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Van Zandt County Genealogical Society and County Courthouse

In searching for information on the death of William McGuire (1794-1837), I made a planned visit to the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society’s library as well as the Van Zandt County Clerk, both in Canton, Texas. William’s bounty land from service in the Texas Militia was located in Van Zandt County.

Van Zandt County Genealogical Society

The library is in the Courthouse Annex, and is open for general business hours six days a week; it’s hours are better than the the county library. This is a great library and has a large book collection of both local and regionally useful books. The library has several computers with Internet connections and access to the library version of Ancestry. The volunteers are knowledgeable about local materials and genealogy in general, but may not be able to assist with technology questions. The Wi-Fi password is a random string on an unlabeled post it. Two of the items in the collection were very useful to me:

  • Van Zandt County Court Minutes, which have name indexes.
  • Transcripts of Texas Militia muster rolls.

County Court Minutes

In early Texas, the Court Minutes are as much a record of county administration as they were of what we now think of as court cases. In the court minutes, I found references to the executor of William’s estate; the executor was part of several road building crews authorized by the county court. The court minutes are fascinating reading, and offer an interesting perspective on 19th century life in Texas. Do not stop at the name index entries for your ancestor; make sure to read some of the surrounding entries and record names of others to establish a FAN club for your ancestor.

Transcripts of Early Muster Rolls

The muster roll transcripts are useful in finding ancestors who served in the Texas Militia during the republic. Today, much of this information is available on the Texas General Land Office web site, but the book form is helpful when you are looking to develop a FAN club for an ancestor who is known to have served in the militia.

Van Zandt County Courthouse

The courthouse is short walk from the Annex and is where all of the County Clerk records are held. The indexes are on the main floor while the individual records are in the basement. Land records are well indexed for both Grantor and Grantee back to the early days of the county, but probate record indexes exist only for 1952 and later. Copies are $1 per page. The