Vizcaya, Spain Genealogy

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Guide to Vizcaya Province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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Most of your genealogical research for Vizcaya will be in two main record types: civil registration and church records. This article will teach you methods for locating and searching these two record groups.

History[edit | edit source]

Biscay (Spanish: Vizcaya) is a province of Spain and was included in the newly created Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (Spanish: País Vasco) in 1979 along with the provinces of Álava and Gipuzkoa. It lies on the south shore of the Bay of Biscay. The provincial capital is the city of Bilbao. The province is divided into 111 municipalities.[1]

Place Names[edit | edit source]

When conducting research in Vizcaya, you will find on many websites that the town names are written in Basque, not in Spanish. There is a tool that will help you convert the town names and give you a link to the FamilySearch Catalog entry for the Catholic Church parish records. Click here to visit the tool.

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

  • Spanish civil registration records (government birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates) began in 1871.
  • Births, marriages, and deaths were recorded by the local Juzgado de la Paz, or Oficinia del Registro Civil. The records are still housed in their local municpal archives. In addition, Spain does have a national index or central repository for civil registration.
  • Some municipios (towns/cities) may have civil registration records beginning as early as 1837. Some of them have been microfilmed and/or digitized by FamilySearch.
  • Larger cities may have multiple civil registration districts, and smaller towns may have their own civil registration office, or belong to an office of a nearby town. To determine the political jurisdiction for the town where your ancestors came from, please see the Spain Gazetteers article.


Here are several different approaches to obtaining these certificates:

1. Online Digitized Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Currently, there are no online FamilySearch Historical civil registration records for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they have become available.

2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Currently, the Family History Library does not have civil registration microfilms for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they become available. In the meantime. it is possible to write for the records.

3. Basque Country[edit | edit source]

  • RegistroCivil will allow you to order a birth, marriage, or death certificate from any municipality in the Basque Country (provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya) for free.

4. Writing to the Civil Registry of a Municipality[edit | edit source]

  • Juzgado de la Paz or Oficina del Registro Civil should be contacted if a certificate copy request to the Ministerio de Justicia fails.
  • Use the following address, filling in the parentheses with the specific information for your town :
Oficina del Registro Civil
(Street address: This link will give you addresses for all the civil registries in Vizcaya.)
(postal code) (City)
Vizcaya, Spain
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
  • Check or cash for the search fee (usually about $10.00).

Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. For writing your letter in Spanish, use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide.

Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

  • Catholicism's roots extend deep into Spain's history. Parish and diocesan records created by the Catholic Church in Spain have long been considered some of the richest genealogical records in the world. Ever since the Council of Trent, Catholic parish records have been consistently recorded, usually providing three generations in a single baptismal entry.
  • The vast majority of Spaniards are Catholic, and so almost every Spaniard can be found in the records of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was the primary record keeper of births, marriages, and deaths, until civil registration started in 1869.
  • Some church records have been lost or have deteriorated due natural disasters such as fire, flood, and earthquakes. Civil and political strife has also caused record loss, including during time of the Spanish Civil War.
  • The Catholic Church has created several different records. The most used in genealogical research include: baptisms (bautizos, bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), and burials (entierros, defunciones, fallecimientos). Other records include: confirmations (confimaciones) and pre-marriage investigations (expedientes matrimoniales, información matrimonial).
  • Tip: If you are researching after 1869, when Civil Registration started in Spain, both church and civil records should be searched since there may be information in one record that does not appear in the other.

1. Online Church Records[edit | edit source]

2. Microfilmed Records From the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

Currently, the Family History Library does not have church records microfilms for this area. You should check back from time to time to see if they become available. In the meantime. it is possible to write for the records.

3. Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records[edit | edit source]

Baptism, marriage, and death records may be searched by contacting or visiting local parish or diocese archives in Spain. Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. This method is not always reliable. Officials might or might not respond.

Write a brief request in Spanish to the proper church using this address as guide, replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverendo Padre
Parroquia de (name of parish)
(street address) Search The Church in Spain by province (Selecciona la provincia) or parish (Nombre de la parroquia).
(postal code), (city), Vizcaya
Spain

When requesting information, send the following:

  • Money for the search fee, usually $10.00
  • Full name and the sex of the ancestor sought
  • Names of the ancestor’s parents, if known
  • Approximate date and place of the event
  • Your relationship to the ancestor
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, and so on)
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record

Write your request in Spanish whenever possible. For writing your letter in Spanish, use the translated questions and phrases in this Spanish Letter-writing Guide.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

  • You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Spanish Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. Reading handwriting skills are taught in the BYU Spanish Script Tutorial.
  • Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:

Tips for finding your ancestor in the records[edit | edit source]

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies.

  • Search for the birth record of the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Then, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records.
  • Search the death registers for all family members.
  • Then repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations are not in the record, search neighboring parishes.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Biscay," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscay (accessed September 21, 2020).