Philippines, Court Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Philippines Court Records, 1838-1936 .
This article describes a collection of records at
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Record Description
Record Type: Court
Collection years: 1838-1936
Languages: Spanish
Title in the Languages: Filipinas, Registros de la Corte
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Records Management and Archives Office

What is in the Collection?

The records include court records from various provinces of the Philippines mostly dating from the Spanish Period (from 1838-1936). These records contain land records, guardianship records, wills, powers of attorney and other legal documents. Original records are located in the Record Management and Archives Office, National Library, Metropolitan Manila, Philippines.

There are many records, but few are indexed. Court names have changed over the years, and the records use many difficult legal terms and abbreviations. Search court records only after you have searched more helpful records.

Some records are in English and some are in Spanish.

To Browse this Collection

You can browse through images in this collection by visiting the browse page for Philippines Court Records, 1838-1936.

Collection Contents

Sample Images

Wills may contain the following information:

  • Name of testator
  • Place of birth
  • Current residence
  • Spouse's name
  • Parents’ names
  • Marriage date and place of testators
  • Names of children/heirs and their vital information
  • Executor’s name
  • Witnesses’ names
  • Burial request

Guardianship records may contain the following information:

  • Name(s) of child/children
  • Name and residence of parents/orphanage(s)
  • Date and place parents died/divorced or date child/children was/were abandoned or found
  • Name(s) of person(s) made legal guardian or specifications regarding full-/part-custody of child/children
  • Date and place the guardianship was made legal
  • Name of judge, clerk, or mediator
  • Names of witnesses

Land records may contain the following:

  • Name of owner (this could be an individual or a government body/department)
  • Name(s) of buyer(s)
  • Names of witnesses
  • Date land was sold

How Do I Search the Collection?

When searching:
As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor's given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence, age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

Some record sets have indexes; these indexes were created at the end of the year. Copy errors could have been made in the index, so you want to find the actual record to verify the information is correct. Using the index is a helpful way to find the actual record.

See the sections below for tips and uses for searching and finding the record of your ancestor in this collection and using the information in the record.

If you are unable to find a record for your ancestor in this collection, see the corresponding section below.

To search by image:
To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒ Select the appropriate “Court Jurisdiction”
⇒ Select the appropriate “Book Number and Years” which will take you to the images.

Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

For Help Reading These Records

For help reading the Spanish records see the following guides:

What Do I Do Next?

These types of records are good for finding more historical information about your ancestors.

Land records are good for tracking your ancestor's migration to and from or within an area and understanding the wealth and occupation of the ancestor.

Of course, wills can be used to obtain more information about immediate and extended family members of a deceased. The information in wills is good for compiling family group sheets, determining ages and birth years of each individual named, finding the death record and burial place of the deceased, whether the ancestor was married, if so is the spouse alive or how long ago he/she passed away, locating the marriage record of the deceased, and learning the places where children/grandchildren were living at the time.

Guardianship records can help determine whether any name changes were made, who the parents were before (if they are known), and where everyone in the document lived at the time. The ages, marital status, citizenship, and everything else can be used to find civil and church records (which are the main source for birth, marriage, and death/burial information).

  • Use the marriage date and place as the basis for compiling a new family group or for verifying existing information.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth of each partner to find a couple's birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the name, locality, and age along with the place of birth to find the individual/family in census records Philippines Census.
  • Use the residence and name to locate civil (see “Related Wiki Articles” section below) and land records Philippines Land and Property.
  • Use the birthplaces to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • Use the marital status to determine if an individual was divorced (look for divorce record; see section "Unable to Find Your Ancestor" for more info), widow(er) (look for death record), or married (look for marriage record).
  • For land records, witnesses could've been relatives, neighbors, or friends of the buyer.

Tips to Keep in Mind

When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

Continue to search the indexes and records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives who may have lived in the same area or a nearby area.

What if I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For?

Because divorce is not legal in the Philippines, there are no divorce records. Look for records in nearby countries where divorce is legal.

General Information About These Records

Philippine citizens are required to declare changes in civil status to their local civil registrar. The registrar writes down all changes in books. The law requiring the reporting of changes to the registrar has not been regularly kept or enforced.

Although the earliest court records and local civil registrar logs and registers date from 1900, most are dated after World War II.

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation
“Philippines, Court Records, 1838-1936” Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2017. Citing Record Management and Archives Office (National Library), Manila, Philippines.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.

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How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.