New Spain

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Territories of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.png

The Viceroyalty of New Spain (Spanish: Virreinato de Nueva España), was the political unit of Spanish territories in North America and Asia-Pacific. The territory included a fort on Vancouver Island, the present-day Southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America (except Panama), the Caribbean, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands, and most of Micronesia.

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It was ruled by a viceroy from Mexico City who governed on behalf of the King of Spain. The Viceroyalty of New Spain lasted from 1535 to 1821.[1]

Many records of New Spain can be found at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, or at archives in Mexico.The holdings of the Archivo General de Indias or AGI can be found through the site PARES - Portal de Archivos Españoles. Many documents from the Archivo General de Indias can be found digitized online through the PARES portal. Some of the better AGI collections for records of New Spain include the following categories:

  • Casa de la Contratación, 1492-1795. This collection includes Pasajeros a Indias and Libros de asiento de pasajeros which are records of the arrivals and departures of passengers.
  • Catalogos de Pasajeros a Indias, 1509-1701 is an index of these records. A portion of these indexes can be found in book and microfilm form at the Family History Library. Use a keyword search with the terms “Pasajeros a Indias” to locate these records. The entire collection can be found only at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.
  • Contaduria, 1514-1782 is mostly documents of a financial nature but does also include information from the Consejos de las Indias, 1514-1760, the ruling council in Spanish America and Asientos de Negros, 1541-1739, which deals with the transportation of slaves.
  • Patronato Real, 1480-1801 includes much information regarding the early years of exploration and conquest. Records may be found for the years 1520-1638 for Nueva España and 1595-1658 for California.[2]

Other resources[edit | edit source]

Early California Population Project has parish record indexes for Spanish missions in Alta (Upper) California from 1769 to 1850.[edit | edit source]

Documentary Relations of the Southwest[edit | edit source]

Documentary Relations of the Southwest sponsored by the University of Arizona has several large collections of documents for New Spain. Among these are the following:

  • Biofile Southwest – a biographical listing of nearly 20,000 persons living in northern New Spain. The following are sub-collections of the Biofile Southwest
    • Biofile Relatives and Household Members Index – an alphabetical index to other names found with the biographical sketches of persons found in the Biofile Southwest. This might include other family and/or household members.
    • Biofile Occupations and Titles Index – a listing of all titles and occupations found within the Biofile Southwest documents.
  • Master Index – contains a guide to many archival collections of colonial documents for northern New Spain.

For more information on any of their holdings or to search the collections visit their website.

National Archive of Mexico or Archivo General de la Nación[edit | edit source]

The Archivo General de la Nacion of Mexico also has many holdings for New Spain. Many of these are duplicates of documents found in the Archivo General de Indias. You may search their catalog online. If you find something you wish to view keep in mind that many important documents from the archive have been filmed and are available through FamilySearch. Try keyword searches to determine if the material is available through the FamilySearch catalog. Two valuable collections you might consider are:

Ramo de historia – a collection of documents regarding the early colonial years of Mexico. Many volumes have indexes.

Ramo de tierras – a collection of legal documents from the Mexican colonial period. An index is available.

PANES: Portal de Archivos de Nueva España[edit | edit source]

This is a website with resources for Cuba, Spain, Guatemala, Mexico and the Hispanic United States. They are capturing images of documents not found on any other sites. It has links to archives and in some cases directly to their digital collections, some early census records. It is a work in progress so check back often to see what has been added.

Mission 2000[edit | edit source]

This site has a searchable database of Spanish Mission Records for southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico sponsored by the National Park Service. It is an ongoing project which includes names of all associated within a given record. The site also contains extracts of early marriage records from the Cathedral of Culiacan.

Other Collections[edit | edit source]

Several universities and other organizations in the United States also have some valuable collections for New Spain. Among these are the following:

New Spain in 1819 after the Adams–Onís Treaty.New Spain in 1819 after the Adams–Onís Treaty.

New Spain in 1819 after the Adams–Onís Treaty.

For further reading[edit | edit source]

Barnes, Thomas C., Thomas H. Naylor, and Charles W. Polzer. Northern New Spain: A Research Guide. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1981.

“Casa de Contratación.” Online:, 2013. <>, accessed July 2013.

Chapman, Charles Edward. Catalogue of materials in the Archivo General de Indias for the history of the Pacific coast and the American Southwest. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1919.

Bermúdez Plata, Cristóbal, Luis Romera Iruela, and Maria del Carmen Galbis Diez. Catálogo de pasajeros a Indias durante los siglos XVI, XVII y XVIII (Archivo General de Indias: Sevilla, 1940), FHL INTL Book 946 W2sa. The Family History library only has volumes 1-7 (1509-1599).

Bolton, Herbert Eugene. Guide to Materials for the History of the United States in the Principal Archives of Mexico (Washington, D.C., Carnegie institution of Washington, 1913), download a copy from

Boyd-Bowman, Peter. Índice geobiográfico de cuarenta mil pobladores españoles de América en el siglo XVI (Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1964-1968), FHL INTL Book 980 W2b.

Boyd-Bowman, Peter. Índice geográfico de más de 56 mil pobladores de la América Hispánica (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, c1985), FHL INTL Book 980 W2bb.

Boyd-Bowman, Peter. Patterns of Spanish Emigration to the New World (Buffalo: Council on International Studies, State University of New York - Buffalo, 1973), FHL INTL Film 1410948, Item 10.

Gerhard, Peter. A Guide to the Historical Geography of New Spain (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), FHL INTL Book E3g.

Gerhard, Peter. The North Frontier of New Spain (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982), FHL INTL Book 972.1 E3g.

Guía de fuentes para la historia de Ibero-América conservados en España (Madrid: Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas, 1969).

Handbook of Texas. (Online: Accessed January 2020.

Holmes, Jack David Lazarus. A Guide to Spanish Louisiana, 1762-1806 (New Orleans: A F. Laborde, 1970).

Ryskamp, George R.,Finding your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.

Ryskamp, George R., and Peggy H. Ryskamp. Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Pub., 2007.

  • Appendix D Archives of the States of Mexico
  • Appendix E Researching in the Archivo General de la Nación from the United States

Índice de documentos de Nueva España: existentes en el Archivo de Indias de Sevilla. México, D.F.: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1925-1931.


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Viceroyalty of New Spain," in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed May 2, 2009).
  2. Barnes, Thomas C., Thomas H. Naylor, and Charles W. Polzer. Northern New Spain: A Research Guide. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1981.