Pontevedra, Spain Genealogy
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Guide to Pontevedra 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 Pontevedra 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.
The current name of the city is a Latin composite, derived from Pons/Pontis, bridge and Veteris/Vetera, old, hence Ponte Vetera, and thence Galician language Ponte-Vedra, "the old bridge", in reference to the old Roman bridge across Lérez River. During the 12th century Pontevedra rose as an important commercial centre; it reached its peak in the 15th century as a trade and communications hub. Pontevedra was the main Galician urban centre. In fact, Pontevedra has the second largest "old town" in Galicia. In the 16th century it still was a commercial city, with an increase in fishing. At that time, Pontevedra was the largest Galician port, as it was a secure port open to the sea. One of Christopher Columbus' ships, the carrack Santa Maria, originally named La Gallega, The Galician, was built in Pontevedra. It was centuries later that the sedimentation caused by river Lérez gradually rendered the harbour unsuitable for large-scale navigation. The end of the 16th century marked the beginning of the decline of the city.The situation would worsen during the 17th and 18th centuries. The port drastically reduced its activity due to geographical causes. Furthermore, political decisions and conflicts provoked a general decay in trade, thus resulting in the depopulation of the city; the population was reduced in half during that time. The town was also affected by epidemics.
In the beginning of the 19th century Pontevedra was little more than a small backward town. Yet, with the establishment of new provincial divisions in 1833 Pontevedra suddenly saw itself transformed into a provincial capital. Pontevedra entered the 20th century with great prospects. At that point the city was the Galician cultural and political heart. Galicianists where they founded the Partido Galeguista, Galicianist Party, in 1931, origin of contemporary Galician nationalism. The Spanish Civil War 1936–1939 and subsequent Francoist dictatorship 1939–1975 suddenly ended Pontevedra's progression. Political repression and economic hardships forced many to emigrate. With the end of the dictatorship in 1975 the construction sector also developed. Improvements in the communications network during the 1980s and 1990s helped Pontevedra to regain weight in the Rias Baixas region, acting again as a trade hub and focusing on its administrative functions as provincial capital. Pontevedra has transformed into one of the most accessible cities for disabled people.
The population of Pontevedra is roughly 82,549 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 in the FamilySearch Catalog
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
Currently, the Family History Library does not have church records 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. 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), Pontevedra
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.