26 September 2013

Lucky Researchers in Texas: McLennan County

Some areas are better to research in than others. Some counties have no clue as to the value of the history in the older documents, some understand but are unable to get government to allocate the necessary funds to preserve those records, and some understand and have been able to convince their government to preserve the records properly. McLennan County, Texas, is one of those good places to do research.

Most genealogists know about the West Waco Library Genealogy Center. The library has a large collection of books and microfilm for all locations. Extensive holdings cover McLennan County and surrounding counties in Central Texas, microfilm of Waco newspapers dating as early as 1898, about every known city directory published for Waco, abstracts of many church and school records, and much more. The library and the Central Texas Genealogical Society (CTGS) work closely together. CTGS members have abstracted and published many records of interest to researchers in this area.

Then there’s the library at Baylor University with several interesting special collections. The Baylor Law Library serves the general public as well as the students, faculty, and attorneys. It is a Federal Depository for Government Documents. And don’t forget the Armstrong Research Center at the Texas Ranger Museum.

But one of the jewels every researcher should know of and support is the McLennan County Archives.

The Archives is open Monday through Friday from 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. You must be buzzed in at the front door and escorted into the archives so it is a good idea to call the phone number on the website and let them know you are coming and what you wish to see. Parking is free and right in front of the entrance. Some research requests can be handled over the phone, but you’ll really want to visit in person if you can. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.

Stacks of McLennan County Archives, Waco, Texas,
photographed by Debbie Parker Wayne on 12 July 2013.

The Archives holds the original records of the County Clerk, District Clerk, Tax Assessor/Collector, Office of Elections, and Justices of the Peace. District Court records must be requested through the office of the clerk and will be viewed at the District Clerk’s office. Other records can be viewed at the Archives. There are also many maps and a large collection of Waco city directories.

Most of us have used tax records on microfilm. We usually spend a lot of time scrolling up and down to find an entry of interest. Then we scroll side to side counting the lines to be sure we extract all of a person’s entry from a tax listing that spans two pages. Here you can view the original tax records and see both pages at the same time in a bound book. After spending so much time with 18th century hand-written records it seems a little strange to see typed tax lists for later years like the 1930s. But the printed records, handwritten or typed, are so much easier to use than microfilm.

McLennan County, Texas, 1938 Tax Assessors List,
McLennan County Archives, Waco, Texas,
photographed by Debbie Parker Wayne on 12 July 2013.

In addition to the tax listings sorted by the name of the taxpayer, there are books where the data is organized according to the land being taxed, Assessor Abstracts. Instead of searching through decades of deed indexes looking for familiar names you may be able to find when a land owner bought or sold a piece of property using these records.

There are so many kinds of records we all need to learn more about to make us better researchers. Seeing the original records instead of microfilmed copies is priceless. I wish every county where I do research had a county archives department.

To cite this blog post:
Debbie Parker Wayne, "Lucky Researchers in Texas: McLennan County," Deb's Delvings Blog, posted 26 September 2013 (http://debsdelvings.blogspot.com/ : accessed [date]).

© 2013, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, All Rights Reserved

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