Tarrant County, TXGenWeb

Holdings of the Historical Commission


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Research in the Tarrant County Archives

By Dee Barker, Director

The Tarrant County Archives were established by the Commissioners Court in May 1976 at the request of Bennett Smith, then chairman of the Tarrant County Historical Commission. The Texas Legislature provides that it is the duty of the Historical Commission to preserve the heritage of the county. The legislation further states that the Commission may operate and manage a facility owned by the county, and collect items in the name of the Commission. The Tarrant Historical Commission collects and maintains the contents, and operates and manages the Tarrant County Archives, which is housed in the Civil Courts Building.

The purpose of the Archives is not only to preserve the heritage of the county, but also to serve as a research center for Tarrant County history. Duties of the Historical Commission are varied and demand constant research. Therefore, it is necessary for extensive research files to be readily at hand and available to the Commission in its own work environment. The Archives, however, is much more than a workplace for the Commission. It is a public facility, open to the public for research of local history and is extensively used by all facets of the community.

Texas legislation also specifies private collections as inclusive in the items the Commission may collect and maintain. These are extremely valuable, and the Commission is appreciative of donations of documents and photographs from individuals. They will be maintained as archives, using proper archival storage materials and systems.

Examples of items which may be found in the Archives:
Copies of all applications for Texas Historical Markers of subjects in Tarrant with backup documentation. These are the only files which contain backup documentation, which is extensive.
Maps showing the location of the Historical Markers within Tarrant County.
Maps showing location of cemeteries and burial sites in Tarrant County. These may be viewed, but not copied, for protection of the sites. A copy was given to the Texas Highway Department and is used when planning right-of-ways and other construction work.
Retired School Bonds. These have information on early Tarrant County school districts and are official documents released from the state.
Originals of Tarrant County marriage certificates, dating from 1876. Copies of these certificates may be obtained.
Corps of Engineer Report of the Archaeological and Historical Investigation of Joe Pool Lake, a multi-volume set.
Environmental Impact Statement for Runways of the D/FW Airport.
Fort Worth City Directories - many old directories.
Tarrant County Historical Commission Reference Files. These are files of varied information which we use in our research and which are also available to the public for research. Material consists primarily of information on Tarrant County: communities, schools, cemeteries, churches, organizations, museums, lakes, etc. There are also biographical files of some Tarrant County residents.
Other Maps. Numerous maps are on file, among them: A copy of all early Tarrant County maps held by the General Land Office which is available for viewing; the plat for Birdville which was submitted to the state to establish the county seat. Various city maps, lake maps. The Commission has copies of the 1893 Tarrant County map for sale. Other maps will be provided for sale as donations build the fund which will enable the Commission to have masters made for copy purposes.
Many private collections have been donated to the Tarrant County Archives by companies and individuals. Among them are:
U. S. Title Land Records - abstracts and partial abstracts from U. S. Title Company. These give the history of many land surveys in Tarrant County. Many contain probate records such as adoptions, mental commitments, etc.
Stewart Title Land Records - abstracts and partial abstracts from records from the Stewart Title Company.
Westbrook Hotel records - all records of the old Westbrook Hotel - ledgers, registration cards, bookkeeping records, etc.
Montgomery Ward catalogs dating from the 1930s - the only complete set known to exist.
History of Texas Electric.
Texas Wesleyan University Centennial Album
An excellent collection of old picture postcards of Tarrant County scenes.
Halbower/Umbenhour collection on baseball (Texas League, Fort Worth Cats,) railroad pamphlets, Greenwall Opera House, Majestic Theater, the original Billy Rose Casa Manana etc. Includes photographs.
Receipts from Turner and Dingee
Copies of the quarterlies of the Mid Cities Genealogical Society and the Fort Worth Genealogical Society
Several DAR scrapbooks
The B. B. Paddock Collection. This is confined to documents with some exceptions. The Archives houses several items which belonged to Mr. Paddock, among them his metal rolltop desk, his safe (which earlier belonged to Howard Peak,) an old printing press he used in his business and his wonderful large dictionary which contains many words not seen in today's versions.
Numerous other private collections of various subjects.
Photograph Collection. Hundreds of photographs from private sources which include early local buildings such as the Spring Palace, Texas Wesleyan College, the courthouses, the Grunewald pavilion and street scenes. There are also photographs of early residents and family life. The collection of photographer Weinburg contains many aviation photographs.
On microfilm:
Dallas Herald 1855 - 1885
Fort Worth Press 1926 - 1944
Commercial Recorder 1932 - 1961
Sanborn Insurance Maps (six reels, from 1885, dates vary by location)
Colleyville Citizen and Colleyville Pictorial Press
Diary of Hyde Jennings
Diary of Jonathan Baker
Federal Writer's Project
Early Days in Fort Worth by J. C. Terrell
City Directories 1877 - 1920
E. P. Daggett Store ledger
Cemetery records as compiled by the DAR - cemeteries are Birdville, Benbrook, Mary's Creek, East Oakwood, Azle, Kennedale, Hudson, Everman, Johnson Station and Crowley.
The Bohemian
History of Texas - Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest by B. B. Paddock
Our City Dallas by Justin P. Kimball
History and Reminiscence of Denton by Ed Bates
Memorial and Biographical History of Ellis County, Texas, Lewis Publishing Company 1892.
Grand Prairie by James K. Greer
History of Parker County and the Double Log Cabin by G. A. Holland
History of Wise County by Cliff D. Cates
A History of Greater Dallas by Philip Linsley
Dallas Country, A Record of its Pioneers and Progress by John H. Cochran
Centennial History of Wise County 1853 - 1963 by Mary Cates Moore
Abstracts of Land Titles of Texas
History of Texas by Louis J. Wortham

Editor's Note: Please remember that these examples are only a very small part of the vast collection housed in the Tarrant County Archives. At present, it is open to the public on Tuesday from 9:00 - 3:00.  [Call for current hours. See brochure]

The above article originally appeared in the August 1993 issue of Footprints, the quarterly publication of the Fort Worth Genealogical Society. It is reprinted here with permission.

This page was last modified 23 Jun 2002.

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