Sonora, Mexico Genealogy

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State of Sonora

Guide to State of Sonora ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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Most of your genealogical research for Sonora 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.

History

Little reliable information remains about the area in the 16th century following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Unlike in central Mexico, no central social or economic centralization occurred in the Sonora area, given the collapse of population centers in the 15th century. While exploration of the area happened through the expeditions of the 16th century, significant permanent Spanish settlement did not become possible until the establishment of the mission system. Jesuit priests began to work in Sonora in the 1610s in the lowlands near the coast. Spanish exploration and missionary work was sufficient to consider the territory part of New Spain. An agreement between General Pedro de Perea and the viceroy of New Spain resulted in the general shaping of the province, initially called Nueva Navarra in 1637, but renamed Sonora in 1648.
In 1821, the colonial era in Sonora was ended by the Mexican War of Independence, which started in 1810. However, Sonora was not directly involved in the war, as independence came by way of decree. The struggles between the Conservatives, who wanted a centralized government, and Liberals, who wanted a federalist system, affected the entire country during the 19th century.
The Mexican–American War resulted in only one major military confrontation between Mexican and United States forces, but its consequences were severe for the state. In October 1847, the warship USS Cyane laid siege to Guaymas Bay, resulting in United States control of this part of the coast until 1848. When the war ended, Sonora lost 13,200 square miles of its territory to the United States.
In late 1910, the Mexican Revolution began in earnest. The governor of Coahuila, sought refuge in Sonora, and became one of the principal political leaders during the rest of the war. For most of the 20th century, Mexico was dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Discontent with this one-party system became prominent in the northern states of Mexico, including Sonora. As early as 1967, a competing party, the National Action Party, won control of the city government of Sonora's capital. Sonora's border with Arizona has received more attention since 2000, with the increase of illegal border crossings and drug smuggling, especially in rural areas such as around Naco, which is one of the main routes into the United States.
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How to Find the Town of Origin in Mexico

To search the records effectively, you need to know the town in Mexico where your ancestor lived. For a checklist of sources to search for that information, use Mexico Locating Place of Origin.

Also, see these two online classes:


Civil Registration

  • Civil registration records are government records covering birth, marriage, and death. They are an excellent source of names, dates, places, and relationships.
  • Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1859, and most individuals who lived in Mexico after 1867 are recorded. Because the records cover such a large percentage of the population, they are extremely important sources for genealogical research in Mexico. Initially, the Mexican populace, accustomed to registering its vital events with the local parish church, opposed the register. It was not until the republic was restored in 1867 that civil registration was vigorously enforced.

Find the Municipality for Your Town

  • You will need to know the town where your family lived and to which municipio the town belonged. This gazetteer will help you find the municipio level for your town.

1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

For many localities, digital copies of civil registration can be searched online:


Ancestry.com/mx


"Nascimientos" are births. Matrimonios are marriages. "Defunciones" are deaths.

2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. 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 Mexico, Sonora.
b. Click on "Places within Mexico, Sonora" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" 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. FHL icons.png. 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 for Civil Registration Certificates

If the records are not online, and you do not have ready access to the microfilms, civil registration records in Mexico can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry in the municipality. This is particularly true for more recent records, which are covered by privacy laws. Relatives are allowed to request recent records for genealogy purposes. Civil officials will generally answer correspondence in Spanish. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to state archives. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.
Each state now has a central civil registration office to which you can write for information.


Dirección General del Registro Civil del Estado
Archivo Estatal del Registro Civil - Centro de Gobierno
Edif Sonora Sur, Planta Baja, Blvd
Paseo Río Sonora y Comonfort
Hermosillo, Sonora CP 83280
Tel (662) 213-3820 y 217-1712 Fax (662) 217-0608

Civil Registration online This site is in Spanish. Use a translation service such as Google Translate or open the site in a browser such as Google Chrome to translate the page.

You can also write to the local town registrar. Write a brief request in Spanish to the proper office using this address as a guide, replacing the information in parentheses:

Oficino del Registro Civil
(postal code), (city), Sonora
Mexico

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.

Church Records

Although civil registration records are an important source for genealogical research in Mexico, many births, marriages, and deaths were never recorded by civil authorities; therefore, you must use church records to supplement this genealogical source.

The vast majority of Mexicans were Catholic and were registered in entries for baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials in the local church records. Often two and sometimes three generations are indicated in the registers, with personal information on the family. Church records are the main source prior to 1850, when civil registration began. After this date one should search in both church and civil records, since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other. For instance, the church records may only list the godparents, while the civil records may list the grandparents.

1. Online Digital Records for Church Records

For some localities, digital copies of Catholic church records can be searched online:

Bautismos are infant baptisms, which are used for birth information. Información matrimonial are documents collected in preparation for a marriage. Matrimônios' are marriages. Defunciones are deaths. Entierros are burials'". Índice is the index.

2. Microfilm Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. 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 Mexico, Sonora.
b. Click on "Places within Mexico, Sonora" 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. FHL icons.png. 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 Mexico. Mexico has no single repository of church records. 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)
(postal code), (city), Sonora
Mexico


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


  • Detailed instructions for reading Spanish church records, examples of common documents, and practice exercises for developing skills in translating them can be found in the Spanish Records Extraction Manual.


These guides are also helpful:

  • "How to" Guides:
    • Inserting Special Characters
    • Catholic Church Records
    • Reading Spanish Handwritten Records
    • Reading Baptism Records
    • Reading Marriage Records
    • Reading Death Records



Tips for finding your ancestor in the records

  • Births were usually reported within a few days of the birth by the father of the child, a neighbor, or the midwife. A search for a birth record should begin with the known date of birth and then searching forward in time, day by day, until the record is found. It might be found within a few days of the actual birth date, but in some instances, it might be weeks or months later. Birth, marriage, and death records are often indexed by given name or surname.


  • The Catholic Church continued keeping records after the creation of the civil registration in 1859. Therefore two types of records are available for the marriages. Be sure to search both records. With the separation of church and state in Mexico, formalized by the 1917 constitution, civil authorities determined that for couples to be legally married they had to be married by the state. Because of the close affinity of the Catholic Church and the state authorities, this rule was not always followed, and church weddings were accepted by the state. Normally, however, couples were married by civil authorities prior to a church wedding. On rare occasions they were married civilly after a church wedding.


  • Some municipios are small and therefore only have one civil registration office, but there are other larger municipios that have several sub civil registration offices that report to the main municipio office.


  • Death records can be particularly helpful for people who may not have had a civil birth or marriage record but died during the period when civil registration had begun.



Search Strategy

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that 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 known family members.
  • Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.