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Spain Church Records
Catholic Church Records
Catholicism's roots extend deep into Spain's history. Parish and diocesan records created by the Catholic Church in Spain have long been considered some of the richest genealogical records in the world. Ever since the Council of Trent Catholic parish records have been consistently recorded, usually providing three generations in a single baptismal entry.
The vast majority of Spaniards are Catholic and so almost every Spaniard can be found in the records of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was the primary record keeper of births, marriages, and deaths, until civil registration started in 1869.
Some church records have been lost or have deteriorated due natural disasters such as fire, flood, and earthquakes. Civil and political strife has also caused record loss, including during time of the Spanish Civil War.
The Catholic Church has created several different records. The most used in genealogical research include: baptisms (bautizos, bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), and burials (entierros, defunciones, fallecimientos). Other records include: confirmations (confimaciones), pre-marriage investigations (expedientes matrimoniales, información matrimonial).
Tip: If you are researching after 1869 when Civil Registration started in Spain both church and civil records should be searched since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other.
Parish records are the most common Church record used in family history and genealogical research. Spanish Catholic parish records were recorded by local parish priests, however, most of the records (older than 100 years) have been centralized into the diocesan archive to which the parish belongs. Parish records include the following:
- Confirmations (sometimes recorded in the parish baptism book, but sometimes they are recorded in their own book(s)
- Marriages (marriage blessings velaciones sometimes are found separately)
- Marriage Information Files
- Deaths or Burials
To learn more about each type of record, click on the name of the record type to be led to another article about that record type.
Spain is divided into 70 dioceses. Each dioceses is divided into many parishes. Dioceses created several different types of records. These records can be searched in diocesan archives throughout Spain. Some diocesan records have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library (FHL). Perform a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog for the dioceses where your ancestor lived. Diocesan records include:
- Administrative and Financial
- Disciplinary and Judicial
- Marriage Dispensations and Pre-marriage Investigations
- Pastoral Visits and Confirmations
Locating Diocesan and Parish Records
There are three different ways to obtain Spanish Catholic Church records.
Not very many Church records have been digitized and placed online but the numbers are growing. The following archives have placed either indexes or images online.
- Archivo Histórico Diocesano de San Sebastián (Guipúzcoa)
- Archivo Histórico Diocesano de Álava (Vitoria)
- Archivo Histórico Eclesiástico de Vizcaya (Bilbao) To search all three provinces at once visit the website [Dokuklik http://dokuklik.snae.org] and click on the words Registros sacramentales to use the search engine.
- Archivo Histórico Archidiocesano de Tarragona Requires a free subscription. To learn more about how to navigate the site see Archdiocese of Tarragona Online Parish Records.
The FHL is the largest genealogical library in the world. The FHL has microfilmed parish records for about 1/3 of Spain's dioceses. To determine if the FHL has microfilmed records for the parish (or dioceses) your ancestors lived, perform a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog. You will also want to check to see if any records have been extracted/indexed and placed in the IGI. You can learn more about by reading: Finding the Source of IGI Batch Numbers
Indexed records available on FamilySearch
- Spain, Baptisms 1502-1940
- Spain, Deaths 1600-1920
- Spain, Marriages, 1565-1950
- Spain, Granada Catholic Pre-Marriage Investigation Files, Index, 1556-1899
- Spain, Lugo Diocese, Catholic Parish Records,1550-1930
Digital images available on FamilySearch
Spain, Catholic Church Records, 1500-1930
- Ciudad Real
- Spain, Diocese of Albacete, Catholic Church Records, 1504-1979
- Spain, Diocese of Ávila, Catholic Church Records, 1502-1975
- Spain, Diocese of Santander, Catholic Church Records, 1538-1984
- Spain, Diocese of Segovia, Catholic Church Records, 1533-1987
This can be done either through letter correspondence, email (sometimes), or researching in person. Please see the Spain Catholic Church Directories article for more contact information for dioceses and parishes. You can find diocesan websites at: http://www.conferenciaepiscopal.es/diocesis/diocesis.htm please visit the site to determine if you can make an email request. Another site with good information on the archives of Spain (both ecclesiastical and government) is the Censo-Guía de Archivos de España e Iberoamérica (http://aer.mcu.es/sgae/index_censo_guia.jsp). While it is only available in Spanish, it can provide detailed information on the collections and documents within an archive and allows you to narrow your search down to specific archives.
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Spain Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain Baptisms (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain, Albacete Catholic Church Records, (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain Avila Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain, Diocese of Lugo, Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)