If you look in most history books about Texas, you find a lot of information about settlements, but very few of them will tell you the history of the Hispanic people of Texas!
In September 2004, the Texas State Hispanic Genealogical and Historical Conference celebrated it 25th year anniversary. In 1977, the first conference was held entitled, "Genealogica Hispanica," where a group of researchers and historians assembled in Austin, more to find out what was available and to put their collective information together to help others in the area of Hispanic genealogy. Leading the group were pioneer researchers like Dr. Andres Tijerina, Gloria Castruita, Yolanda Gonzales, Robert Thornhoff, and Manuel Quinones. Each was working individually to help people with genealogy or history.
The conference was held in Austin primarily to discover what resources were available and where records might be available to assist in researching Hispanic genealogy. In 1977 there were no organized Hispanic genealogy societies. For the first few years the conference continued in Austin, with more interest generated by people in other cities, and more attendees. In the years that followed Houston, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio were to organize, found and charter the first Hispanic genealogy societies in Texas. As the societies grew, and the interest grew among the local groups, the conference also grew, with different cities hosting the Texas State Conference.
In those early days of the conference genealogy professionals like Dr. Lyman Platt and George Ryscamp brought their knowledge of records and archival experience to expand the process of finding our ancestors. The societies formed to create and maintain organizations for the promotion of research, and for the collection and development of genealogical data of the earliest Spanish and Mexican settlers of Texas. The societies function to conduct research, obtain collections, and develop the resources to make them available to the public. A significant amount of exhaustive research and published work is the legacy of these societies. We recognize and appreciate the efforts of each member of each society who played a part in advancing Hispanic genealogy by providing a social, educational and historical presence in their community by recognizing the contributions of our ancestors.
One important aspect of the conference has been to build international relationships. As the research expanded, the need for international partnerships grew. The societies worked in collaboration with Northern Mexico towns, parishes, and civil offices to document the available records. We must remember that our histories were not written in as part of Texas history, even though our families have been a part of Texas since the first Mission and Presidios settlements of Spanish Texas. These international advances in resources and historical truths were to educate and properly document the lives and histories of our ancestors through church, civil, military and land documents, and were brought to the forefront of Hispanic genealogy.
The work of groups such as The Spanish American Genealogy Associates, Los Bexarenos, and the Houston Hispanic Genealogy Society set the foundation for great works that can be found in libraries and genealogy research facilities statewide. Today you can go into a library and find something about your history and feel proud to know that you have a history, when you open a book and find Hispanic names such as the Chapas, Velas, Guerras, Longorias and Salinas--these are the legacy of the work done by the Texas State Hispanic Genealogy Societies and Conferences.
A host of the best historians, authors and genealogists were invited to speak at the conference to encourage, teach and inform attendees on what records, archives and research facilities were available to them. These speakers traced ancestry to historical events and discovered the founding and documented the early struggles of Spanish Colonial pioneers. Understanding your past helps you to know who you are, it's the evidence that your ancestors lived, and finding them keeps you connected to a rich history of those experiences.
A tradition of research trips has been a part of the conference since that first trip to the State Archives in Austin and has continued to the present. The trips include a variety of locations from the Northern Mexico "Caminos del Rio tours' to the Monterrey Archives trips. Each trip building bridges that keep us connected to the land where our ancestors lived and the heritage and history of those places. It's a celebration of the past building new friendships, and visiting with "primos" and redefining our cultural awareness.
As we celebrate 25 years of the Conference we honor the founders, societies, and research pioneers who like our ancient ancestors sought to discover and to explore new lands and truths about who we are and the contributions and lives of those ancestors. In the future there will be an even greater need to know who we are, to write our history and to understand our ancestors place in the tapestry of Hispanic America. Our heritage is rich and full, the lives of our forefathers in this land and the need of our families to know their history and to document, preserve and present those histories are the cornerstone of why we do genealogical research.
The future of Hispanic Genealogy in Texas relies on new generations of researchers who can build on the work that has been done by the founding groups. New genealogy societies and research will expand on the earlier work finding new and modern experiences in the process and continuing an adventure that began 25 years ago, and continues today.
As we race to the future, tracing the lives and travels of our ancestors, we pay homage to our families . . . keeping the traditions, the heritage, and the culture alive by remembering those ancestors and bringing them along with us.