Genealogy Tips for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Diane Haddad

Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th!  To honor it, we’re sharing some key facts about what we’re celebrating, as well as tips for researching your Hispanic ancestry. 

Hispanic Heritage Month Genealogy Tips Research Ancestry

September 15th is also the anniversary of the 1821 declaration of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This month also marks the independence days of Mexico (16th), Chile (18th) and Belize (21st).

President Lyndon Johnson approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan expanded the observation to cover a 30-day period ending Oct. 15.

The month celebrates the long and important presence of people of Hispanic descent in North America. The Spanish fortress of St. Augustine, Fla., founded in 1565, is the first continuously inhabited European settlement in North America. The Spanish explored the US Southwest in the 16th century and founded Santa Fe, NM, in 1610.

The website Our American History/La Historia de Nuestra América relates the part the Spanish and Hispanic Americans played in the American Revolution—a role I have to admit I’ve never learned much about.

Other Interesting Hispanic Heritage Facts:

  • Celebrations for National Hispanic Heritage Month include film screenings, concerts, festivals with food and crafts and other goods, and museum exhibits.
  • Today there are nearly 60 million people in the U.S. who trace their heritage to Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Surname practices in Spain, Mexico and other Hispanic countries often preserve a woman’s maiden name, which, as genealogists know, can be a huge help when researching!
  • The FamilySearch wiki is a great place to being researching your Hispanic roots. Mexico, for example, is thoroughly represented with with civil registration (birth, marriage and death) and church records for most Mexican states, as well as the 1930 Mexican census.
  • Church records can be particularly helpful when researching Hispanic ancestry, especially if your research takes you to South America.
  • Military records in Peru, which was involved in a series of conflicts and battles from the 1500s to as late as 1942, begin about 1550.
  • For those researching their roots in Spain, remember that instead of coming through Ellis Island, your Spanish ancestors probably arrived at a port somewhere south of the border.

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