Vizcaya, Spain Genealogy
Guide to Vizcaya Province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
|Spain Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
- 1 History
- 2 Civil Registration
- 3 Catholic Church Records
- 4 Reading the Records
- 5 References
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]
“Vizcaya” is the denomination in Spanish, recommended by the Royal Spanish Academy. It is also the Spanish denomination used in the Spanish version of the Constitution and in the Spanish version of the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country. History. Biscay has been inhabited since the Middle Paleolithic, as attested by the archaeological remains and cave paintings found in its many caves. The title to the lordship was inherited by Iñigo López's descendants until, by inheritance, in 1370 it passed to John I of Castile. It became one of the titles of the king of Castile. Since then it remained connected to the crown, first to that of Castile and then, from Charles I, to that of Spain, as ruler of the Crown of Castile. It was conditioned on the lord swearing to defend and maintain the Biscayan laws which affirmed that the possessors of the sovereignty of the lordship were the Biscayans and that, at least in theory, they could refute the lord.
In the modern ages commerce on took great importance, specially for the Port of Bilbao, to which the kings granted privileges in 1511 for trade with the ports of the Spanish Empire. Bilbao was already the main Castilian harbour, from where wool was shipped to Flanders, and other goods were imported. The coastal towns had a sizable fleet of their own, mostly dedicated to fishing and trade. Along with other Basque towns of Gipuzkoa and Labourd, they were largely responsible for the partial extinction of North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Biscay. After the Napoleonic wars, Biscay, along with the other Basque provinces, were threatened to have their self-rule cut by the now Liberal Spanish Cortes. Together with opposing factions that supported different parties for the throne, this desire to maintain foral rights contributed to the successive Carlist Wars. The Biscayan government and other Basque provinces supported Carlos V, who represented an autocratic monarch who would preserve tradition.
During the Second Spanish Republic, the Basque Nationalist Party governed the province. When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Biscay supported the Republican side against Francisco Franco's army and fascist ideology. Soon after, the Republic acknowledged a statute of autonomy for the Basque Country. Due to fascist control of large parts of it, the first short-lived Basque Autonomous Community had power only over Biscay and a few nearby villages. As the fascist army advanced westward from Navarre, defenses were planned and erected around Bilbao, called the Iron Belt. But the engineer in charge, José Goicoechea, defected to the fascists, causing the unfinished defenses to be of little value. Under the dictatorship of Franco, Biscay and Gipuzkoa were declared "traitor provinces" because of their opposition and stripped of any sort of self-rule. Only after Franco's death in 1975 was democracy restored in Spain. The 1978 constitution accepted the particular Basque laws and in 1979 the Statute of Guernica was approved whereupon Biscay, Araba and Gipuzkoa formed the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country with its own parliament. During this recent democratic period, Basque Nationalist Party candidates have consistently won elections in Biscay.
The population of Vizcaya (Biscay) is roughly 1,159,639 people.
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 :
- Find the Spain postal code here.
- Write a brief request to the proper office. Send the following:
- 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]
- Dokuklik: Has online parish indexes for the three provinces of the Basque Coutnry - Alava, Guipúzcoa, and Vizcaya.
- Antzinako: A site for the Basque region of Spain with some records extracted. The record collections are not complete.
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
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:
- Detailed instructions for reading Spanish records, examples of common documents, and practice exercises for developing skills in translating them can be found in the Spanish Records Extraction Manual.
- The Spanish Documents Script Tutorial also provides lessons and examples.
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]
- Wikipedia collaborators, "Biscay," Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscay (Accessed October 17, 2017)