A census is a count and description of the population of a country, territory, province, or municipality. Census lists are also called schedules or enumerations.
Although Philippine censuses have not yet been indexed, you can still find excellent information, particularly in more recent censuses. Use the information with caution, however. Information may have been given by any family member or neighbor, and some may have been deliberately falsified.
Many early civil censuses were little more than ahead count, often conducted by the local parish priest. They were for the sole purpose of determining the number of people subject to paying tribute taxes to the Spanish crown. Later censuses were generally more detailed, and included some valuable genealogical information.
Beginning in the late 1500s, the Spaniards took various censuses known as vecindarios (local censuses), padrón de almas (head census), or estado de almas (people status). The latter two were religious censuses conducted by parish clergy. Because they served both church and government purposes and are similar to the secular censuses, they are described here, rather than in the “Church Records” section of this outline. Most Spanish census records are from 1800 to 1898 and cover the Luzon and Central Visayas regions. You will typically find:
- Marital status.
- Tribute status.
- Miscellaneous observations.
This information may be in columnar or narrative format. The church census records (estado de almas and padrón de almas) are more likely to be in a narrative form and generally give slightly more information than the government records.
The Family History Library has filmed most Spanish civil census records and many religious enumerations. To find the estado de almas and padrón de almas, look in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality section, under “Church Records”:
PHILIPPINES, LAGUNA, MAJAYJAY CHURCH RECORDS
Vecindarios are censuses of all the inhabitants of a particular locality and can be found in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality section, under “Census Records”:
PHILIPPINES, METROPOLITAN MANILA CENSUS RECORDS
The National Archives (Records Management and Archives Office) in Manila has 517 bundles of vecindarios and estadísticas (census statistics) from various provinces. However, the estadísticas give only statistics.
Searching Census Records
When searching census records, remember the following:
- Accept the ages with caution.
- Given names may not always be the same as the name recorded in vital records.
- Information may be falsified.
- Name-spelling may vary.
- Place-names may be misspelled or spelled phonetically.
- If a family is not at a suspected address, search the surrounding area.
- Some parts of the records may be difficult or impossible to read.
- When you find your family in one census, be sure to search that same location in the earlier
and later census records for additional family members.