Bay Islands, Honduras Genealogy

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Department of Bay Islands

Guide to Department of Bay Islands family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

Department of Bay Islands

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The Bay Islands, "this name was applied to the islands of Roatan, Guanaja, Barbareta, Helena, Morat, and Utila, in the bay of Honduras, since their organization as a colony of the British crown, in the year 1850.
The first records indicating permanent English settlements in the Bay Islands show that Port Royal, on the island of Roatán, was again occupied in the year 1742. In this year the British made an attempt to gain possession of most of the Caribbean coast of Central America, and in doing so, rebuilt the old fort on Roatán.
On the early morning of March, 2nd 1782, the Spanish...directed a well-coordinated attack against the English at Port Royal. The lives of the defenders were spared, but all their dwellings, to the number of 500, were destroyed." Six years later, in 1788, England completely evacuated all of her settlements in the Bay Islands as well as on the Miskito Shore.
The English seem to have made no other demonstration on the islands during the 18th century and they remained in the undisturbed occupation of Spain. "The superintendents of Belize, however, seem to have kept a longing eye on the islands, and to have watched for a pretext to place them under their own jurisdiction. In 1838 their wishes were in part gratified. A party of liberated slaves...of the Grand Cayman islands, came to Roatan to settle.
In the meantime the republic of Central America had meantime been dissolved, and the feeble state of Honduras was left alone to contest these violent proceedings.
At a convention held in Guatemala on April 30, 1859, England, under a great deal of pressure from the United States, agreed to surrender the Bay Islands and the Miskito Coast of both Honduras and Nicaragua, if allowed complete freedom of action in the territory known at that time as British Honduras and this solution was regarded with favor by both parties.
On June 1, 1861, after having been a British Colony for less than nine years, the Bay Islands became the "Departamento de las Islas de la Bahía", under the struggling Republic of Honduras. Up until the late 1950s visitors to the islands, "noted that there were some residents there who still claimed British nationality, even though both Honduras and England agree that any person born in the islands subsequent to the treaty of 1861 are Honduran citizens."

Most of your genealogical research for the Honduras 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

In 1881, the Honduras began the practice of civil registration: registry of the original records of birth, marriage, divorce, and death.

You will need to know the town where your family lived and to which department or region the town belonged. This list of place names will help you find your town.

1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

For many localities, digital copies of civil registration can be searched online:

Births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices in Honduras. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available.
"Nascimientos" are births. Matrimonios are marriages. "Defunciones" are deaths.

2. 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 records for Islas de la Bahía (Bay Islands).
b. Click on "Places within Honduras, Islas de la Bahía (Bay Islands)" 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 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.

Church Records

The majority of Hondurans were Catholic and were registered in entries for baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials in the local church records. Often two and sometimes three generations are indicated in the registers, with personal information on the family. Currently, no records for the Bay Islands are microfilmed or digitized.

Reading the Records

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

Search Strategies

To effectively use civil and church records, follow these steps:

  1. Search for the relative or ancestor you have selected. When you find the person’s birth record, search for the births of his or her brothers and sisters.
  2. Search for the marriage of his or her parents. The marriage record will often give you information that leads to the parents’ birth record.
  3. Estimate the parents’ age and search for their birth records.
  4. Repeat the process for both the father and mother.
  5. If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring municipios.
  6. Search the death records for all family members.