphabetical order by owner name and include such information as abstract, certificate and survey numbers, original grantee, acreage, and value. For property in the city, lot and block numbers and divisions are included.

1861 Tax roll


1861 Tax roll


Travis County surveyor records primarily date from 1838 to 1930 and deal with land, not structures. More recent surveys are not normally recorded by the county and are best obtained directly from the surveyor.

Surveys determine the exact locations and boundaries of a particular piece of property. Surveyor’s field notes are the basis for legal descriptions of property. The earliest records, 1838-1839, date prior to the formal establishment of Travis County, and are therefore referred to as Bastrop County records. Earlier records also include counties outside Travis but within the Travis Land District. Volumes overlap in date, as several volumes were recorded in concurrently.


early Travis County survey books


1841 survey record

Research on the Portal to Texas History

Have you checked to see what’s new from Travis County on the Portal to Texas History? The Travis County Archives is currently working on a project to digitize County Clerk record books from the 1800s. These records are being made available for viewing and research on the Portal to Texas History (http://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/partners/TCCO/browse/). Check back often, as new items are continuously being added!

Records currently available include:

Travis County Commissioners Court Minutes (1839-1919)

Travis County Road Books (1898-1902)

Travis County Court Civil Minutes (1876-1915)

Travis County Court Criminal Minutes (1876-1939)

Travis County Election Records (1876-1885)

Travis County Probate Minutes (1840-1923)

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WDYTYA Full Episode

If you missed the Travis County Archives on “Who Do You Think You Are?”, you can view the full episode here: http://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/who-do-you-think-you-are/aisha-tyler/.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The Travis County Archives will be featured on an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” this weekend. Comedian Aisha Tyler, co-host of “The Talk,” visits the Archives and learns about an ancestor who, as a politician, struggled to keep his illegitimate son a secret. “Who Do You Think You Are?” airs at 8:00 PM Sunday, April 3 on TLC.


Flickr Photos

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