Navarra, Spain Genealogy
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Guide to Navarra province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
- 1 History
- 2 Civil Registration
- 3 Catholic Church Records
- 4 Reading the Records
Most of your genealogical research for Navarra 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.
When Sancho III died in 1035, the Kingdom of Navarre was divided between his sons. It never fully recovered its political power, while its commercial importance increased as traders and pilgrims poured into the kingdom throughout the Way of Saint James. In 1200, Navarre lost the key western Basque districts to Alphonse VIII of Castile, leaving the kingdom landlocked. The native line of kings came to an end in 1234 when their heirs intermarried with French dynasties. However, the Navarrese kept most of their strong laws and institutions. The death of Queen Blanche I in 1441 inaugurated a civil war period. In 1512, Navarre was invaded by Ferdinand the Catholic's troops, with Queen Catherine and King John III withdrawing to and establishing a Kingdom of Navarre-Bearn, led by Queen Joan III in 1555.
Navarre was annexed to the Crown of Castile in 1515, but keeping a separate ambiguous status, and a shaky balance up to 1610 King Henry III was ready to march over Spanish Navarre. A Chartered Government was established, and the kingdom managed to keep home rule. Tensions with the Spanish Government came to a head as of 1794, when Spanish premier Manuel Godoy attempted to suppress Navarrese and Basque self-government altogether, with the end of the First Carlist War definitely bringing the kingdom and its home rule to an end from 1839 to 1841. After the 1839 Convention of Bergara, a reduced version of home rule was passed in 1839. However, the 1841 Act for the Modification of Fueros, later called the "Compromise Act", made definitely the kingdom into a province after a compromise was reached by the Spanish government with officials of the Provincial Council of Navarre. In 1893–1894 the Gamazada popular uprising took place centered in Pamplona against Madrid's governmental decisions breaching the 1841 chartered provisions period, remaining a basically rural economy. Thousands of landless labourers occupied properties of wealthy landowners in October 1933, leaving the latter eager for revenge. The triumphant military revolt was followed by a terror campaign in the rearguard against blacklisted individuals considered to be progressive ("reds"), mildly republicans, or just inconvenient. The purge especially affected southern Navarre along the Ebro banks, and counted on the active complicity of the clergy, who adopted the fascist salute and even involved in murderous tasks. The dead were buried in mass graves or discarded into chasms abounding on the central hilly areas. Basque nationalists were also chased to a lesser extent. Humiliation and silence ensued for the survivors.
As a reward for its support in the Spanish Civil War, Franco allowed Navarre, to maintain during his dictatorship a number of prerogatives reminiscent of the ancient Navarrese liberties. The bleak post-war years were shaken by shortage, famine, and smuggling, with the economy relying on agriculture, and a negative migration balance. The winners of war came to cluster around two main factions, Carlists and Falangists, while the totalitarian ultra-Catholic environment provided fertile grounds for another religious group, the Opus Dei, to found their University of Navarre in 1952, ever more influential in Pamplona. It was followed by labour and political unrest. In the run-up to Spanish democracy when the Constitution was ratified in 1978 Navarre plunged into a climate of violence practiced by ETA, police forces, and state-sponsored paramilitary groups, extending during the 1980s. In a 3-year span, the Spanish Socialists in Navarre veered in their position, quit the Basque process, and joined the arrangement adopted for Navarre, Chartered Community of Navarre, 1982. The reform was not ratified by referendum, as demanded by Basque nationalist and minority progressive forces.
The population of Navarra is roughly 640,647 people.
- Spanish civil registration records (government birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates) began in 1871.
- Births, marriages, and deaths were recorded by the local Juzgado de la Paz, or Oficinia del Registro Civil. The records are still housed in their local municpal archives. In addition, Spain does have a national index or central repository for civil registration.
- Some municipios (towns/cities) may have civil registration records beginning as early as 1837. Some of them have been microfilmed and/or digitized by FamilySearch.
- Larger cities may have multiple civil registration districts, and smaller towns may have their own civil registration office, or belong to an office of a nearby town. To determine the political jurisdiction for the town where your ancestors came from, please see the Spain Gazetteers article.
Here are several different approaches to obtaining these certificates:
1. Online Digitized Civil Registration
Currently, there are no online FamilySearch Historical civil registration records for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they have become available.
2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records Searched at a Family History Center
Currently, the Family History Library does not have civil registration microfilms for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they become available. In the meantime. it is possible to write for the records.
3. Ordering Certificates From the Ministerio de Justica
- Researchers can solicit the Ministerio de Justicia online for copies of certificates.
- For detailed information on how to order these records online, please see the article Order Spain Vital Records Online. It will take you through the process step by step, and includes translation of terms you will find in that process.
4. Writing to the Civil Registry of a Municipality
- Juzgado de la Paz or Oficina del Registro Civil should be contacted if a certificate copy request to the Ministerio de Justicia fails.
- Use the following address, filling in the parentheses with the specific information for your town :
- Find the Spain postal code here.
- Write a brief request to the proper office. Send the following:
- Full name and the sex of the person sought.
- Names of the parents, if known.
- Approximate date and place of the event.
- Your relationship to the person.
- Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
- Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
- Check or cash for the search fee (usually about $10.00).
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.
Catholic Church Records
- Catholicism's roots extend deep into Spain's history. Parish and diocesan records created by the Catholic Church in Spain have long been considered some of the richest genealogical records in the world. Ever since the Council of Trent, Catholic parish records have been consistently recorded, usually providing three generations in a single baptismal entry.
- The vast majority of Spaniards are Catholic, and so almost every Spaniard can be found in the records of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was the primary record keeper of births, marriages, and deaths, until civil registration started in 1869.
- Some church records have been lost or have deteriorated due natural disasters such as fire, flood, and earthquakes. Civil and political strife has also caused record loss, including during time of the Spanish Civil War.
- The Catholic Church has created several different records. The most used in genealogical research include: baptisms (bautizos, bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), and burials (entierros, defunciones, fallecimientos). Other records include: confirmations (confimaciones) and pre-marriage investigations (expedientes matrimoniales, información matrimonial).
- Tip: If you are researching after 1869, when Civil Registration started in Spain, both church and civil records should be searched since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other.
1. Online Church Records
Currently, there are no online church records for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they have become available.
2. Microfilmed Records From the Family History Library
There might be microfilmed records available but not included in the online collections. 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 Spain, Navarra.
- b. Click on "Places within Spain, Navarra" 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. . 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 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 Spain. 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)
- (street address, if known: consult The Catholic Directory)
- '(postal code), (city), Navarra
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
- You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Spanish Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. Reading handwriting skills are taught in the BYU Spanish Script Tutorial.
- Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:
- Detailed instructions for reading Spanish records, examples of common documents, and practice exercises for developing skills in translating them can be found in the Spanish Records Extraction Manual.
- The Spanish Documents Script Tutorial also provides lessons and examples.
Tips for finding your ancestor in the records
Effective use of church records includes the following strategies.
- Search for the birth record of the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
- Then, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record 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 family members.
- Then repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
- If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring parishes.