Monday, July 16, 2007

Hispanic Genealogy Books


I thought I would write about something other than online sources for a change. This list of books is not designed to be an all inclusive list of everything out there on the topic, however, these should are a few that I have found useful and/or very interesting.

Genealogy Specific Books

These books I find myself using these books quite often (some more than others).
  • Finding Your Hispanic Roots by George R. Ryskamp - Some of the chapters are out of date (for example the IGI and Family History Library Catalog), but the chapters on record types are invaluable. Dr. Ryskamp's insights and explanations on parish, civil registration, military, and notarial records are the best ones out there. A must buy for anyone doing Hispanic genealogy.
  • Finding Your Mexican Ancestors by George R. Ryskamp - Published by Ancestry this year, this book is a great resource for anyone doing genealogy/family history in Mexico. The book contains valuable websites, archive addresses, and great suggestions for finding those hard to find Mexican ancestors.
  • Hispanic Surnames and Family History by Lyman D. Platt - This book is an interesting and quite helpful. It lists common Hispanic surnames in North America and Hispanic surnames in general. Dr. Platt has also compiled a bibliography of helpful publications/periodicals and a quite comprehensive list of Hispanic family biographies.
  • Census Records for Latin America and the Hispanic United States by Lyman D. Platt - Like his other book this is one of a kind. The book does a good job of listing a lot of census records, but it does not list all of them. It's a good starting point, but a more thorough search should be done to determine whether census records exist for the area you are researching in.
  • Sephardic Genealogy: Discovering Your Sephardic Ancestors and Their World by Jeffrey S. Malka - I have not read all of this book. Sephardic genealogy is not my main focus, but for anyone doing Hispanic genealogy should be aware of it, and the possibility of some ancestors being Jewish. From what I have read in this book it seems thorough, and provides good recommendations for tracking down your Sephardic roots.
  • Mexican-American Genealogical Research: following the paper trail to Mexico by John Schmal and Donna Morales - I have not read this book, but I plan on reading it in the near future. It is an interesting niche in research. Many people that I speak with struggle with connecting to their ancestral country. This book sounds helpful for bridging that gap.
History Books

I could probably list hundreds of helpful books, and several country specific history books. I enjoy reading history books, because they help me understand the political and social situations for the different places where I am researching. Here are a few interesting books for Hispanic Southwest United States/northern Mexico (depending on the time period).
  • Remnants of Crypto-Jews Among Hispanic Americans by Gloria Golden "We were told that our Spanish was archaic, Ladino." This book opened my eyes to the Jewish influence of many of the colonists of the early southwestern United States. I'll let you find out what a Crypto-Jew is if you don't already know.
  • The Mexican Frontier 1821-1846 by David J. Weber - I'm currently reading this unique book. Weber seems to be one of only a few historians that recognize that this time period of Mexican independence was important in shaping Mexico. For me it is interesting to learn what was going on politically during this time period, and how the Mexican government interacted with the northern territories.
  • Soldiers, Scoundrels, Poets, and Priests by David J. McLaughlin - A compilation of short biographies of some of the most important players in early California.

There are hundreds of history books out there, and I know that there are people out there that have there favorites. If you know of a book or books that you would like to share with others please add them to the comments section of this post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

IGI on

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is like an old car that you can't seem to let go. Everyone (at least most...hopefully some) knows what I'm talking about. I own a 1995 Honda Accord, and it runs great, but there are a few things don't work as well as they should, nor does it have everything I would like to have in a car...and don't get me started on the passenger side window. It gets me from A to B, and until something better comes along (or until it dies) I'm just going to keep driving it. The IGI has been around forever, well maybe not forever, but it's like your old car. The 'old' database may not have all the bells and whistles like digital images and other database frills, but she runs good and gets you from A to B pretty well, and quiet frankly there aren't any databases out there that can replace it for Hispanic genealogy. So, we should just deal with her issues, and leave the passenger side window rolled up.

The IGI is supplied in two different ways. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (more commonly known as Mormons) submit names of their ancestors so that religious ordinances can be performed for them, and FamilySearch (sponsored by the LDS Church also referred to as the Famiily History Department) works with volunteers to extract names from original records within its collection. The database is accessible through and is free to use. To access the database follow these steps:
  • go to
  • click on the Search tab
  • click on International Genealogical Index (located in a list of databases on the left side of the screen)
The IGI is so important because it contains names of millions of names (I'm not sure of the exact number, but I believe it is hundreds of millions) of deceased individuals from around the world. As mentioned before the database is made up of patron submissions and also from extraction work. The FamilySearch extraction program is quite older than me, and has been a blessing in deguise for researchers. If you would like to know more about FamilySearch extraction (known as indexing now) visit I would really like to focus this blog entry on the extracted records that can be found in the IGI.

You will read, and most likely hear in the future, about batch numbers. The extraction program divided original records into batches to make them more easily to manage. Each batch number refers to a particular microfilm where the information was extracted from, for instance: batch number C630014 covers baptism records for Cordoba, Cordoba, Argentina for the years 1792-1809, which can be found on microfilm #763313.

Warning: not all parishes have been extracted! If you search the IGI and don't find your ancestor(s) don't be discouraged. Not all records have been microfilmed, and all the records that have been microfilmed have not been extracted. If your ancestor does not appear in the IGI it means you are looking in the wrong place, his/her records have not been submitted by anyone or the records have not been extracted.

It has been difficult in the past to determine if the records for the parish where your ancestor's lived were extracted. The last published list of IGI batches done by FamilySearch is more than 10 years old. Fortunately other groups have pitched in to make our lives a little easier.
The Asociación de Genealogía Hispana has begun a project to identify batch numbers for Latin American countries and Spain. The project is ongoing, and may not contain all the batch numbers that have been done, but it's the most complete one available. So far the association has identified batch numbers for Argentina, Spain, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and have begun working on Mexico. This is a great database and continues to grow, keep checking back for updates and/or contact them to see how you can participate in the project. You can access their batch number database at: Please note that it is not required to have a batch number to search the IGI. It is simply a way to narrow your search and quickly find ancestors. You can search the IGI without a batch number by simply entering a first and last name and a region (this should be pretty self explanatory when you visit the site). If you do have a batch number go ahead and enter it into the indicated box.

  • As a general rule (not an exact science) batch numbers starting with the following letters have the following significance:
    • C = confirmations/baptisms of both males and females
    • J = confirmations/baptisms of males only
    • K = confirmations/baptisms of females only
    • M = marriages - try searching for both the groom and bride
  • Always order the microfilmed copy to view the original record. The IGI does not contain all the information that will be found in the original record. In baptism records you can normally expect to find the following additional information:
    • birth date of the infant being baptized
    • place of residence and/or place of birth of the child's parents
    • names of both paternal and maternal grandparents
    • marriage records will provide the place of birth of both the bride and groom
  • This is the most important online database for Hispanic patient and ask for help if you need it. You can contact your area family history center or contact FamilySearch Support at:
  • is the best site for finding variant spellings of Hispanic surnames, however, you may want to try some variant spellings on your own to be thorough in your search.
  • If you don't find anything on your ancestors in the IGI, try searching the Vital Records Index and the Family History Library Catalog. I will write more about these two superb resources in the future.
  • Keep coming back to the blog for upcoming Skypecasts (learn more about them at I plan to begin holding regular Skypecasts to help others with their Hispanic genealogy. The first Skypecast will be in a couple of weeks, and we will talk a lot about the IGI and other great resources found on