What’s in a name?
Surnames, too, can pile up, as they did back in Spain, combining surnames from the father’s and mother’s families using a preposition (de, del, de la), a dash or simply y for “and.” You’ll want to comb records for all possible
Pinpointing ancestral whereabouts
Figuring out the where of your ancestors’ history, as with most ethnicities, is as essential as knowing whom to look for. Arturo Cuéllar-Gonzalez, a research specialist for Latin America at the FHL, says, “Finding where your ancestors were from… is as much an art as science. The types of food your ancestors ate, family recipes, songs and stories handed down for generations are hints that may give you some guidance. The type of climate or terrain or major storms and destruction you’ve heard shared through family stories can provide other clues. Old pictures in unique settings or with writing on them, or the types of dress shown in the photos might help.”
Once you’ve located an ancestral family in Mexico, one helpful tool to find others in the same area is the batch number logged when FamilySearch originally microfilmed the records. FamilySearch has de-emphasized batch numbers as its International Genealogical Index (IGI) has become a “legacy” database, no longer actively maintained. But you can still search the IGI, an index to vital records that includes extensive coverage of Mexico.
When you’ve found one family member’s record, clicking on the batch number at the bottom of the entry (such as “I06840-9”) brings up a list of all the records microfilmed in that same batch—likely including more of your relatives. You also can choose to restrict your search by batch number (under the Restrict Records By section at the bottom of the main search page for each collection).
Keeping it civil
Unless your family left Mexico long ago, the first important genealogical resources you’re likely to use are civil registration records. The Civil Registration Office (Registro Civil) has kept these vital records of births, marriages and deaths since its establishment on July 28, 1859, by President Benito Juárez as part of his governmental reforms. Compliance was slow, so it’s important to check parish records as well (see the next section), especially for the early years of civil registration, prior to the restoration of the Mexican republic in 1867.
Get me to the church
To push your research back before the 1859 launch of civil registration, you’ll need to turn to parish records of the Roman Catholic Church, which was Mexico’s only recognized church until that same year. The first Mexican diocese, Tlaxcala, was established in 1527, and several others date from the 16th century. The last to be established were in Puebla in 1903 and Yucatán in 1906. Parish registers (registros parroquiales) recorded baptisms (bautismos), marriages (matrimonios), deaths (defunciones) and burials (entierros).
Praying for more
Catholic churches also recorded additional information in conjunction with key events in a parishioner’s life, although these records have not been as widely microfilmed. Larger parishes, for example, would keep a separate book to record confirmations (confirmaciones), while these were intermingled with baptism records in smaller churches. Confirmation records usually contain only the name of the confirmant, his or her parents’ names and the names of the godparents. These records are most useful to confirm family ties found in other records. In small or remote parishes, where the bishop or his representative might visit only every few years, several family members of different ages might be confirmed together, giving you a resource to identify siblings.
If you’ve struck out finding Mexican ancestors in civil registrations and parish records, there are other resources you can try. But such otherwise familiar record sources such as cemetery records, censuses and probate files are less readily available for Mexican research than for US ancestors.
Mexican History Timeline
1527 | Bishopric of Mexico created
1535 | Viceroyalty of New Spain established
1598 | Juan de Oñate establishes New Mexico
1691 | Spain appoints the first governor of Texas
1810 | Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla’s “Grito de Dolores” begins fight for independence
1821 | Mexico wins independence from Spain
1846 | Mexican-American War begins
1848 | Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes most of Mexican territory in present-day United States
1859 | Benito Juárez proclaims Reform Laws; civil registration begins
1910 | Mexican Revolution begins
Hispanic heritage organizations
Latin roots resources
Spanish, Portuguese and Basque organizations