Spanish hidalgos (or hijosdalgos), meaning "sons of status," were untitled nobles by lineage. The Iberian nobility originated during the time of the Spanish re-conquest of the peninsula from the Moors (about A.D. 700–1492). Those who were leaders or who were especially valiant in the early days of the campaign were awarded hidalgo status. Many original hidalgos came from the northern Spanish provinces of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya.
In later generations, in order to prove nobility (hidalguía), individuals needed to show their noble lineage back to their great-grandparents. The status of hidalgo did not necessarily mean wealth. In fact, some hildalgos were laborers and shopkeepers. However, hidalgos were entitled to the inherent social and legal rights of the nobility.
In Spain, only the noble class was entitled to bear coats of arms. The kings rewarded persons who performed a heroic deed, made a notable achievement, or held a prominent position in government by granting them a noble title and the right to use a coat of arms. These grants were documented and may include:
- Census records (censos). Censuses were often compiled to determine who was exempt from commoners’ tax and military conscription, two benefits of hidalgo status. These census records are generally available in local city halls.
- Genealogical reports (informaciones genealógicas) and purity of blood reports (limpiezas de sangre). These reports served as proof of nobility so that the hidalgo might join a noble fraternal order or obtain a government position. These reports are available in local municipal archives in Spain and Portugal, as well as in archives in major Latin American colonial capitals. For information about how to contact these archives, see Chile Archives and Libraries.
Most national archives in Spain have records relating to hidalgos. The archives of the Chancillería de Valladolid in Valladolid, and the Chancillería de Ciudad Real in Granada, have special sections for court records of hidalgos. Hidalgos customarily went before royal chancery courts to establish their nobility. The hidalgos section of the archive in Valladolid is indexed in:
Basanta de la Riva, Alfredo. Sala de los Hijosdalgos, catálogo de todos sus pleitos, expedientes y probanzas (The Hidalgo Room, Catalog of Litigations, Proceedings, and Proofs). Madrid, Spain: Ediciones Hidalguía, 1955–1956. (FHL book 946 D53b.)
Various authors in Spain have prepared books on heraldry. An armorial is a collection of descriptions of coats of arms and the families that bear them. It also briefly describes their entitlement to that coat of arms. It may also note early bearers of a coat of arms, sometimes with relationships, birth dates, and other genealogical information. Each armorial will differ from others and will include different names. Some minor noble families are not included in any books.
An article on heraldry in Chile is:
- Lira Montt, Luis. "Las ordenes y corporaciones nobiliarias en Chile" ("The Orders and Corporation of the Nobility in Chile"), in Revista de Estudios Históricos (Magazine of Historical Studies). Santiago, Chile: Imprenta Chile, 1949–. No. 11 (1962/63): 139–216. (FHL book 983 D25r v.11–13.)
Heraldic materials are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
CHILE - HERALDRY
[COUNTRY] - HERALDRY
Sources with information about noble ancestors are listed under:
[COUNTRY] - NOBILITY