Format and Style

The following style guides serve to explain the preferred format for entry submissions. This page is divided into the following sections:


The Handbook of Texas Online uses links for cross-referenced entries and will continue to add more links in the future. These links alert readers to significant related topics in order to provide the best possible reference tool for young students as well as more seasoned researchers. The editors have adopted fairly explicit cross-referencing.

Several categories of entries, however, are not regularly cross-referenced—counties and rivers, for instance. This is especially the case for categories in which all available topics are the subjects of entries: as the Handbook contains an entry on every Texas county. Rivers and other geographical features are rarely cross-referenced, since every Texas river or creek is treated in a separate entry. Following is a list of topic categories that generally are not linked:

  • counties
  • towns and cities
  • rivers and streams (see inclusion criteria for creeks below)
  • minor physical features
  • railroads
  • government positions
  • fields of endeavor
  • institutions of higher learning
  • Indian group or tribal names
  • Forts
  • Missions
  • Presidios


For its spelling authority the Handbook of Texas Online has generally used editions of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. American spellings are used where possible, though the occurrence of British spellings in proper nouns often requires an exception; theatre is probably the most common British spelling that occasionally appears in the Handbook.

Misspellings that occur in quotations are not marked by sic. The editors have attempted to quote accurately and to avoid sprinkling editorial exculpations.

The numerous variant spellings of names of American Indian groups result in general from the wide variation in how Europeans heard the names. Frenchmen heard and spelled group designations differently from Spaniards, and Anglo-Americans heard and spelled something else again.

Foreign Words, Naturalized Words, and Diacritics

In accord with standard practice, foreign words that are parts of proper names are not italicized unless they are being discussed as words. The editors have generally capitalized foreign adjectives derived from proper nouns (Tejano, for instance), regardless of foreign editorial practice. In general, the editors have employed English in article titles, but necessary exceptions also occur when they are warranted—La Mujer Moderna, for instance, being a newspaper title.

When a word occurs in a Spanish-language context, it is written with its native diacritics. The word Béxar in San Fernando de Béxar is an example. When such a word has become a standard Texas place name written without diacritics, however, and when it occurs in the absence of a Spanish-language context, it is written without accent: Bexar County. Some words lose their diacritics through morphological alteration. Querétero, for instance, is occasionally made into an English adjective, Quereteran, which, because it is not a Spanish form, has no accent. Others lose their accents during the same process in the Spanish language: México and Mexicano, for instance. Contrary to general Spanish or French editorial practice, in the interest of informing readers how to pronounce such foreign names as Âlvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the editors have printed accents on capital letters.


The Handbook of Texas Online currently includes 9,395 biographies of significant Texans.

In the entry titles, the editors have tried in most cases to enter biographies under names given at birth or, in the case of a married woman, under her married name. Religious names, stage names, screen names, pen names, changed names, and nicknames are generally given as biographical information within the article. Consequently, for instance, Billy the Kid is entered under what was evidently his birth name, Henry McCarty, and Joan Crawford is entered under the name Lucille Fay LeSeur. Some exceptions to the rule occur. Gustav Elley, for instance, was born Gustavus von Elterlein, but because he was always known in Texas under the shorter name, it is the entry form for his biography. Actress and singer Dale Evans is listed under her stage name of Evans and not her birth name of Frances Octavia Smith. Nicknames are usually given in brackets as part of the title and in parentheses at the beginning of the entries: "William (Alfalfa Bill) Murray, a famous political figure...."; "Timothy Isaiah (Longhair Jim) Courtright, two-gun marshal of Fort Worth...." Maiden names of the mothers and, in some contexts, the wives, of biographical subjects are given in parentheses to aid the reader in making genealogical connections within the Handbook and outside of it. Also given in parentheses are variant spellings of names. The names of many historical figures are spelled in more ways than one in both primary and secondary sources. Often it is difficult to choose the "right" spelling. In most cases, the editors have entered biographies of people with Spanish names under their proper surnames. This means, for instance, that Manuel de Mier y Terán is listed under Mier, not Terán. When Spanish names occur in a pre- twentieth-century context, the editors have generally written them with diacritics.

1. Inclusion criteria and methodology.

Only deceased people are the subjects of biographical entries. 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 entries. Further, subjects were required to have regional or greater significance. Due to space limitations in the print editions of the Handbook, the encyclopedia could not, with a few exceptions, include individuals who were important to the development of a single community or county. Inclusion, however, has been expanded with the online edition. Individuals are 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 entries have been 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 initially produced by staff writers, and that effort has continued through a broad collaboration with academic institutions, local history societies, students, and a wide array of volunteer assistance. Although the research sources and methods vary according to the subject of the entry, in the biographies, as in all other entries in the book, an attempt has been made to ensure uniform coverage through the use of guidelines. Guideline information for all biographies includes 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 have failed to find it.

2. Special biographical categories

Following the lead of the original Handbook, the editors included an entry on all of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists. Also included are entries 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 entries on almost all the figures identified as owning 100 slaves or more in the census of 1860.

Certain categorical inclusion criteria have been 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 entries, as are Medal of Honor recipients who entered the military in Texas. Several entries are about soldiers from elsewhere who earned the Medal of Honor for actions against American Indians in Texas.


In newspaper names the editors, following the practice of the original print edition of the Handbook of Texas, have treated city names as adjectives denoting the point of origin, not as part of the title. The result is that the title strictly speaking is italicized and the city name is not: Houston Post, Brownwood Bulletin. If a newspaper had a name without a city in its masthead, it is listed with the city in parentheses: Redlander (San Augustine). The editors of the Handbook have tried to be uniform in their practice. When a newspaper was published at several locations, however, the name is given without a city; the Telegraph and Texas Register is a case in point.