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.

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