Cinco de Mayo: A Day for Celebration and Discovery

Cinco de Mayo--shutterstock_181607084

Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a day for those in Mexico and those of Mexican ancestry to celebrate their Mexican heritage. The origins of this holiday date back to the famous battle fought in Puebla in 1862 when Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin defeated invading French forces. Contrary to popular belief by non-Mexicans, this is not Mexico’s Independence Day.

Most Mexicans celebrate the day with food, friends, music, and dancing. One popular traditional dish is molewhose origins can be traced back to the states of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Tlaxcala. Many Mexicans celebrate cinco de mayo by partaking of this savory dish.

For those with Mexican ancestry Cinco de Mayo could be the beginning of your road to ancestral discoveries of your own Mexican heritage. There has never been a better time than now. FamilySearch has the largest online collection of records for Mexico in the world. Catholic parish records where one might find baptisms, marriages, and deaths, are the mainstays of Hispanic research. FamilySearch’s collections for Mexico contain millions of browseable images, dating back to the 1500s, from all 31 states and the Distrito Federal, which includes Mexico City.



Civil Registration in Mexico was mandated into law in 1857 and most cities were in compliance by the 1860s. These valuable records include births, marriages, and deaths. FamilySearch currently has over 39 million images. These are also widely available for most states and the Distrito Federal.

Border Crossing records for immigrants traveling from Mexico into the United States are a valuable resource for those trying to identify the hometown of their immigrant ancestor. Over 3.6 million records have been indexed and are available on FamilySearch. These records are especially valuable for those that crossed the border between 1910 and 1957. For more information on how to make best use of these records, we invite you to watch our online class Crossing the Frontera.

Most Latin American countries don’t have regular censuses like the United States, Canada, and England but there is a 1930 federal census for Mexico that can be useful for locating ancestors. The 1930 federal census has been completely indexed and contains over 3.1 million records freely searchable on You should be aware however that the census has limitations. The portion of the census that covers the Distrito Federal has been lost along with a few other smaller localities here and there. To see if the census records for your locality survived, please check the FamilySearch catalog.

This Cinco de Mayo we invite you to put on some mariachi music, grab a tamale, and begin the search for your Mexican ancestry. Make your Cinco de Mayo not only a day of celebration but a day of discovery!

Use the link below to view an excellent Wiki article about using Catholic records in your research in Latin America.


About the Author