Monday, May 16, 2011

An English child born in a Spanish Village, 1811- Amanuensis Monday

A page from the baptism record book, San Sebastian Church, Puerto Seguro, Salamanca province, Spain
The bottom right baptism record is for an English child named Julian Smith
click to enlarge
I hope you are enjoying the record books and archival documents you use to research your family history.  Take time to peruse the other names and information in the papers.  Sometimes you will find interesting things that, although not directly related to your family, will help you to understand the location and time in which your ancestors lived.

I found this interesting entry in the book of baptisms for the village of Puerto Seguro, in the province of Salamanca, Spain. In 1811, and before the Spanish War of Independence (against Napoleonic France) this village was known as Barba de Puerco (literally "Pig’s Beard" in English)!  Puerto Seguro is located on the Portuguese border, and there were some fierce battles all along this region between English and French troops.

Transcription in Spanish:

“En el lugar de Barba de Puerco en dies y ocho dias
del mes de Diciembre de 1811
yo el infraescripto Cura Ecónomo de esta parroquia
bauticé solemenemente a Julian que nació el veinte
y tres de Septiembre en un Pueblo de Portu-
gal llamada Mallada Sorda, Obispado de Piñel, hijo
de Josef Smith, natural de Oxford jurisdiction de ---------
-------y de Ysabel Smith, natural de Stanmanheh.
Nieto paterno de James Smith y de Nancy Smith y Materno
de Eduard Smith y Ysabel Smith, todos de Reino de
Ynglaterra, fueron Padrinos: D. Manuel Alvarez y
Dña. Juana Hernández Escobar, Españoles y vecinos de de éste,
les advertí a obligación espiritual y parentesco. Fueron testigos:
Lucas Alamo y Juan Francisco Bernal, y en fe de ello yo firmo,
fecha ut supra
Manuel Escudero Corral.

los contenidos en esta partida son Yngleses y se bautizó a instancia de los Padres que fueron católicos"

The translation reads:

“In the place of Pig’s Beard on the 18th day
of the month of December of the year one thousand eight hundred eleven
I, the undersigned Cura Economo of this parish
Solemnly baptized Julian, who was born
The 23rd of September of this same year, in the town of Port-
gal called Mallada Sorda, diocese of Pinel, son
Of Josef Smith, native of Oxford, jurisdiction of ---------
And of Ysabel Smith, native of Stowmarket,
Paternal Grandson of James Smith and Nancy Smith, and maternal
Edward Smith and Ysabel Smith, of the Kingdom of
England, godparents are Don Manuel Alvarez and
Doña Jauna Hernandez Escobar, Spaniards and residents of this place
who were advised of their spiritual obligation and kinship. Witnesses were
Lucas Alamo and Juan Francisco Bernal, and in faith I sign
Date ut supra
Manuel Escudero Corral

The margin note reads: “the member of this entry are English and the baptized is from parents who were Catholics”

This entry was found in the book of baptisms for San Sebastian church, as I looked through it for the baptisms for my mother-in-law’s side of the family. First of all, what was an English family doing in “Pig’s Beard” in 1811 during the war? And why did they have some important Spanish citizens serve as godparents to their infant? There was a second English child in the same baptism book, listed on 21 December 1811, which made me think that this baptism was not a fluke. It appears that there was a close relationship between the British and the people of “Pig’s Beard”. I wonder if any of my husband’s ancestors knew some of these Englishmen.

With a little research I found that the British were involved in what they call the Peninsular War (1809 – 1814), the same war that the Spaniards call the War of Independence. In February 1810 the British had occupied “Pig’s Beard” and the French had undertaken a large effort to free the village and the nearby walled city of Ciudad Rodrigo. The Duke of Wellington was involved with this large campaign. By August the invasion of Almeida, Portugal had begun. “Pig’s Beard” was disputed between Spain and Portugal until the borders' treaty signed on 29 September 1864. In 1916 “Pig’s Beard” became the village of Puerto Seguro (literally “Secure Door”).

In the book “Dispatches of Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington, K. G.” [Volume 5 by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, London, 1852, pages 3- 18] I can see that he was still sending letters from the area of Ciudad Rodrigo by 15 May 1811, during the time period of this baptism. Obviously, the British must have maintained a large force of troops to occupy the area. Perhaps Mr. Joseph Smith was an officer, and some leading citizens of “Pig’s Beard” (designated by the titles Don and Doña) served as godparents to his son? This book was found online at a Google Book Search and is entirely readable and searchable.

There are 4,193,113 images available at for Spanish Church Records, 1500 – 1930. All are fully visible scanned images from parish church books. If your family comes from one of the following provinces (Albacete, Avila, Barcelona, Ciudad Real, Gerona, Murcia, or Salamanca) you will find this is a gold mine of information viewable from your own computer. There are many other records available online for Spain, or on microfilm you can view at your local history library. But this new group of online images is where I have been finding gold nuggets for our family tree this year.


For more information: the village of Puerto Seguro website, with history, all in Spanish The LDS church genealogy website

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Isn't it interesting to find yourself getting pulled into other people's stories as you do your own research? One year I spent several days a week reading several years of old weekly newspapers from my ancestors' town, and as the newspaper years went by, I got to know everyone in town, as I'm sure my ancestors did. Gotta love that about small towns!

  2. I am beyond thrilled when I find a complete book in Google books that helps me document someone. In reading this story it makes me think of my own grandchildren who have Portuguese ancestors on their mother's side, and wonder if they will some day be researching as you did. I hope so!

  3. Outstanding! Pulls me right back into my Regency Romance days and all the stories of the Peninsular wars. I love it when the records found illuminate or are illuminated by the events of the day. Great post.

  4. Great post! I really need to delve into the Spanish records for my ancestors. Maybe my move to El Paso will help me learn some Spanish! :)