Panama Catholic Church Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page
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Access the records: Panama Catholic Church Records .
Title in the Language of the Records
Registros parroquiales de la Iglesia Católica de Panamá.
Collection Time Period
This collection of the Catholic Church records for Panama covers the years 1707-1973.
Entries were normally made in chronological order. In larger parishes, these records may be registered separately. In smaller parishes, the confirmations may have been included with the baptisms or even with marriages. In larger parishes, a separate book of confirmations was usually maintained. The records are in relatively fair condition, with the exception of some older records that may be damaged and therefore hard to read or missing some information. Most of the older records are handwritten in narrative style and follow a common text with some variations depending on the style used by the priest. Newer records are handwritten in formatted registers; some are even written in ledger style registers.
Key genealogical facts found in baptismal records may include:
- Date of baptism
- Place of the event and usually the parish saint name
- Name of the person being baptized
- Names of the parents
- Age of the person being baptized or the person’s birth date
- Before 1820, social class of the parents
- Sometimes the person’s race
Key genealogical facts found in marriage records may include:
- Date of marriage
- Place of the event and usually the parish saint name
- Names of the betrothed
- Names of the parents
- Names of the witnesses
- Ages and marital statuses of the betrothed
- Places of origin and residence of the betrothed and sometimes that of the parents
- Legitimacy of the betrothed
- Sometimes the race of the betrothed
Key genealogical facts found in burial/death records may include:
- Date of death or burial
- Place of burial or death
- Name of the deceased person
- Sometimes the names of the parents or the spouse, if the deceased was married
- Age of the deceased person at time of death
- Place of residence or origin of the deceased person
- Sometimes the race of the deceased
How to Use Church Records
Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to baptisms, marriages, and death or burials make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.
When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:
- The place where the event occurred
- The name and surname of the person
- The approximate date of the event
- The name of the parents or spouse
Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestors in the records. Compare the information in the record to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.
When you have located your ancestor’s record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.
- Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
- Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
- Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records.
- Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment records or military records.
- Use the parents’ birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
- The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county. However, ministers may have reported marriages performed in other counties.
- Compile the marriage entries for every person who has the same surname as the bride or groom; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
- Continue to search the marriage records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the bride and groom who may have married in the same county or nearby; this can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
- Use the marriage number to identify previous marriages.
- When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
Keep in mind:
- The information in church records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
- Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800.
- There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another.
If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:
- Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
- Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
- Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.
Catholic Church records begun to be recorded with the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century; towns were colonized and evangelized at the same time, beginning in 1513. When the records in this collection were created, Panama already had created the first cathedral named Santa Maria Cathedral, now Santa Maria la Antigua. The first diocese of Panama was a suffrage of the Archdiocese of Seville, Spain, until 1548, then became suffrage of the Archdiocese of Lima, Peru, until 1835, when it became suffrage of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe of Bogota, Colombia, and in 1901 suffrage of the Archdiocese of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Finally, in 1925 the Diocese of Panama was elevated to Archdiocese. All records created in church parishes were kept by priest and a copy sent to the diocese and later to the archdiocese.
Why the Record Was Created
By order of the Queen of Spain, authorized priests began keeping a record of all the sacramental ordinances performed at the parish level, such as baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials in order to record important events in the life of their parishioners.
Catholic Church parish registers are a reliable source of information for family history research, and the primary source for baptism, marriage, and death records in Panama prior to 1914, when the civil registration was created. Catholic Church parish records after 1914 can be used to complement information found in civil registers.
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Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections
When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.
A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.
Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection
- United States. Bureau of the Census. 12th census, 1900, digital images, From FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: September 29, 2006), Arizona Territory, Maricopa, Township 1, East Gila, Salt River Base and Meridian; sheet 9B, line 71.
- Mexico, Distrito Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1886-1933, digital images, from FamilySearch Internet (www.familysearch.org: April 22, 2010), Baptism of Adolfo Fernandez Jimenez, 1 Feb. 1910, San Pedro Apóstol, Cuahimalpa, Distrito Federal, Mexico, film number 0227023.
Sources of Information for This Collection
Panamá. Archdiocese of Panama, Panama City, Panama. Catholic Church Records, 1707-1973. Various Catholic Church Archives.
Copies of originals are housed in different Catholic diocesan and parish archives throughout Panama.
The suggested format for citing FamilySearch Historical Collections is found in the following article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections