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Civil registration refers to the vital records made by the government. These registers include birth, marriage, and death records. Civil registration records (registros civiles)are an excellent source for accurate information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths.
The earliest vital records in Chile were made by the churches. In the late 1800s the government of Chile recognized the need for accurate vital records for military conscription and taxation purposes.
Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1885. After this date, almost all individuals who lived in Chile are recorded. For many families, civil registration records are the only sources of information after this date. For birth, marriage, and death records before 1885, see Chile Church Records.
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
The information recorded in civil registration records varied over time. The later records generally give more complete information than earlier ones.
The most important civil records for genealogical research are birth, marriage, and death registers. These registers are written in Spanish. Some registers may have an index. In some cases, a separate index may be available that covers a specific time period.
Birth records generally give the child’s name; gender; and the date, time, and place of birth (which may be different than where the birth was registered). The birth record includes parents’ names; and may include the address of the house or the name of the hospital in which the birth took place. Births were generally registered within a few days of the child’s birth by the father or by a family relative or friend.
Family information may also be included in the birth record, such as the parents’ ages, birthplaces or residences, marital status, professions, and number of other children born to the mother. You may also find information about the grandparents. Corrections to a birth record may have been added as a marginal note.
Whether a marriage ceremony was performed by a civil or church authority, local laws required the marriage to be recorded in civil records first. It was usually recorded by the civil authority in the town where the bride resided.
The early civil marriage records may give more information than the comparable church records. Early civil marriage entries usually had the names and ages of the bride and groom, and the marriage date and place. Over the years more information was entered, which may include their occupations, civil status, and residence. The names of their parents and even grandparents were sometimes given, as were the birth places for the bride and groom.
In addition to a civil ceremony, most couples were also married in a church wedding. When possible, search both the civil registration and church records of the marriage.
If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a record of the marriage, search the church marriage information records or banns.
Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information on a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records. Deaths were usually registered in the town or city where the person died within a few days of the death.
Early death records generally give the name, date, and place of death. Later death registers usually include the age or date of birth of the deceased (and sometimes the birthplace), residence or street address, occupation, cause of death, burial information, and the informant’s name (often a relative). The records often provide the name of a spouse or parents. The information about parents, birth date, and birthplace of the deceased in a death record may be inaccurate since the informant may not have had complete information.
The civil registration laws of Chile require that when a child dies, even within a few minutes of birth, the child is recorded in the death registers. However, before burial the child needs to be entered in the birth registers. When a child is born dead, it is not recorded in either the birth or death registers. A temporary file is kept with the names of the parents.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office (oficina de registro civil) in each municipality(municipalidad). You must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records.
Civil records are issued in duplicate. The original remains at the local civil registration archive and a copy is sent to:
- Archivo General del Registro Civil
(General Archive of Civil Registration)
Calle Huérfanos 1570
Santiago de Chile
If you cannot find a record at one of the local archives, you can try another archive.
Your ancestor may have lived in a small town (pueblo) that belonged to the civil jurisdiction (municipalidad)of a larger town in the area. In large cities, there may be more than one civil registration office. You may need to use gazetteers and other geographic references to identify where your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served it. (See Chile Gazetteers.)
In addition to the town, you need to know at least an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, or death occurred. Some offices have created either a general index of their records or an index within each book that you may want to search first.
The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, search in the “Locality” section of the library’s catalog under:
CHILE - CIVIL REGISTRATION
CHILE, [PROVINCE] - CIVIL REGISTRATION
CHILE, [PROVINCE], [MUNICIPALITY] - CIVIL REGISTRATION
CHILE, [PROVINCE], [MUNICIPALITY (COMUNA)] - CIVIL REGISTRATION
- The library’s collection continues to grow as new records from numerous sources are microfilmed and added to the collection. Don’t searches of the records you need. If the records are not available, your request may be forwarded to the municipality.
You may also find archive inventories (see Chile Archives and Libraries) that describe the record‑keeping systems and available civil registration records in Chile. These and other guides are found in the Family History Library Catalog under:
CHILE - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
CHILE, [PROVINCE] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
When writing to an archive for civil records, include:
- An inquiry as to how to best send the service fee, if any.
- Full name and gender of the person sought.
- Names of the parents, if known.
- Approximate date and place of the event you are requesting information about.
- Your relationship to the person.
- Reason for the request (family history, medical, and so on).
- Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been kept in other archives, or church registers. Also, please note that to protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.
FamilySearch Historical Record Collections
Online collections containing these recortds are located in FamilySearch,org.
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at: