Philippines Church Records
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For information about records for non-Christian religions in the Philippines, go to the Religious Records page.
- 1 Church Records (Registros Parroquiales)
- 2 Coverage
- 3 Catholic Church Records Content
- 4 Locating Church Records
- 5 Reading the Records
- 6 General Strategy for Searching Parish Registers
- 7 References
Church Records (Registros Parroquiales)
Church records are very important for family research. They are generally an excellent source—and many times the only source—of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Usually information given is quite complete and identifies parents and often grandparents and other relationships.
While each church has its own policies on record keeping, most churches keep records of:
Some keep minutes of church meetings and the histories of their local churches.
Philippine Catholic Church records have the following advantages. They:
- Have very few errors compared to other types of records.
- Cover a large percentage of the population.
- Give accurate dates and places of christening, marriage, and burial.
- Give names of parents, spouses, and godparents (who are often relatives).
Philippine Catholic Church registers have these disadvantages. They:
- Are usually not indexed.
- Must be searched chronologically by place.
- May have various languages in one record.
- Are handwritten and often difficult to read.
- Pages can be out of order
The Roman Catholic Church remains the largest church in the Philippines, with 85 percent of the population belonging to it.
Civil authorities did not consistently register vital events in the Philippines until the nineteenth century. Church records, on the other hand, were well kept from 1569 (in accordance with the directives of the Council of Trent), with some records dating even earlier.
Generally registers exist for the following denominations:
- Roman Catholic (Iglesia Católica) 1579-
- Philippine Independent (Aglipayan) 1902-
- Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) 1914-
- Presbyterian 1899-
- Baptist 1900-
- Methodist 1900-
- Protestant Episcopal 1901-
- United Brethren 1901-
- Disciples of Christ 1901-
- Congregational 1902-
Catholic Church Records Content
In this outline, church records refer to Catholic Church records unless otherwise stated.
- Place and date of baptism
- Names of parents, godparents, and sometimes grandparents
- Place and date of confirmation
- Names of parents, godparents, and sometimes grandparents
- Place and date of marriage
- Name and sex of those married
- Names of parents and grandparents
- Names of godparents
- Place and date of census
- Sex and name of those counted
- Age at census count
- Place and date of death
- Age at time of death
- Cause of death
- Name of spouse
- Names of surviving children
- Names of parents and grandparents (sometimes)
Locating Church Records
- Philippines Births and Baptisms, 1642-1994, index.
- Philippines, Select Births and Baptisms, 1642-1994, ($), index, incomplete.
- Philippines, Births and Baptisms, 1642, ($), index
- Philippines Marriages, 1723-1957, index
- Philippines, Select Marriages, 1723-1957, ($), index, incomplete.
- Philippines, Marriages, 1723-1957, ($), index
- Philippines Deaths and Burials, 1726-1957, index, incomplete.
- Philippines, Select Deaths and Burials, 1726-1957, ($), index, incomplete.
- Philippines Deaths and Burials, 1726-1957, ($), index
The Family History Library has filmed many Catholic Church records. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog, Locality section, under:
(MUNICIPALITY) - CHURCH RECORDS
Writing for Records
For instructions on writing to local churches, go the specific province articles. There you will find links to address lists for churches in the province, diocese information, and a Letter Writing Guide.
To search Catholic records, you must know where your ancestor resided. The boundaries for civil and religious jurisdictions are often the same.
Therefore, gazetteers and atlases can help you determine religious boundaries so you can select the parishes most likely to have the records you need. The most valuable reference for finding your ancestor’s parish is:
Catholic Directory of the Philippines (CDP). Manila, Philippines: Catholic Trade Incorporated, 1981. (FHL book 959.9 K24c; fiche 6072402.) This directory has a complete list of archdioceses, dioceses, vicariates, prelatures, and parishes in the Philippines. It also gives each organization’s founding date.
Each archdiocese and many dioceses have archives that store administrative documents, church business records, personnel records, and sacramental records (such as baptism, matrimony, and confirmation). Some of these archives have indexes, which are excellent guides to research, such as:
Ferraris, Maria Rita, R. V. M. Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila: A Summary Inventory. Manila, Philippines: Archives of the Archdiocese, 1981. (FHL book 959.9 A1 number 3.)
Reading the Records
- Many records are written in Spanish. 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. Handwriting skills are taught in 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.
General Strategy for Searching Parish Registers
The following suggestions may help you search parish registers:
- Search records from the parish where your ancestor lived.
- If you do not find the records in a parish, search parishes in the immediate vicinity (approximately a 20-kilometer radius). See the Catholic Directory of the Philippines (above) for parishes and the names of their parish priests. Think about the things that influenced your ancestor’s place of residence, such as occupation, race, or geography.
- Note the founding date of the parish you are searching. If the date is after your ancestor would be recorded, search records of the parent parish. See the Catholic Directory of the Philippines. If your ancestor lived before the beginning date of the church records, the older parish may be far from the new one.
- If you cannot find records at a parish, they may have been sent to the diocese. Find the diocese in the Catholic Directory of the Philippines.
Your ancestor’s records may have been sent to another municipality or province to protect them during a war. A thorough knowledge of the local history is critical to your family research.
- Evaluate the information about godparents. Their home in another town may lead to the family’s place of origin. Their names and relationships may provide clues to previous generations. If the parish records you need are not listed in the FamilySearch Catalog and you cannot visit the parish archives, then you may want to write to the parish priest for copies of your ancestor’s records. Be sure your requests are reasonable and politely stated, and be sure to send a money order covering the costs of copying, postage, and other expenses.
- Although Philippine parish records are one of the most valuable sources, they are not 100 percent accurate. Double-check the record, cross-reference it with other records, and carefully interpret the data.