Chile Gazetteers

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  • A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. Gazetteers describe towns and villages; parishes and provinces; sizes of population; and rivers, mountains, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places as they existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.

Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as:

  • Religious denominations
  • Schools, colleges, and universities
  • Major manufacturing works, canals, docks and railroad stations.

You can use a gazetteer to locate the places where your family lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. The following is an entry from a gazetteer:

  • Vallenar. c. en la III Región (Atacama), cap. de la prov. de Huasco. (Vallenar - town in the 3rd region [Atacama], capital of the province of Huasco)

There may be many places in a particular country with the same or similar name. You will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific town where your ancestor lived, the governmental district it was in, and the jurisdictions where records were kept. Gazetteers are also helpful for determining province jurisdictions as used in the FamilySearch Catalog.

If you need to find the name of a Catholic parish, consult a church directory (see Chile Church Directories).

Finding Place-Names in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Place-names in the FamilySearch Catalog are listed under the modern names, provinces, or departments. To find the province or other division that a town is filed under in the FamilySearch Catalog, you can use the “see” references on the first FamilySearch Catalog Locality microfiche of each state. If you are using the catalog on compact disc, use the “Locality Browse” search. The computer will find places with that name.

Because of the many changes in place-names, the Family History Library uses one gazetteer from each country as the standard guide for listing places in the FamilySearch Catalog. Regardless of the names a place may have had at various times, all places are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog by the name they are listed under in the gazetteer chosen as the locality authority for that country. The locality authority used for Chile is:

  • Fox, Steven J. Comunas y circunscripciones de Chile (Municipalities and Circumscriptions of Chile). Salt Lake City: S. J. Fox, 1979. (FHL book 983 E2c.) This lists the names of places as they were in the year 1970. This version identifies when Civil Registration offices were first established in cities (comunas) throughout Chile. The localities in this book are organized geographically beginning with the north of Chile. See the third page for a listing of provinces. To view a digital version of this book click here

Other supporting sources are:

  • Asta-Buruaga y Cienfuegos, Francisco Solano. Diccionario geográfico de la República de Chile
  • Kaplan Cojano, Oscar. Atlas escolar de Chile (Scholastic Atlas of Chile). Santiago, Chile: O. Kaplan C., 1970. (FHL book 983 E7k.)

Gazetteers and geographical name information can be found under:




Modern Place-Names[edit | edit source]

For some research purposes, such as correspondence, it is useful to learn modern jurisdictions for the area where your ancestors lived. This may also be helpful when finding the ancestral town on modern maps. Modern gazetteers can be found at most large libraries and archives.

Historical Place-Names[edit | edit source]

Because names and boundaries of some places have changed or no longer exist, you may need to use sources that describe places as they were known earlier. These sources are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under:




A history book that identifies places of Chile is:

  • Thayer Ojeda, Tomás. Las antiguas ciudades de Chile: apuntes históricos sobre su desarrollo i [i.e. y] listas de los funcionarios que actuaron en ellas hasta el año 1565 (The Ancient Cities of Chile, Historical Notes on Their Development and Lists of the Officials Who Governed Them until 1565.) Santiago, Chile: Imprenta Cervantes, 1911. (FHL book 983 H2to; film 1162489.)  

A historical atlas that identifies early places of Chile is:

  • Cunill Grau, Pedro. Atlas histórico de Chile(Historical Atlas of Chile). Santiago, Chile: Empresa Editorial Zig-Zag, 1961. (FHL book 983 E7cg.)

A historical gazetteer that identifies places of Chile and the world is:

  • John Bartholomew (John George). A literary & historical atlas of America. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1910. (FHL book 912.19812 B283.)