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Civil registration records (also known as vital records) are important for genealogical research in Mexico. Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1859 and most individuals who lived in Mexico after 1867 are recorded. Because the records cover such a large percentage of the population, they are extremely important sources for genealogical research in Mexico.
For birth, death, and marriage records before 1859, see Mexico Church Records
General Historical Background
The earliest vital records in Mexico were made by the Catholic Church. In the late 1850s the Mexican government recognized the need for accurate vital records. On 28 July 1859, President Benito Juárez, speaking in Veracruz, established the Civil Registration Office (Registro Civil). The new law determined both the standards and information to be recorded. Justices of civil registration were established throughout the republic to implement the process of creating, witnessing, and safeguarding the civil register. Initially, the Mexican populace, accustomed to registering its vital events with the local parish church, opposed the register. It was not until the republic was restored in 1867 that civil registration was vigorously enforced.
Although civil registration records are an important source for genealogical research in Mexico, many births, marriages, and deaths were never recorded by civil authorities; therefore, you must use church records to supplement this genealogical source.
The British government also kept civil registration records for British citizens living in Mexico from 1827 to 1926. These records can be found in the Family History Library Catalog under:
MEXICO, DISTRITO FEDERAL, CIUDAD DE MEXICO - CIVIL REGISTRATION
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
The information recorded in civil registration records varied over time. Later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones.
Birth, marriage, and death records may either be handwritten or typed, and are often indexed by given name or surname.
Births were usually registered by the infant’s father or by a neighbor of the family within a few days of the event. A birth record includes the day and time of the birth; the names of the child and parents, the birthplace, which may be different from where it was registered; and the address of the house or hospital in which the birth took place. Family information may be included, such as the parents’ ages, birthplaces, residences, marital status, and professions, and the number of other children born to the mother. You may also find information about the grandparents.
Corrections or additions to a birth record may have been added as a note in the margin.
Marriages (matrimonios, casamientos)
Early civil marriage entries simply contained the name of the bride and groom and the marriage date. Gradually more information was entered such as the bride’s and groom’s ages, birthplaces, occupations, civil status, residence and parents’ and grandparents’ names. In current civil marriage records even street addresses are given.
The Catholic Church continued keeping records after the creation of the civil registration in 1859. Therefore two types of records are available for the marriages. Be sure to search both records.
With the separation of church and state in Mexico, formalized by the 1917 constitution, civil authorities determined that for couples to be legally married they had to be married by the state. Because of the close affinity of the Catholic Church and the state authorities, this rule was not always followed, and church weddings were accepted by the state. Normally, however, couples were married by civil authorities prior to a church wedding. On rare occasions they were married civilly after a church wedding.
Divorce was not legalized in Mexico until after the 1917 constitution. Divorces are not recorded with the civil registration, but rather with the municipio courts. The Family History Library has very few divorce records in its collection. You may obtain information from divorce records by contacting the court of the town or municipio where the divorce took place.
Early civil death records are especially helpful because they list people for whom there are no birth or marriage records. Death records may provide information about the person’s birth or spouse, and may list his/her parents. Deaths were recorded in the town or city where the person died, within a few days of the death.
Death records generally give the deceased person’s name, date, and place of death. Depending on the clerk who registered the death, the record may also include the person’s age or date of birth if a child, place of residence, occupation, name of spouse or parent, cause of death, and burial information. The name of the informant, who was often a relative may also be included.
Be aware that information found in a death record about the deceased person’s parents, birth date, birthplace, and other information may be inaccurate as the person who gave the information may not have had complete information.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records are kept by all the states on a municipio level. The exceptions are the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca, where the records are recorded by the municipio but are archived on a district level, and the Distrito Federal (Federal District), where they are kept in delegations. Because of this, it is difficult to obtain records from these two states and the Federal District. In these three instances, as well as in the rest of the nation, the populace still registered in their local civil registration offices, from which the records were sent to the municipio office, district office, or delegation office. If you know the town where your family lived, you should be able to find the local civil registration office.
Each state now has a central civil registration office to which you can write for information.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of thousands of municipios throughout Mexico. These records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog.
Civil registration for the states of Baja California; Nayarit, Quintana Roo, Sinaloa, and Tabasco have not been microfilmed. Campeche records are very incomplete through 1930 because most records were destroyed; most the records of Tabasco were burned; Morelos has some missing records; and some of the records of Quintana Roo were microfilmed in Yucatán.
For the states that kept records on a municipio level, you will need to know the town where your family lived and to which municipio the town belonged. A gazetteer will help you find the municipio level for your town.
Some municipios are small and therefore only have one civil registration office, but there are other larger municipios that have several sub civil registration offices that report to the main municipio office. These sub civil registration offices are all listed under the municipio seat. For example, in Sonora the municipio of Cajeme covers a large geographical area and has had ten sub civil registration offices at different times. These offices have been or are now in the following cities: two in the city of Ciudad Obregón and one each in Cumuripa, Esperanza, Cocorit, Providencia, Pueblo Yaqui, El Realito, Oviachic, and Buenavista. All of these offices are listed under Cajeme, with a "see" reference indicated by an arrow from the sub-civil registration office to Cajeme. A person looking for civil registration for Cocorit will be referred to Cajeme by the "see" reference or arrow. However, other records such as church records or censuses, will still be listed under Cocorit. Hence, to search all the records the library has for Cocorit you will need to search under two listings: Cajeme for civil registration, because Cocorit civil registration records are listed under Cajeme, and Cocorit for church records because the church records are listed under Cocorit.
The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. To find civil registration records, search in the "Locality" section of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MEXICO- CIVIL REGISTRATION
MEXICO, [STATE]- CIVIL REGISTRATION
MEXICO, [STATE], [TOWN/MUNICIPIO/ DISTRICT]- CIVIL REGISTRATION
The library’s collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed and added to the collection from numerous sources. Do not give up if records are not yet available. The Family History Library Catalog is updated periodically, so check it occasionally for the records you need.
Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
Birth, marriage, and death records may be obtained by contacting or visiting local civil registration offices and state civil archives in Mexico. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most records with current information have restrictions on their use and access. The present location of records depends on whether local offices have sent their records to the higher jurisdiction. Most recent records will be found in the local civil registration offices. Older records may be found in the municipio or state archive.
You may obtain copies of civil registration records in Mexico by writing to the local civil registry in the municipio. However, some archives will not send photocopies, and some will also ask for power of attorney to receive a certificate of an individual other than the correspondent. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Spanish. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to state archives.
After deciding who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a brief request to the proper office, including:
- A check or cash for the search fee, which is usually $10.
- The full name and the sex of the person sought.
- The names of his or her parents, if known.
- The approximate date and place of the event about which you want information.
- Your relationship to the person.
- The reason for the request (family history, medical history, and so on.).
- A request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
- A power of attorney letter, if required.
If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in other state and ecclesiastical archives.
To effectively use civil records, follow these steps:
- Search for the relative or ancestor you have selected. When you find the person’s birth record, search for the births of his or her brothers and sisters.
- Search for the marriage of his or her parents. The marriage record will often give you information that leads to the parents’ birth record.
- Estimate the parents’ age and search for their birth records.
- Repeat the process for both the father and mother.
- If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring municipios.
- Search the death records for all family members.
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