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Genealogically speaking Spanish archives can be divided into four separate categories.
- Civil archives can be found for various levels of civil government. For example, municipal, comarca, of provincial,
- Church archives - typically this relates to Catholic Church archives.
- Private archives which can be stand alone archives, or part of a civil or church archive.
- University archives - contain a wide variety of records.
For a good listing of many archives for Spain, please visit the website EspañaGenWeb.
Civil archives include archives from the National level all the way down to the civil registration office. The best place to find an archive and to access an inventory (not always complete or thorough) is through the Ministerio de Cultura's site at:
- Archivo General de Indias
- Archivo General de Simancas
- Archivo Histórico Nacional
- Archivo de la Real Chancellería de Valladolid
Provincial archives are very important in family history research. The most important records in the provincial archives are the notarial records or Protocolos. These records include: wills, land and property sales, death inventories, marriage contracts, and many other types. The best portal for these archives is:
PARES or the Portal de Archives Españoles. The site provides hours, services, addresses, and inventories for each provincial archive.
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Spain, Cádiz Province Municipal Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Spain, Valencia Miscellaneous Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
Municipal and Juzgado de la Paz Archives
These archives are sometimes together, but when they are separated you will find civil registration records in the Juzgado de la Paz archives. Municipal archives contain local census, tax, military draft records, and other records full of genealogical value. Like the provincial archives you can find additional information in the Ministerio de Cultura's website (listed above).
Church Archives (Catholic Church)
The Catholic Church has two main archives that are invaluable to anyone doing family history research in Spain. An excellent guide to the Catholic Church Archives in Spain is available online. Guía de los Archivos de la Iglesia en España compiled by the Archivo Diocesano de Barcelona for the Asociación de Archiveros de la Iglesia en España (Association of Archivists of the Church in Spain) with the collaboration of the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura, y Deporte (Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports).
Parish archives maintain the parish books for their own parish. Most of the surviving parish records in Spain have been centralized to the Diocesan Archive (see below), however, records that are not more than 100 years old and those that were never sent to the Diocesan archive are kept/stored in the Parish archive. The parish records most common and most relevant to family history: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths/burials.
Each dioceses has an archive where they have centralized the parish records within its boundaries. The archives usually have all the parish records that are older than 100 years old, plus any diocesan records. Diocesan records in Spain include: marriage dispensations, ecclesiastic personnel records, judicial materials, pastoral visits and confirmations.
Catholic Church guides and directories are great sources for learning more about church archives. Much of this can be done through the Ministerio de Cultura's website, but there are two other websites that are great as well.
Biblioteca Nacional de Espana