Hispanic Texas: Locating Mexican Revolution-Era Texas Border Crossing Records

This is the first installment in a new series on researching Hispanic Texas ancestry.

My Hispanic Texas Roots

My ancestral connections to Texas have been a recent discovery, despite actively researching my family history for 18 years, and they occur entirely on the Hispanic branches of my family tree.

Mexican Immigrant Ancestors of Colleen Robledo Greene.

My Mexican immigrant ancestors, who immigrated to the United States via Laredo, Texas during the Mexican Revolution. From the personal files of Colleen Greene.

Texas as a Waypoint

I learned in 2003 from her U.S. Petition for Naturalization that my father’s grandmother, my great-grandmother Maria Hermalinda Nieto y Compean de Robledo (1887-1974), immigrated from central Mexico to the United States in 1915 via the footbridge connecting Nuevo Laredo, Mexico with Laredo, Webb County, Texas. Over the past year, I have identified additional ancestors and an extended family network, who also crossed into the U.S. at this same entry point during the Mexican Revolution.

Deeper Texas Roots

Just a few months ago, I learned the identity of my biological father (I was adopted as an infant)—Richard De Leon (1950-2003), a lifelong Californian. Richard’s father, however, was a native Texan of Mexican descent. I have traced Richard’s paternal line back to the Goliad area in the 1880s, and look forward to digging further back.

Chronicling Border Life

Life & Death On the Border 2910-1920

Image courtesy of the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

An exhibit titled Life and Death on the Border 1910-1920 opens at the Bullock Texas State History Museum this Saturday, 23 January 2016.

The exhibition uses historical records and artifacts to showcase a particularly violent decade (the decade of the Mexican Revolution) along the Texas and Mexico border; an episode that helped launch the Mexican American civil rights movement.

With such an important exhibit opening this week, I thought it timely to focus this first Hispanic Texas post on the topic of finding Texas and Mexico border records.

Border Crossing Records

These records are critical for those of us with ancestors and collateral relatives who immigrated from Mexico during the early-to-mid 20th century, and particularly during the violent Mexican Revolution.

Nieto Maria -1915-US Border Crossing Ancestry

1915 U.S. border entry record for Maria Nieto at Laredo, Texas. Great-grandmother of Colleen Greene. Courtesy of Ancestry.[1]

Where to Find the Records

The records can be located and reviewed from the comfort of your own home, through select libraries, or by rolling up your sleeves and scrolling through microfilm.

Digitized Records

Ancestry provides a searchable database of digitized records, titled “Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964.”

Microfilmed Records

Online Index

FamilySearch provides a free searchable index (“United States Border Crossings from Mexico to United States, 1903-1957”) of the records available on Ancestry.

Understanding the Records

These articles and guides provide useful tips for analyzing the records.

Laredo Texas Footbridge

The Laredo foot bridge that stood between 1905 and 1932, over which my great-grandparents crossed in 1915. Courtesy of The Portal to Texas History. [2]

How did the Mexican Revolution-Era border between Texas and Mexico impact YOUR family history? Please use the Comments form below to share your story with us.


Citations

[1] “Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 June 2012), Laredo, Texas, 27 October 1915, Maria Nieto, age 23.

[2] “International Foot Bridge, Laredo, Tex. [Texas]” Postcard, n.d., University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth13260/ : accessed June 20, 2012); crediting Laredo Public Library, Laredo, Texas.

Colleen Greene

Colleen (Robledo) Greene is a librarian, web developer, and educator, who has been researching her family history for 20 years. Colleen served as the 2016-2017 Director of Communications for TxSGS, from her home in Southern California. She blogs about her professional work and interests at www.colleengreene.com and shares her own family history research at www.cjroots.com.

Comments

Hispanic Texas: Locating Mexican Revolution-Era Texas Border Crossing Records — 4 Comments

  1. The Enriquez family was very close to Pancho Villa so much so, in fact, my father remembers playing with the money with Villa’s picture on it as a child. The revolution also was one of the reasons my grandmother married my grandfather even though he was much older than she was. It’s a great family story!

  2. I have found border crossing records to be very helpful as they may contain information on location of birth, relatives accompanying the person of record, and names of contacts in Mexico and United States.

  3. My bet is that if more long time Texans do their genealogical research they will find Hispanic Mexicans in their trees. Because of discrimination many just continued on obliterating their important ancestry.

  4. This is a 100 Year Migration Anniversary celebration of family, hope, family endurance, faith, family success and triumph. It is also a celebration for our country, our state, and our land. We are and continue to be a positive legacy to our great grandparents, grandparents, and parents who had the vision and determination to make a better life for themselves and their families.
    Now, let’s go back in time. The year was 1916 and Mexico was still at the height of the Mexican Revolution. A young couple, Victoriano and Mariana Vargas Reyes made the brave decision to uproot their young family and migrate to the United States. With their two young boys, 8 year old Feliciano, 6 year old Santos, and infant daughter Petra, and a heart filled with faith they began their trek to the United States finally crossing at the footbridge of Laredo, Texas on the 24th of October 1916. We can only imagine their relief, joy, and fear as they entered this new country with tremendous hope for a better life.
    Making their way to Iowa, they worked in onion fields and followed the sugar beet crops for an income and to provide sustenance for themselves. Settling in Centerville, Iowa where their life would take a tragic turn, Victoriano and a young Felix began working in the coal mines of Numa and Galleyville, Iowa. It was also in Centerville that the first Reyes descendant was born in the United States. In 1919, Juanita Pauline Reyes (Sister Marilyn Reyes) was born, followed by Sanita Margaret Reyes in 1920, and Joseph Anthony Reyes in 1922. In July 1923, tragedy struck when Victoriano was killed in a tragic accident. His wife Mariana, who knew very little English, was devastated, lost, and was also carrying another child in this new world of which she knew little. Despite the odds, Victor (named after his father) was born in February 1924.
    It was that tragic day in July 1923 that everything changed for Feliciano Reyes. At a tender 13 years of age, he now took the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. At this point, there was no going back to their homeland of Mexico. Iowa would become their home.
    In 1935, Feliciano Reyes applied for citizenship to the United States. In 1940, the United States government granted his request. Feliciano Reyes was now an American citizen. His brother Santos also followed suit. Feliciano began working the Rock Island Railroad in 1930 and this position took him to many places. One of these places was West Liberty, Iowa. It was here that his friend and coworker, Seth Atilano, suggested to his parents that Feliciano be allowed to stay with them while he was working the railroad in West Liberty. Seth’s parents, Juan and Sabina Atilano agreed that Feliciano could stay with them. Juan and Sabina’s daughter, Guadalupe Marie Atilano, caught the eye of Feliciano. . . and were soon married on February 19, 1944 in West Liberty, Iowa. Later, that year, this young couple who would later be known as Felix and Lupe settled in Floris, Iowa population approximately 240 people.
    It was Floris, Iowa where the roots were planted by Felix and Lupe. Friends were made, Twelve children were born (Felix, James, Mary, Joseph, Juanita, Ramona, Antonio, Peter, Magdalen, Marguerita, Elizabeth, and Steven) A home was partially lost in a fire. A park was built. And roots began to spread out and grow deeper, and stronger, and richer in history, accomplishments, and love.
    The sacrifices of their family and service to our country. . . World War II, Vietnam, the Middle East or where they served is a testament to their own commitment to this country. The stories of sorrow and tragedy of war were stories of survival and we all learned from them. We can take comfort and pride that we as family are a success story. We have endured, proved in our heritage we are an American success story.
    This Reyes line stretches its roots all the way from the mountains of Zacatecas and the lakes of Jalisco MX to the rolling hills of Iowa. This line has produced engineers, mayors, service men and service women of all branches of the United States military, visionaries, nurses, college graduates, skilled laborers, and doctorate degrees . . . . . add so much more.
    Today we salute Felix and Lupe
    as we bow our heads to those we have lost along the way:
    Victoriano & Mariana Vargas Reyes,
    Paul and Petra Reyes Castillo,
    Sanita Reyes Mancuso,
    Santos Reyes,
    Joseph Anthony Reyes,
    Sister Marilyn Reyes,
    Juan and Sabina Limon Atilano,
    Flavio & Geri Atilano,
    Jay Atilano,
    Peter Atilano,
    Cris Atilano,
    John Atilano,
    Ramona Reyes Schooley
    We are victorious, we are love,
    we are Reyes Descendants
    We are 100 years strong and still going.

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