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Why Use Gazetteers?
A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. Gazetteers list or describe towns and villages, parishes and ayuntamientos (municipalities), states, populations, rivers and mountains, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. Within a specific geographical area, the place-names are listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
You can use a gazetteer to locate the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. For example, if you were to look for Nalió, the gazetteer would mention that it is a community in the ayuntamiento of Grado, found in the province of Oviedo. Since Nalió is part of the ayuntamiento of Grado civil registration records for Nalió would be found in the records of Grado.
There are many places in Spain with similar or identical place-names. You will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific town where your ancestor lived, the province the town was or is in, and the jurisdictions where records about the person were kept.
Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as:
- The different religious denominations.
- The schools, colleges, and universities.
- Major manufacturers, canals, docks, and railroad stations.
- Some gazetteers contain historical information and biographical information on some individuals (usually high ranking individuals).
Pascual Madoz, Diccionario geográfico-estadístico-histórico de España y sus posesiones de ultramar (Madrid: P. Madoz, 1848-1850). FHL INTL 946 E5m.
This gazetteer is also available online in the following locations.
- FamilySearch has digitized copies of all 16 volumes and you can access them here.
- Through the Biblioteca Virtual Andalucía website: Please note that the website is in Spanish.
Also available on microfilm and microfiche.
Other Finding Aids
Instituto Nacional de Estadística
In the website of the National Institute of Statistics or Instituto Nacional de Estadística in Spain you can see all the municipalities of each province. To use this search engine to locate a municipality use the drop down box Nombre del municipio to enter the name of a municipality and then click on Buscar to initiate the search. To view a list of all the municipalities in a province use the drop down box under Búsqueda por Provincias to choose the province or simply select the province from the map. Once you choose the province a page will open with a list of all the municipalities within that province. Click on the name of the municipality you wish to view their contact information. Please note this site is in Spanish only.
- You can learn if your ancestor’s town or city had an established parish by checking a Catholic church directory. It will list the archdiocese officials and the dioceses with their parishes, so you can easily determine all nearby parishes. It may include historical information about each parish, and sometimes it provides addresses for parishes, the diocese headquarters, and the diocese archives where additional records may be kept. The gazetteer mentioned above by Madoz also gives parishes.
- One guide to available church records can be found in the Guía de los Archivos de la Iglesia en España. Barcelona: Archivo Diocesano de Barcelona, 2001. It lists diocese, parishes, and other church archives throughout Spain. Most parishes are listed with the date the first records begin by record type. Click on the title of the guide to download a copy.
- A good church directory is: Guia de la Iglesia en España. Iglesia Catolica. Oficina General de Sociologia y Estadística. Madrid: Secretariado del Episcopado Español, 1960. FHL INTL Book 946 K24g 1960, FHL INTL Film 0924464.
- Also on the internet: Conferencia Episcopal Española. Here you can see a list of dioceses in Spain or a map showing the dioceses and their location within Spain.
Other online sources
The website TodoPueblos.com has options to allow you to search for a town in Spain in a number of ways using their drop-down menu.
- Igual a - Enter the complete name. You must spell it correctly.
- Empieza por - Enter the first few letters of the town or city name.
- Contiene - Enter a series of letters that are found within the name.
- Click on the name of the province and you can view a list of town names for the entire province.
When you click on the name of the town, you will find additional information about the town, in Spanish. You might also find a link to the town's website where you might find contact information for the town hall.
To find additional gazetteers for Spain in the FamilySearch Catalog follow these steps:
- Go to the FamilySearch Catalog
- Click on: Place Search
- Enter: Spain in the first box, and leave the second box empty.
- Click on: Spain
- Click on: Spain - Gazetteers
Note: The entries that have been microfilmed can be ordered and sent to your local FamilySearch Center.
To find a FamilySearch center near your home use this link: FamilySearch Centers
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