The New Handbook of Texas includes more than 7,200 biographies of significant Texans.
- Inclusion criteria and methodology. Only deceased people are the subjects of biographical articles. Beyond that clear criterion, selection has been more difficult. The editors have taken a fairly broad approach to defining who is a Texan and who is not. In general the subjects are individuals who had some impact on society and were either born in Texas, as were Audie Murphy and Janis Joplin; lived in Texas for a considerable period of time, as did William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) and Sam Houston; or were out-of-staters who had a hand in shaping Texas society, as did Jefferson Davis and Antonio López de Santa Anna. Individuals who made a difference in almost any field of human endeavor, including such negative fields as crime, are represented by articles. Further, subjects were required to have regional or greater significance. Due to space limitations, the New Handbook could not, with a few exceptions, include individuals who were important to the development of a single community or county. Individuals were proposed as topics by advisory editors, volunteers, and staff, and selected for inclusion by the editors in consultation with advisory editors. The majority of our biographical articles were written by volunteers--local historians, academics, descendants of subjects, or students. A substantial body of biographical work, particularly in the fields of art, African-American history, Mexican-American history, the history of women, business history, and military history, was produced by staff writers. Although the research sources and methods varied according to the subject of the article, in the biographies, as in all other articles in the book, an attempt was made to ensure uniform coverage through the use of guidelines. Guideline information for all biographies included the birth date, place of birth, parentage, education, religious and organizational affiliations, marriage date, name of spouse, number of children, professional honors, date and place of death, and location of grave. This information is missing only when the editors failed to find it.
- Special biographical categories
- Following the lead of the old Handbook, the editors included an article on all of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists. Also included are articles on individuals who arrived in Texas before 1836, though the prerevolutionary population is not systematically covered.
- The editors generally included "firsts": the first settlers in a county, the first members of a profession in the state, the first members of a minority group to achieve membership in a profession or hold a certain level of office. This category allowed the editors to include some pioneers in locales and in fields of endeavor.
- As a partial guide to the elite of Texas in the immediate antebellum period, the editors have included articles on almost all the figures identified as owning 100 slaves or more in the census of 1860.
- Certain categorical inclusion criteria were used for military figures in addition to prominence. All known Alamo defenders are included. All Texans who have received the Medal of Honor are the subjects of articles, as are Medal of Honor winners who entered the military in Texas. Several articles are about soldiers from elsewhere who won the Medal of Honor for actions against Indians in Texas.