Mr. Saenz and others... here is the article that was in the Laredo paper on November 9, 2007:
Court ruling favors heirs
By JASON BUCH , LAREDO MORNING TIMES
The 341st District Courtroom erupted in applause just before noon Thursday when visiting Judge Solomon Casseb Jr. declared about 200 people to be heirs of Joaquin Galan, a man who married one of city father Tomas Sanchez's daughters and was a recipient of two land grants from the Spanish crown. More than 100 people had packed into the court, a handful to watch but most because of their belief that they are Galan's heirs. They are ready to take the first big step in what has been a 30-year effort to claim their inheritance.
Eileen McKenzie Fowler, a Houston-area lawyer who said she only represents heirs to Mexican and Spanish land grants in the U.S., came to Laredo seeking a declaratory judgment that her clients were Galan's heirs. Galan received portions of the Palafox and Balconcitas land grants from Spain, Fowler said.
The grants were given around the turn of the 19th century, and Galan's portions amounted to about 300,000 acres, she said. The land has since been divided and sold, but proceeds from a small portion of the mineral rights are in accounts maintained by the oil companies that developed them, Fowler said.
Oil companies that leased those rights should have kept a suspense fund to hold royalties for undetermined heirs to the estate. Fowler said she and her clients had no reason to believe the oil companies had not kept those funds.
Galan's tract of the Palafox grant, administered some time before 1804, was located between Laredo and San Juan Bautista Presidio, according to the Handbook of Texas Online. Little information about the Balconcitas grant was immediately available.
Galan was born in 1727. In 1747, he married his first wife, Josefa Sanchez, one of Don Sanchez's daughters. The people in the courtroom Thursday were all descendants through one of Galan and Josefa Sanchez's seven daughters, Maria Petra Galan.
The mood in the courtroom during an hour-long recess was that of a family reunion. Groups of relatives posed for pictures, some behind the bench with the judge.
Elizabeth Hale, of Laredo, said much of what was happening that day had been organized by her late aunt, Sofia Villarreal. Family members appearing in court that day had come from all over the U.S. and Mexico, Hale said.
"We're all very close," she said.
When the proceedings resumed, Fowler called the woman she had relied on to confirm the genealogy of her clients. Jennifer Ann Osborne testified this was the sixth case she had been called on to confirm that people were legitimate descendants.
Osborne testified she had searched for records such as birth, death and marriage certificates, many of them from the Catholic Church, and was 100-percent certain all the people named in the summary judgment were Galan's heirs.
Each heir is entitled to a certain percent of the mineral rights, Osborne said, and she testified each heir's percentage claim had gone through a three-check vetting process.
Some family members were in tears after Casseb signed the orders, declaring them heirs to Galan. But this was just the first step, Fowler said. It is now up to her to examine titles and make a claim on her clients' behalf.
(Jason Buch may be reached at 728-2547 or email@example.com)
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