Friday, June 22, 2007

Some Mexico Family History and Genealogy Websites

Last week I posted my subjective top 5 list of Mexican family history websites (see the list located on the right). I didn't give any explanation to any of the sites, and I there are plenty other websites out there. So here is a little more complete list of sites that I have found useful in doing Mexican genealogy and family history.

Getting Started, Tutorials, and Research Helps
    • The best Spanish handwriting guide is now available online. This guide will familiarize you with Spanish parish records. Also includes an index of given names, surnames, abbreviations, Glossary of Spanish terms, occupations, and Racial designations
    • Cómo Empezar—the Spanish version of the How do I begin? Pamphlet published by the Family History Library
    • Research Helps (click on the Search tab, then on Research Helps)
      • Mexico Research Outline
      • Mexico: Finding the Records of Your Ancestors, part A, 1859 to Present
      • Mexico, Church and Civil Registration publications
      • Genealogical Word list and Spanish Letter Writing Guide—Glossary of common Spanish words used in Genealogy. Guide to writing a good correspondence letter in Spanish.
Maps, Gazetteers, Ecclesiastical Guides, and other Guides
    • David Rumsey has approximately 16,000 historical maps and atlases for nearly every country in the World. To enter the collection make sure your pop-up blocker is turned off, and click on insight browser.
    • A quick way to find places on a modern map. To search for foreign countries make sure you click Outside U.S. and Canada select your country and do a place search
    • Great modern map of Mexico, but not searchable. The site is easy to use, and has great detailed maps for each Mexican state.
    • Geographical Dictionary (gazetteer) written by Antonio Garcia Cubas. Combined with David Rumsey’s map collection you will be able to find nearly any place in Mexico and its political jurisdictions during the 19th century.
    • Good historical information as well as municipality information. The site has great explanation of municipalities and how they are structured in Mexico.

    • Official Catholic Church website for Mexico. This site will link you to the different archdioceses as well as the dioceses throughout Mexico. Some of them have websites and most of them have email, which makes contacting them faster and easier.

Emigration and Immigration

    • The Immigrant Ancestors Project—this project was organized by the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University. Family History staff coupled with Family History students travel to European countries to identify Emigration records. Negotiations are made and the records are digitized and then extracted by volunteers from around the world. The database is free of charge, and has been extremely helpful in identifying ancestral hometowns in Spain.
    • Even though this site is strictly Birth (1887-1928) and Death (1878-1953) certificates for the state of Arizona they normally list places of birth in Mexico (if your ancestor was from Mexico). These certificates have been very helpful for finding immigrants hometowns in Mexico, Spain, and other countries.
    • Libros de Asientos de Pasajeros a Indias—emigration from Spain to Latin America 1500s-1700s. Spanish emigrants were supposed to leave from Seville, Spain when immigrating to the “New World.” Some of the records are indexed…all digital images are online to view, but are very hard to read.
Online Records and Databases

    • 1930 Mexican Census online – the census is not indexed, however, it is divided into municipalities and by towns within each municipality to make searching page by page very easy.
    • Mexican Parish Records, 1751-1880—this database contains about 400,000 names. It only includes nine parishes along the U.S. and Mexican border.
    • Mexican Border Crossing Records, 1903-1957—database containing an index of aliens and some citizens crossing into the U.S. from Mexico through southwestern ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border. See site for more details.
    • U.S. Federal Census Records—census records can be very helpful in identifying an ancestor’s home country
    • World War I Draft Registration Cards—Give place of birth information that will help identify an ancestor’s foreign birthplace
    • International Genealogical Index (IGI)—The extraction program of the LDS Church can be very handy. All records extracted are searchable online for free, and have proven to be big time savers. Source information is provided, and should be checked to verify, and gain further information not extracted.
    • Vital Records Index (Mexico)—also from extracted records. Like the IGI source information is provided.

Online Newsletters, Articles, Blogs, Wikis

    • This newsletter is great for knowing what is going on in the Hispanic community. Nearly every issue has a section dedicated to family history and a section on Mexico. Learn about new internet sites, and great genealogy insights
    • This website publishes short articles on Hispanic genealogy, research tips, and links to many helpful websites.
    • Website that anyone can use and/or contribute to. The site is designed to be a research aide for anyone using the IGI on If you have helpful information please add it to the site.
Portals for Hispanic Genealogy

    • Check out the archive and also the links listed down the right side. The site highlights and links out to many helpful websites for accomplishing your Hispanic family history goals.
    • Site is great for finding archives in Hispanic countries. The site can be a little confusing, but has good information.
    • Cyndi has dedicated a portion of her site to Hispanic and Latin American family history. Browse through the websites and determine which ones are the best for you.
    • The best place on the internet to find sites on specific countries. If you need a little extra help you might want to try
Online Catalogs and Archival Guides, and Archives

    • The Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) is the gateway to the Famiy History Library’s record collection. The best way to search the catalog is to do a ‘Place Search’
    • Mexico National Archives website. The new archival guide is nice, but can be difficult to use. Many records have been extracted / indexed and can be searched on the site. Use the helps and guides to learn how to use the site effectively.

Societies and Groups

    • Site is in Spanish, and considers itself the “portal más importante de información genealógica y de historia familiar de México (should also go in the portals section).” You will find books for sale, forums, and a lot of other great information.
    • Genealogy research group for Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Aguascalientes. You must register on the site to use it (free registration), and you must prove that your ancestors came from one of these three states.
    • IGI (FamilySearch) batch numbers organized from this site. The site has a link for Mexico, but no batch numbers have been listed for Mexico yet, but they will come. If you are interested you can find batch numbers for Spain, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, and Chile.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cuban Genealogy Online

For those of you that have Hispanic ancestry via Cuba you are well aware of the lack of online resources, however, you might want to take a look at these two sites:
  • - Sacramental records digitalized in Havana and Matanzas. The digitized records are of Pardos (blood mixture: 1 part Spaniard, 2 parts Indian, and 1 part Negro), and Morenos (blood mixture: 2 parts Spaniard, 1 part Indian, and 1 part Negro). Keep in mind that individuals did not have to match these race proportions exactly to be dubbed Pardo(a) or Moreno(a). The site is done through Vanderbilt university by a group studying slave societies in Brazil and Cuba. Clearly the site does not cover the entire Cuban population, but it a wonderful resource for many doing Cuban genealogy.
  • - The Immigrant Ancestors Project (IAP) is under the direction of the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young university. The IAP is mainly done by student and non-student volunteers. Students and advisers travel to European countries (including Spain) and identify emigration records, then negotiate with the archives to index the records. The index is then placed on the IAP site, and users who find their ancestors are provided with contact information where the original record is housed. The user can contact the archive and ask for a photocopy of the original record if desired. In 2004 I traveled with a group of students to identify emigration records in Spain. One private collection (in a university archive in Santander) contained a study done of emigrants leaving Santander in the mid 19th century. Of the 3500 to 4000 emigrants done in this study approximately 3,000 were headed to Cuba. Records such as these now make up an ever expanding database. If you would like to participate in the project please visit the site above.
Obviously there isn't as many online resources for Cuban genealogy as U.S. genealogy, but as the demand grows so will the resources. I hope that these sites provide you with a good starting point in discovering your Cuban ancestors.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Upcoming Genealogy and Family History Conferences

I wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming genealogy and family history conferences that either have some (minimum of one) classes on Hispanic genealogy or are Hispanic genealogy focused.

  • BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference: I will be teaching a couple of classes, one of which will be: 'Mexican Family History Online.' The other classes I will be teaching are not specific to Hispanic genealogy, but may interest you. The conference usually has a wide range of topics. It is a good chance to network with others, learn about upcoming and new things in the genealogical community, and learn other basic genealogical skills.
    • when: July 31 thru August 3, 2007
    • where: BYU Campus in Provo, Utah
    • notes: See link above for registration, conference organizer information, and conference schedule
  • Nosotros Los Tejanos - Hispanic Genealogy Conference: The 28th annual on genealogy and history. This will be a great conference for those of you that have early Mexican ancestry, especially southwestern roots.
    • when: September 13 thru September 16, 2007
    • where: Austin, Texas
    • notes: See above link for additional conference details
  • Annual Hispanic Family History and Genealogy Conference: I believe that it will be the 10th annual conference this year...I've lost count. This is normally a two day event with the bulk of the classes being on the second day. Full release announcements have not been made yet, but I will be providing them as soon as I get them.
    • when: October 19 and 20, 2007
    • where: Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
    • notes: registration for the conference last year was free. The year before it was $5 or $10 dollars and it included lunch (expect this year's registration will be free). I would suggest coming a few days before the conference and doing some of your family history research at the largest genealogical library in the world. Classes are taught by professionals and BYU Hispanic genealogy students.
Any others? I hate when there is a conference and I miss it, because I didn't know about it. Let us know if there are any other conferences out there...thanks!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

2007 Spain Research Trip


As I graded my students papers and final exam the last week in April I couldn't hold back my excitement for the first part of May. I had been planning my research trip for a while, but it was now the only thing on my mind, and did I need the break. I had researched in Spain in 2004, but this trip was my first solo trip. I had put in many hours of preparation and study; now the hour was at hand. The butterflies in my stomach were a combination of nerves and excitement. I desperately wanted the trip to be successful. To make my augment my experience I packed Don Quixote, and as I drove through various parts of Castile and Leon I could have sworn I saw the brilliant knight on his magnificent horse (since I was alone Sancho Panza couldn't be found).

My permanent smile and extra hop in my step must have been obvious to all that I greeted in the streets on my way to the archive. For me, a true genealogist, researching in archives is an experience unparalleled like any other. There is the unspoken reverence by the brave few that use them, the overzealous archivists wanting to make your experience unique, old parish books; books that for hundreds of years captured the baptisms, marriages, and deaths of the farmer, shoe cobbler, tailor, and other common, everyday people. Books full of ancestors waiting, hoping to be found; the dust covered, tattered and weathered pages maintain the faded ink that is the only living proof of long past ancestors.

Lessons Learned

1. Oh thank heaven for centralized records - Normally records more than 100 years old have been centralized in to diocesan archives. I passed through several towns where their parish church looked like this one, I'm sure glad these parish records aren't in this parish's archive. You should use the Catholic Church guide found at: to learn what records exist for your ancestor's parish and where they have been centralized.

2. Archival Etiquette - Thank goodness I learned about archival etiquette in school. There are a lot of dos and donts, but I'll just touch on a couple. First, dress appropriately...never show up at an archive unshowered, unshaven, 'undressed.' Undressed means no shorts, sandals, or stupid looking clothes. Make sure you are either in a shirt and tie, or in a nice shirt and a pair of pants. Know the archive rules before you unknowingly break them. For example:
do not take digital photos unless you have asked the archivist for permission. Pencils are often mandatory, make sure you pack a couple of pencils, and leave your pens home or in your hotel room.

3. Preparation - Make sure you know what records you want to search and for which ancestors. You should have sound reasoning why you want to search certain records, and you should always ask the archivist if he knows of other records that might facilitate your research. Make sure you know where the archive is located, the days and hours the archive is open, and always make sure you are not planning your research trip on a local holiday.

4. Phone Cards - I found myself scrambling trying to find a phone card or enough change to call another archive. I desperately needed a phone card, but the only store that sold phone cards closed (for some unknown reason). Luckily I had some extra change and everything worked out.

5. Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions - If you have made a several thousand mile trip to research and you have a question, just ask it. This doesn't only refer to research, but to traveling in general...just ask, I promise you if you do you won't be sorry. If you are planning a research trip and you have some questions, let me know I'd be more than happy to help!

6. I look German - From archivists to local drunks I was always asked if I was German...I guess I look German? I didn't think my Spanish was that bad...


There are plenty more lessons learned, like if you are there make sure you visit the ancestral towns. As much as I love researching visiting the uninhabitated towns, or
small villages that are still populated is by far the most rewarding. Deceased ancestors come alive as you walk where they walked.