Project Improves Access to the Robert Bruce Blake Collection
Access to an important historical and genealogical source at the DRT Library is being greatly improved through the efforts of volunteer Dr. Rita Foudray. Since April 2007, she has been working on creating an index of names mentioned in each of the the ninety-one volumes – each approximately 400 pages in length – that comprise the Robert Bruce Blake Collection. So far, Dr. Foudray has finished indexing the first twenty-four volumes. Because the index includes every name mentioned in the volumes, it is an invaluable source for researchers, especially genealogists seeking to trace their family in early Texas.
The ninety-one volumes of the collection are the product of historian Robert Bruce Blake’s thirty-year effort to compile, translate, and transcribe documents he selected from the massive Nacogdoches Archives and Bexar Archives and some family collections. These materials document the history of Spanish and Mexican Texas, an area bordered by Nacogdoches on the east and San Antonio on the west. Spanning the period 1744 to 1837, the documents include a variety of materials such as letters, financial records, censuses, muster rolls, family papers, and proclamations. Also included are legal papers such as jury verdicts, subpoenas, petitions, affidavits, summonses, bills of slave sales, orders, records of civil and criminal proceedings, bonds, minutes, and writs. Blake’s volumes, containing his transcriptions of these records, are what fellow historian Charles A. Bacarisse called “the bedrock for a history of East Texas.”
The complete collections of the Nacogdoches and Bexar Archives, from which the Blake collection was derived, and guides to these materials are also available to researchers. The Nacogdoches Archives is currently held by the Texas State Archives in Austin, which provides access to microfilm copies of the records and an online guide to the collection. The original records comprising the Bexar Archives are now located in one of two places. Most of the collection is housed at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, where it has been since 1899. The university also maintains a calendar listing, if known, the place of origin, author, recipient, and content of many manuscripts in the Bexar Archives. At the time the materials were transferred to the university, Bexar County retained legal records – including deeds, marriage records, deeds and estates, and Spanish mission records – thought to be of continued importance to the local government; these documents remain in San Antonio. Several resources that describe the history of and provide access to the Bexar Archives are available at the DRT Library, including:
- a microfilm version of the UT collection, comprised of 172 reels, together with the Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Bexar Archives, 1717-1836 by Chester V. Kielman.
- a microfilm copy of documents translated from the UT collection, comprised of 26 reels, together with the Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Bexar Archives Tranlations by Paul L. Kesaris
- The Bexar Archives (1717-1836): A Name Guide compiled and edited by Adán Benavides, Jr., which contains many, but by no means all, names from many documents in the collection.
- Carlos Eduardo Castañeda’s A Report on the Spanish Archives in San Antonio, Texas, which inventories those records in the Bexar Archives that have remained in San Antonio, specifically in the Bexar County Clerk’s Office.
To access the index to the Blake collection or the other materials mentioned above, please contact or visit the library.