Posted in Land and property, Texas Land Grants

6 Flags over Texas? Fourth class headrights? Huh?

John Gooch, by tradition

John Gooch received a 4th Class Headright Certificate #166 from the Republic of Texas and was granted 640 acres of land – that’s one square mile – by virtue of the early Texas Land Grant provisions.  “Headrights”, or land entitlements, were granted according to the date of arrival in Texas and other requirements such as marital status and minimum years of residency.

Here are a few documents from John Gooch’s  file, obtained from the Texas General Land Office. Note the first one is from the Republic of Texas, 7 Mar 1842, in Red River County:

Red River Co., Texas Board of Land Commissioners, Gooch, John- 4th Class Headright Certificate #166 (Certified copy, original issued 7 Mar 1842), John Gooch.

Here is his land grant certificate #128, and notice “Republic” of Texas has been crossed out, with “State” written in above. The date is 19 Sep 1846, and The United States had annexed the Republic of Texas on 16 Jun of 1845, causing a little problem with Mexico.  Texas had declared itself a Republic in 1836 –   Remember the Texas Revolution? – but Mexico did not recognize Texas independence, and the U.S. annexation of “their” territory was not appreciated. The U.S. declared war with Mexico  in May of 1846.  After 1845 the Texas Land Office saved on printing costs, crossing out “Republic” to write in “State”.  Besides, depending on the outcome of the war they could be back to “Territory” before long.

Red River County Board of Land Commissioners, Gooch, John- Unconditional Certificate #128 for 4th Class Headright #166, John Gooch.

Notice on the back of this certificate John has transferred his rights to his son, Benjamin, with “Robertson” [County] also noted. I don’t know why it says 3rd class on it.

Red River County Board of Land Commissioners, Gooch, John- Unconditional Certificate #128 for 4th Class Headright #166, John Gooch. Transfer of rights to his son, Benjamin Gooch

The Texas General Land office has an online  index and images of early land grants issued by one of the governments of Texas: Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the State of Texas. That’s four flags, if you were counting.  The other two flags over what is now Texas were France and the Confederate States of America, but they did not grant land.

To receive a 4th Class Headright Certificate a man had to have arrived in Texas between 1 Jan 1840 and 1 Jan 1842.  A married man was entitled to 640 acres, and a single man to 320 acres.  Ten acres had to be cultivated.

John Gooch’s headright certificate gives us valuable genealogical clues:

  1. He arrived in Nov 1841
  2. He was married
  3. He had a son named Benjamin
  4. Other records may exist in Red River and Robertson Counties

This is another excellent example of the value of land records in your family history research, and the importance of putting your research in the context of historical events.



I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

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