Spain Finding Records
Spain Finding Records
To find church, civil or other records for your ancestor in Spain using the FamilySearch catalog, you will need to know the various levels of jurisdictions (government or religious administrative divisions) in Spain. Only three locality levels are normally used. The country of Spain is divided into provinces (provincias), municipalities (municipios or ayuntamientos), and cities, towns, villages, etc.
Under the municipality level you will find civil registration records. In large cities there may be several offices. Some small towns may not be their own municipality and therefore their records will not be kept in the town. You will need to determine the correct municipality or municipio in order to locate the civil registration records. Municipality records will be located in the FamilySearch catalog under the name of the municipio.
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 in the box next to the words Nombre del municipio 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 only in Spanish.
Church records are listed in the catalog under the city or town where the parish is located. A parish is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction where a Catholic priest serves and keeps records. The parish is usually named for a Saint and is located in the largest town in the parish jurisdiction. Large cities may have many parishes while a small town usually only has one.
One recommendation for identifying the parish would be a good Catholic Church directory listing not only the names of parishes but their respective dioceses and archdioceses as well. One useful one we have found online is the Conferencia Episcopal Española. Here you can find a map showing the diocesan boundaries in Spain. You can also find lists of parishes by diocese and lists of municipalities in each diocese. When you locate the parish, you will find their contact information. In some cases it is nothing more than the physical address of the church but other entries might also include the phone number. Calling the parish to ask about the location of their sacramental registers is one way to figure out where the records are being stored.
Another recommendation would be to try the Guía de los Archivos de la Iglesia en España. (Barcelona: Archivo Diocesano de Barcelona, 2001). This guide contains a listing of most of the parishes in Spain grouped by diocese and is available in a downloadable PDF from PARES, the Portal de Archivos Españoles. It shows what records might be available for each parish and the name and contact information for the archive where the records are being held. The guide is very complete but there are a few errors here and there so it is always wise to contact the archive and/or the parish priest first before making a trip to view the records.
Place Levels (Jurisdictions)
Places are usually written from smallest to largest on a family group record. Municipios are not usually listed:
Campdurá, Gerona, Spain
City/town, Province, Country
Campdurá belongs to the municipio of Celrá, and you will need to know this to find the civil registration records in the FamilySearch Catalog, but when writing the localities on your family group, the municipio is not listed.
When you want to include the parish, which is especially important in large cities, in your locality field you would write it in the following manner:
Santa Eulalia, Campdurá, Gerona, Spain
Parish, City/town, Province, Country
The parish of Santa Eulalia is located in the city of Campdurá.
To find your localities, see the following sources:
- Regardless of the past names a place may have had at various times, Spanish places are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog as they are listed in: Nomenclátor de las Ciudades, Villas, Lugares, Aldeas, y demás entidades a población de España. Presidencia del Gobierno: Instituto Nacional de Estadística. FHL INTL book 946 E5s 5 vols. FHL INTL Film 1573122 for vols 1-4 and 1183646, ítem 6 for vol. 5. You can also view a digitized copy of this book online from the Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y Leon.
- Because some place names and boundaries have changed or no longer exist, you may need to use an old gazetteer that describes places as they were known in earlier times, such as: Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de España y sus posesiones de ultramar. By Pascual Madoz, Madrid: P. Madoz, 1845-1850. FHL INTL Book 946 E5m 1845 16 vols. FHL INTL Film 897114-897122, or FHL Fiche 6001750-6001765. You may also view a digitized copy of this book online from the Biblioteca Virtual Andalucia.
- Another online database of towns and cities can be found at Todopueblos.com. You can search by the name of the town or city, or scan through listings of towns and cities by province.
To find your Catholic parish, see the following sources:
- 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.
- 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.
- Another 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. Click on the title of the guide to download a copy.
- 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.
If your ancestor came from a large city that had several parishes, you will need to know what section of the city he or she lived in to determine what parish he or she belonged to. However, in a large city such as Madrid or Barcelona, you may find that even if you know the closest parish, sometimes the family went to the cathedral or the parish of a relative in the same city for the baptism of a child. If you do not find the complete family in the home parish, search the surrounding parishes of the city.
If your family lived in a very small village that did not have an established parish, you will need to check a map, church directory, or gazetteer to determine which nearby town had a parish.
Records from FamilySearch
Once you have identified the name and jurisdiction of the town of your ancestors you will want to check the FamilySearch Catalog and FamilySearch Record Collections for records about your ancestors. For more information about how to search the FamilySearch catalog you will want to read Using the Family History Library Catalog.
To search the catalog, as well as indexed records and images available online from FamilySearch, you will need to visit FamilySearch.org. To find the record collections for Spain, scroll down the page and click on Continental Europe and then on the following page on the country name of Spain.