Isabela Province, Philippines Genealogy

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Guide to Province of Isabela family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

Province of Isabela


History[edit | edit source]

It is believed that the history of the province dates back over 25,999 years ago with a Stone-Age race of dark skinned kinky haired pygmies whose descendants, the Nomadic Aetas (Negritos), can still be found roaming the mountains and forests of Eastern Isabela today. The Indonesians arrived 5,000 years ago, followed by three waves of Malays between 200 BC and 1,500 AD. These pagan ancestors of the Ibanags, Gaddangs, Yogads, Kalingas and other original tribes of the Valley built a civilization based on corn agriculture and organized around the fundamental political unit, the barangay.

The Spaniards arrived in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and introduced Christianity, encomienda (forerunner of the municipality) and tobacco monopoly. Spanish rule was extremely oppressive so that the natives rose in revolt on several occasions, most notably in the 18th century under the leadership of Dabo and Marayag.

A new wave of inmigration began in the late 19th century and early 20th century with the arrival of the Ilocanos who came in large numbers. They now constituted the largest group in the province. Other ethnic groups followed and Isabela became the “melting pot of the north”.

The formal history of the province dates back on May 1, 1856, when by a Royal Decree, Isabela was carved from the existing provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya with the town of Ilagan as its capital. The new province was named in honor of “Her Royal Highness Queen Isabela II” of Spain at the time when Urbiztondo was the Governor-General of the Philippines.

Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it was in Palanan where the final pages of the Philippine Revolution was written when the American forces led by General Funston finally captured General Emilio Aguinaldo in that frontier town, on March 23, 1901.

The Americans built schools and other infrastructure and instituted changes in the overall political system. The province’s economy, however, remained primarily agricultural with rice replacing corn and tobacco as the dominant crop. The Second World War turned back the province’s growth and economy but it recovered dramatically through the concerted efforts of its people and officials.

Today, Isabela is the premier province of the north and one of the most progressive in the country.

Research Methods[edit | edit source]

The vast majority of your family research will be in civil registration and church records. This article explains different methods for obtaining these records.

Civil Registration (Registros Civiles)[edit | edit source]

  • The recording births, marriages and deaths, provides important information of events in a person's life and required valid evidence, making these records very important.
  • Most vital records from before 1889 come from Catholic parish and diocesan archives.
  • In 1889, the Spanish government created the Central Office of Statistics, which required each parish priest to give the government a detailed list of the births, marriages, and deaths in his area.
  • After the Philippine Revolution of 1898, the church and state became separate. Within the first few years, officials responsible for civil registration were appointed in each municipality.
  • In 1930, civil registration became mandatory and, in 1932, the Bureau of Census and Statistics was created to oversee all civil registration in the Philippines. It was not until 1940 that most registrations began to be recorded.
  • Contents:
    • Births: Child’s name, birth date and place; parents’ names, residence, and occupation; witnesses’ ages, relationships, residences.
    • Marriages: Bride and groom names, ages, residences, occupations, marriage date and place; sometimes ages and/or birth dates and places; parents' names; residences, occupations; witnesses and officer who performed ceremony; former spouses.
    • Death registers: Name of deceased, age, death date and place, occupation, name of surviving spouse, informant’s name and residence, cause of death, sometimes birth date and place, parents’ names, children’s names.
    • Fetal deaths: Record of all stillbirths, includes information similar to birth and death data shown above.
  • Population coverage: Before 1922, 20%; after 1922, 90%.

1. Online Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

The following online collections may have records for your town. There is a small possibility that some of the records for your town have been indexed. A comprehensive index will search all the available indexed records of these collections at once: Search Historical Records. Do not be discouraged if records for your town are not found in these collections. The next section of this article 2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog, should lead you to many more records.


2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

You can also search microfilmed copies of available civil registration records. If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to try to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Philippines, Isabela.
b. Click on "Places within Philippines, Isabela" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3.Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

  • Civil registry documents that can be obtained from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 1945 -.Click here for detailed instructions for requesting certificates by mail. Click here to order records online.
  • Civil registry records from the National Archives, prior to 1945. See Philippines Civil Registration (Archives Division) collection listed above under 1. Online Civil Registration Records to find the starting date for your province. Click here for the Archives Collection and Access Division. . Here you will find instructions and forms for ordering records from the National Archives.
  • A copy of the records have been retained in local civil registry offices. Because many records were lost or damaged in the war, checking both the national office and local office might help find a surviving record. Click here for a directory of office telephone numbers, fax numbers, and sometimes e-mail addresses. To write to them, address your letter to:

City Civil Registry
(postal code--find it here) (City)
Isabela, Philippines


English is the official language of the Philippines. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with organizing your letter and phrasing your requests.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church records are very important for family research. Civil authorities did not consistently register vital events in the Philippines until the nineteenth century. Church records, on the other hand, were well kept from 1569 (in accordance with the directives of the Council of Trent), with some records dating even earlier. They are generally an excellent source—and many times the only source—of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Key records are baptisms/christenings, marriages, and deaths/burials.

Generally registers exist for the following denominations:

  • Roman Catholic (Iglesia Católica) 1579-
  • Philippine Independent (Aglipayan) 1902-
  • Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) 1914-
  • Presbyterian 1899-
  • Baptist 1900-
  • Methodist 1900-
  • Protestant Episcopal 1901-
  • United Brethren 1901-
  • Disciples of Christ 1901-
  • Congregational 1902-

Other religious groups in the Philippines:

  • Islam (Muslim immigrants and converts 11th-15th centuries, also called Moros)
  • Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian (Some Chinese immigrants arrived in the 16th-19th centuries, but many more arrived in the 20th century)
  • Hindu (East Indian immigrants arrived in the 20th century)
  • Jews (Arrived in the 20th century)

Contents:

  • Baptismal records: Baptism dates; children’s names; parents’ residence and names (sometimes mother's maiden name is given); witnesses’ and godparents’ names, and sometimes their residence and relationship to infants; sometimes grandparents’ names.
  • Marriage records: Candidates’ names; marriage and/or proclamation dates; often birth places, residence, witnesses, former spouses and parents’ names.
  • Death/burial records: Name of deceased; burial date; often age and cause of death; residence; spouse’s name, especially for women; parents’ names for deceased children.

1. Online Church Records[edit | edit source]

These very limited collections include some church records:


The Ancestry.com collections are the same, but their search engine seems more powerful.


The collections are also available on MyHeritage.


Ancestry.com, findmypast, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local Family History Center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. .

2. Microfilm Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

You can also search microfilmed copies of available church records. If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to try to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Philippines, Isabela.
b. Click on "Places within Philippines, Isabela" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor. "Bautismos" are baptisms. Matrimônios and "Casamentos" are marriages. "Óbitos" and Defunciones are deaths. "Índice" is the index.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3. Writing to Request Records[edit | edit source]

Unless you know your ancestor was of another religion, begin by searching Catholic records. Isabela Province is in the Diocese of Ilagan. Write or telephone to inquire whether the diocese holds the parish records:

Diocese of Ilagan
St. Ferdinand Cathedral Compound
Maharlika Highway, Ubi, Gamu
3301 Isabela, Philippines

Telephone: (078)622-1584

Or write directly or call the parish. See The Catholic Directory for addresses and telephone numbers for parishes.


For other religions, Google the denomination and the location. Many churches maintain websites.

Write, call, or personally visit the parish or church. Ask for permission to study their records or make arrangements for them to search for you. It is usual to pay for their help in the form of a donation to the church. When you write, send the following:

  • Full name and the gender of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
  • Check or cash for the search fee (usually about $10.00).


English is the official language of the Philippines. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with organizing your letter and phrasing your requests.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Many records are written in Spanish. You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Spanish Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. Handwriting skills are taught in BYU Spanish Script Tutorial.
  • Online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:




Tips for finding your ancestor in the records[edit | edit source]

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies.

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records.
  • Then repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]