Spanish hidalgos (or hijos de algo) meaning “sons of status,” were untitled nobles by lineage. The Iberian nobility originated during the time of the Spanish reconquest of the peninsula from the Moors (about A.D. 7001492). 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 were laborers and shopkeepers. However, hidalgo were entitled to the inherent social and legal rights of the nobility.
In Peru and Spain, only members of the noble class were 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 Peru Archives and Libraries.
Most national archives in Spain have records relating to hidalgos. The archives of the Chancery of Valladolid (Chancillería de Valladolid) and the Chancery of the City Real (Chancillería de Ciudad Real [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, Spain, is indexed in:
- Basanta de la Riva, Alfredo. Sala de los Hidalgos, Catálogo de Todos los Pleitos y Expedientes y Probanzas (The Hidalgo Room, Catalog of Litigations, Proceedings, and Proofs). Madrid: Ediciones Hidalguía, 1955–1956. (FHL book 946 D53b.)
Various authors 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 note early bearers of that 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. You can learn about your Peruvian coats of arms from Spanish family histories and heraldry books. The following book can also be helpful:
- Garcío Carraffa, Alberto, and Arturo Garcío Carraffa. Diccionario heráldico y genealógico de apellidos españoles y americanos (Heraldic and Genealogical Dictionary of Spanish and Spanish American Surnames). 86 vols. Madrid : Nueva Imprenta Radio, 1952–1963. (FHL book 946 D6gc; film 0035112–22 [76 vols A–R].) Each volume has its own index. The microfilm copy only includes volumes through surnames beginning with R.
Heraldic materials are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
PERU - HERALDRY
SPAIN - HERALDRY
LATIN AMERICA - HERALDRY
Sources with information about noble ancestors are listed under:
[COUNTRY] - NOBILITY