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Special Collections & University Archives: Genealogy Research

Welcome to our LibGuide! Use the pages here to learn more about our department and research collections.

Genealogy Research Assistance

UTRGV Special Collections & University Archives is happy to assist you with genealogy research, including searching public, church, and archival records. Please note that this research is largely based on secondary source materials that have been compiled by regional genealogical researchers.

In order to expedite your inquiry, please be sure to gather personal information on the individuals or family you are researching, including:

  1. Full Names 
    • First, middle, and last names
    • Maiden Names and/or Parents’ Names 
    • Tip: Consider alternate spellings. For example, it is common for “s” to be used instead of “z.” 
  2. Dates & Locations 
    • Birth (Fecha de Nacimiento) 
    • Death (Defuncion) 
    • Baptism (Bautismo) 
    • Marriage (Casamiento) 
    • Tip: Approximate dates may yield better search results than using exact dates.

Submit an Online Research Request to initiate your inquiry

Provide as many details as possible for each individual based on the information requested above.

Gather Personal Information

Write down everything you learn. You may use forms available in libraries, genealogical societies, and the internet to record the information. Be sure to always include:

  • Names
  • Dates (birth, marriage, death)
  • Locations (birth, marriage, residence, death)
  • Family names (surnames, also consider alternate spellings)
  • Sources (person, book, or archival collection, etc.  Be specific, include author, title, page number, or collection and folder titles)

Begin with getting as much information as you can from your family members. Ask your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents about family members: when and where they were born, were married, etc.

Look for family papers, birth and marriage certificates, personal letters, diaries and journals, photographs, and other sources around the home which may help in constructing a preliminary family history.

Photographs: Write as much information as you can with a soft (#2) pencil on the back of the photograph, including names, date, location, and event.

Review the information you have, and look for gaps, or where information is uncertain or inexact

Federal, State, and County Information

US Census

Census records are an excellent place to begin expanding information on your family. There you will find members of households, ages, and occupations, as well as countries or states of origin.  Begin with the latest census records released, and work backward to 1790 (the State of Texas was founded in 1848). Note: the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. Census records are widely available online via genealogy databases. UTRGV faculty, staff, and students can use HeritageQuest Online.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

After a person's death, their Social Security Number and information are made available as public information. The Social Security Death Index is a database of deaths reported to the Social Security Administration (SSA) beginning about 1962 that have been purchased and made available by various organizations.  For more information about the SSDI, and links to search pages, go to The Social Security Death Index: A Genealogy Records Guide, or use a genealogy database like HeritageQuest.

County Records

Specific records vary by county, they generally contain information such as court documents, marriage records, deed records, and probate minutes. Search the library's online catalog to see what is available on microfilm:

We strongly recommend beginning your county records search online:

Indigenous Genealogy

Searching for indigenous heritage in Texas requires special consideration for colonial Spanish and Mexican records, including municipal and parish records. We recommend the research compiled by John Schmal for Indigenous Mexico to get started.

Browse Digital Collections

A few archival resources have been digitized, and the images are available through the Library's Institutional Repository. Popular items include:

External Links of Interest

Explore "how to" guides

Quick Links

Get Research Assistance!

Submit an Online Research Request Form

Maximize your time and effort. Let our staff assist you with finding and accessing resources online.

Schedule a Research Appointment (On Campus or Online)

We also invite you to schedule an appointment to meet one-on-one with a member of our Special Collections & Archives staff. Schedule an on-campus research visit or choose to meet online (video chat).