Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

A Guide to the Clerk Returns Collection, 1837-1873



Overview

Creator: Texas. General Land Office.
Title: Clerk Returns Collection
Dates: 1837-1873
Abstract: A clerk return is a document created by the appointed clerk for the county board of land commissioners that records information associated with the issuance of a land certificate. The Collection is primarily used to provide genealogists with the movements and acquaintances of their ancestors.Clerk returns contain the name of every person to whom a certificate shall be given, the amount of land granted to each person, the time of their emigration to the country, the name or names of the witness or witnesses by whom the claimants severally proved their claims.
Identification: AR.36
Quantity: 88.17 Linear feet, (50 oversized boxes)
Location: File Vault
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

Historical Note

A clerk return is a document created by the appointed clerk for the county board of land commissioners that records information associated with the issuance of a land certificate. The clerk was appointed by the Texas Legislature to insure impartiality. Additionally, a copy of the documents was to be returned to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, hence the name " clerk return." Section 14 of a legislative act approved December 14, 1837 defines the responsibility of the county clerk in regard to the transactions of the boards of land commissioners. The clerk shall keep, "a correct account of all the transactions of the board of land commissioners, the name of every person to whom a certificate shall be given, the amount of land granted to each person, the time of their emigration to the country, and the name or names of the witness or witnesses, by whom the claimants severally proved their claims; and the clerk shall, at the end of every month, forward to the commissioner of the general land office, a correct list of names to whom certificates have been given, the amount of land granted to each individual, and the date of the claimant's emigration to the country; and the said commissioner of the general land office shall keep a record of all such returns which may be made to his office" ("Laws of Texas", Volume 1, p 1409).

Although the law specified that returns should be made monthly, and some of the first ones were, most were in fact made quarterly. Despite the specific instructions in the law as to what information the returns should contain, and despite numerous admonishments from Land Commissioner John P. Borden to clerks who did not fill out the returns correctly, the returns vary wildly in form and content.

At the time, the clerk returns were used to serve an administrative purpose; as a check on the land distribution system by the county boards of commissioners. Today the documents serve a genealogical purpose by providing families with the movements and acquaintances of their ancestors.

Gammel, Hans Peter Mareus Neilsen. The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 Volume 1, Book, 1898; digital images, ( http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5872/ : accessed February 13, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries, Denton, Texas.


Scope and Contents of the Records

Clerk Returns contain the following legally mandated data:

the name of every person to whom a certificate shall be given,

the amount of land granted to each person,

the time of their emigration to the country,

the name or names of the witness or witnesses by whom the claimants severally proved their claims.

Clerk Returns are filed by county then by date of report.

During the interval of time that clerk returns were filed there were only 89-92 counties covering the amount of land of the current 254. The container list for this collection notes 3 counties which no longer exist. Harrisburg County was renamed Harris County in 1839. The counties Spring Creek and Paschal were "Judicial" counties, a designation that was ruled unconstitutional in 1842. Paschal became Hopkins, Franklin, Titus, Morris, Cass and most of Marion County. Spring Creek became parts of Grimes, Montgomery, and Harris counties.

Seymour V. Connor, "HARRISBURG COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hch91), accessed February 13, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Andrew Forest Muir, "SPRING CREEK COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcs52), accessed February 10, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Seymour V. Connor, "PASCHAL COUNTY (JUDICIAL)," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcp52), accessed February 13, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.


Arrangement

The documents are arranged in 36 oversized boxes by county, then numbered sequentially beginning with the earliest clerk return filed at the General Land Office for said county.
There are 12 additional, larger oversized boxes with the same arrangement housing even larger clerk returns.
2 other oversized boxes contain duplicate clerk returns.

Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

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.).


Index Terms

Clerk Return
Land Certificates
Land ownership--Texas
Legal documents
Republic and State Land Grant Programs
Texas
Texas General Land Office

Related Materials

Annotated Index to the Clerk Returns

A Guide to the District Clerk Returns, 1839-1874

A Guide to the Agents Reports, 1838-1839


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Clerk Returns Collection (AR.36). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

Digital Copies

Records have been microfilmed. Original reels are stored at TSLAC records center, and duplicate reels are available at TGLO.

Materials have been digitized and are searchable using the Land Grants Database at http://www.glo.texas.gov/cf/land-grant-search/. Use "Clerk Return" as Class, and enter county, grantee, and any other search terms desired.


Detailed Description of the Collection

Clerk Returns, 1838-1874

Box
OS 11 Counties: Anderson, Angelina, Austin 1-25
Box
OS 12 Counties: Austin 26-57, Bastrop 1-9
Box
OS 13 Counties: Bastrop 10-51, Bell
Box
OS 14 Counties: Bexar 1-28 and blank returns
Box
OS 15 Counties: Bexar 29-67, Bowie 1-25
Box
OS 16 Counties: Bowie 26-55, Brazoria 1-31
Box
OS 17 Counties: Brazoria 32-55, Brazos, Burleson
Box
OS 18 Counties: Burnet, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Cass, Cherokee, Collin, Colorado 1-27
Box
OS 19 Counties: Colorado 28-60, Comal, Dallas, Denton, DeWitt 1-8
Box
OS 20 Counties: DeWitt 9-19, Ellis, Falls, Fannin, Fayette 1-6
Box
OS 21 Counties: Fayette 7-62, Fort Bend 1-19
Box
OS 22 Counties: Fort Bend 20-40, Galveston 1-84
Box
OS 23 Counties: Galveston 85-120, Goliad, Gonzales, Grayson 1-10
Box
OS 24 Counties: Grayson 11-21, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris 1-15
Box
OS 25 Counties: Harris 16-96, Harrisburg 1-13
Box
OS 26 Counties: Harrisburg 14-24, Harrison, Hays, Henderson
Box
OS 27 Counties: Hill, Hopkins, Houston, Hunt
Box
OS 28 Counties: Jackson, Jasper 1-23
Box
OS 29 Counties: Jasper 24-53, Jefferson
Box
OS 30 Counties: Kaufman, Lamar, Lavaca
Box
OS 31 Counties: Leon, Liberty, Limestone, Mason
Box
OS 32 Counties: Matagorda, Madison
Box
OS 33 Counties: Menard, McLennan, Milam 1-24
Box
OS 34 County: Milam 25-52
Box
OS 35 Counties: Montogomery 1-89
Box
OS 36 Counties: Montogomery 90-117, Nacogdoches 1-74
Box
OS 37 Counties: Nacogdoches 75-103, Navarro, Navasota, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Panola, Parker
Box
OS 38 Counties: Paschal, Polk, Red River 1-71
Box
OS 39 Counties: Red River 72-88, Refugio, Robertson
Box
OS 40 Counties: Rusk, Sabine 1-48
Box
OS 41 Counties: Sabine 49-70, San Augustine 1-54
Box
OS 42 Counties: San Augustine 55-67, San Patricio, Shelby 1-51
Box
OS 43 Counties: Shelby 52-94, Smith, Spring Creek, Tarrant, Titus, Travis 1-18
Box
OS 44 Counties: Travis 19-43, Tyler, Upshur, Van Zandt, Victoria 1-43
Box
OS 45 Counties: Victoria 44-52, Walker, Washington 1-15
Box
OS 46 Counties: Washington 16-61, Wharton, Williamson, Wise, Wood
Oversized Clerk Returns,
Box
OS 59; OS 125 Duplicate Clerk Returns,
Box Folder
G710 13 Correspondence from the GLO to various county Boards of Land Commissioners, 1845
Scope and Contents of the Records
Original copies of letters of acknowledgement of clerk returns and letters advising compliance with delivery of a clerk return.