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Mexico Church History
Research procedures and genealogical sources are different for each religion. It is helpful to understand the historical events that led to the creation of records, such as parish registers, in which your family was listed.
In 1527 the Roman Catholic Church was established in Mexico when the dioceses of Tlaxcala and Mexico were created. The Archdiocese of México was created first as a diocese in 1530 and upgraded to an archdiocese in 1546. During the viceroyalty period in Mexico (1527 to 1810), there were also nine other dioceses in the country.
Chronological Table of the History of the Catholic Church in Mexico
|Year||Ecclesiastical and Political Events - Affecting the Church|
|1518|| First Catholic Mass on Mexican soil on the expedition of Juan de Grijalva. |
Diocese of Carolense created.
|1522||First Inquisition tried in Mexico.|
|1524||First 12 Franciscans arrive in Mexico.|
|1526||First Dominicans arrive in Mexico. Diocese of Mexico created.|
|1533||First Augustines arrive.|
|1535||Diocese of Oaxaca created.|
|1536||Diocese of Michoacan created.|
|1539||Diocese of Chiapas, also known as San Cristobal de las Casas, created.|
|1546||Ecclesiastical Province of Mexico (archdiocese) created.|
|1548||Diocese of Guadalajara created.|
|1561||Diocese of Yucatan created.|
|1572||First Jesuits arrive in Mexico.|
|1592||Missions of Northern Mexico begin.|
|1620||Diocese of Guadiana, or Durango, created.|
|1642||Problems arise between Bishop Palafox and the Jesuits.|
|1767||Jesuits expelled from Mexico.|
|1777||Diocese of Linares, later named Monterrey, created.|
|1779||Diocese of Sonora created.|
|1792||Royal and Pontifical University of Guadalajara established.|
|1821||Consummation of Independence.|
|1845||Diocese of Campeche created.|
|1854||Diocese of San Luis Potosí created.|
|1855||Apostolic Vicarate of Baja California created.|
|1857||Constitution of 1857 and Reform Laws adopted.|
|1856–1861||Church and its seminaries confiscated by government.|
|1861||Vicariate of Tamaulipas created.|
|1862||Dioceses of Queretaro and Chilapa created.|
|1863||Archdioceses of Guadalajara and Michoacan (now known as Morelia) created.|
|1863||Dioceses of Veracruz, also known as Jalapa, Zamora, Leon, Zacatecas, Queretaro, and Tulancingo, created.|
|1867–1868||More seminaries confiscated or closed.|
|1870||Diocese of Tampico and Tamaulipas (known as Ciudad Victoria) created.|
|1874||Diocese of Lower California (now known as La Paz) created.|
|1880||Diocese of Tabasco created.|
|1881||Diocese of Colima created.|
|1881, 1887||Seminary of Tampico closed.|
|1883||Diocese of Sinaloa (name changed to Culiacan in 1959) created.|
|1887||Puebla seminary buildings confiscated.|
|1891||Archdioceses of Oaxaca, Durango, and Linares (now known as Monterrey) created.|
|1891||Dioceses of Cuernavaca, Chihuahua, Saltillo, San Andres Tuxtla (Tehuantepec), and Tepic created.|
|1898||Archdiocese of Monterrey (formerly known as Linares) created.|
|1899||Diocese of Aguascaliente created.|
|1903||Diocese of Huajuapan de Leon created.|
|1903||Archdiocese of Puebla created.|
|1906||Archdiocese of Yucatan created.|
|1913||Diocese of Tacambaro created.|
|1913–1917||More church buildings confiscated.|
|1922||Huejutla and Papantla created.|
|1925–1928||More church buildings confiscated and closed.|
|1929||Peaceful religious agreements.|
|1932–1935||More church buildings confiscated.|
|1937||Culiacan seminary confiscated and Zacatecas seminary supressed.|
|1950||Diocese of Toluca created.|
|1951||Archdiocese of Jalapa created.|
|1953||Archdiocese of Chihuahua created.|
|1957||Dioceses of Ciudad Juarez, Tapachula, and Torreón created.|
|1958||Dioceses of Acapulco, La Paz, Matamoros, and Mazatlan created.|
|1959||Archdiocese of Hermosillo, and dioceses of Ciudad Obregón and Tlaxcala created. Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla was divided, creating the diocese of Tehuantepec. Diocese of Sinaloa becomes known as Culiacan.|
|1960||Dioceses of Ciudad Valles and Texcoco created.|
|1961||Dioceses of Autlan and Tula created.|
|1962||Dioceses of Apatzingan, Linares, Tehuacan, Tuxpan, and Veracruz created.|
|1963||Diocese of Tijuana created.|
|1964||Dioseses of Ciudad Altamirano, Ciudad Victoria, Tlalnepantla, and Tuxtla Gutierrez created.|
|1965||Diocese of Mexicali created.|
|1972||Dioceses of Ciudad Guzman and San Juan de los Lagos created.|
|1973||Diocese of Celaya created.|
|1979||Dioceses of Cuautitlan, Netzahualcoyotl, and Tuxtepec created.|
|1981||Archdiocese of Oaxaca created.|
|1983||Archdiocese of Acapulco created.|
|1984|| Dioceses of Atlacomulco and Coatzacoalcos created. |
Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla divided into two jurisdictions: San Andres Tuxtla and the new diocese Coatzacoalcos, becomes a suffragan diocese of Jalapa.
|1985||Diocese of Ciudad Lazaro Cardenas created.|
|1988||Diocese of La Paz created. Archdiocese of San Luis Potosí created.|
|1989||Archdiocese of Tlalnepantla created.|
|1990||Diocese of Nuevo Laredo created.|
|1992||Dioceses of Tlapa and Parral created.|
Laws Affecting Church History in Mexico
During the viceroyalty period and until the constitution of 1824 the king, under the Regio Patronato, obtained concessions to:
- Send missionaries to evangelize the Indians.
- Construct churches, monasteries, and hospitals.
- Present three names of persons to the Holy Office of Rome to name the church officials of Mexico.
- Collect tithes.
- With time the king also gained the right to abrogate the decrees of the Ecclesiastical Courts and to modify, by civil power, and transmit or not transmit the papal and church documents to his realms.
The 1824 constitution allowed freedom of choice and liberty of thought. However it was not until the Reform Laws that the government began to enforce these rights.
The Reform Laws contained sections dealing with the establishment of civil registration, the nationalization of church property, separation of church and state, suppression of religious orders, prohibition to establish convents, brotherhoods, and so on. Pensions were provided for religious clergy who accepted the laws. Among other things, the laws established:
- Marriage as a civil contract.
- Tolerance of belief.
- Secularization of cemeteries.
- Denial of church authority to charge for baptisms, marriages, burials, and other sacraments.
For more information on church history in Mexico, see:
- Cuevas, Mariano.Historia de la Iglesia en México (History of the Church in Mexico). México: Editorial Patri, 1946. 5 vols. (FHL book 972 K2c.)
- Gutiérrez Casillas, José. Historia de la Iglesia en México (History of the Church in Mexico). México: Editorial Porrua, S.A., 1984. (FHL book 972 K2g.)
- Iglesia Católica. Arquidiócesis de México (México). Directorio Eclesiástico de toda la República Mexicana. (Ecclesiastical Directory of all of the Republic of Mexico). México, D.F.: La Arquidiócesis, 1991. (FHL book 972 K24i.)
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- Mexico, Baja California and Baja California Sur States Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Mexico, Michoacan State Catholic Church Records, (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Mexico, Yucatan State Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)