Rio Arriba County, New Mexico Genealogy

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United States
New Mexico
Rio Arriba County

Guide to Rio Arriba County, New Mexico ancestry, genealogy and family history, birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

County Facts
County seat: Tierra Amarilla
Organized: September 22, 1846
Parent County(s): Original County
Neighboring Counties
Archuleta (CO)  • Conejos (CO)  • Los Alamos  • Mora  • San Juan  • Sandoval  • Santa Fe  • Taos
See County Maps
Location Map
state = New Mexico

County Information


One of the Nine original counties formed in 1852. The county seat is Tierra Amarilla.[1] The County is located in the north central area of the state.[2]

County Courthouse

Rio Arriba County Courthouse
P.O. Box 158
Tierra Amarilla, NM 87575
Phone: 505.588.7254
Rio Arriba County Website

County Clerk has marriage and probate records from 1852. [3]

Rio Arriba County, New Mexico Record Dates

Information for this chart was taken from various sources, often containing conflicting dates. This information should be taken as a guide and should be verified by contacting the county and/or the state government agency.

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[4]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1907 1852 1907 #1 1852 1852 1790
Statewide registration for births and deaths started in 1907. General compliance by 1930.

Record Loss

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Boundary Changes

  • Until 1821New Spain controlled land that later would become New Mexico and Arizona. Some records of early settlers may have been sent to an archives in Seville, Spain, or to archives in Mexico City.
  • In 1821Mexico had jurisdiction over the land that later would become New Mexico and Arizona. Some records of this period may have been sent to archives in Mexico City.
  • 22 September 1846 - Rio Arriba County was created based on an old Mexican government partido  as one of seven original New Mexico counties under the Kearny Code of laws for the occupied Mexican territory.[5] This code is named after General Stephen W. Kearny
  • 1848 - New Mexico Territory formally became a part of the United States when the Mexican-American War ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
  • County seat: Tierra Amarilla[3]
  • Interactive Formation Boundary Map of New Mexico - shows boundary changes for New Mexico Counties
  • New Mexico Historical Boundary Changes - list of all boundary changes by county provided by Newberry Library
  • 9 January 1852 - All New Mexico counties were redefined. Rio Arriba county was extended west to the California border including land in present day Arizona and Nevada.[6] [7] [8] Residents that lived far from the
  • 29 December 1863 - Arizona Territory created from the western half of New Mexico Territory.[9] Rio Arriba county was reduced in size to the portion still within New Mexico Territory.
  • 24 February 1887 - RIO ARRIBA county lost land to creation of SAN JUAN county.[10]

For animated maps illustrating New Mexico County boundary changes, "Rotating Formation New Mexico County Boundary Maps" (1845-1981) may be viewed for free at the website.

See also Previous Jurisdictions to Land in Arizona for further details.

Rio Arriba and other counties in New Mexico Territory in 1852.

Populated Places

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit HomeTown Locator The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[11]

Unincorporated communities
Native American communities
Census-designated places
Ghost towns

History Timeline


Bible Records


Business, Commerce, and Occupations


Cemeteries of Rio Arriba County, New Mexico online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
Tombstone Transcriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See New Mexico Cemeteries for more information

Census Records

Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1910 16,624
1920 19,552 17.6%
1930 21,381 9.4%
1940 25,352 18.6%
1950 24,997 −1.4%
1960 24,193 −3.2%
1970 25,170 4.0%
1980 29,282 16.3%
1990 34,365 17.4%
2000 41,190 19.9%
2010 40,246 −2.3%
Source: "".

Federal Census Records
Federal Censuses were taken for New Mexico starting in 1850. For links to Federal census indexes, see New Mexico Census.

State Census Records

Church Records

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. For general information about New Mexico denominations, view the New Mexico Church Records wiki page.

The early population of New Mexico was generally both Spanish-speaking and Catholic. As such, the sacramental records of the towns and villages present an important avenue of research and may provide the names of several generations within one document. Catholic sacramental records (baptisms, marriages, and burials) are rich in vital record information and may prove a valuable alternative in cases where vital records are not available. The New Mexico Genealogical Society has published an online article titled, Locating Catholic Church Records in New Mexico, Rio Arriba County. This index of church records includes the parish, the location of the church, the missions included and microfilm dates and reference numbers in chart format. Some of the films are available in the Family History Library, and those that aren’t at the library have reel numbers found in the Santa Fe archives. New Mexico Genealogical Society


Parish registers (baptisms, marriages, and burials) are available online for the following years:

FS = FamilySearch - free[12]
San Juan de los Caballeros, San Juan, Online Parish Registers
Indexes Images Indexes Images Indexes Images
FS 1726-1837 1726-1837 1726-1776, 1830-1836, 1850-1855 1726-1776, 1830-1836, 1850-1855 1726-1857
FS 1849-1898 1857-1956 1857-1956 1857-1956

Court Records


Emigration and Immigration

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups

Funeral Homes



Land and Property Records

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. Land records include: deeds, abstracts and indexes, mortgages, leases, grants and land patents.

See New Mexico Land and Property for additional information about early New Mexico land grants. After land was transferred to private ownership, subsequent transactions were usually recorded at the county courthouse and where records are currently housed.

If you wish to search the recorded land records of Rio Arriba county you must visit the County Clerk's Office at 7 Main Street, Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico or 1122 Industrial Park Road, Española, New Mexico.

Online Land Records

Local Histories

Local histories are available for Rio Arriba County, New Mexico Genealogy. County histories may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. For more information about local histories, see the wiki page section New Mexico Local Histories.

Maps and Gazetteers

Rio Arriba CountyTaos CountyLos Alamos CountyMora CountySanta Fe CountySandoval CountyMcKinley CountySan Juan CountyLa Plata County, ColoradaArchuleta County, ColoradoConejos County, ColoradoCostilla County, ColoradoNM RIO ARRIBA.jpg
About this image
Click a neighboring county
for more resources


Military Records

Revolutionary War

Civil War

World War I

World War II

Naturalization and Citizenship



Other Records


Probate Records

Since statehood in 1912, probate matters have been under the jurisdiction of probate courts in each county. Records of guardianship and adoption have usually been transferred to the district courts. In 1953 the district courts were given concurrent jurisdiction with the probate court over all probate matters in each county.

See the wiki page New Mexico Probate Records for information about how to find earlier probate records.

The Family History Library does not have copies of the New Mexico county probate records. They are available at each county courthouse. You can obtain copies by contacting the county clerk.

Content: Probate Records may give the decedent's date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their place of residence.

Record types: Wills, estates, guardianships, naturalizations, marriage, and adoption.

Online Probate Records

School Records

Tax Records

New Mexico tax records complement land records and can be used to supplement the years between censuses. There may be gaps of several years in the tax records of some counties. For more information, see the Wiki page New Mexico Taxation.

Vital Records

Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. See the Wiki page, New Mexico Vital Records, for additional information about the vital records in New Mexico.

Marriage records - are at the County Clerk's office

Divorce records - are at the office of the County Clerk of Court

Birth and death records - are at the New Mexico Vital Records and Health Statistics Office which has records since 1920 and delayed records since 1880.

See also How to order New Mexico Vital Records, order electronically online or download an application for New Mexico Birth Certificate, Death Certificate Applications to mail.





Research Facilities


Family History Centers

Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes.



Ghost Ranch Living Museum
HCR 77, Box 15
Abiquiu, New Mexico, 87510


Rio Arriba County Historical Society
PO Box 158
Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, 87575


Research Guides


  1. accessed 09/29/2016
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Rio Arriba, New Mexico," in,_New_Mexico. accessed 8/30/2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), New Mexico.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. Page 474 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 470.
  5. "Courts and Judicial Powers, Sec. 7” Kearny Code: Laws for the Government of the Territory of New Mexico, September 22, 1846 (Santa Fe, N. Mex.: S. W. Kearny, 1846), 47. Digital online edition.
  6. N.M. Terr. Laws 1851, 1st assy., 2d sess. /p. 291
  7. William Thorndale, and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1987), 26. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 X2th.
  8. Original Counties of New Mexico Territory (map) at (accessed 9 August 2011).
  9. U.S. Stat., vol. 12, pp. 664-665; Van Zandt, 165
  10. N.M. Terr. Laws 1887, 27th assy., ch. 13/p. 38
  11. Wikipedia contributors, "Rio Arriba County, New Mexico," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,,_New_Mexico, accessed 8 February 2019.
  12. FamilySearch Catalog. Accessed 12 May 2016.