Spain Locating Place of Origin

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Spain Gotoarrow.png Locating Place of Origin

Important Tips[edit | edit source]

Before you can begin to search in the records of Spain you must find that one record that gives the name of his or her hometown. You must also know enough about the ancestor to positively identify him in the records. Dates (even if they are approximate), places, and familial connections are key to helping you decide if a person you find, who has the same name as your ancestor, really is your ancestor.

  • Do you know the name of his/her parents?
  • Do you know his/her birth, marriage, or death date or can you calculate an approximate range of years to search for his/her birth, marriage, or death?
  • Do you know the name of the spouse? Did they marry before or after coming to the United States?
  • Do you know the names of any of his/her siblings?
  • Do you know the names of any children born in Spain?

Documents in the Home[edit | edit source]

Often the document you need to pinpoint the place of origin of your Spain ancestor is already found at home. These might include the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates or licenses
  • Death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Funeral cards
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bible
  • Naturalization papers
  • Citizenship papers
  • Military service records

Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives[edit | edit source]

Find the oldest living relatives that you can and ask them:

  1. What do you know about our first ancestor to come from Spain? (open-ended)
  2. Have you ever heard mention of towns in Spain where the family lived?
  3. Do you have contact with any relatives in Spain?
  4. Do you have contact with other branches of the family in the U.S.?
  5. When _____________ came from Spain, did he travel with other family members?
  6. Do you know when _________________ arrived?
  7. Did _______________ever become a citizen?
  8. Did_________________fight in World War I or II?
  9. When they first came, were there already family members here who they joined?
  10. Did_______________ever mention their parents in Spain?
  11. Do you have any old letters or postcards from Spain family?
  12. Do you have any pictures of family members in Spain?

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Understand that any birth, marriage, or death certificate gives information about other people besides the primary person it is about

  1. It is important to remember that a birth certificate for a child might tell it's parents' birthplaces.
  2. Marriage certificates might name birth dates and places of the bride and groom. They might also give the names and birth places of the parents of the bride and groom.
  3. Death certificates are very important. Birth and marriage certificates might not have kept by a state during the earlier years of your ancestor's life. There is a greater chance that your ancestor died after detailed record-keeping began. Death certificates frequently state birth date and place. They also state the names of parents and their birth places.
  • There are wiki articles giving details on how to find vital records o each state. You can select the state of interest and the record (birth, marriage, or death) from this list: How-To Articles.
  • Many records may be online. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State, for online vital record databases.

Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Websites such as FindAGrave and Billion Graves are making it easier to get information from headstones, which frequently give birth dates, and occasionally give birth places. Each state has additional collections of cemetery records. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to other online cemetery records.

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Modern obituaries usually list birth date and place and parents' names. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State and select your state for links to online obituary collections.

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Draft records for World War I and II ask for birth place, which can be listed as just Spain or in greater detail.

Social Security[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

  • The censuses for 1900 to 1930 ask for the year of immigration and whether or not the person was naturalized. This information can help you find naturalization records or a passenger list.
  • United States Census Online Genealogy Records will give you links to every census. The FamilySearch links lead to a free search, but the search engine is not as reliable. The other links are for subscription websites, but they can be searched free-of-charge at any Family History Center.
  • State census records vary in availability and the type of information they contain, but they are always useful as another source to document an ancestor in a specific locality. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online state censuses.

Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

  • Naturalization records may also list an ancestor’s birth place.
  • Prior to 1906 any U.S. court could naturalize foreigners. Many pre-1900 records only list “Spain” as the country of citizenship; however, there are notable exceptions, so these records should be checked routinely.
  • The process involved two sets of papers: a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen, and a petition filed some time later.
  • Beginning in 1906, naturalization records became more detailed, as the responsibility shifted to the Federal government.
  • More information about naturalization records, along with helpful links, is found at Beginning Research in United States Naturalization Records and United States Naturalization and Citizenship Online Genealogy Records.

Passport Applications[edit | edit source]

Passenger Arrival Lists[edit | edit source]

Passenger lists, especially in the 20th century, may list birth place, last residence in mother country, and name and residence of a close relative in the mother country. United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records is a comprehensive list of passenger arrival databases that you can search right now from your computer. There are many, many databases. The following search strategy will make your search more efficient.

Suggested Search Strategy[edit | edit source]

  1. Check the partner website indexes, as these cover many, many databases at once. The FamilySearch Historical Records databases is free to search with a free registered account. The other websites are subscription-based but can be searched for free at a Family History Center near you. Try to search each partner site because their search engines can often bring up slightly different results.
  2. If it is difficult for you to get access to the subscription databases, next try Additional Nationwide Collections Not Included in Partner Sites. These websites have a lot of overlap with the subscription websites.
  3. Search the state collection for the first state where your ancestor lived.

Specialized Spanish Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

  • Index of Spanish citizens entering the port of New Orleans between January 1840 and December 1865. Charles R. Mauduell, Jr. New Orleans: Charles Midrell, 1966. FHL US/CAN Book 976.335/N1 W2.
  • Border Crossing Records if your ancestor went to Mexico and then later crossed into the United States. These records are for the years 1895-1957. Indexes are available on FamilySearch. Indexes and images are available on, which is a subscription website which you may be able to access at your local FamilySearch center or public library.

Alien Registration[edit | edit source]

Catholic Church Records[edit | edit source]

Other Sources[edit | edit source]

The following are just a few of other resources you may want to consult in trying to locate your immigrant ancestor’s origins in Spain.

General Sources[edit | edit source]

Colonial Period in the Americas[edit | edit source]

Many Spaniards left their homeland to travel to the Americas during the time that much of the Americas was governed by Spain. Several records are available that may be useful in identifying the ancestor’s hometown in Spain. The sources listed below are generally for the years from 1493 to about 1800.

Guía de fuentes para la historia de Ibero-América conservados en España. Madrid: Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas, 1969. FHL INTL Book 980 A3sg 2 vols. Lists of sources for Latin-American history kept in archives in Spain.

Archivo de las Indias. If you are looking for very early emigrants who left Spain before 1700 you may want to try records in the sections Pasajeros a Indias or Casa de la Contratacion that are found in the Archive of the Indies in Sevilla. Up until about the 18th century all ships from Spain left from Sevilla. Sometime during the second half of the 18th century other Spanish ports began to be used in the cities of Alicante, Malaga, Cartagena, Barcelona and La Coruña. Many of these early records might be found in a general search in the Portal of Spanish Archives (PARES) website.

1493-1539. This book compiled by Peter Boyd-Bowman contains lists of people living in the new World in the 16th century. Indice geobiográfico de cuarenta mil pobladores españoles de América en el siglo XVI. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1964-1968. {52896}

1493-1519. This book also compiled by Peter Boyd-Bowman expands on the previous book of people living in the New World in the 16th century. Índice geobiográfico de más de 56 mil pobladores de la América Hispánica. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1985.

1509-1599. Some records for this time period can be found in: Catálogo de pasajeros a Indias durante los siglos XVI, XVII y XVIII. Sevilla: S.n., 1940-. Part of these records are found indexed online at

1509-1701. During this time period you may find in the Archive of the Indies Libros o listas de pasajeros. These are indexed in Pasajeros a Indias: libros de asientos {20763}. Madrid: Centro Nacional de Microfilm, 1978.

1534-1790. Informaciones y licencias are documents requesting permission to travel to the Americas. These records are found in the Archive of the Indies. Try a general search in the PARES website for these records.

In a general search of the PARES website you might also find colonial government records from Consejo de las Indias, the ruling body over Spanish holdings in the Americas. These may be found under the following categories:

  • Pasajeros a Indias
  • Casa de la contratacion
  • Contaduria del consejo
  • Gobierno
  • Ultramar

Real Audiencia is the name given to geographical colonies and their courts under Spanish rule during the colonial period. These records might contain court or governmental records involving emigrants. The following are the real audiencias in the New World along with the date of their creation:

  • Santo Domingo 1526
  • Nueva España (Mexico) 1527
  • Panamá 1538
  • Guatemala 1543
  • Lima (Peru) 1543
  • Nueva Galicia (Guadalajara, Mexico) 1548
  • Nueva Granada (Santa Fe de Bogotá, Colombia) 1548
  • Charcas (Upper Peru) 1559
  • Quito (Ecuador) 1563
  • Concepción (Chile) 1565-1575
  • Manila (Philippines) 1583
  • Santiago (Chile) 1605
  • Buenos Aires (Rio de la Plata) 1661-1671
  • Buenos Aires 1783
  • Caracas 1786
  • Cuzco 1787

Legal documents such as: notarial records, suits (pleitos), processes (procesos), and others may contain copies of sacramental records such as baptisms, marriages, or deaths as evidence in cases. These records may indicate place of origin in Spain.

1780-1810. If your ancestor came to the Americas as part of the Spanish military you may be able to find his place of origin in military records. An index is available to some military records for this time period in Catálogo XXII del Archivo de Simancas: Secretaría de Guerra (siglo XVIII); hojas de servicios de América. Ricardo Magdaleno, Archivo General de Simancas. Valladolid: s.n., 1958. FHL INTL Book 946 M23e.

Other military records for other countries might be found in the FamilySearch catalog under the category Military Records. Remember to search at all jurisdictional levels – Country, Department or Province, and City.

After 1790 few passenger lists are found leaving Spain. There are a few health certificates and in some provincial or municipal archives you might find applications for passports. There is no general index to these records.

Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines[edit | edit source]

Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines remained under Spanish control until the 19th century. These colonies were governed by the Spanish government, department of Ultramar. The records for Ultramar for the 19th century are found in the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid and have been indexed. Some of these records are searchable by name in a general search of the PARES website.

The FHL only has Inventario de la serie "Oficios de Guerra" de Puerto Rico. Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 1980.

Spanish soldiers in Cuba and the Philippines. Some of these records can be found indexed on the site Raices Reino de Valencia. You must be a member of the group to access these records. Membership is free.

Latin America[edit | edit source]

The following are just a few sources for emigrants who left Spain for Latin America.

For specific countries in Latin America, check the FamilySearch Catalog for other records using the following topics. Be sure to search at the national, provincial, and city level.

  • Emigration and immigration
  • Naturalization and citizenship

You may also want to try a keyword search using the terms Spain emigration in the FamilySearch Catalog for other records and items of interest concerning emigrants from Spain.

For more ideas see:

Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. George. R. Ryskamp. Riverside, CA: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984.FHL INTL Book 946 D27r.

Brigham Young University research outline for Spain available in PDF form is a collection of articles and useful resources for those conducting genealogical research in Spain.