Peru Church Records
Church registers include records of births and christenings, marriages, and deaths and burials. In
addition, church records may include account books, confirmations, and lists of members (padrones).
Children were generally christened within a few days of birth. Christening registers usually give the infant’s and parents’ names, status of legitimacy, names of witnesses or godparents, and the christening date. You may also find the child’s birth date, ethnic background, father’s occupation, and family’s place of residence. Marriage and death information are sometimes added as notes. Registers in larger cities may also give the street name or family’s address.
Earlier registers typically give only the parents’ and godparents’ names and the date of christening. Later, the age or birth date was given in addition to the christening date.
You should obtain copies of both church records and civil registration, when possible, since they do not necessarily provide the same information. For example, baptismal registers sometimes provide the names of the fathers of illegitimate children when the civil registration does not.
Marriage registers give the date of the marriage and the names of the bride and groom. They also give the names of witnesses and indicate if either the bride or the groom was widowed. They often include other information about the bride and groom, such as ages, residences, occupations, names of parents, and birthplaces. In cases of second and later marriages, they may include the names of previous spouses and their death dates. Often a note is made whether a parent or other party gave permission for the marriage.
Marriage registers may also give the three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced. These announcements, called banns, gave opportunity for anyone to come forward who knew any reasons why the couple should not be married.
Couples were usually married in the home parish of the bride. Men typically married in their mid-20s and women married younger.
Marriage Information (Bandos, Información matrimonial, Expedientes matrimoniales, Pliegos matrimoniales): The marriage information document is separate from the marriage record and can consist of several parts. These parts include:
- An introduction that states the intent of marriage and the date of the banns.
- Personal information on the bride and groom. This may include the names of the couple, age, if they are widowed, place of residence, place of birth, and names of parents and grandparents.
- If this is a second marriage for the bride or groom, the name of the deceased spouse and the date of death.
- If the bride or groom is from another parish, documents showing good standing in that parish. These can include baptismal records and when the banns were published.
- If there was an impediment to marriage, a dispensation (exemption from restriction of marriage). For example, if the bride and groom were related by blood or marriage within the fourth degree, a dispensation was required from the bishop in order for the couple to marry. In such cases, genealogical graphs and interesting biographical information about the families will also be included.
- The testimonies of two to four witnesses about the good standing of the bride and groom. This may include the witness’s personal information as well as how long he or she has known the bride or groom. Often, the witnesses may be relatives of the bride or groom. This document is sometimes three or four pages long.
- A note at the end of the documents listing the date of marriage or if the marriage did not take place.
Burials were recorded in the church record of the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a day of the death, in the parish where the person died.
Early death registers recorded the name of the deceased person, his or her parents or spouse, and the date and cause of death. Later records may also include the place of death or burial; the deceased person’s age, place of residence, and date and place of birth; and sometimes the names of survivors.
This record is made at the time of the confirmation by the bishop or his representative. It gives the date of the record, the name of the confirmed youth, the godparent(s) (padrinos), and signature of the bishop. This is a diocesan record, but a copy may be kept in the parish.
Confirmations are sometimes included with the baptismal records in the parish books.
Original baptism, marriage, and burial records may be found by contacting or visiting local parishes or diocese archives in Peru.
Peru has no single repository of church records. The present location of records depends on diocesan and local history. Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. You can make inquiries to:
- Local parishes. Most church registers are still maintained by the parish. Recent registers are at the parish, and older ones may be at the diocese’s archives.
- Church archives. Many parish registers are still located at the parish, but some are collected in diocese archives. Church archives are often unable to handle genealogical requests but can determine whether specific records are available.
Parishes will generally answer correspondence in Spanish. If the records have been sent to the diocesan archives, your request may be forwarded to the appropriate offices. To obtain the addresses of parishes, you should consult a church directory. (See the “Church Directories” section of this outline. See also the “Archives and Libraries” section for more information about where various types of records are stored.)
The Family History Library has obtained copies of the records from the Archdiocese of Lima that were filmed by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). As permission is given, the library will obtain more records at other Peruvian church archives. This will continue for many years.
Information about how to write for genealogical information to local parishes in Peru is given in Spanish Letter-Writing Guide (36245). When writing to an archive for civil records include:
- The full name and gender of the person sought.
- The names of the parents, if known.
- The approximate date and place of the event you are requesting information about.
- Your relationship to the person.
- The reason for the request (family history, medical, and so on).
- A request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
- A request for information about how to best send the search fee, if any.
- An International Reply Coupon, available from your local post office.
If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in other archives or in civil registration offices.
Effective use of church records includes the following strategy:
- Search for the relative or ancestor you want to know more about. When you find his or her birth record,
search for the birth records of his or her brothers and sisters.
- Search for the marriage record of the parents. The marriage record will often lead to the birth records
of the parents.
- If you cannot locate a marriage record for the parents, you can estimate their ages and search for their birth records.
- Repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
- If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring parishes.
- Search the death registers for information about all family members.