1. One-stop shop
It’s probably no surprise that FamilySearch, the organization with the world’s largest collection of genealogical material, kicks off our list. It actually offers three resources rolled into one: the Family-Search wiki, FamilySearch.org online record collection, and the Family History Library (FHL) online catalog.
2. Can-do website
If you’re looking for Caribbean resources in one spot, Candoo.com is probably the most comprehensive site. It has links to resources for all the islands, whether they are or were territories of Spain, the United States, England, France or the Netherlands. Navigate the site from the links at the top of the page, or by scrolling down to the topic you’re looking for. In the section for each country, you’ll find resources such as contact information for major archives and libraries, and links to WorldGenWeb pages. Some countries’ listings include links to genealogy societies and local researchers for when you need someone “on the ground.” If you find the FHL catalog difficult to navigate, try this site’s LDS Microfilm Indexes link at the top of the page, which lists FHL films for many of the islands.
3. Texas treasure
The Nettie Lee Benson Collection at the University of Texas in Austin specializes in Latin American materials, largely relating to Mexico and Central America but also from the Caribbean. The collection includes more than 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets and microforms, and 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts. If you’re handy to the big state of Texas, you’ll want to plan a visit here. The Benson Library is home to the Bexar Archives, which the Texas State Historical Association calls “the single most important source for the history of Hispanic Texas up to 1836.” Held at the connected Briscoe Center for American History, the Bexar Archives documents early life in Texas, dating to the founding of the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar in 1718. Part of the collection is online (with English translations) at www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar.
4. Directory assistance
We’ve grouped two similar portal websites, though each has unique strengths. A new kid on the internet block, La Guía de Información Genealógica (Genealogical Information Guide) is a Spanish-language site, so you’ll need your translation tools if you don’t read Spanish. Primarily focused on Central and South America, la Guía contains particularly useful links for genealogists interested in Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico. It also offers one of the more complete resource lists for Panama. Bonus: Because it’s a new site, most of the links to other sites are functional.
5. Making history
The mission statement at Somos Primos is clear: “To help family historians in their task of gathering vital data, and to provide evidence revealing the current effects of historical events on the Hispanic community in the United States.” And beneath the deceptively simple front page lies a wealth of information. The site’s monthly online newsletters since January 2000 are free here—just scroll to the bottom of the front page to select individual issues by clicking on the year and month. Each issue is organized geographically and topically, so you can quickly find articles relating to the Southwest, Mexico, Cuba, surnames, history, and many more. To search all 12 years at once, click on Search all Somos Primos Issues and enter the person, place or thing you want to find. The results come from the newsletters as well as other resources on the site.
6. On the map
One obstacle you may encounter as you venture into new research places is not knowing the geography. Every smart traveler carries a good map. Let OldMapsOnline find the map you need for your virtual genealogical travels. This UK-based site pulls old maps from sites around the internet, including the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, the Perry-Castañeda library and elsewhere, and makes them searchable in one place.
7. State’s evidence
As you might imagine, the state archives and libraries of many Southwestern states and Florida contain extensive holdings of interest to Latino and Caribbean researchers, including early Spanish land grants, colonial censuses, mission records and more. Be sure to investigate the state archives and libraries for the places your Hispanic and Latino ancestors lived. It may or may not take a lot of browsing to learn what materials might help with your search. In addition to searching the holdings catalog, look for a genealogy link and resource guides to early or Hispanic residents. For example, the California State Library’s PDF guide Genealogy Resources by Date <dlis.dos.state.fl.us/index_Researchers.cfm> lists the book Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California, 1769-1850 by Marie E. Northrup. The Online Archive of California <www.oac.cdlib.org> catalogs manuscript collections, such as the one titled Spanish and Mexican Materials, 1781-1882, that are housed at the state library and other institutions. Even if you can’t pay a visit, you might be able to borrow materials through interlibrary loan, request a photocopy or pay for a staff or local researcher to find the records you need.
- Arizona Historical Society
- Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
- California State Archives
- California State Library
- Florida State Archives
- New Mexico State Library
- Texas State Library and Archives Commission
8. Old college try
We’ve already mentioned the University of Texas Libraries specifically, but many colleges and universities have notable special collections with Hispanic and Latino genealogical materials. Below are some of the largest collections, but this isn’t an all-inclusive list:
- Florida International University Libraries Latin American and Caribbean Information Center
- Tulane University Latin American Library
- University of California, Berkeley Bancroft Library Latin Americana Collection
- University of New Mexico Center For Southwest Research
- University of South Florida, Florida Studies Center
If you want to learn how to research Spanish and Mexican land grants for ancestors in New Mexico, for example, check out the Land Grants in New Mexico guide at the University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research. Got California kin who might’ve had land grants? See Berkeley’s Bancroft Library finding aids for the Maps of Private Land Grant Cases of California and Documents Pertaining to the Adjudication of Private Land Claims in California. These rich sources are just two places to pan for genealogical gold. Explore the websites of libraries especially across the Southwest and in Florida, as well as places such as New York City where many Latino immigrants have settled.
Despite five years plus one semester of Spanish classes, Ohio genealogist Chris Staats still can’t speak in the past tense. You can follow his current genealogical adventures (in English) at his website.