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A notary is a person who records official documents. Notaries are also called scribes (escribano) and secretaries (secretario). In the Middle Ages, magistrates, clerks, and monks were notaries. Later, each judicial magistrate had a recorder (anotador) or secretary (notario). Soon a class of recorders was created. They functioned in the civil and criminal courts, and governmental, ecclesiastical, and private concerns.
There were royal scribes (Escribanos Reales) and recorders in all levels of government. There were notaries who created documents needed for everyday business. From the republican times in Peru, legislation has created notaries with names such as Scribe of the
Court (Escribano de Cámara), Secretary of the Court (Secretario de Cámara), and Notary Public (Notario Publico).
The keeping of notarial records, including wills and estate papers, began as early as the 1534. The notary provides documents, authorizes wills, and cares for the records he creates. At the death of the notary his documents may remain with his family; be passed on to his successor; or be sent to a local notarial archive or provincial, department, or national archive. The documents prepared by ecclesiastical notaries are found in diocesan archives. Some notarial records involve most of Peruvian society, but wills deal mostly with the upper class and landowners.
Notarial records contain documents of all events that needed to be notarized for official business. These include wills (testamentos), contracts (contratos), powers of attorney (poderes), dowry (dotes), inheritance arrangements, inventories of estates (inventorios), sales and purchases (ventas y compras), executor (albaceas), debts (deudas), and guardianships (tutelas).
The following publications discuss notarial records in detail:
- Platt, Lyman D. Genealogical Historical Guide to Latin America. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978. (FHL book 980 D27p) Spanish edition: Una Guía Genealógica-Histórica de Latinoamérica (FHL book 980 D27pl; film 1162420 item 2; fiche 6062501).
- Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984. (FHL book 946 D27r.)
Wills and Probates
The most important notarial records are wills and probates. Wills and probate records are records that describe the distribution of a person’s estate after he or she dies. Information in the records may include the death date, names of heirs and guardians, relationships, residences, an inventory of the estate, and names of witnesses.
These records are very helpful for research because civil authorities began recording notarial actions before they recorded birth and death records. While wills in notarial records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they must be used with some caution. For example, they might omit the names of deceased family members or those who have previously received an inheritance, the spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned, or relationships noted in the records may not have the same meaning today.
An individual who left a will died testate. Someone who did not leave a will (or a valid will) died intestate.
The notarial process began with the drafting of a will by the public notary or a notary of the church or municipality and the preparation of other necessary documents. In case of intestate cases, the notary would draw up the documents for the family.
Records of guardianship (tutelas) may be kept separately from other notarial papers, or a different court may have jurisdiction over guardianship.
Locating Notarial Records
The law requires notarial records to be deposited in the Archivo General de la Nación after 30 years, but there are records from Lima, Arequipa, and Cuzco found in the Historical Archive of the University of Cuzco (Archivo Histórico de la Universidad de Cuzco), the Historical Archive of the Department of Arequipa
(Archivo Histórico del Departamento de Arequipa), and the National Library. There are also records from Tarapaca, Arica, and Tacna in the National Archive of Chile (Archivo General de Chile). To ascertain where the notarial records are for your ancestor’s town, start with the local notarial archive. (See the “Archives and Libraries” section for more information about notarial records in specific archives and libraries of Peru.)
The notarial records in the Judicial Notary Section (Sección Notaría Judicial) of the National Archives are classified both chronologically and alphabetically. Nearly all of the notarial records for Lima and Callao up to 1900 are stored there, as well as some records from other areas of the country. A catalog of notarial records from Lima and Callao was published in 1928:
Indice de Notarios de Lima y Callao cuyos protocolos se hallan en el Archivo Nacional de Perú (siglos XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX y XX) (Index of Notaries of Lima and Callao Whose Records Are in the National Archive of Peru [16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries]). Lima: Librería e Imprenta Gil, 1928. (FHL book 985 A1 #2; fiche 6039585 #95.)
Availability of Notarial Records
All of the notarial records are in the records of the notary public (notarios publicos) or the scribe of number (escribanos de número). These records often are easier to use than records of administration and courts.
The Family History Library has a few notarial records from Peru. These are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under:
PERU - NOTARIAL RECORDS
PERU, [DEPARTMENT] - NOTARIAL RECORDS
PERU - PROBATE RECORDS
PERU, [DEPARTMENT] - PROBATE RECORDS
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