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Civil registration refers to the vital records made by the government. These include birth, marriage, and death records. Civil registration records (Actas del Registro Civil) are an excellent source for accurate information on names, and dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths.
In most of the municipalities of Peru, civil authorities began registering births in 1886, marriages in 1886, and deaths in 1857. The 1892 Peruvian Civil Law made civil registration mandatory. In the Lima municipal archives, there are death registers for 1857–1867, and birth, marriage, and death registers of Peruvians born abroad for 1886–1911. By 1895, the archives included almost all individuals who lived in Peru. Records of naturalization, adoption, and legitimacy and recognition of children are included in the early birth records. From 1936, these records are included as part of the Personal Register. Because civil registration covers the entire population and generally provides more information than church records, civil registration records are one of the most important sources for genealogical research in Peru. Due to political situations, civil registration for some municipalities may have begun after 1886. Civil registration records may also be the only source of information about non-Catholic people.
For birth, death, and marriage records before 1886, see Peru Church Records.
General Historical Background
In 1857 the government of Peru passed a law that required civil registration, but it was soon discontinued, except for the requirement to keep death records. In 1892, the government again recognized the need for accurate vital records. Civil registration required the people to report all births, marriages, and deaths to a civil registrar in each municipality. Civil registration began in 1886 in almost all of Peru. Today, Peru’s borders include areas that were not part of Peru in 1886. For these areas, the beginning of civil registration varies. For example, the department of Tacna, which was part of Chile from 1880 to 1929, began registration in 1884 for births and 1885 for marriages and deaths. Duplicates of municipal vital records are at the Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic (Corte Superior de Justicia de la República) in Lima. Information Recorded in Civil Registers The most important civil records for genealogical research are birth, marriage, and death registers. There are also registers of captives for 1905–1926. These are registers of births to Peruvian families in the department of Tacna and the province of Tarapaca (Chile), which were under the jurisdiction of the Chilean government. From 1936 to the present, personal civil registers include naturalization, adoption, legitimization of children, declaration of mental competence, declarations of deaths not otherwise registered, marriage annulments, and divorces. Births, marriages, and deaths were written in the civil registration records as they occurred and thus are arranged chronologically. Some records are indexed to help you find your ancestor.
Birth registers give the document number, registration date, name, gender, and date and place of birth. Early birth records also include naturalization papers, adoptions, legitimizations of children, and acknowledgments of paternity. Separate books were kept for naturalization from 1912–1936.
Birth records may include family information, such as the parents’ ages, birthplaces, residences, nationalities, marital status, professions, and the number of other children born to the mother. The records may also give similar information about the informant, who may be a relative, and the grandparents. Corrections to a birth record were usually added as a marginal note.
Peruvian law requires marriages to be recorded in civil records prior to a church marriage. Marriage registers give the marriage date and the couple’s names, ages, places of residence, and, sometimes, places of birth. These records also include the names of the parents and witnesses and information about the witnesses. Marriage information (Información matrimonial) in Peru from 1900 to the present includes certificates of birth, baptism, good conduct, marriageability, and a medical certificate and residence.
Early civil marriage records may give more information than church records. Early entries usually included the names and ages of the bride and groom and the marriage date and place. Later entries include the couple’s occupations, civil status, residences, and birthplaces. Some records also have the names of the parents and grandparents.
Most couples were also married in a church wedding. If possible, search both the civil registration and church records of marriage. If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a civil record of the marriage, search the church marriage information records or banns.
Death records are especially helpful because in addition to death and burial information, they provide important information about a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records. Death records were usually registered within a few days of the death, in the town or city where the person died.
Early death records give the name, date, and place of death. Later death registers usually include the deceased’s age or date of birth (and sometimes the birthplace), residence or street address, occupation, cause of death, and burial information. These records also include the name of the informant (who is often a relative), spouse, and parents. The information in death records about the deceased’s birth and parents may be inaccurate since the informant may not have had complete information.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office (Oficina del Registro Civil) in each municipality. You must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. A civil registration district may include several towns or be a small section of a large city. You may need to use gazetteers and other geographic references to identify the place your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served it (see Peru Gazetteers). In addition to the town, you need to know an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, divorce, or death occurred.
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:
PERU - CIVIL REGISTRATION PERU
[DEPARTMENT] - CIVIL REGISTRATION PERU
[DEPARTMENT], [DISTRICT] - CIVIL REGISTRATION
The library’s collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed and added to the collection from numerous sources. Don’t give up if records are not yet available. Check the catalog later for the records you need.
Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting local civil registration offices in Peru. Peru also has duplicates of civil registration records in the Supreme Court of Justice (Corte Superior de Justicia) in Lima. Civil registration records in Peru are available by writing to the municipality or province where the record was created. After deciding who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a brief request to the municipal civil registration office. When writing to an archive for civil records include:
- The full name and gender of the person sought.
- The names of the parents, if known.
- The approximate date and place of the event you are requesting information about.
- Your relationship to the person.
- The reason for the request (family history, medical, and so on).
- A request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
- A request for information about how to best send the search fee, if any.
- An International Reply Coupon, available from your local post office.
Civil officials will usually answer correspondence in Spanish. If your request is unsuccessful, write for duplicate records that may have been sent to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic (Corte Superior de Justicia de la República). The address is included in the “Archives and Libraries” section of this guide. If you visit the civil registration office to request a document, they will perform a search for a fee. Each municipality charges its own price. Contact the civil registration office to learn the cost of searches and of copies of certificates.
Peru, Lima Civil Registration: a free Internet index and images to the Peru, Lima Civil Registration can be viewed on the FamilySearch Record Search site. For a description of the collection see Peru, Lima Civil Registration article