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Catholicism's roots extend deep into Spain's history. Parish and diocesan records created by the Catholic Church in Spain have long been considered some of the richest genealogical records in the world. Ever since the Council of Trent Catholic parish records have been consistently recorded, usually providing three generations in a single baptismal entry.
The Catholic Church has created several different records. The most used in genealogical research include: baptisms (bautizos, bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), and burials (entierros, defunciones, fallecimientos). Other records include: confirmations (confimaciones), pre-marriage investigations (expedientes matrimoniales, información matrimonial).
Parish records are the most common Church record used in family history and genealogical research. Spanish Catholic parish records were recorded by local parish priests, however, most of the records (older than 100 years) have been centralized into the diocesan archive to which the parish belongs. Parish records include the following:
- Confirmations (sometimes recorded in the parish baptism book, but sometimes they are recorded in their own book(s)
- Marriages (marriage blessings sometimes separate)
- Deaths or Burials
Spain is divided into 70 dioceses. Each dioceses is divided into many parishes. Dioceses created several different types of records. These records can be searched in diocesan archives throughout Spain. Some diocesan records have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library (FHL). Perform a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog for the dioceses where your ancestor lived. Diocesan records include:
- Administrative and Financial
- Disciplinary and Judicial
- Marriage Dispensations and Pre-marriage Investigations
- Pastoral Visits and Confirmations
Locating Diocesan and Parish Records
There are three different ways to obtain Spanish Catholic Church records.
- Online - Not very many Church records have been digitized and placed online. The online resources section at the beginning of this article links to two different resources online.
- Family History Library (FHL) and Family History Centers (FHCs) - The FHL is the largest genealogical library in the world. The FHL has microfilmed parish records for about 1/3 of Spain's dioceses. To determine if the FHL has microfilmed records for the parish (or dioceses) your ancestors lived, perform a Place Search in the Family History Library Catalog. You will also want to check to see if any records have been extracted/indexed and placed in the IGI. You can learn more about by reading: Finding the Source of IGI Batch Numbers
- Archive Research - This can be done either through letter correspondence, email (sometimes), or researching in person. Please see the Spain Catholic Church Directories article for more contact information for dioceses and parishes. You can find diocesan websites at: http://www.conferenciaepiscopal.es/diocesis/diocesis.htm please visit the site to determine if you can make an email request. Another site with good information on the archives of Spain (both ecclesiastical and government) is the Censo-Guía de Archivos de España e Iberoamérica (http://aer.mcu.es/sgae/index_censo_guia.jsp). While it is only available in Spanish, it can provide detailed information on the collections and documents within an archive and allows you to narrow your search down to specific archives.
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