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Notary records are any records that were recorded and verified by a civil notary (escribano) or an ecclesiastical notary (notario). Both of these notaries recorded a great variety of legal documents. They functioned in the civil courts, criminal courts, government, ecclesiastic, and private areas. There were royal scribes (escribanos reales) and recorders in all levels of government.
A notary creates documents needed for everyday business, provides the public with the legalization of documents such as wills, and maintains the records he or she creates. By legislation, notaries are designated by names such as Escribano de Cámara, Secretario de Cámara, and Notario Público.
Notarial books are generally organized chronologically under the notary’s name. Spanish law governed the maintenance of these notarial registers (protocolos or notarios) by establishing forms on which the information was to be entered. With the death of the notary, the documents may remain with the family; be passed on to the notary’s successor; be sent to a local notarial archive in the municipality; or be sent to the provincial, department, or national archives.
Documents prepared by an ecclesiastical notary would be found in church diocesan archives. In doing research, first check the local archives.
Notarial records dating from the early colonial days can contain the following documents:
- Wills (testamentos)
- Contracts (contratos)
- Powers of attorney (poderes)
- Dowry (dotes)
- Inheritance arrangements (sucesiones)
- Inventories of estates (inventarios)
- Sells and purchases (ventas y compras)
- Taxes (impuestos)
- Debts (deudas)
- Guardianship (tutelas)
Notarial records are more difficult to use than other records because of their varied nature, length, and complexity. But they do offer detail and information not available in other sources and may provide important clues about an ancestor’s family, residence, and economic status.
The following publication discusses notarial records in detail:
- Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984. (FHL book 946 D27r.)
Notarial records (notariales) from Chile are not presently available at the Family History Library. Copies of notarial records from 1550 are at the National Archives in Santiago. Notarial records after 1875 are kept at the Oficinas del Notario y Conservador de Bienes Raíces (Offices of the Notary and Preserver of Real Estate) throughout Chile. For a list of notarial records for various towns in Chile, the years covered, and number of volumes located in the National Archives in Santiago, see:
- De Platt, Lyman. Genealogical Historical Guide to Latin America. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Company, 1978. (FHL book 980 D27p.) List
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