Saturday, March 31, 2007

Knowing What Records hold the Information you Need

I keep coming back to the importance of information literacy and it's application to genealogy. The following handful of blogs (unless I get an itch to write about something else) will focus on the key points of information literacy.

Setting Family History Research Goals

I often refer to a family history problem as a family history goal or objective. How many of you have complained or expressed frustration on not knowing where to start or where to look for your ancestors? Like most things in life if we don't start out our research with a goal or a set of goals we will usually be faced with frustration and lack of success. To give yourself a better chance of success I recommend that your research goals should focus on one ancestor or one family. This allows you to focus on just one small portion of your family tree, rather than the whole thing. Your goals should include the following:
  • Research Objective - What do you want to learn about your ancestor? Some of the more basic objectives might include:
    • Finding the birth, marriage, or death of an ancestor. Notice the word or, your objective should focus on one of the three individually, not all at once.
    • Identify the parents' names of an ancestor
    • Finding siblings of an ancestor
    • Finding the children and/or descendents of an ancestor
    • Finding emigration and immigration (not necessarily basic, but one of the more popular objectives)
  • Place Information - Where did the objective occur? Once the objective is clearly identified you need to identify as much place information as possible. Depending on the information that you have your choice of resources will change drastically. Remember: be as specific as possible, if a rancho, or finca is known start with that information. Knowing a specific section of a big city will also be helpful in identifying resources.
  • Time Period - Once the objective and place information has been identified, you will need to narrow down the time period when the objective occured. Time periods might be a small set of years (i.e. 1870-1875), or it might be a larger set of years (i.e. 1880-1900). Time period will influence which records are available to use.
An example of a clear research goal might look like this: "I want to find the marriage date and place of X couple. I believe the couple married in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico between 1895 and 1900."

Knowing what records you need for solving a family history problem

The key here is to first know what records are available, and then knowing which records to use for your research goal. For most Hispanic research problems Catholic Church, Civil Registration and census records will suffice, however, more advanced records like Notarial records should never be overlooked.

A few good books for learning about different records available in Hispanic countries include:
  • Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: a beginner's guide by George and Peggy Ryskamp
  • Finding Your Hispanic Roots by George R. Ryskamp
  • Latin America Census Records by Lyman Platt
Research Outlines published by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contain record selection tables that indicate which records to use according to your research goal. For example: if you are looking for the birth date of an ancestor the record selection table will indicate that you should use Church records, then Civil registration, then census (given in order of which ones to use first). There are research outlines for Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Peru available in paper form at

These resources are but a few available to anyone searching their Hispanic ancestry. I would recommend visiting your local public library, family history center, or buying one or a few of these books/publications. They will give you a solid foundation on which you can build your research.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Argentina Immigration Database


I digress from last week in two ways. First, I really want to get back to information literacy, because I think it is important. Most of you probably think it's just a fancy term for finding and obtaining information, but it's an important concept...I promise I'll get back to it. Second, I found a really cool website for Italian immigrants coming into Argentina that I want to highlight. I understand that this blog is for Hispanic genealogy, and Italians don't fall into that category, but this is an important resource for our Argentine readers.

Site and What it Contains

The website is: to get to the good stuff you will want to click on: Fundacion Agnelli located on the right side of the screen. You will have to register to get access to the database, which is free.
The site has a database of 1, 020,000 Italian immigrants that arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina between 1882 and 1920. The index contains the following information:
  • Full name of the immigrant
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Religion
  • Port of embarkation (where they left from)
  • Name of the ship the immigrant traveled on
  • Date of arrival in Argentina
  • Literacy
  • Travel compartment

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Information Literacy for Hispanic Genealogical Research


Part of the Genealogy Guys Podcast on 5 Feb 2007 discussed information literacy. Information literacy includes six items:
  • Knowing what information you need for a family history problem
  • Knowing where to search for the information you need to solve the problem
  • Knowing how to search for the information needed
  • Being able to evaluate the information you find
  • Being able to communicate clearly the information found to solve the problem
  • Ethical and legal issues: plagiarism, privacy, copyright, etc.
Since I wouldn't want to read my own blog about all of the different elements I decided to discuss just one. Knowing where to search for information you need to solve a genealogical problem, is essential to genealogy. There are three main resources that everyone doing Hispanic genealogy should know about which are outlined below.

3 Key Resources

1. Family History Library (FHL) and Family History Centers (FHCs).

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has the largest collection of genealogical records in the world and home of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). It is often referred to the "Mecca" of genealogical research. The portal to this extensive collection is accessed through the family history library catalog. Family History Centers are satellites of the FHL, and most of the microfilms in the GSU collection can be ordered (placed on loan) to local FHCs around the world. Currently there are more than 4,000 FHCs world wide.

The library's online catalog allows users to find the appropriate microfilm(s) that allow them to accomplish their research objective(s). First time users of the catalog need to be aware that it is only available in English, and it can at times be a little confusing to use. It allows users to do a variety of searches, the most useful of which is the Place Search. The Place Search presents users with two different boxes. The town or city name (i.e. Rueda) where your ancestor's lived should be entered in the first box, and the country (i.e. Spain) should be entered in the second box. Next week will discuss in more depth on using the Family History Library Catalog.

2. Censo-guia de Archivos

The Censo-guia is the portal for finding records in archives Spain and Latin America. The Censo-guia allows users to search for specific archives such as: Diocesan Archives, National Archives, State or Provincial Archives, Parish Archives, Municipal Archives, and Notarial Archives, just to name a few. Normally (depends on what the archive has submitted) the Censo-guia provides a somewhat detailed inventory of each archive's holdings. Each archives address/contact information, hours of operation, and archive restrictions are outlined, making this archival inventory database an extremely valuable tool in Hispanic research.

The Censo-guia is not all comprehensive. Archives that have decided to participate in it are included. I'm not sure how many of the archives in Spain and Latin America are included, but have found inventories for small parish archives in many Latin American countries. This resource is valuable when planning a research trip, contacting an archive, or just to find out where records might be located.

3. Worldcat [OCLC]

Worldcat searches thousands of libraries world wide for you all at once. This massive database of library collections can quickly help you find those difficult to find/locate records that you need in your research. I personally like it to identify newspapers that I need for search obituaries and other information on ancestors, but it contains a lot more. Most of the resources found in Worldcat can be ordered through interlibrary loan (ILL) thru your local library. Inquiry are your local public or academic library for additional information.


Knowing where to search for information to solve your genealogical roadblocks seems basic, but it can be very difficult. These three resources are essential, but are not the only places to search. I have left some gaps on purpose. I invite everyone to investigate these wonderful resources on their own. Getting out of our comfort zone in genealogy and technology, especially computers. With that said I will be writing in more detail about these three key resources to help you along in your research.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Guía de los archivos de la iglesia en España


This site is the best place to get parish record information for Spain. The site itself is in French, but all the PDF files that this section of the site points to are in Spanish.

Contents of the Site

The home page contains a clickable ecclesiastical map all Spanish dioceses. The site links to the archival guide (PDF format) and the website for each dioceses. The PDF archival guides include an approximate list of the first records in each parish archive for:
  • baptisms
  • confirmations
  • marriages
  • deaths/burials
  • financial records
There are about 23,000 parish archives throughout Spain that make up the 67 Catholic dioceses.

Website Address

Using the Site Effectively

In order to search for a specific parish you need to know in which diocese the parish resides.

  • Go to the above mentioned URL (copy and paste in your internet browser)
  • On the map click on the name of the diocese you want to learn more about
  • In the upper left corner of the screen a link to the diocese PDF file will appear. Click the link to view the PDF file
Information About the PDF files

The PDF files contain the following information:
  • Name and contact information for the diocesan archive
  • History and inventory of the diocesan archive
  • Alphabetical list of parishes within the diocese along with the town/city name where the parish resides
  • Year of the first record for: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths/burials, and fabricas (financial records)


Each parish list may contain any of the following abbreviated headings:

  • B = baptisms
  • C = confirmations
  • M = marriages
  • D = deaths
  • F = fabricas
  • GC = did the civil war affect the records? A parish may have existed before this time period, but the records may have been destroyed during the war.
  • Co = are the records centralized in the diocesan archive
  • Pic = sites of cultural interest
  • Mic = microfilmed
  • MH = historical records microfilmed (up to 1900)
  • MAD = microfilmed or digitized records of current archives (1972-2000)

Additionally some Spanish Church records have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Some of these microfilms can be ordered to family history centers around the world for anyone to use. You will need to do a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog for the town where your ancestors lived to determine if the records for your ancestral parish have been microfilmed.

Feel free to ask any follow up questions, or leave a comment!