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Gone To Texas!

Love it or hate it, Texas has a colorful history. It was first occupied by several hostile native tribes. The Six Flags of Texas refers to the 6 different nationalities that claimed it. The first was Spain, then France, then independent Mexico, then it became its own Republic, then it was the 28th state in the US, and the sixth flag would be from when it seceded into the Confederacy. While a part of Mexico it was a lawless land where people fled to escape from debts, crimes, and spouses. It was also a place where no one enforced the Mexican laws against slavery. "Gone To Texas" or just "GTT" was left behind on the doors of many abandoned houses according to the Handbook of Texas published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Frontierman coonskin hat rifle

Here is a story about probably the most famous use of the phrase. Quoted in Niles' Weekly Register published in Baltimore - April 9, 1836:

A gentleman from Nacogdoches, in Texas, informs us, that, whilst there, he dined in public with Col. Davy Crockett, who had just arrived from Tennessee. The old bear-hunter, on being toasted, made a speech to the Texians, replete with his usual dry humor. He began nearly in this style: "I am told, gentlemen, that, when a stranger, like myself, arrives among you, the first inquiry is—what brought you here? To satisfy your curiosity at once as to myself, I will tell you all about it. I was, for some years, a member of congress. In my last canvass, I told the people of my district, that, if they saw fit to re-elect me, I would serve them faithfully as I had done; but, if not, they might all go to Hell, and I would go to Texas. I was beaten, gentlemen, and here I am." The roar of applause was like a thunder-burst.

Of course, as any student of Texas history will tell you, at the time of this publication Col. Crockett had already perished at the Battle of The Alamo which ended on March 6, 1836.

This week I completed an application for a Texas First Families Certificate from The Texas State Genealogical Society. These certificates are issued to those who can prove a direct or "collateral" relative was in Texas or served the Republic before February 19, 1846, which is the day Texas stopped being an independent republic and became part of the United States. A collateral relative is a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of a direct ancestor ( such as a great-great-grandparent).

TX Genealogical Society Certificates

You must be able to prove a direct line of descent with documentation on their application which is quite similar to that of applying for the Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution. The First Families Certificate costs $30, and your family will be published online, or in the next issue of Texas First Families. Volumes one and two are available online:

If your ancestors got here as fast as they could after 1846 and before 1886, you can apply for a Gone To Texas Pioneers Certificate. The application and documentation requirements are the same:

  • Application forms, Line of Descent Chart with Proof of Descent

  • Generation One – applicant – applicant’s birth certificate; if married, applicant’s spouse’s birth certificate, and applicant’s marriage record

  • Generation Two – applicant’s parents – birth certificates for both parents, marriage record, death certificates if the parents are no longer living

  • and so on to and including the generation of the qualifying ancestor

  • “Ancestor’s Proof of Qualifying Service or Residence”

  • Qualification – a copy of the documents that prove the ancestor or collateral relative qualifies the applicant for a certificate

  • Write applicant’s name and the generation number on the back

The West Texas Pioneers Certificate is for descendants of those who arrived in one of 133 specific WEST Texas counties prior to 1901. Click here to see which counties! This application fee is also $30 and uses the same application form.

Did you know Texas has a "defunct" county? There was a Greer County from 1860 - 1896 in what was "Indian Territory." According to the TXGS website, Greer County was comprised of all of present day Greer, Jackson, and Harmon counties in Oklahoma and parts of present day Beckham County, Oklahoma as well as Lipscomb, Hemphill, Wheeler, Collingsworth, and Childress counties in Texas. If your ancestors were in Greer County, TX between 1860 and 1907 there is a certificate for you!

The last special certificate the TXGS offers is the Descendants of Texas Rangers Certificate. If you are related to a deceased Texas Ranger, you can apply for a special certificate if you can prove you are a direct or collateral descendant.

The TXGS is now accepting DNA evidence for proof of parent-child relationships, and they would welcome your DNA evidence for their building pool of data for First Texans. For the full, and I do mean full, blow by blow description of what they want, click here:

The application process can take from 6-8 weeks. The $30 fee is non-refundable and you can get husband & wife certificates for the same $30. You can request multiple certificates (for all the kids) but it will cost another $30 each and require an envelope with postage if going to multiple addresses These look really nice, and I'm thinking they might make a great holiday or birthday gifts, suitable for framing.

The gathering of the documentation was pretty time consuming, and you have to be sure to include the exact source for each document. You can't just say "Ancestry" or "My Heritage." You will need to be able to supply the book title, author, date, etc. like in those papers we used to write with footnotes in school. When viewing a record in Ancestry, you will see you have the option to click on the "Source" or the "Record." You can print out the source and it will look like this below.

Saved to: Col****, Wade E. in tree "Col**** J*** L****" (Remove)

Detail Source

Source Citation Year: 1850; Census Place: Panola, Texas; Roll: 913; Page: 157a Source Information 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Description This database is an index to individuals enumerated in the 1850 United States Federal Census, the Seventh Census of the United States. Census takers recorded many details including each person's name, age as of the census day, sex, color; birthplace, occupation of males over age fifteen, and more. No relationships were shown between members of a household. Additionally, the names of those listed on the population schedule are linked to actual images of the 1850 Federal Census. Learn more...

Kid using computer

I'll let you know how this first application works out, and warn you about any pitfalls I may encounter.

Do you know who and where your ancestors were in the 1800's? Ask your family, see what they might have heard. If you would like help to investigate whether you or a family member is eligible for a Texas Heritage Certificate

email me and let's talk!

As usual, I appreciate your time and your feedback. Please do LIKE and SHARE this post. I am a member of the TXGS and the Texas State Historical Association, but I am not getting any commission or kickback for bringing their programs or products to your attention. Don't forget, there are always free quotes on any research after reviewing what you already know! Looking at other people's trees can be quite a relief from trying to get over my well-established brick walls.

Thank you!

Leslie Ryan


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