Municipal and County Clerks’ Records Online

Having just sung some of FamilySearch’s praises, I’m now going to pivot to say, “Don’t depend on FamilySearch too much.” I typically begin my online town- or county-level research at FamilySearch and, of course, can generally get a great deal of information there, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. We know to consider archives, libraries, and genealogical and historical societies for other records that might help us. But if you’re like me, I sometimes forget to think about the actual town or county clerks’ or registers’ offices that produce and maintain the records. When I remember to check out the offices’ websites online, I can often be pleasantly surprised by what I find.

In addition to managing vital records for Collin County, Texas, for example, the County Clerk also has a database of nearly 150,000 images they’ve collected and posted of “school censuses” that enumerate students from ages 6 to 18 by name, birth date, parents’ names (usually including mother’s maiden name), along with details like how long they’ve lived in their current school district. The database is believed to cover the years 1941–1955 and is representative of the period with cards that say “For White Scholastics Only,” but includes cards “For Negro Scholastics Only” with no separate search terms.

Some other Texas counties have maintained school censuses from a broader time period, some going back to the 19th century, but many of those records may need to be accessed elsewhere rather than the County Clerks’ websites. Gonzales County school censuses, 1876–1932, for example, are online at FamilySearch, but may only be accessed at a Family History Center.

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