Three main types of historical records can help you learn about your Brazilian ancestors. These records contain valuable information about your family, such as names, parents, dates, and locations.
To help you find documents about your ancestors, learn more about civil registration, parish records, and passenger lists. These types of records can help simplify your search.
Civil Registration in Brazil
Civil registration refers to legal documents that register (or record) events in someone’s life, such as birth, marriage, divorce, or death. Among civil records, a birth certificate usually functions as a citizen’s formal identity.1
Did you know civil records haven’t always been created by the Brazil government?
Due to the union between church and state in Brazil throughout the colonial period, civil registration was often performed by the Catholic Church.
In 1888, a law was passed in which parish registers lost their legal status, and civil records became the only official documents.
Learn more about civil registration in Brazil on the FamilySearch wiki.
How to Find Civil Records
Brazil birth, marriage, and death records can be found in the “Office of Natural Persons’ Civil Registration,” in each one of the 26 states and in the Federal District. You can also look online in the FamilySearch Catalog, browsing by state or city. (Learn tips for using the catalog here.)
Brazil Parish Records
Brazilian parish records have information about christenings, marriages and deaths in each parish. The history of ecclesiastical records can be traced back to the 14th century but in Brazil they became widespread after the Council of Trent (1545–1563).
Before 1707, parish records were made in accordance with the Portugal regulation. Unfortunately, in spite of how common Brazil parish records were, few of the church archives kept their documents well preserved.2
How to Find Parish Records
To find parish records in Brazil, you can contact each regional Curia archives. These archives are in charge of the preservation of parish records in each region. You can also find Brazilian parish records online in the FamilySearch Catalog.2
Brazil Passenger Lists
Groups of people from all parts of the world have brought their families to Brazil, creating a great diversity in the country. This immigration has been very important for Brazilian society.
Information about your ancestors from other countries may be found in the passenger lists of the ships they traveled in, as well as in the records of immigration boards that were present in some areas.
How to Find Passenger Lists
You can find passenger lists in some of the Brazilian public archives. Some of the largest immigrant databases can be found in the Arquivo Nacional (National Archives) and also in the Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo (São Paulo State Public Archives). Other archives may also have passenger lists.
To know which archives to search, it can be helpful to know what city your ancestors entered when they came to Brazil and then try to find information about when they immigrated. There are also some passenger lists available online in the FamilySearch Catalog.
Brazilian civil registrations, parish records, and passenger lists are the most common types of historical records that can help you find your family. However, other types of historical records can also be used, such as censuses, diário oficial (official gazettes), inventories, and so on.
- National Justice Council, 2010.
- Marcílio, M. “Os registros paroquiais e a História do Brasil” (Parish Records and Brazilian History). Varia História, n. 31, jan/2004.
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