Chile Emigration and Immigration

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving a country (emigration) or coming into a country from another country (immigration). Many Chileans trace their ancestral lines to immigrants from Europe, especially from Spain.

Lists of emigrants are usually found in passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, and records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the name of the emigrant, age, occupation, destination, and often the emigrant’s place of origin or birthplace. These sources can be very valuable in helping you determine where your ancestor came from before arriving in Chile.

In addition to their usefulness in determining where your ancestor lived before leaving for another country, these records can help in constructing family groups. If you don’t find your ancestor, search for information on neighbors of your ancestor. People who lived near each other were often from the same areas in the country of origin.

Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) discovered the northeastern area of South America—what is now Venezuela—on his third voyage, in 1498. After his discovery of America, significant numbers of immigrants moved to Latin America during the following periods:

  • 1540–1789. Great numbers of immigrants, mostly from Spain, moved into Chile and other Latin American countries.This wave of immigration was caused by immigrants’ desire to make their fortune and colonize the new area.
  • 1790–1839. Immigration to America decreased because of independence wars in the colonies.
  • 1840–1930. Immigration to the Americas increased again. In this period not only Spaniards but also Germans, Italians, Scandinavians, and Japanese immigrated to Chile and other countries in the Americas.

Toward the end of the 19th century, many thousands of Europeans immigrated to southern South America. German and eastern European colonists settled parts of Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay. During the early 20th century, many immigrants from western and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Orient arrived in Chile and other countries in South America. Migration within Chile was very common during the mid-20th century.

Before the 19th century, emigrants were not always recorded formally. Passengers emigrating by sea to another country registered on ships at the time of departure, but once the emigrants arrived in South America, open frontiers and vast uninhabited territories allowed for relatively free and unregistered migration within the regions. Beginning in the 19th century, some documentation may have been required of persons leaving one country to reside in another. During the 20th century the issuing of passports became common practice.

Spain, Cadiz Passports - FamilySearch Historical Records

Finding the Immigrant’s Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Once you have traced your family back to an immigrant ancestor, you must determine the city or town the ancestor was from. There are several sources that may help you locate your ancestor’s place of origin. You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to other family members. Relatives, a local Chilean society, or a library may have also documents that name your ancestor’s city or town of origin. These documents include:

  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bibles or other family records
  • Church records
  • Naturalization applications and petitions
  • Obituaries
  • Passenger lists
  • Passports
  • Family heirlooms
  • Local histories of the area where your ancestor settled

Census records can also be a source of immigration information. However, they typically list only the country of a person’s origin rather than the specific town or parish. (See Chile Census for more information.) History records can also be a source of immigration information. (See Chile Church History).

Additional information about finding the origins of immigrant ancestors is given in Tracing Immigrant Origins.

Emigration from Spain[edit | edit source]

Before 1775, most of the emigrants from Spain came from the regions of Castilla, Andalucía, or Extremadura. The people from Cataluña, Aragón, Galicia, and Vascongadas were excluded from the Americas by the Consejo de Indias.After 1775, Carlos III of Spain gave permission to all Spaniards to colonize any part of the Spanish lands in the Americas. Emigrants from Spain left records documenting their migration in the port of departure as well as in the country they moved to.

Emigration Records of the Colonial Period (1492–1810)[edit | edit source]

The Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, is the repository for Spanish documents dealing with the Spanish colonial period in the Americas (see Chile Archives and Libraries). You may want to look for your ancestor’s records in the following sections of the archive:

  • Informaciones de Méritos y Servicios de los Descubridores/Conquistadores (Information on Merits and Services of the Discoverers and Conquerors). This contains documents of the ships and passengers who sailed to the colonies during the early 1500s.
  • Casa de Contratación de las Indias (House of Contracts of the Indies). This is an excellent documentation of passenger lists for ships sailing to the American colonies between 1509 and 1701, as well as petitions and licenses for permission to emigrate during the period 1534 to 1790.

The following book may also be helpful:

Catálogo de Pasajeros a las Indias durante los Siglos XVI, XVII, y XVIII (Catalog of Passengers to the Indies during the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries. Sevilla, Spain: s.n., 1940–. (FHL book 946 W2sa; FHL films 0277577–8.)

Emigration Records Beginning in the Mid-1800s[edit | edit source]

Ship arrivals and passenger lists provide the best documentation of immigrants who came to South America after the middle of the 19th century. These records are housed in the national archives of each of the countries in South America. For information about archives, see Chile Archives and Libraries.

Another important source of information for immigrant ancestors are the emigration records that may exist from the port city of departure.

During the early period, most Spanish emigrants left through the ports of Sevilla, Cádiz, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and Málaga in southern Spain. These records were housed in the cities of Cádiz and Sevilla. Later the ports of San Sebastián, Bilbao, Santander, and La Coruña in northern Spain were added as departure cities not only for Spaniards but also for other Europeans. These emigrants almost always traveled first to Islas Canarias (the Canary Islands) where they resided for a short time before continuing on to the Americas. Registers of these emigrants were kept in Cádiz and Sevilla. These records are currently housed in the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla.'

The records of departures from these ports are called passenger lists. The information contained in these lists varies over time but usually includes the name of the emigrant, age, occupation, and destination. In addition, names of other family members, last town of residence, and birthplace may be given.

Emigration to South America slowed drastically between 1790–1825 due to wars of independence in the Latin American colonies. Toward 1840 and beyond, emigration from Europe to Latin America increased as people left Europe seeking religious, economic, or political freedom.

Other Records of Departure[edit | edit source]

People desiring to emigrate from Spain or those migrating within the colonies in South America were required to register at the time of departure. Some of these records can be found under:

  • Permissions to emigrate
  • Probates of relatives who stayed
  • Church records (annotations)
  • Passports
  • Court records

These records are not available at the Family History Library but may be found at the national archives of the departure country.

Records of Immigrants to Chile[edit | edit source]

Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she immigrated to. These sources sometimes provide the town of origin and other information.

Most emigrants to Chile arrived at the port of Valparaíso. Although the Family History Library has not obtained many records of immigrant arrivals in Chile, some passenger lists from 1825–1900 may be found in the National Library (Biblioteca Nacional) in Santiago. Passports from 1873–1974 are found in the national archives under the Miscellaneous Records (fondos varios)section.

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

Family History Library has some microfilm copies and books relating to emigration records. The film or call number of these records is listed in the “Locality” section of the FamilySearch Catalog.

For records of emigration from Spain, Chile, and other countries in South America, look under:



For records of emigration and immigration within Latin American countries, look under:


See also records under the heading “Colonization,” for example:


Most of those who emigrated from European countries other than Spain travelled through the ports of Hamburg, LeHavre, Liverpool, Naples, Rotterdam, and Trieste. The records of Hamburg and some other European ports have been microfilmed and are available in the collection of the Family History Library. These passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Note: the old Hamburg Passenger Lists Resource Guide has been incorporated into the article. Also see the microfiche instructions in Hamburg Passenger Lists.

Other sources of emigration information are described under “Records of Immigrants to Chile” and “Finding the Emigrant’s Town of Origin” in this section. Chile Minorities may also be helpful.


Encyclopedias provide information on all branches of knowledge or treat a specific topic comprehensively, usually in articles arranged alphabetically. They often contain information of great interest for genealogical research. They can include articles about towns and places, prominent people, minorities, and religions. They can also give information about diverse topics such as record-keeping practices, laws, customs, commerce, costumes, occupations, and archaic terminology. The following encyclopedias and encyclopedic reference books may be particularly helpful in your research:

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean. 2 ed. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. (FHL book 980 A5c).

Schaefer, Christina K. Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas: A Complete Digest of the Records of All the Countries of the Western Hemisphere. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., Inc., 1998. (FHL book 929.11812 D26s.)

Bizzarro, Salvatore. Historical Dictionary of Chile. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987. (FHL book 983 H26b.)

Encyclopedias are listed in the “Locality” section of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


For information on language dictionaries, see Chile Language and Languages.

FamilySearch Historical Record Collections[edit | edit source]

An online collection containing this record is located in

A wiki article describing this collection is found atL