Atacama Region, Chile Genealogy

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Region of Atacama

Guide to Region of Atacama family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

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Region of Atacama

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Most of your genealogical research for Atacama 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.

Civil Registration

Civil registration is the government recording of births, marriages, and deaths. In Chile, civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1885; records might have gaps until 1900, when full compliance to the law was achieved. For many families, civil registration records are the only sources of information after this date. These registers are written in Spanish. Some registers may have an index. In some cases, a separate index may be available that covers a specific time period.

Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office (oficina de registro civil) in each municipality(municipalidad). You must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. Your ancestor may have lived in a small town (pueblo) that belonged to the civil jurisdiction (municipalidad) of a larger town in the area. In large cities, there may be more than one civil registration office. Here is an online gazetteer for cities and towns in Atacama.

1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

For many localities, digital copies of civil registration can be searched online. Click here for a list of civil registration districts and their municipalities that have been digitized in the FamilySearch collection.

This collection can also be searched on Ancestry.com, (index and images, $). Although it is essentially the same collection, the search engine at Ancestry.com seems to handle spelling variations better. Ancestry.com can be searched free of charge at Family History Centers throughout the world.

"Nascimientos" are births. "Matrimonios" are marriages. "Defunciones" are deaths.

2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records Searched at a Family History Center

If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to try to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. 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 Chile, Atacama.
b. Click on "Places within Chile, Atacama" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" 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 the icons shown below will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record.
FHL icons.png
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. Free Certificates

You may order up to four certificates free online from the Chilean Office of Civil Registration. In order to obtain the certificates, they must be requested by someone who has a RUN, a Chilean national identity number. They will come in a PDF file via email. Once received you can verify their validity online at www.registrocivil.gob.cl for 60 days from the day of emission. You will need to enter the number of the file and the verification code and then verify the matching information that appears in your screen to confirm the authenticity of the document.

4. General Archive of Civil Registration

Civil records are issued in duplicate. The original remains at the local civil registration archive and a copy is sent to:

Archivo General del Registro Civil
(General Archive of Civil Registration)
Calle Huérfanos 1570
Santiago de Chile
Chile


You can write to the archives and request a search for certificates for relatives. Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. Use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide to assist you in writing your letter in Spanish.

Send the following when requesting information:

  • Money for the search fee, usually $10.00, and an international postal 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


Church Records

Church records (registros parroquiales) are excellent sources for accurate information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Virtually every person who lived in Chile before 1885 was recorded in a church record. Church records are often referred to as parish registers or church books. They include records of christenings, sometimes including a birth date; marriages; deaths; and burials. Church records were kept at the local parish of the church. The term "parish" refers to the jurisdiction of a church priest. Parishes are local congregations that may have included many local villages within their boundaries. In order to know which parish registers to search, you must know your ancestor’s religion and the town where he or she lived. It will also be helpful to know the parish to which your ancestor belonged in case there were several parishes in one large locality. You can use Google Maps and enter "Churches near [name any town]" and it will show the nearby parishes, frequently with contact information.

1. Online Records for Church Records

A few baptisms, marriages, and burials have been indexed for Chile:

Bautismos are infant baptisms, which are used for birth information. Información matrimonial are documents collected in preparation for a marriage. Matrimônios' are marriages. Defunciones are deaths. Entierros are burials'". Índice is the index.

2. Microfilm Copies of Church Records Searched at a Family History Center

The Family History Library has microfilm copies of most Chilean church records prior to 1930. 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 Chile, Atacama.
b. Click on "Places within Chile, Atacama" 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 the icons shown below will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record.
FHL icons.png
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 the local parish. More recent Catholic parish records are kept at the local parish. 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 a guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverendo Padre
Parroquia de (name of parish)
(postal code), (city), Atacama
Chile

Send the following when requesting information:

  • An inquiry as to how to best send the service fee, if any.
  • Full name and gender of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event you are requesting information about.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • 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. Use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide to assist you in writing your letter in Spanish.

Cemetery Records

Reading the Records

  • Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:

Search Strategy

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that 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 known family members.
  • Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.