"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press - 2 Nov 2000

“Your Ancestors and Cattle Brands”

Several weeks ago, I visited the County Clerk’s Office at the Milam County, Texas Courthouse. The County Clerk’s Office has re-located to an old storefront building directly across the street from the Historic Courthouse that is undergoing renovation and restoration.

When the County Clerk’s Office was located in the old Courthouse, it was somewhat cramped for space and things were cumbersome to locate. As I walked through the new offices, trying to orientate myself to the new surroundings, I spied three volumes of “Cattle Brands & Marks” ledger books.

What is a cattle brand? A cattle brand is considered the trademark for the rangeland signifying pride of ownership in livestock and it may be composed of a letter, numeral, character or symbol, or any combination thereof or all of these items.

Cattle brands have been used as marks of identification on livestock throughout the ages in and all countries, civilizations and cultures. Your ancestors had horses, mules, cattle, oxen, hogs, and other livestock that he or she would mark or brand. Yes, women did register their own cattle brands!

Beginning in 1848, Texas law provided for recording brands with the County Clerk, with the stipulation that an unrecorded brand did not constitute legal evidence of cattle or livestock ownership.

In addition to registering their brand, your ancestor also indicated the ear “mark” he or she used. As the name suggests, an earmark was a design cut into one or both ears of an animal. Sometimes a portion of the ear might be removed. This mark was used in addition to the brand.

Why are cattle brands and marks important to your genealogical research? It is especially important because many times individuals would register the mark and brand even if they did not own property. This is a very useful research tool if your family members were tenant farmers or sharecroppers. They had a mule to plow, a milk cow for the children, and hogs for food; but they do not appear in the deed records.

When you find your ancestor’s name in the Brands & Marks ledger, you should also look at the names preceding and following. I found my ancestor and on the very next line, registering his own brand was his very hard to locate son-in-law. In all likelihood, they probably went to the Courthouse together.

To learn more about the history of cattle brands, visit the website hosted by the Devil’s Rope Museum located in McLean, Texas that is dedicated to the history of barbed wire at: http://www.barbwiremuseum.com/.

The “Handbook of Texas” also offers and interesting narrative on the History of Cattle Brands in their book as well as the website: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/CC/auc1.html .

Check with your local library and see what books they have on the cattle brands or that can be order for you through inter-library loan. Books I would recommend are: “Brave Men & Cold Steel: A History of Range Detectives and their Peacemakers” written by Doug Perkins and Nancy Ward and published by the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation in 1984 or “Hot Irons: Heraldry of the Range” written by Oren Arnold and John P. Hale and published by Cooper Square Publishers in 1972.

“NGS Regional Conference in Austin, Texas”

On Saturday, February 10, 2001, the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Regional Conference will take place at the Hilton Austin North & Towers located at 6000 Middle Fiskville Road in Austin, Texas. Conference fee for NGS members is $40 per person, non-members $50 per person and if you plan to attend the luncheon, include an additional $19.95 per person.

Speakers for the event will be Sheila Benedict who is a Certified Genealogical Record Specialist (CGRS) and Cyndi Howells who is the owner and webmaster of Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet. The luncheon speaker will be Fran Shane who is the Executive Director of the NGS. The Texas State Genealogical Society http://www.rootsweb.com/~txsgs/ will locally host the event.

For information on the Conference contact: NGS, Attn: Regional Conference-Austin, 4527 17th St., Arlington, VA 22207-2399, telephone toll fee: 1-800-473-0060, e-mail: ngs@ngsgenealogy.org or visit the website: http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/2670/ COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 24 Oct 2000 and was last revised on ________ 2000

Copyright © 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604