Costa Rica Notarial Records

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Notarial records are created by a notary. Public notaries and scribes in Latin America recorded a great variety of legal documents. Books are generally organized chronologically under the notary’s name. Spanish law governed the maintenance of these notarial registers (protocolos or notarios) by establishing forms on which the information was to be entered. The practice of keeping notarial records persisted in Latin American countries after they gained independence from Spain, at which time, indexing the records became more common.

The types of records found in notarial books include:

  • Wills (testamentos).
  • Guardianship records (tutelas).
  • Dowry records (cartas de dote).
  • Mortgages (hipotecas).
  • Purchase and sale of goods or land (contratos de compra-venta).
  • Agreements or settlements (acuerdos).

Notarial records are more difficult to use than other records because of their varied nature, length, and complexity. But they offer detail and information not available in other sources and may provide important clues about an ancestor’s family, residence, and economic status.

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

There are several indexes of colonial notarial records available online for Costa Rica. They can be found on the website of the Academia Costarricense de Ciencias Genealógicas. They include the following areas.

If you find a record of interest in these indexes, you will need to contact the Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica for copies. From the home page click on Contáctenos and then choose Controlaría de servicios for contact information for requesting copies of documents.  

To search their database for notarial records created before 1960. From the home page click on Institucional and then choose Archivo Histórico. Next click on Consulte Base de Datos. Near the bottom of the page choose Protocolos notariales anteriores a 1960.

More recent notarial records from 1960 to 2009 can be found in the section Archivo Notarial of the website of the Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica by clicking Institucional and then Archivo Notarial. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose the option Búsqueda Bases de Datos.