Chihuahua, Mexico Genealogy

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State of Chihuahua

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

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Most of your genealogical research for Chihuahua 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.

History

The earliest evidence of human inhabitants of modern day Chihuahua was discovered in the area of Samalayuca and Rancho Colorado. Clovis points have been found in northeastern Chihuahua that have been dated from 12,000 BC to 7000 BC. Around 1528, a group of Spanish explorers, first entered the territory of what is now Chihuahua. The conquest of the territory lasted nearly one century and encountered fierce resistance from the Conchos tribe During the Napoleonic Occupation of Spain, a Catholic priest of progressive ideas, declared Mexican independence in the small town of Dolores, Guanajuato on September 16, 1810 with a proclamation known as the "Grito de Dolores".
In the constituent legislature, the conservative and liberal elements were formed with the military as a third party. The elections for the first regular legislature were disputed, and it was not until May 1, 1826, that the body was installed and the anti-clerical feeling was widespread.
The state seemed at relative calm compared to the rest of the country due to its close ties to the United States until 1841. In 1843 the possibility of war was anticipated by the state government and it began to reinforce the defense lines along the political boundary with Texas.
The United States Congress declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846 after only having a few hours to debate. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, that ended the war, gave the U.S. undisputed control of Texas, and established the U.S.–Mexican border of the Rio Grande.
The liberal political forces maintained strong control over the state government until shortly after the French Intervention which turned the tables in favor to the conservative forces and once again the intervention had serious repercussions for the state of Chihuahua.
Despite the internal stability, known as the paz porfiriana, there was modernization, and economic growth in Mexico during the Porfiriato from 1876 to 1910 but many across the state became deeply dissatisfied with the political system.The end of the Porfiriato came in 1910 with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.
On February 6, 2010, former Governor José Reyes Baeza proposed to move the three State Powers Executive, Legislative, and Judicial from Chihuahua to Ciudad Juárez in order to face the insecurity problems in Ciudad Juárez, but that request was rejected by the State Legislature on February 12, 2010.
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How to Find the Town of Origin in Mexico

To search the records effectively, you need to know the town in Mexico where your ancestor lived. For a checklist of sources to search for that information, use Mexico Locating Place of Origin.

Also, see these two online classes:


Civil Registration

  • Civil registration records are government records covering birth, marriage, and death. They are an excellent source of names, dates, places, and relationships.
  • Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1859, and most individuals who lived in Mexico after 1867 are recorded. Because the records cover such a large percentage of the population, they are extremely important sources for genealogical research in Mexico. Initially, the Mexican populace, accustomed to registering its vital events with the local parish church, opposed the register. It was not until the republic was restored in 1867 that civil registration was vigorously enforced.

Find the Municipality for Your Town

  • You will need to know the town where your family lived and to which municipio the town belonged. This gazetteer will help you find the municipio level for your town.

1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

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


Ancestry.com/mx


"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 Mexico, Chihuahua.
b. Click on "Places within Mexico, Chihuahua" 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.

3. Writing for Civil Registration Certificates

If the records are not online, and you do not have ready access to the microfilms, civil registration records in Mexico can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry in the municipality. This is particularly true for more recent records, which are covered by privacy laws. Relatives are allowed to request recent records for genealogy purposes. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Spanish. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to state archives. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.

  • Each state now has a central civil registration office to which you can write for information. The address of the state civil registration office for Chihuahua is:

Dirección General del Registro Civil del Estado
Calle Libertad y Trece No. 5
Edificio Melchor Ocampo
Chihuahua, Chih CP: 31310
Teléfono: (01614)-4293300 Extensión 14820

  • You can also write to the local town registrar. Write a brief request in Spanish to the proper office using this address as a guide, replacing the information in parentheses:
Oficino del Registro Civil
(postal code), (city), Chihuahua
Mexico


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


Church Records

Although civil registration records are an important source for genealogical research in Mexico, many births, marriages, and deaths were never recorded by civil authorities; therefore, you must use church records to supplement this genealogical source.

The vast majority of Mexicans 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. Church records are the main source prior to 1850, when civil registration began. After this date one should search in both church and civil records, since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other. For instance, the church records may only list the godparents, while the civil records may list the grandparents.

1. Online Digital Records for Church Records

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

Also at Ancestry.com. images, incomplete, ($)

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 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 Mexico, Chihuahua.
b. Click on "Places within Mexico, Chihuahua" 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.

3. Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records


Baptism, marriage, and death records may be searched by contacting or visiting local parish or diocese archives in Mexico. Mexico has no single repository of church records. Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. 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 guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverendo Padre
Parroquia de (name of parish)
(postal code), (city), Chihuahua
Mexico


When requesting information, 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


Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. For writing your letter in Spanish, use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide.

Reading the Records


  • Detailed instructions for reading Spanish church records, examples of common documents, and practice exercises for developing skills in translating them can be found in the Spanish Records Extraction Manual.


These guides are also helpful:

  • "How to" Guides:
    • Inserting Special Characters
    • Catholic Church Records
    • Reading Spanish Handwritten Records
    • Reading Baptism Records
    • Reading Marriage Records
    • Reading Death Records



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. Birth, marriage, and death records are often indexed by given name or surname.


  • The Catholic Church continued keeping records after the creation of the civil registration in 1859. Therefore two types of records are available for the marriages. Be sure to search both records. With the separation of church and state in Mexico, formalized by the 1917 constitution, civil authorities determined that for couples to be legally married they had to be married by the state. Because of the close affinity of the Catholic Church and the state authorities, this rule was not always followed, and church weddings were accepted by the state. Normally, however, couples were married by civil authorities prior to a church wedding. On rare occasions they were married civilly after a church wedding.


  • Some municipios are small and therefore only have one civil registration office, but there are other larger municipios that have several sub civil registration offices that report to the main municipio office.


  • 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.



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.