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New Spain

Territories of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.png

The Viceroyalty of New Spain (Spanish: Virreinato de Nueva España), was the political unit of Spanish territories in North America and Asia-Pacific. The territory included a fort on Vancouver Island, the present-day Southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America (except Panama), the Caribbean, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands, and most of Micronesia.

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It was ruled by a viceroy from Mexico City who governed on behalf of the King of Spain. The Viceroyalty of New Spain lasted from 1535 to 1821.[1]

Many records of New Spain can be found at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, or at archives in Mexico.The holdings of the Archivo General de Indias or AGI can be found through the site PARES - Portal de Archivos Españoles. Many documents from the Archivo General de Indias can be found digitized online through the PARES portal. Some of the better AGI collections for records of New Spain include the following categories:

  • Casa de la Contratación, 1492-1795. This collection includes Pasajeros a Indias and Libros de asiento de pasajeros which are records of the arrivals and departures of passengers.
  • Catalogos de Pasajeros a Indias, 1509-1701 is an index of these records. A portion of these indexes can be found in book and microfilm form at the Family History Library. Use a keyword search with the terms “Pasajeros a Indias” to locate these records. The entire collection can be found only at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.
  • Contaduria, 1514-1782 is mostly documents of a financial nature but does also include information from the Consejos de las Indias, 1514-1760, the ruling council in Spanish America and Asientos de Negros, 1541-1739, which deals with the transportation of slaves.
  • Patronato Real, 1480-1801 includes much information regarding the early years of exploration and conquest. Records may be found for the years 1520-1638 for Nueva España and 1595-1658 for California.[2]

Other resourcesEdit

Early California Population Project has parish record indexes for Spanish missions in Alta (Upper) California from 1769 to 1850.Edit

Documentary Relations of the SouthwestEdit

Documentary Relations of the Southwest sponsored by the University of Arizona has several large collections of documents for New Spain. Among these are the following:

  • Biofile Southwest – a biographical listing of nearly 20,000 persons living in northern New Spain. The following are sub-collections of the Biofile Southwest
    • Biofile Relatives and Household Members Index – an alphabetical index to other names found with the biographical sketches of persons found in the Biofile Southwest. This might include other family and/or household members.
    • Biofile Occupations and Titles Index – a listing of all titles and occupations found within the Biofile Southwest documents.
  • Master Index – contains a guide to many archival collections of colonial documents for northern New Spain.

For more information on any of their holdings or to search the collections visit their website.

National Archive of Mexico or Archivo General de la NaciónEdit

The Archivo General de la Nacion of Mexico also has many holdings for New Spain. Many of these are duplicates of documents found in the Archivo General de Indias. You may search their catalog online. If you find something you wish to view keep in mind that many important documents from the archive have been filmed and are available through FamilySearch. Try keyword searches to determine if the material is available through the FamilySearch catalog. Two valuable collections you might consider are:

Ramo de historia – a collection of documents regarding the early colonial years of Mexico. Many volumes have indexes.

Ramo de tierras – a collection of legal documents from the Mexican colonial period. An index is available.

Other CollectionsEdit

Several universities in the United States also have some valuable collections for New Spain. Among these are the following:

New Spain in 1819 after the Adams–Onís Treaty.

New Spain in 1819 after the Adams–Onís Treaty.


For further readingEdit

Barnes, Thomas C., Thomas H. Naylor, and Charles W. Polzer. Northern New Spain: A Research Guide. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1981.

“Casa de Contratación.” Online:, 2013. <>, accessed July 2013.

Chapman, Charles Edward. Catalogue of materials in the Archivo General de Indias for the history of the Pacific coast and the American Southwest. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1919.

Ryskamp, George R.,Finding your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.

Ryskamp, George R., and Peggy H. Ryskamp. Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Pub., 2007.

  • Appendix D Archives of the States of Mexico
  • Appendix E Researching in the Archivo General de la Nación from the United States

Índice de documentos de Nueva España: existentes en el Archivo de Indias de Sevilla. México, D.F.: Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, 1925-1931.


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Viceroyalty of New Spain," in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed May 2, 2009).
  2. Barnes, Thomas C., Thomas H. Naylor, and Charles W. Polzer. Northern New Spain: A Research Guide. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1981.