Álava, Spain Genealogy
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Guide to Álava province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
- 1 History
- 2 Civil Registration
- 3 Catholic Church Records
- 4 Reading the Records
Most of your genealogical research for Álava will be in two main record types: civil registration and church records. This article will teach you methods for locating and searching these two record groups.
Álava is a historical territory of Basque County.The official languages are Spanish and Basque. The capital city, Vitoria-Gasteiz, houses the main political institutions of the autonomous county. Álava province has 51 municipalities. The population majority is centered in the capital city of Álava. The diocese of Álava (Armentaria) split off from the Diocese of Calahorra in 870 AD. In 1088 AD the diocese was merged into the Diocese of Najéra. The territory of Álava was reabsorbed into Calahorra when Najéra was suppressed in 1170 AD. The diocese was nominally respored as Titular bishopric of Álava in 1969.The population of Álava is roughly 322,557 people.
- Spanish civil registration records (government birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates) began in 1871.
- Births, marriages, and deaths were recorded by the local Juzgado de la Paz, or Oficinia del Registro Civil. The records are still housed in their local municpal archives. In addition, Spain does have a national index or central repository for civil registration.
- Some municipios (towns/cities) may have civil registration records beginning as early as 1837. Some of them have been microfilmed and/or digitized by FamilySearch.
- Larger cities may have multiple civil registration districts, and smaller towns may have their own civil registration office, or belong to an office of a nearby town. To determine the political jurisdiction for the town where your ancestors came from, please see the Spain Gazetteers article.
Here are several different approaches to obtaining these certificates:
1. Online Digitized Civil Registration
Currently, there are no online FamilySearch Historical civil registration records for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they have become available.
2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records Searched at a Family History Center
Currently, the Family History Library does not have civil registration microfilms for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they become available. In the meantime. it is possible to write for the records.
3. Basque Country
- RegistroCivil will allow you to order a birth, marriage, or death certificate from any municipality in the Basque Country (provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya) for free.
4. Writing to the Civil Registry of a Municipality
- Juzgado de la Paz or Oficina del Registro Civil should be contacted if a certificate copy request to the Ministerio de Justicia fails.
- Use the following address, filling in the parentheses with the specific information for your town :
- Find the Spain postal code here.
- Write a brief request to the proper office. Send the following:
- Full name and the sex of the person sought.
- Names of the parents, if known.
- Approximate date and place of the event.
- Your relationship to the person.
- Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
- Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
- Check or cash for the search fee (usually about $10.00).
Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. For writing your letter in Spanish, use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide.
Catholic Church Records
- Catholicism's roots extend deep into Spain's history. Parish and diocesan records created by the Catholic Church in Spain have long been considered some of the richest genealogical records in the world. Ever since the Council of Trent, Catholic parish records have been consistently recorded, usually providing three generations in a single baptismal entry.
- The vast majority of Spaniards are Catholic, and so almost every Spaniard can be found in the records of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was the primary record keeper of births, marriages, and deaths, until civil registration started in 1869.
- Some church records have been lost or have deteriorated due natural disasters such as fire, flood, and earthquakes. Civil and political strife has also caused record loss, including during time of the Spanish Civil War.
- The Catholic Church has created several different records. The most used in genealogical research include: baptisms (bautizos, bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), and burials (entierros, defunciones, fallecimientos). Other records include: confirmations (confimaciones) and pre-marriage investigations (expedientes matrimoniales, información matrimonial).
- Tip: If you are researching after 1869, when Civil Registration started in Spain, both church and civil records should be searched since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other.
1. Online Church Records
Currently, there are no online church records for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they have become available.
2. Microfilmed Records From the Family History Library
There might be microfilmed records available but not included in the online collections. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you. To find a microfilm:
- a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Spain, Alava.
- b. Click on "Places within Spain, Alava" and a list of towns and cities will open.
- c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
- d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
- f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.
3. Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records
Baptism, marriage, and death records may be searched by contacting or visiting local parish or diocese archives in Spain. Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.
Write a brief request in Spanish to the proper church using this address as guide, replacing the information in parentheses:
- Reverendo Padre
- Parroquia de (name of parish)
- (street address, if known: consult The Catholic Directory)
- (postal code), (city), Álava
When requesting information, send the following:
- Money for the search fee, usually $10.00, and an international reply coupon (IRC)
- Full name and the sex of the ancestor sought
- Names of the ancestor’s parents, if known
- Approximate date and place of the event
- Your relationship to the ancestor
- Reason for the request (family history, medical, and so on)
- Request for a photocopy of the complete original record
Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. For writing your letter in Spanish, use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide.]
Reading the Records
- You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Spanish Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. Reading handwriting skills are taught in the BYU Spanish Script Tutorial.
- Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:
- Detailed instructions for reading Spanish records, examples of common documents, and practice exercises for developing skills in translating them can be found in the Spanish Records Extraction Manual.
- The Spanish Documents Script Tutorial also provides lessons and examples.
Tips for finding your ancestor in the records
Effective use of church records includes the following strategies.
- Search for the birth record of the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
- Then, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
- You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records.
- Search the death registers for all family members.
- Then repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
- If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring parishes.