Perusing parish death records in Spain can be tiresome when the records are not indexed and you must go through the entries page by page. Recent experience has shown me however, that they can be anything but boring.
In a small parish in Navarra, a province in northern Spain, I came across a disheartening entry. The priest had been asked by the Bishop of Pamplona to give a proper Christian burial to 24 soldiers who had perished. The priest did not know the names of these poor soldiers who had been killed but carried forth his grim task.
Continuing on in the parish books I pondered on the poor descendants of these men who may never know where they are buried and then I found something quite unexpected. Five months later, the priest began a series of entries that spanned several pages in which he recorded the names of each one of those 24 soldiers, where they were from and in many instances the names of their parents and wives, if they were married. The information was sent to him by the Chief of the Second Company of Carabineros of Guipúzcoa. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Since finding that record I have tried to learn more about the political climate of the area and why this might have happened. Simply stated this incident took place during the Third Carlist War when factions were fighting over how and by whom Spain should be ruled with Basques fighting on the side of the Carlistas.
Finding these records gave me a better feel for why so many Basques may have left this region during those turbulent times. Viewing the history of the village through the eyes of the local priest provided me with a journey into history I might not have taken if the records had not peaked my interest. You just never know what adventures await as you explore the records from the villages of your ancestors.