Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Spanish Records on Family Search


In the past we have reserved one or two days out of our vacations to Spain to do some genealogy research. We go to Spain every other year or so, and spend time with Hubby’s parents and various cousins in Madrid, Salamanca and Burgos. The first two times I did extensive oral histories on this family, and had everyone fill out charts. Then one year we went to the church in Sinovas, Burgos to look at the baptism and marriage records. Sinovas is where my father-in-law was raised. A few years later we went to the archdiocese archives at the cathedral in Burgos.

On visits to Salamanca province we never had time to go to the local church at Villar de Ciervo, but I ordered lots of church records on microfilm at our local Family History library. We spent hours looking at these on microfilm readers, and expanded my mother-in-law’s family tree back about five generations. This was pretty good considering we didn’t order all of the available films for Villar de Ciervo.

It seems to me that once you find the ancestral village in Spain, it is possible to go back to the 1600s or 1700s with the catholic church records. Families stayed put in these villages for long periods of time. This seemed remarkable to me, since my ancestors wandered all over New England, and some up to Nova Scotia and back. It seems even more remarkable when I recognize that most Americans have ancestors who wandered all over the US from coast to coast. I have only a few lineages that arrived in one place in Massachusetts and stayed two hundred years or more. Most Americans don’t have any ancestors who stayed in one place for even two generations.

Of course, the records in Sinovas only go back to the Napoleonic era. Earlier books were destroyed or lost. And the records in Sinovas have never been microfilmed. And there are the occasional brides from neighboring villages, but never from very far away.

However, it is not easy to read microfilm. Overexposed film, fuzzy pages, creases, etc. make seeing the names impossible some of the time. We noticed that many of the baptism books we previously viewed on microfilm yielded new information when we saw them online at the new pilot.FamilySearch.org website. And, of course, books we had seen at the Family History Center on film yielded many more relatives when we saw them in person in Spain.

Lucky us - to be able to go to Spain and see the actual books. Not everyone has this luxury. And so, for records in the USA, it certainly helps if you can see the books in person, not on line. Get out of the house and go to the courthouses and town clerk’s offices. If it’s possible for you to see the records in person, make the effort to go. Suddenly you will find things you never dreamed of finding online. Even if you lose a day of vacation!

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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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