Spanish and Portuguese Research

  • Identify your ancestors city of birth or last foreign residence:
    • Check US marriage applications, delayed birth registrations, church records, obituaries, passenger lists or border crossings, naturalization paperwork, passport applications and (After 1940) Alien Registrations.
  • Catholicism was the religion in Spain and Portugal for hundreds of years. The church kept records dating to the 1500s.
  • Naming Conventions:
    • Individuals use both maternal and paternal surnames. The paternal surname traditionally comes first.
    • When a woman marries she keeps her full name. She may add her husband's paternal surname,
      • Look for a name following de, de la or del.
    • Example Mary Jones Smith de Brian:
      • Jones is her mother's surname,
      • Smith is her father's surname,
      • Brian is her husband's paternal surname.

  • Availability and accessibility of Spanish government records varies by municipality and era.
  • National Archive System of Euskadi
  • Most Spanish civil registrations are still in municipal archives, and haven't been filmed or indexed. However, a growing number of documents are available through FamilySearch.

  • Parishes are the basic unit of government; they are grouped into councils, several of which make up districts. Visit this website for a guide. Note, the website is in Portuguese.
  • Portuguese government seized ecclesiastical records in 1910, so you will find church records included with civil records at district and national archives.
  • Tombo contains Portuguese Parish Records.
    • Great resource for records prior to 1911.
    • Contains links to the Archival District who can assist with area specific research.