Finding Aids

Finding Aids describe archival holdings. All Finding Aids contain four basic components:

  1. Administrative Information about the repository and the records being described.
  2. Creator Sketch or Agency History.
  3. Scope and Contents note summarizing the records series and dates and highlighting records of particular interest.
  4. An Inventory of the records either at the box, folder or item level depending upon the level of processing.

The holdings of the Harris County Archives are arranged into three groups:

  1. County Records - records created or received by county agencies in the course of doing business. These records are arranged according to county office or agency.
  2. Manuscript Collection - records received from private donors. These collections often contain records documenting Harris County government functions and are arranged according to the creator of the records, not the donor.
  3. Oral History Collection - oral histories relating to county functions and obtained by the Harris County Archives staff.

Records can also be located using pathfinders, subject inventories.


Auditor's Office

Correspondence, reports, budgets, audits, payrolls, personnel files, bond inventories, annual and monthly financial statements, annual reports, manuals, contracts, Civil Cases, (1933-1973), Flood Control records, which includes Depression Era Works Progress Administration Records, (1937-1964) and the Neighborhood Youth Corp Grant records (1939-1975) document the functions of Harris County Auditor's Office


Community Development

Harris County Community Development and Harris County Housing Authority from 1977 to 1998.  The records are arranged in two series:  Administrative Records and Program Records.  Included in the Administrative Records are the directors’ and managers’ records (1987 – 1995) along with correspondence, memos, and budgets.  The minutes of the Board of Commissioners, June 17, 1987 to October 18, 1988, are in the records of Carl Lott.  In the Project Records, Housing Rehabilitation is the most complete subseries and includes both multi-family and individual housing projects.  Of particular interest are the 10.5 cubic feet (1984 – 1998) of individual case files.  Arranged by community and then by street, the files record the condition of the housing, work performed, and costs incurred through correspondence, reports, financial applications, and photographs.


Facilities and Property Management

Reports, minutes, correspondence, memorandums, printed materials, manuals, maps, building plans, archeological assessments, and photographs document the work of Facilities and Property Management 1974 – 2001.


Facilities and Property Management- Harris County Court House Plans

Forty architectural drawings on linen record the competition-winning designs of Lang and Witchell Architects of Dallas, Texas, for the Harris County Court House. Originally comprised of 43 sheets of drawings (3 are missing), the drawings include floor plans, exterior elevations, plumbing and heating plans, and architectural details. The existent drawings were copied by D. B. McElroy and R. A. Kinnear of Rice University on waxed linen in 1922 from the original plans that had been severely damaged by mold and insects.


Harris County Parks Development Photograph Collection

Transparencies, photonegatives, and photoprints (542) document the functions of the Parks Department from 1997 – 1997, a period when a number of parks were being built in county precincts.  The images record areas of the county prior to and during development along with park uses and activities.  A number of the images are unidentified.

Hospital District

Media files consisting of scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, photographs, and video tapes, document the history of the Harris County Hospital District and public health issues from 1938 – 1998.


Justice of the Peace – Precinct 1, Civil Case Files

One hundred and twenty-four cubic feet of civil case files (1889 – 1920) document the lives and conflicts of ordinary citizens from the end of the 19th through the beginning of the 20th century in Houston, Texas.  Justice of the Peace misdemeanor civil case files may include legal documents and supporting records such as mercantile bills, correspondence, receipts, newspaper articles and printed materials.   

Justice of the Peace Records

Civil Records (1593 volumes, 1870 – 1985) including Dockets and Fee Books, Small Claims Dockets, Civil Judgment Dockets, Execution Dockets, Forcible Detainers, and Marriage Indexes; Criminal Dockets (1131 volumes, 1894 – 1999) including Search Warrant Dockets; Inquest Dockets (156 volumes, 1889 – 1956); and Case Files (Civil, Criminal, Inquest) document the functions of the justice courts and the social and legal history of Harris County, Texas, 1870 – 1999.  


Records Management- Message Boards

Forty-five message boards created by evacuees from New Orleans in the Houston
Astrodome document the search for displaced persons after the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina and the flooding of the city. Formats of the message boards range from neon
colored poster boards to torn sheets of corrugated cardboard to sheets of paper taped
together to cardboard boxes. These messages were attached to the netting at the end of
the Astrodome floor opposite to the East Entrance and were the few remaining after the
Astrodome closed as an evacuation center September 16, 2005 as many of the evacuees
took their signs with them when they left the Dome for other housing. The forty-five in
this collection were removed from the netting by the Harris County archivist on October
6, 2005.


Social Services Department

Administrative records, WPA Applications, Client Case Files, Burial Records, and the Harris County Cemetery Records (1924 – 2008) document the functions of the social welfare agencies prior to and after the creation of the Harris County Social Services Department.  Administrative Records focus on the daily functions of the Harris County Social Services Office and its workers concerning social services recipients, Houston and Harris County volunteer groups, various state departments, the general public, and the legal and financial history of the department.


Tax Assessor – Collector: Paul D. Bettencourt

Paul D. Bettencourt was born on October 20, 1958, in Houston, Texas, to Henry Joseph and Dorothy Jean Bettencourt.  After graduating from Texas A&M University in 1982, Bettencourt worked as a Robotics Specialist at Briggs-Weaver, Inc. in Houston.   Over the span of 15 years Bettencourt was a marketing and sales manager in the chemical, oil and gas industry.  In 1998 he became the Executive Vice President of Bettencourt & Associates, Inc., where he consulted for industrial and governmental clients.  

After 50 years as Tax Assessor – Collector, Democrat Carl Smith died while in office in July 1998.  In November of 1998 Republican Paul Bettencourt was elected to the office replacing interim Tax Assessor – Collector, Willie Alexander, former defensive back for the Houston Oilers.

As the Harris County Tax Assessor, Bettencourt and his staff brought the Tax Office into the twenty-first century by bringing automation to all areas of tax office operations by replacing all of its manual business procedures in property tax collection, automotive and voter registration with a state of the art computer system.  While in office Bettencourt fought to lower property taxes for commercial and residential customers in Houston and throughout Texas.

Bettencourt resigned in 2009 and became the Chief Executive Officer of Bettencourt Tax Advisors, LLC.   In 2014 Bettencourt was elected to Texas Senate District 7.  He has been active in the Republican Party participating at the local, state, and national levels.

Bettencourt resides in Houston with his wife Susan and their two children, Christian and Henry.

Tax Assessor – Collector: Sanborn Maps

Founded in 1867 by D. A. Sanborn, the Sanborn Map Company produced detailed maps of city neighborhoods for underwriters of fire insurance.  By 1905 the company established a system of standards for accuracy and design and by 1920 held a monopoly in the field of fire insurance maps. Due to the expense and size of the maps, limited editions were made of each map and often bought by insurance associations for the use of their members.  By 1950 modern construction methods, building codes, and improved fire protection methods made the use of Sanborn Maps increasingly unnecessary.  The company soon stopped producing new maps and only provided updates into the early 1960s.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps were hand-drawn, lithographed and then hand-colored on 21-by-25 inch sheets of paper which were then bound in volumes for sale.  A scale of 1 inch to 50 feet allowed for the rendering of precise detail.  Buildings were identified by a system of color-coding for building materials and included information such as current use, heating systems, windows, skylights, and building heights.  Street widths and materials were noted along with utility lines.  

Each folio of maps is unique.  Information on the maps was often added by the owner in addition to the employees of the Sanborn Map Company who pasted in the corrections annually.  Aside from being rich sources of information, the maps are often works of art in and of themselves.

Highly valued by genealogists, geographers, urban planners, historians, environmentalists, and architectural historians, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps contain the information not readily available from any other source.


Toll Road Authority

Patron correspondence, general correspondence, patron communications, press releases, reports, publications, membership directories, and 1 VHS tape (1986-2003) document the administrative functions of the Harris County Toll Road Authority.