Posted in Land and property, Texas, 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.


Posted in Forts, Land and property, Maps, Texas, Texas Land Grants

Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists

I am on my way home from a research trip to the Texas Hill Country to find the land my Gooch ancestors occupied from the late 1840s at least through the 1880s.  I know Texas would rather consider itself part of the South than part of the West, but that’s where my folks were before they moved to Arizona, and if a trip through the county roads of central Texas is not On Granny’s Trail, then I don’t know what is.  Besides, any state with the amount of cacti and roadside taxidermists I saw surely qualifies as “Western.”

My specific goal for this trip was to locate my ancestors’ original land tracts on a modern map, so I could drive there and take pictures of the surroundings.

This post recounts the steps I took in the research process and the fun surprise ending. I plan to follow up in the future with some helpful advice for planning a research trip but I couldn’t wait to share what I found, because it involved what I call Ninja Genealogy and some delightful serendipity. The post is long, but not nearly as long as the 25 year journey I took to this particular tract of land. Continue reading “Ninja Genealogy and Serendipity among the Cacti and Taxidermists”

Posted in Land and property, Texas, Texas Land Grants, Websites

Land Grants in Texas – Link to a helpful guide and images

While preparing for a trip to Texas I came across excellent digital images of land grants and patents on the Texas General Land Office website.  I must say, “Well done, Texas. Your General Land Office website is the Biggest and Best state land office website I have found on the web!” Continue reading “Land Grants in Texas – Link to a helpful guide and images”

Posted in History, Texas, Websites

The Portal to Texas History

Somehow I am on a Texas jag this month, because my newest find is The Portal to Texas History, maintained by University of North Texas. I want to share a link to Dick Eastman’s blog about the site so you can see what he has to say about it and check it out. Enjoy!

Posted in Texas, Websites

Update on the “Sheriff’s” badge mystery, and more on the Texas Rangers

I posted a blog recently about a photo of my great-grandfather, Jack Gooch, and the mysterious “sheriff’s” badge he was sporting.

Jack Gooch sheriff  3 color adjusted and cropped

One reader suggested it might be a Texas Ranger badge, so I looked up the history of Texas Rangers and found some interesting resources for this unique segment of law enforcement.

The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum exists in Waco, Texas.

TX Ranger museum

It has a number of  online resources plus a research service.  Some of the interesting links on the site are oral histories, links to e-books, and “A Short Course on Fantasy, Replica, and Toy Texas Ranger Badges,” among others.

The Armstrong  Texas Ranger Research Center, a is an excellent starting place if you are trying to identify an ancestor as an early Texas Ranger.  You can schedule an on-site visit for individual help, or download a research request form for long-distance help. I was prepared to do this before I looked at the short course on Ranger Badges. I found an image of one that could possibly match Jack’s, and decided to scan my photo at a much higher resolution to see if I could identify the words on the badge.

Jack Gooch private detective badge cropped and enhancedDo you see what I see?  The image is reversed.  This means the photo I have was developed reversed, because I scanned it as it was originally found, encased in a cardboard frame.  And can you determine what it says? After adjusting the colors and contrast I believe it says, “Private Detective.”

Well, well,  whaddyaknow?  It is not a sheriff’s badge or even a Texas Ranger badge.  It is, in fact, a genealogist’s badge!  >wink<