Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Big Hint about Genealogy Research in Spain

I learned something new while we were in Spain last week.  My mother-in-law pulled out this document, about the size of a passport, and showed it to me.  My husband took photos of every page inside so I could post it on the blog.
My in-laws were married in 1960 and issued
this family book by the Spanish government

In Spain every head of family (male) is issued a “Libro de Familia” (Family Book) upon marriage.  This is the official marriage certificate, but the additional pages list children’s births, deaths, additional marriages, previous marriages, etc.  Unwed mothers are issued them when a child is born.  The idea for these books was developed under the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, but the books are still issued in Spain today.  I don’t know how it works now that civil unions (gay marriages) are allowed, but I read online that these books are being changed over electronic registrations soon. 

Not my in-laws, but found at the website
 My mother in law was married in 1960, and she said that couples used to present the book upon checking into hotels in Spain.  You couldn’t rent a hotel room without it!  These books are presented to school officials to register children for classes, and for registering for social security benefits.

These pages would be filled out for each child.
There is room for ten children, plus several blank pages
(I guess they were expecting everyone to have lots of kids!)

If every family since the 1930s had to have a family book, this is a great jumping off place for genealogy.  Start with the marriage certificate on the front page, and you have a couple listed with their parents and their birth places.  Turn the pages and you’ll find the children listed.  My husband is registered in this book even though he was born in New York City while his father was working at the United Nations.  This is important to know, especially since so many people left Spain during the Franco regime, and spread all over the world,  yet wanted to maintain ties with family in Spain. Many of these people returned to Spain in the 1980s or later, and would have maintained their records in their family book. 

These pages would be filled out in the case of a spouse's death
and then the subsequent remarriage is registered on the right side page.

There are additional pages for other civil registrations and for registering orphans, widows and other family members who might need social security benefits.  There are also pages for listing places of employment and official residence changes.  I'm curious to know if other countries have a similar system.  Do you know the answer to this?  Has anyone used books like this in their genealogy research?  What a treasure to know about this for research in Spain! 

This is the cover of a modern Spanish Family Book

For the truly curious:

A New York Times story from 2009 about Spain under Franco’s government, with a photo of a “Libro de Familia”

An article, in Spanish, from El Mundo newspaper about the retiring of the “Libro de Familia” for electronic registrations of births and marriages

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. How cool!

    When my sister and I were born (in Massachusetts in the 70's), my parents had a "Medical Record" for each of us. It's got a red plastic cover and looks like a checkbook. There's actually a family tree section. When my sister and I grew up, my dad gave us our books, and it worked as my personal jumping-off point for genealogy.

    It would be nice if hospitals and/or governments gave such things out nowadays.

    If and when my children marry, I plan to give each of them a family tree book, filled out with what I know so far, and with room for them to add any children and grandchildren they have. :)