Archive for the 'collections' Category

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.

http://www.austinlibrary.com/ahc/downloads/Property_Information_Sources.pdf

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

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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

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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.

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early Travis County survey books

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1841 survey record

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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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Austin Friends of Folk Art Collection

The Travis County Archives is pleased to announce a partnership between Travis County and the Austin Friends of Folk Art, to store AFFA’s collection of artifacts, photographs, materials and objects at the Travis County Archives. We look forward to making these items available to the public through exhibits and displays throughout county buildings.

Burnished pot from Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Priscilla Murr New Mexican Collection, Travis County Archives

Burnished pot from Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua, Priscilla Murr New Mexican Collection, Travis County Archives

Polychrome clay tree of life candelabra with owls from Izucar de Matamoros, Mexico, Jean Mikeska collection, Travis County Archives

Polychrome clay tree of life candelabra with owls from Izucar de Matamoros, Mexico, Jean Mikeska collection, Travis County Archives

The Servant Girl Murders

In Austin in late 1884-1885, 8 individuals were murdered by what was known as the “Servant Girl Killer.” The victims included Mollie Smith, Eliza Shelley, Irene Cross, Mary Ramey, Orange Washingon, Gracie Vance, Susan Hancock, and Eula Phillips.

From http://www.servantgirlmurders.com/:

The Servant Girl Murders were a series of crimes, including eight murders, carried out by an elusive killer who subjected the city of Austin, Texas to an unprecedented reign of terror during the course of the year 1885.

The victims of the crimes were “servant girls” – usually young, African-American women who at that time were commonly employed as domestic servants in many Austin households.  The epithet “servant girl murders” is perhaps something of a misnomer – one of the victims was male, the boyfriend of one of the slain women; one victim was a child, the daughter of a servant who was herself attacked but not killed; and the last two victims were married white women, neither of them servants.

Many theories were put forward and as the crimes continued without resolution, speculations about the perpetrators and their elusive abilities grew more fantastic.  The crime scenes were consistent – a bloody axe or other implement was often left behind, sometimes footprints were found and bloodhounds were used to track suspects.  The police arrested several suspects, but responsibility for the crimes could not be proven conclusively.

Over time, public outrage grew and the police force was frequently declared ineffectual and incompetent… After the murder of two white women on Christmas Eve, the city was on the verge of chaos.  The public demanded action regardless of the consequences and mob violence was a real possibility. All the efforts to stop the crimes had failed and a confounded city awaited the next outrage, but after December there were no further mysterious murders.  Officially the crimes remained unsolved.

The Travis County Archives staff recently uncovered 4 documents relating to the servant girl murders: an autopsy and inquest for victim Susan Hancock, and records for the criminal cases against Moses Hancock and James Phillips, who were charged for the murders of their respective wives. These documents are part of the District Clerk collection at the Archives, but they are not included in the criminal case records microfilm at the office of the District Clerk.

Click on the links to view PDFs of the documents; please contact the Archives to view in person.

Susan Hancock Autopsy 1885

Susan Hancock Inquest 1885

State v. Jas. O. Phillips, No. 7856, 1886

State v. Moses Hancock, No. 7898, 1886 (please note: first 4 pages are missing)

Autopsy of Susan Hancock, 1885

Hancock, Susan Autopsy 1885 a

Hancock, Susan Autopsy 1885 b Hancock, Susan Autopsy 1885 c Hancock, Susan Autopsy 1885 d

 

Records of the County Surveyor

The records of the Travis County Surveyor, dating from 1838-1999, are now available for research.

The office of County Surveyor is one that dates back to the early days of Texas.  Under the Republic of Texas, the County Surveyor was appointed by Congress. The Constitution of 1845 made the office elective for a two-year term, and in 1954, a constitutional amendment increased the term of office to four years. Over the years, as open land in Texas began to disappear, the importance of the office decreased and the office was left vacant in many counties. In Travis County, the office was abolished in 2001.

The duties of the County Surveyor included surveying land and recording and examining field notes of surveys made in the county. The County Surveyor made plats of all surveys in the county and transmitted sketches and field notes of the same to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, along with a list of all certificates or warrants on file in his office.

The collection consists of Surveyor’s Record books, Surveyor’s Record Index books, Surveyor’s Record File books, field notes, and assorted records.

Surveyor’s Record books, dating from 1838-1999, include surveys, plats, field notes, land warrants and scrips. The earliest records, those dating from 1838-1839, date prior to the formal establishment of Travis County, and are therefore referred to as Bastrop County records. Earlier records also include properties in counties outside Travis but within the Travis Land District. Volumes overlap in date, as several volumes were recorded in concurrently.

Surveyor’s Record Index books are organized alphabetically by grantee name, and refer to the information found in the Surveyor’s Record books. Many of the entries in the first three books are duplicated from one to the next. They include grantee name, number of acres, and a reference to the Surveyor’s Record volume and page number. Index Book Z is an index to Travis Land District records, and Index Book 6 is an index to Certificates of Survey.

Surveyor’s Record File Books, 1856-1907, are records of application to the County Surveyor for survey. Books 4, 5 and 6 have indexes included within the volumes; book 7 is not indexed.

Field notes are the primary record of the survey and are recorded at the time the fieldwork is being done. These loose records date from 1848-1930, but are scattered and incomplete and are not indexed.

Assorted records include materials relating to the disputed location of 4 leagues of Travis County school land in Throckmorton County, and undated blank forms used by the Surveyor’s office.

To view the collection finding aid, click here.  Please contact the Archivist at 512/854-4675 for more information or to view these records.

New additions to the Archives

Several new collections are now available.  They include: