• Church records: The Catholic Church and other religious organizations recorded baptisms, marriages and deaths before and after official civil registration began in 1885. To find church records, you must know the town where your ancestor lived and the parish he belonged to. The FHL has some church records on microfilm; run a place search on Puerto Rico as described above, then click the church records category to see what’s available. Most original records are still with the parish church (check in this online church directory), but one of five historical dioceses (listed on Wikipedia) might have copies.
Between 1930 and 1959, the Bureau of Employment and Identification and the Migration Division of the Labor Department of Puerto Rico issued 47,342 English identification cards to US citizens born in Puerto Rico. The Center of Puerto Rican Studies at The City University of New York’s Hunter College has the official applications for these cards, plus supporting documents that serve as proof of US citizenship. From these records, you can learn your relative’s birth date, birthplace, residence at the time of application, marital status and more.
• US territory status: 1898
Department of Health
Fernandez Juncos Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00910
A version of this article originally appeared in the March 2010 of Family Tree Magazine.