Thursday, 7 August 2014

Genealogy Research in Spain

I’m a thirteenth generation American married to a first generation American.  My husband’s family is from Spain.  He was born in New York City while his father was working at the United Nations.  Not another member of his family was born in the USA, except for our daughter. Learning how to research his genealogy was something completely new to me! 

My husband grinning after finding an ancestor
in the church record books of Sinovas, Burgos, Spain
Working on my husband’s family tree doesn't necessarily mean that we have to physically be in Spain.  Here are several hints for working on Spanish genealogy. 

1.        All family research starts with YOU and then you work your way backwards.  Start with interviewing family members.  We’ve used snail mail (the US Postal service), email, and Skype to ask questions.  This can work with relatives in any foreign country.

A typical Libro de la Familia from Spain

2.     In Spain all families must register their births, marriages, and deaths in a “Libro de la Familia”.  Every family has a copy of this book.  These were started by the Ministerio de Justicia under Francisco Franco, and the practice continues today.  Each book shows the heads of households, marriages, children, etc. It is an invaluable resource.   There are additional pages for other civil registrations, orphans, widows, places of employment, residence changes.  It’s a treasure chest!

3.     From the oral history and the “Libro de la Familia” you will be able to discern where each family unit lived in order to search for church records.  The Catholic Church was the official church for most of Spain’s history, although you might find that some family members belonged to other religions.  Most churches have uninterrupted records back to the 1600s except in cases of wars, such as the Napoleonic Wars in Spain (The Peninsular War 1807 – 1814).  During this time period many church records were lost.

4.       In the case of lost records, don’t despair.  One of my husband’s paternal lines came from the village of Sinovas in the province of Burgos, where the records were destroyed during the Peninsular War.  The Catholic church records after 1814 name the parents and grandparents on the births, marriages and deaths so I was able to still go back another two or three generations to the mid-1700s with these families.

The marriage of Celestino Garcia and Joaquina Munoz, in the village of
Barba de Puerco, Salamanca, Spain 1 December 1877

5.   Many Spanish church records have been microfilmed by the LDS church.  You can find these films online at   If you are lucky these images have been digitized, such as the villages for my husband’s maternal grandmother’s side of the family in Salamanca province.  If not, you can view these films at your local LDS church’s family history library.

6.     After searching church records, other records to use include town histories, tax records, military records and other documents from Spain.  These are sometimes available through Family Search, and also online at the Spanish National Archives website   or the National Library of Spain    where you can search by surname, village or topic.

Good luck!  Buena Suerte!


  1. A fascinating post on an area of research I knew nothing about. I was particularly impressed with the concept of the Libro de la Familia - what a gift to family historians!. Thank you for enlightening me.

  2. You have the best of both worlds...great records, and someone who speaks the language. The Germans have something similar to the Spanish family book. What wouldn't we all give to have parents and grandparents on all church records.


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