Azores, Portugal Genealogy

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Guide to Azores ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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Municipalities

The Azores consist of nine inhabited islands [1] and an islet cluster. The 19 municipalities of the district of Azores, by island, are:

São Miguel


Terceira


Faial


Pico

São Jorge


Santa Maria


Graciosa


Flores


Corvo

History

The Azores are a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,500 km (950 mi) from Lisbon. They were discovered by the Portuguese in 1427. The Portuguese began to settle there in 1439. Later, Flemish settlers came to the islands, as did Italians, Scots, English, Bretons, and some Jewish farmers. The Azores were occupied by Spain from 1580 - 1640 and used as a base for Spanish ships. Long considered a colony of Portugal, the Azores became an autonomous or self-governing region of Portugal in 1976.

The Azores consist of nine inhabited islands – Santa Maria,Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores and Corvo – and a number of smaller, uninhabited Isletas.

Research Methods

Most of your genealogical research for the Azores will be in two main record types: civil registration (registros civis) and church records (registros da igreja). This article will teach you methods for locating and searching these two record groups.

Civil Registration (Registros civis)

Civil registration records (Registros civis) are government records covering birth, marriage, and death. They are an excellent source of names, dates, places, and relationships.

Civil Registration has been kept from 1832 to the present.

  • 1832 Required registration of non-Catholics
  • 1878 Universal civil registration with priests functioning as civil registrars for Catholics
  • 1911 Civil registration obligatory. Priests stopped functioning as civil registrars

Civil registration records are kept on a municipal level by local civil registration offices. After 100 years they are moved to the district registration office.

Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is 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 civil registration records for Portugal, Azores.
b. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
c. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
d. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
e. Some combination of these icons 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.

Writing for Civil Registration Certificates

It is possible to obtain civil registration records by writing to the local civil registry in the municipality or the district archive. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Portuguese.

Civil Registry

For events less than 100 years ago, the records are kept in the local registration office. Use the following resources to address a brief request in Portuguese to the proper office.

District Archives

For records older than 100 years, write to the district office at:

Conservatória do Registo Civil de Açores
Pç. Gonçalo Velho 12, 2º
9500-063 Ponta Delgada
Reg. Aut. Açores – Portugal
Telefone: 296302170
E-mail: crc.pd@dgrn.mj.pt

For both types of offices, send the following:

  • Money for the search fee, usually $10.00
  • 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 Portuguese whenever possible. For writing your letter in Portuguese, use the translated questions and phrases in this Portuguese Letter-writing Guide.

Church Records (registros da igreja)

The vast majority of Portuguese were Catholic and their baptism, marriage(s), deaths and burial, were recorded in the local church records. Often these registers include personal information on the family, including two and sometimes three generations.

In 1910, the newly established First Portuguese Republic mandated that all documents with vital information that were previously recorded and held by the Catholic Church be turned over to the government. Some of these records are now in the national archive in Lisbon, called the "Torre do Tombo", some are in archives that were established in each district, and some unfortunately were lost in this transfer.

Online Digital Records for Church Records

For some localities, digital copies of Catholic church records can be searched online:

Batismos are infant baptisms, which are used for birth information. Matrimônios' are marriages. "Óbitos" are deaths. "Índice" is the index. Batismos are infant baptisms, which are used for birth information. Matrimônios' are marriages. "Óbitos" are deaths. "Índice" is the index.

Microfilm Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is 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 Portugal, Azores.
b. Click on "Places within Portugal, Açores" 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. 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.

Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records

Portugal has no single repository of church records. Baptism, marriage, and death records may be searched by contacting or visiting local parish or diocese archive in Portugal. Write your request in Portuguese whenever possible. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.

The following websites provide contact information for parishes

  • Conferência Episcopal Portuguesa - lists websites for the 20 Dioceses of Portugal. Once on the Diocesan website, use the listing of parishes (paróquias) to locate contact information for the parish in question.
  • Catholic Directory lists parishes by town for all of Portugal.

If contact information for a parish is not listed in these records, address a brief request in Portuguese to the proper church using this address as guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverendo Pároco
Paróquia de (name of parish)
(postal code), (city)
Açores, Portugal

When requesting information, send the following:

  • Money for the search fee, usually $10.00
  • 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 Portuguese whenever possible. For writing your letter in Portuguese, use the translated questions and phrases in this Portuguese Letter-writing Guide.

Reading the Records

  • You do not have to be fluent in Portuguese to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Portuguese Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document.
  • 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.

Tips for finding your ancestor in the records

  • Births were usually reported within a few days of the birth by the father of the child, a neighbor, or the midwife. A search for a birth record should begin with the known date of birth and then searching forward in time, day by day, until the record is found. It might be found within a few days of the actual birth date, but in some instances, it might be weeks or months later.
  • In the larger cities of Portugal, there are several registration offices located throughout the city. If you know in which part of the city your ancestor lived, you should begin your search in the records of the office nearest their home. If you do not know, you will need to search office by office.
  • Some civil registration books have indexes in the front or back of them. These indexes are often by the given name of the child. You may have to check every entry in the index if your ancestor had more than one given name.
  • Marriages typically took place in the hometown of the bride.
  • Death records can be particularly helpful for people who may not have had a civil birth or marriage record but died during the period when civil registration had begun.

Maps of islands and their parishes

To view maps of each island and their corresponding parishes click here, then click on "?Ajuda" in the bottom right corner of the map. A list of islands to choose will pop up along the bottom of the map.

Other Records

Grupo de História das Populações

Grupo de História das Populações is a website which contains some genealogies for the islands of Pico, Faial, and Sao Jorge as well as a few places on mainland Portugal. Here you can find extensive family genealogy information that has been extracted from parish records and placed into family groups.

  1. To begin your search you must first know the parish where your ancestors lived. Click on the name of the parish.
  2. Next you will click on the arrow next to the words Clique aqui para aceder ás Genealogias.
  3. Change the page to English by clicking on the British flag at the top of the page. It is the 8th one over starting on the left side of the page.
  4. Begin searching. The recommended method is to search by surname. Click on the radial button next to the word surname and then the surname you wish to search.
  5. Click on Ok.
  6. The results are now in alphabetical order by first name. Click on the name of interest.
  7. On the page you will see the name of the person you chose at the top of the page followed by other information about his parents, spouse, and/or children. Each name is a link to more information.
  8. If you find family information, you will want to verify its accuracy by checking the parish records.

Passports

  • Passports were issued by the Civil government. They originate from three places: Angra do Heroísmo (beginning in 1832), Horta (beginning in 1836), and Ponta Delgada (beginning in 1875, with some records missing). Beginning in 1917 the passports contained photographs. To view passport records click on "Pesquisa de Passaportes". Your ancestor may have lived on a different island but received his passport from one of these three islands.
  • There are some ships' passenger lists available on the Internet, as well as helps to write to government offices and archives on the island.

External Links

References

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Azores," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azores, accessed 2 February 2018.