Mission Accomplished

By Diane Haddad Premium

Mission San Luis Rey (top) was founded in 1798. Original records, such as this baptismal register, are fragile and difficult to read.

Baptism, marriage and burial registers of California’s historic Spanish missions have always been accessible to few scholars. The originals, scattered across various archives, are too brittle to handle. If you can find microfilm copies, good luck interpreting the 18th-century Spanish script. The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., gives you a peek at these registers in the Early California Population Project <>. This online database contains transcribed information on Indians, soldiers and settlers of Alta California (roughly, the current state of California) from 1769 to 1850. Records include 101,000 baptisms, 27,000 marriages and 71,000 burials from 21 missions, the Los Angeles Plaza Church and the Santa Barbara Presidio.

Searching isn’t the most intuitive. First, select a record type (baptism, burial or marriage). You can search on many criteria, such as name, age, religion and spouse’s name. Use the table’s pull-down menus to select a criterion, then enter the information in the corresponding field. For example, select Ego’s Native Name (“Ego” being the subject of the record) and enter a first name, using a % as a wildcard to replace a character you don’t know. To run a Boolean search, choose a Clause — and, or, not — for each criterion.

Click on a match and you’ll see a form showing whatever details are in the record, such as date of the sacrament, recipient’s origin, spouse’s name, and a coded mission name. See the search tips to unscramble the code and peruse other helpful information about how padres kept each mission’s records.

From the December 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.