A census is a count and description of the population. Censuses have been taken by various levels of government in Argentina and by some ecclesiastical officials. Census records were taken primarily for population studies, taxation, military purposes, or taxing in behalf of the parish poor. Censuses, known as censos or padrones, have been taken by colonial and national governments throughout Latin American. Most of the census records are housed in the national archives.
Records created during the Spanish administration of colonial Latin America, would be located in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.
The Catholic church also took occasional censuses of parishioners. An ecclesiastical census was also known as a censo or padrón in Latin America. The following is an example of a church census:
Padrones, 1779–1796 (Censuses, 1779–1796). Córdoba: Archivo Historica de la Provincia, 19–. (FHL film 1162415–1162416.) Census records for the diocese of Córdoba for 1779 and 1795–6.
Census records have not been used a lot in Argentinian research because better sources, such as church records and civil registration, are available in Argentina. The original census returns were often destroyed and only the compiled statistical information remains. Records of some towns, provinces, and regions still exist at the archives but are not available to researchers at this present time.
When available, census records can provide family relationships, age, year of birth, description of property, place of birth. Census records are especially valuable because they list a large portion of the population, and they are readily available at some repositories. They can provide information where all or portions of other records are missing.
Use the information with caution, however, since the information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or a neighbor.
Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.
Following are good references for censuses at the National Archives:
- Inventario : primer y segundo censo nacional, años 1869-1895 y censo de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, año 1855 (Inventory: First and Second national census of 1869 – 1895 and census of the City of Buenos Aires, year 1855). Buenos Aires: Archivo General de la Nación, 1989. (FHL film 1614821 item 12.)
- Frías, Susana R. and Liliana R. Méndez. Censos y padrones existentes en el Archivo General de la Nación, 1776-1852 (Censuses Existing in the National Archives of the Nation, 1776–1852). Buenos Aires: Centro para Investigaciones Históricas en la Argentina, 1974. (FHL film 1614821 item 13). A guide to censuses available at the Argentine National Archives for the years 1776-1852.
- Vergelli, Emilio. Census Records – Padron. Buenos Aires: Archivio General De La Nacion, 19–. (FHL book 982 A1 #4; film 0897023 item 5.)
The above book is a study of the census records that are found in the National Archive in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Sometimes there are censuses of specific groups such as the Irish in Argentina. The following reference is for the 1855 and 1869 census:
- Coghlan, Eduardo Antonio. El Aporte de los Irlandeses a la Formación de la Nación Argentina (Contributions of the Irish in forming the nation of Argentina). Buenos Aires: Imprenta El Vuelo de Fénix, 1982. (FHL book 982 W2c.)
Understanding the Census
The first national census in Argentina was taken in the year 1869. The next censuses were taken in 1895 and 1914. The 1869 and 1895 censuses are available for public inspection at the National Archives and have also been microfilmed by the Family History Library. Census records of the 1914 census are available only at the Argentinian National Archives.
You will find the following types of information in the censuses:
- 1869 census lists for each person in the country by household the address, names and surnames, sex, age, civil status, nationality, place of birth, number of person in the family, legitimacy or illegitimacy of children, occupation or profession, literacy, and whether student.
- 1895 census list names, surnames, sex, ages, nationality, if he is Argentine it gives the province or territory of birth, profession, occupation or trade, literacy, highest grade in school obtained, whether property owner, how many children the women have born, number of years married, civil status, whether if orphaned for each person in the country by household This is the first national census that includes Chaco, Formosa, Misiones, La Pampa, Río Negro, Neuguén, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra de Fuego.
After the 1895 census, the 1914 census and those following have about the same information with a few minor changes. The 1869 and 1895 census do not list the Indian populace. Some localities are missing from each census either because the census was not taken in that locality or the census records have been lost.
The Family History Library has what is available of the 1869 and 1895 census records. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
ARGENTINA, (PROVINCE), (PARTIDO) - CENSUS (for the censuses within the city of Buenos Aires)
ARGENTINA, (PROVINCE), (DEPARTAMENTO) - CENSUS (for the censuses in the Provinces)
Other censuses were taken by different levels of government. For example, in the city of Buenos Aires there are many early census records that were taken for different reasons. For example, there was a 1855 census of Buenos Aires and a 1667 –1772 censuses of the Indians of Buenos Aires (taken by the Contaduía General de Retasas).
Be sure that you look for census records under your city or town as well as your province in the catalog for additional census other than the national censuses.
Searching Census Records
When searching census records, it is important to remember the following:
- Accept the ages with caution
- Given names may not always be the same as the name as recorded in vital records
- Information may be incorrect
- Names may be spelled as they sound
- Place-names may be misspelled or spelled phonetically
- If a family is not at suspected address, search surrounding area.
- Parts of the census maybe indecipherable
- When you find your family in one census, search that same location in the earlier and later census records for additional family members
Searching in Buenos Aires Finding your ancestors' family in the 1895 census records of Buenos Aires and learning the street where the family resided will also enable you to search other records, such as church records and civil registration. The Family History Library has two volumes of the Municipal Censuses of Buenos Aires for they year 1887:
Censo general de población, edificación, comercio e industrias de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, Capital Federal de la Repúblic Argentina: levantado en los dias 17 de agosto, 15 y 30 de setiembre de 1887 (General census of the population, construction, commerce, and Industry of the City of Buenos Aires, Federal Capital of the Republic of Argentina: taken from the 17th day of August, 15 and 30 September 1887). 2 vols. Buenos Aires: Compañía Sud-Americana de Billetes de Banco, 1889. (FHC book 982.12/B1 X221; film 0874334.)
The volumes include maps and lists of the "manzanas" (blocks) and "calles"(streets) which can serve as a guide to the census records for 1895.
Other directories that will help in determining the address of your ancestor in Buenos Aires in 1895 are the Guia Kraft directories, housed in the National Library in Buenos Aires. The first Guia Kraft directory is from 1885. Three were published in that year and they continued to be published into the 1900s. They contains the addresses and occupations of the peoples living in the city. These directories will tell where your ancestor was living and then you can find the right film for the census.
If possible, determine your ancestor's address for the time period of the census you are searching.
Sources that give street addresses for large cities in Argentina include:
- City, occupational, or business directories
- Civil certificates of birth, marriages and deaths
- Church records of christenings, burials, marriages
- Probate records (especially if calendared or indexed)
- Court [or session] records (especially if indexed)
- Taxation records [Rate books]