Brazil Civil Registration

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Brazil
Civil Registration

Civil Registration Records

Civil registrations is the vital records made by the government. These records of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths are an excellent source of accurate information on names, dates, and vital events.

Since 1827 the Brazilian government has accepted marriages performed in the Catholic Church as official marriages. In 1850 a law was passed requiring registration of births and deaths throughout the country. Until 1870 the Catholic Church was required to keep this record. After 1870 these records were to be kept by the justices of the peace. Compliance was not immediate. While some civil registration records in Brazil date back to the 1860s and 1870s, others did not begin keeping records until as recently as the 1920s.

Because the Catholic Church continued keeping records after the creation of the civil registration, two types of records may be available for births, marriages, and deaths. Be sure to search both records, especially because the two records sometimes contain different information.
For birth, death, and marriage records that were created before civil records began in a particular area, see Brazil Church Records.

Content of Civil Registration Records

The most important civil records for genealogical research are the birth, marriage, and death registers. These records may be either handwritten or typed and are most often indexed by given name rather than surname.

Other civil records include emancipações (emancipations) made by fathers when their sons reached 18 years of age (not required after 21 years old), land sales (imóveis), and corrections of children’s names (comunicaçes). For the most part, only birth, marriage, and death records have been filmed by the Family History Library, and these will be of most help in doing genealogical research.

The information recorded in civil registration records varied over time. Later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones.

See tutorials in FamilySearch Learning Center on "Reading Portuguese Handwritten Records" for help reading Portuguese records.

Births (nascimentos)

Births were usually registered by the infant’s father or by a neighbor of the family within a few days of the event. A birth record includes:

  • The day and time of the birth
  • The newborn’s name
  • The parents’ names
  • The town where the birth occurred (may be different than where it was registered)
  • The address of the house or hospital the birth took place in
  • Sometimes, the parents’ ages
  • Sometimes, birthplaces or residences of the parents
  • Sometimes, the parent's marital statuses
  • Sometimes, the parent's professions
  • Sometimes, the number of other children born to the mother
  • Sometimes, information about the grandparents

Corrections or additions to a birth record may have been added as a note in the margin.

Marriages (casamentos)

Early civil marriage entries simply contain the name of the bride and groom and the marriage date. In later years more information was entered, such as:

  • The bride’s and groom’s ages
  • The bride’s and groom’s occupations
  • The bride’s and groom’s civil statuses
  • The bride’s and groom’s residences
  • Sometimes, the bride’s and groom’s parents
  • Sometimes, the bride’s and groom’s grandparents
  • Sometimes, the bride’s and groom’s birthplaces
  • Sometimes, the bride’s and groom’s street addresses

Deaths (óbitos)

Early civil death records are especially helpful because they may list people whom there are no birth or marriage records for, and they may provide information about the person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Deaths were recorded within a few days of the event in the town or city where the person died. Death records generally give:

  • The deceased’s name
  • The deceased’s date
  • The deceased’s place of death
  • Sometimes, the deceased’s age or date of birth (if a child)
  • Sometimes, the deceased’s residence
  • Sometimes, the deceased’s occupation
  • Sometimes, the cause of death
  • Sometimes, burial information
  • Sometimes, the informant’s name (often a relative)
  • Sometimes, the name of a spouse or parents

Be aware that information in a death record about the deceased’s parents, birth date, birthplace, and so on may be inaccurate since the person who gave the information may not have had complete information.

Divorces (divórcios)

Because divorce was not common until the 1980s, Brazil has very few divorce records. People would get a desquite, which is a legal separation, but the Catholic Church forbade divorce.

Locating Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records are kept by all the states on a municipal level. There are over 3,700 municipalities (municípios) in Brazil, with offices of civil registration. The populace register in their local civil registration offices. The records are then sent to the municipal office, district office, or delegation office.

Several small villages will sometimes report births, marriages, and deaths in one central municipality office. Sometimes municipalities existed for a few years and were then dissolved. In villages where this has occurred, births, marriages, and deaths are reported in a neighboring municipality.

Duplicate copies of all civil records are made in separate books. Copies of surviving records and duplicates from the municipality archive are sent to the Arquivo Geral dos Tribunais in the federal district and to the judicial or state archives in the various states.

Online Records

Civil Registration Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of many municipalities in Brazil. Civil records from the late 1800s to the 1920s and 1930s, and often up to the 1990s, have been filmed for the states of Pará, Ceará, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. Some civil registration records have also been filmed for the states of Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe, and Paraíba.

You will need to know the town your ancestor lived in. Although more than one town may comprise a municipality, the civil records are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog for each town and not just by the municipality. Some municipalities are small and only have one civil registration office, but in the larger cities there might be several civil registration offices.

The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog. To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, search in the "Subject" section of the catalog for:

BRAZIL, [STATE], [TOWN] - CIVIL REGISTRATION

The library’s collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed and added to the collection.

Requesting Civil Records from Brazil

Birth, marriage, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting local civil registration offices or district and state civil archives in Brazil. The present location of records depends on whether the local office has sent its records to the higher jurisdiction. Most recent records will be found in the local civil registry offices. Older records may be found in the municipality, district archive, or state archive.

Civil registration records in Brazil can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry in the municipality. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Portuguese. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to state archives.

After deciding who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a brief request to the proper office. Write a brief request in Portuguese to the proper office using this address as guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Cartório de Registro Civil
(postal code), (city), (state)
BRASIL

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

If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in other state or ecclesiastical archives.

Directories of the civil registration offices of Brazil for 1981 and 1993 are available through the Family History Library. The following publications list the addresses of the municipality civil registration offices and will help you identify the municipality a particular town belongs to:

  • Cadastro de cartórios do Registro Civil 1981 (Survey of Offices of the Civil Registrar 1981). Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, 1982. (FHL book 981 J54; film 1667140 item 1)
  • Cadastro de municípios 1993 (Directory of Municipalities 1993). 2 vols. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE: 1993–1994. (FHL book 981 E5c)

A 1994 edition also lists addresses for each of the municipalities:

  • Cadastro de municípios 1994 (Directory of Municipalities 1993). 5 vols. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE, 1995.

Search Strategies

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies, used in this order:

  • Search only for the ancestor you select. When you find his or her baptismal record, search for the baptisms of his or her brothers and sisters.
  • Search for the marriage of the person’s parents prior to the birth of their first legitimate child. The marriage record will often lead to the parents’ baptismal records.
  • You can estimate the parents’ ages or try to find their ages from a death record and then search for their baptismal records.
  • Repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.