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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

While UTRGV Special Collections & University Archives houses materials that may be helpful for genealogical research, our access to resources is generally limited to online databases available to the UTRGV community and secondary source materials compiled by regional genealogical researchers.

Consider reaching out to the professionals.

Genealogical societies and organizations are the best resources for discovering your family ancestry.

Gather Personal Information

Document everything you learn.

  • Names 
    • First, middle, and last names
    • Maiden names, surnames, parent's names, sibling names, etc.
    • Tip: Consider alternate spellings. For example, it is common for “s” to be used instead of “z.” 
  • Dates & Locations
    • Birth (Fecha de Nacimiento) 
    • Death (Defuncion) 
    • Baptism (Bautismo) 
    • Marriage (Casamiento) 
    • Tip: Approximate dates may yield better search results than using exact dates.
  • Sources (person, book, or archival collection, etc.  Be specific, include author, title, page number, or collection and folder titles)
  • Gather as much information as you can from your family members. 
  • Check 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.
  • If you are lucky enough to find photographs, then write as much information as you can with a soft (#2) pencil on the back of the photograph, including names, dates, locations, and events.
  • Review the information you have and look for gaps—also consider what information is uncertain or inexact.

Indigenous Genealogy

Our institution in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas sits on the ancestral land of the Karankawa, Tāp Pīlam Coahuiltecan, Ndé Kónitsąąíí Gokíyaa (Lipan Apache), Carrizo/Comecrudo, and Rayados/Borrados. We acknowledge and pay respect to their Elders and their past, present, and future peoples, cultures, languages, and communities.

UTRGV Special Collections & Archives does not house primary source records relating to tribal heritage or 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.

The U.S. Department of Interior also provides insight for genealogical research, which recommends researchers "begin research in current, rather than historic records. If an individual is not currently a member of a federally recognized tribe, band or group research should begin in non-Indian records or other public records such as those records maintained by state and local governments, churches, and schools. Individuals should find all the information they can about their parents, grandparents, and more distant ancestors and write such information down..."

Official tribal websites:

County Records

County Records

Specific records vary by county, they generally contain information such as court documents, marriage records, deed records, and probate minutes. We strongly recommend beginning your county records search online:

State Records

Federal Records

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.

Explore "how to" guides

Browse Digital Collections

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

County Records on Microfilm

If you prefer old-school, in-person research, then use the library's online catalog to see what is available on microfilm:

Additional Genealogical Resources

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).