Puerto Rico Civil Registration
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The civil registration in Puerto Rico began to be implemented in early 1885. Most municipalities have births, marriages, and deaths from 1885, but some have records from earlier years. Also the records in municipalities start at the time the town was founded; for example, in Morovis the records start in 1835 and in Corozal in 1817.
Before 1885, the vital information of a person was registered in the Catholic Church parish records, which at that time had the official authority to justify the civil status of the citizens. At the beginning of the civil registration, the civil registries were maintained by the municipal courts. In 1904, the civil registries were transferred to the office of the municipal secretary. In 1931, the current civil code was approved. This code gave the organization a new name, the Demographic Registry Office of Puerto Rico (Registro Demográfico de Puerto Rico), and transferred the authority to the Health Department. Most records, with the exception of a few earlier records, have been preserved relatively for extracting genealogical information. The whole population of Puerto Rico living since 1885 is registered in these records. Many types of civil records are found in the Demographic Registries; however, this article describes only birth, marriage, and death records.
The Demographic Registry’s basic function and responsibility is to preserve all the vital data of the citizens of Puerto Rico, such as the registration of births, marriages, and deaths. The registry provides certified copies of all documents; makes legal corrections of errors, legal changes, and administrative changes; and recaps all the statistical information for the Health Department.
The civil registration of Puerto Rico is a very reliable source for doing family history. In order to register an event, the person registering the event needs to provide various legal proofs of identification. The registry also allows 10 days to register a birth free of charge. After that, the person needs to pay a fee. This promotes the registration of all citizens in a timely manner.
The following extract forms were created by Dr. George Ryskamp, JD, AG. These particular forms are designed to be used for Spanish research; however, they can help in other research areas, such as Italy, France, Portugal, etc. Click on the type of record form you would like to use and print it for your own files.
These forms are designed to help you quickly analyze and organize your documents. They can become a personal index for your family records.
Where to Find the Records
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
- Puerto Rico Civil Registration Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Puerto Rico, Records of Foreign Residents (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Ryskamp, George. Finding Your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.