Portugal Church Records

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Church Records

For information about records for non-Christian religions in Portugal, go to the Religious Records page.

Catholic Church Records

Catholic church records are a vital part of Portuguese research. As part of the reforms carried out during the Council of Trent in 1562, parish priests were required to record the births, marriages, and deaths of every member of their parish. Prior to this, parish church books almost exclusively recorded the the births, marriages, and deaths of nobility, while only about seven percent of the common people's vital events were recorded.

In 1910, the leaders of the newly established First Portuguese Republic ordered that all records of birth, marriage, and death created by the Catholic Church be transferred to the government. Some of these records are now in the national archive in Lisbon, called the "Torre do Tombo", some are in archives that were established in each district, and some were lost in this transfer.

In December 1993 the national archive printed a two volume book under the title, Inventario Colectivo dos Registros Paroquais, (Collective Inventory of the Parochial Records, Family History Library book 946.9 A3i listing each parish church and which of its records were in the national archive and which were in one of the district archives.

Many of these original records in the national archives and the various district archives have been digitized by the Portuguese Government and FamilySearch. Many have also been microfilmed and are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog.

Online Catholic Church Records

The following three indexes include various Portuguese localities. The years are an overall range, some localities may be from earlier or later years.

In partnership with the Genealogical Society of Utah, the Portuguese government is digitizing the parish records in their archives. The digitized records are organized by District (or region for the Azores and Madeira), and most are not indexed. Images are available both at the website of the Portuguese archive where the record is housed and at FamilySearch.

To more easily access the parish records, links to the portal Tombo.pt have been provided to link researchers to the digital record collection at the Portuguese archive.

To link to the specific collection, select the municipality and parish (located on the lefthand side of the page on Tombo.pt and in the drop-down menu on FamilySearch) of interest in order to view the birth, marriage, and death records for each parish.

Types of Records

Baptisms (Batismos)

Catholic tradition dictates that baptism is essential to salvation. Because of this, infants were usually baptized soon after their birth. Baptism records usually contain:

  • Child's name
  • Father's name
  • Mother's name, but not usually her maiden name
  • Baptism date and birth date
  • Name of witnesses

After the mid-1800s

  • Parent's residences
  • Father's occupation and residence
  • Grandparent's names and residences
  • Witnesses' residences

Marriages (Casamentos)

Couples usually married in the bride’s parish. Catholic parish register marriage records usually contain:

  • Marriage date 
  • Full name of the bride and groom 
  • Residence of the bride and groom (more common after the mid 1800s)
  • May list the dates that the marriage was announced (also called “banns published”). This normally took place on three separate occasions prior to the marriage and gave anyone with a valid reason a chance to object to the marriage.

After the mid-1800s.

  • Marital status of bride and groom (after the mid-1800s)
  • Names and residences of parents of the bride and groom
  • Names and residences of parents of the witnesses

After the mid-1900s.

  • Profession of groom and bride
  • Age of groom and bride

Burials (Obitos)

A burial usually took place in the deceased’s parish a few days after the death. Parish register burial records usually contain:

  • Burial date
  • Death date
  • Name of the deceased. 
  • Name of spouse, if married at time of death
  • Names of parents if deceased is a minor
  • Age
  • Sex

After the mid-1850s

  • Parish of residence of deceased
  • Residence of parents or spouse of deceased
  • Occasionally, names of grandparents of deceased

Burial registers may mention infant children who were not baptized, including stillbirths.

Marriage Proceedings (Processos de Casamento)

Marriage proceedings were pre-nuptial documentation compiled by potential partners and provided to church authorities in order to qualify for marriage. They can be used to augment marriage records and possibly provide additional biographical information on the potential bride or groom. Marriage proceedings usually contained:

  • Name of bride and groom
  • Name of parents
  • Birthdates and birthplaces of bride and groom
  • Any former marriages

Because of record loss, these records are more likely to be found in nineteenth and twentieth-century research.[1]

Marriage Dispensations (Dispensação)

When an impediment was discovered for a couple who wished to marry, a bishop's dispensation was required in order for the couple to wed within the Catholic church. Impediments included child marriage, inability to consummate the relationship, a previous marriage, abduction, marriage to a non-Catholic, being closely related by blood (consanguinity), or being closely related by marriage (affinity). Unlike birth, marriage, and death records, marriage dispensations are kept at Diocesan archives, and most have not been digitized. Marriage Dispensations usually contain:

  • Names of potential bride and groom
  • Residences of potential bride and groom
  • Ages of potential bride and groom
  • (Occasionally) Names of parents
  • (Occasionally) Charts, graphs, or documents showing relationship between potential bride and groom

Wills (Testamentos)

Record of the estate distribution at the death of the testator.
Wills usually contain:

  • Name of testator
  • Residence of testator
  • Names of family members and their relationship to the testator
  • Description of all personal and real estate of the testator

Church Records at the Family History Library

The FamilySearch Catalog lists many parish books that are available on microfilm. However, most have been digitized and can be viewed online at a family history center. To search the catalog for a microfilmed church record, use the Place-name search and search for a parish of interest.

Church Records in Portuguese Archives

Sometimes, archive research is necessary to obtain a record that has not been digitized or request a clearer copy of a record found online or on microfilm. This can be done either through letter correspondence, email, or researching in person.

For help writing a letter requesting records or preparing for an actual visit, refer to Portuguese Letter Writing Guide.

District Archives

Because all of the parish records containing genealogical data were moved to district archives, the staff at these archives will need to be contacted in order to obtain a copy of the desired record. Visit Archives and Libraries for a list of the district archives of Portugal, with links to the archive's website, online catalog, and contact information. If at all possible, locate the record in the catalog and provide the reference number to the archivist as part of your request.

Refer to the Portuguese Letter Writing Guide for writing a genealogical request in Portuguese.

Be aware that most archives have a fee associated with locating and copying records.

Church Archives

Sometimes, duplicate copies of birth, marriage, and death records were sent to a parish's dioceses. These archives also store marriage impediments, and other documentation that may be useful in tracing a parish priest. You can find contact information for dioceses at the website Conferência Episcopal Portuguesa or at Portugal Church Directories.

Wiki Articles Describing Online Collections

References

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Portugal,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-1999.