Brazilian Research: Getting Started

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Getting started with Brazilian family history research isn't difficult at all. Just follow a simple 5-step Research Process:

Step 1: Identify What You Know

To start your research first search family and home sources. Search for names as well as dates and places of important life events for your ancestors on varios records you have close to come: certificates, diaraies,  journals, obituaries, etc. Talk with living relatives to learn additional information they might have on your ancestors. You may have an aunt, grandparent, cousin, or other relative who has already gathered some family information. Organize your findings on pedigree charts and family group records. You can obtain blank pedigree charts and family group sheets here.

Step 2: Decide What You Want to Learn About Your Family

Select an specific ancestor from your pedigree chart or family group records for which you have some basic information and would like to learn more about. You may want to begin with an ancestor for whom you already know their name and surname as well as information about where and when they lived. Note that records for individuals are more easily accesible for individuals born before 1920, and may help in your selecion of an ancestor.

Once you have chosen a specific ancestor identify questions you want to answer about them. (Ex. Where was he/she born? Were was he/she married? Who were his/her parents?) Select one question at a time to help you focus your research. Prepare a research log to keep track of records you want to search and the additonal information you find.

Step 3: Select Records to Search

This step involves identifying the category of record you need to search in order to find out what you would like to know. This record category might be a compiled record, an original record, or a reference source. Identifying the specific record to be searched next, and describe it in your research log.

Below are some record types you may wish to begin to search :

  • Civil Registration: Civil registrations of births, marriages, and deaths of individuals became standardized by the 1880s in Brazil. For help with using and locating civil registration records for Brazil see Brazil Civil Registration.
  • Church Records: The Roman Catholic Church has long been an integral part of Brazilian society and culture. Most of your ancestors from Brazil were Catholic and were recorded in local church records called parish registers (registros paroquias). The catholic church recorded births, marriages, deaths, and burials in parish registers. Catholic parish records are some of the best in the world, stretching back hundreds of years to the earliest settlements of Brazil. For help with using and locating Catholic Church records for brazil see Brazil Church Records.
  • Land and Property: Brazilian Land grants, known as sesmarias, where available contain rich genealogical information for ancestors who owned land, often containing relationship details (names of spouse, children), dates, residences, petitions, etc. While the vast majority of people weren't land owners in Brazil, these records are a valuable source for ancestors who did own land. For help with using and locating Land and Property records for Brazil see Brazil Land and Property.
  • Notarial Records: Notarial records were records made out by a public notary. They include legal documents such as wills, codicils, land transactions, powers of attorney, contracts, dowry arrangements, bonds, mortgages, complaints, etc. Notarial records for Brazil date back to 1594. While they contain valuable genealogical information, they are more difficult to through, being organized chronologically by name of notary, without any indexes. For help with using nad locating notarial records for Brazil see Brazil Notarial Records.
  • Military Records: Ancestors who served in the military or militias in Brazil may have been recorded in military records.
  • Immigration/Emigration Records: Like all countries in North and South America, many immigrats came over from their countries of origin from Europe, Africa, and Asia to find a new home in Brazil. Immigration records contain information of people coming into Brazil, while Emmigration records refer to those leaving Brazil for another country.

Step 4: Obtain and Search the Record

This step involves obtaining the record from the Family History Library, or another repository, searching it, and recording the results of the search on your log. You may also make an extract or photocopy of that information. The Family History Library contains many records, both digitally as well as in library holdings, for Brazil, accessable at FamilySearch. For help with locating records based on record type see the links mentioned in Step 3 above. Once the record has been obtained, analyze and evaluate the information contained therein and compare it the information you already know.

Step 5: Use the Information

Once you have found and verified new information, add the new information to your pedigree charts and family group sheets. You may wish to compile your findings to share information with others. Often your new findings will bring to light new research questions you can ask and address by repeating the same five steps in the research process.