By Kimberly Brown, Family Historian
Last week Spain defeated the Netherlands and became the 2010 World Cup championship team. To honor Spain's World Cup victory, this article is dedicated to the history of Spain and Spanish genealogy.
Spain became the world's first real superpower when Fernando of Aragon and Ysavel of Castile married in 1469 and united their kingdoms. Upon her death, Ysavel willed her kingdom to her husband Fernando, making the unification permanent. The kingdoms of Navarre, Asturias, Catalunya and others were later added to the united nation, which became known as Hispania or España. The official language of the united kingdom became Castilian, and that is the version of Spanish that was carried to Latin America and the rest of the world.
Spain has been a predominantly Catholic country throughout its history; there is even a Spanish saying that goes, "The Spaniard is more Catholic than the pope." For that reason, Catholic parish records are the backbone of Spanish genealogical research. Many Spanish parish records have been microfilmed or digitized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can see what records are available on microfilm by using the library catalog at FamilySearch.org. To see digitized parish records, use the Record Search beta site or Record Search pilot site.
How do you search parish records? Start with what you know-the most recent generation-and work backwards to the unknown. Keep in mind that unlike Mexico and Latin America, where most people married in their teens and it was common for girls to marry when they were as young as thirteen, people in Spain married in their late teens or twenties.
One difficulty of old Spanish parish records can be the handwriting and abbreviations. One site that can help with this is Brigham Young University's Spanish script tutorial, where you can look up abbreviations, given names, and first names, as well as reading through the tutorial on Spanish paleography. You can also learn more about different Spanish genealogical documents, including: parish records, census records, diocesan records, emigration records, notarial records, military records, and municipal records. Of course, all of your research hinges upon knowing where in Spain your ancestors came from. If all the information you have is the country of Spain listed on a U.S. census record, that won't be enough. To get help finding out where in Spain your ancestors came from, try the Immigrant Ancestors Project.