Spain Finding Records
Spain Finding Records
To find church, civil or other records for your ancestor in Spain using the FamilySearch catalog, you will need to know the various levels of jurisdictions (government or religious administrative divisions) in Spain. Only three locality levels are normally used. The country of Spain is divided into provinces (provincias), municipalities (municipios or ayuntamientos), and cities, towns, villages, etc.
Under the municipality level you will find civil registration records. In large cities there may be several offices. Some small towns may not be their own municipality and therefore their records will not be kept in the town. You will need to determine the correct municipality or municipio in order to locate the civil registration records. Municipality records will be located in the FamilySearch catalog under the name of the municipio.
Church records are listed in the catalog under the city or town where the parish is located. A parish is an ecclesiastical jurisdiction where a Catholic priest serves and keeps records. The parish is usually named for a Saint and is located in the largest town in the parish jurisdiction. Large cities may have many parishes while a small town usually only has one.
Place Levels (Jurisdictions)
Places are usually written from smallest to largest on a family group record. Municipios are not usually listed:
Campdurá, Gerona, Spain
City/town, Province, Country
Campdurá belongs to the municipio of Celrá, and you will need to know this to find the civil registration records in the FamilySearch Catalog, but when writing the localities on your family group, the municipio is not listed.
When you want to include the parish, which is especially important in large cities, in your locality field you would write it in the following manner:
Santa Eulalia, Campdurá, Gerona, Spain
Parish, City/town, Province, Country
The parish of Santa Eulalia is located in the city of Campdurá.
To find your localities, see the following sources:
- Regardless of the past names a place may have had at various times, Spanish places are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog as they are listed in: Nomenclátor de las Ciudades, Villas, Lugares, Aldeas, y demás entidades a población de España. Presidencia del Gobierno: Instituto Nacional de Estadística. FHL INTL book 946 E5s 5 vols. FHL INTL Film 1573122 for vols 1-4 and 1183646, ítem 6 for vol. 5. You can also view a digitized copy of this book online from the Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y Leon.
- Because some place names and boundaries have changed or no longer exist, you may need to use an old gazetteer that describes places as they were known in earlier times, such as: Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de España y sus posesiones de ultramar. By Pascual Madoz, Madrid: P. Madoz, 1845-1850. FHL INTL Book 946 E5m 1845 16 vols. FHL INTL Film 897114-897122, or FHL Fiche 6001750-6001765. You may also view a digitized copy of this book online from the Biblioteca Virtual Andalucia.
- Another online database of towns and cities can be found at Todopueblos.com. You can search by the name of the town or city, or scan through listings of towns and cities by province.
To find your Catholic parish, see the following sources:
- You can learn if your ancestor’s town or city had an established parish by checking a Catholic church directory. It will list the archdiocese officials and the dioceses with their parishes, so you can easily determine all nearby parishes. It may include historical information about each parish, and sometimes it provides addresses for parishes, the diocese headquarters, and the diocese archives where additional records may be kept. The gazetteer mentioned by Madoz also gives parishes.
- A good church directory is: Guia de la Iglesia en España. Iglesia Catolica. Oficina General de Sociologia y Estadística. Madrid: Secretariado del Episcopado Español, 1960. FHL INTL Book 946 K24g 1960, FHL INTL Film 0924464.
- Another guide to available church records can be found in the Guía de los Archivos de la Iglesia en España. Barcelona: Archivo Diocesano de Barcelona, 2001. Click on the title of the guide to download a copy.
- Also on the internet: Conferencia Episcopal Española. Here you can see a list of dioceses in Spain or a map showing the dioceses and their location within Spain.
If your ancestor came from a large city that had several parishes, you will need to know what section of the city he or she lived in to determine what parish he or she belonged to. However, in a large city such as Madrid or Barcelona, you may find that even if you know the closest parish, sometimes the family went to the cathedral or the parish of a relative in the same city for the baptism of a child. If you do not find the complete family in the home parish, search the surrounding parishes of the city.
If your family lived in a very small village that did not have an established parish, you will need to check a map, church directory, or gazetteer to determine which nearby town had a parish.