Spain Finding Place of Origin

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Spain Gotoarrow.png Locating Place of Origin

Important Tips[edit | edit source]

Before you can begin to search in the records of Spain you must find that one record that gives the name of his or her hometown. You must also know enough about the ancestor to positively identify him in the records. Dates (even if they are approximate), places, and familial connections are key to helping you decide if a person you find, who has the same name as your ancestor, really is your ancestor.

  • Do you know the name of his/her parents?
  • Do you know his/her birth, marriage, or death date or can you calculate an approximate range of years to search for his/her birth, marriage, or death?
  • Do you know the name of the spouse? Did they marry before or after coming to the United States?
  • Do you know the names of any of his/her siblings?
  • Do you know the names of any children born in Spain?

Documents in the Home[edit | edit source]

Often the document you need to pinpoint the place of origin of your Spain ancestor is already found at home. These might include the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates or licenses
  • Death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Funeral cards
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bible
  • Naturalization papers
  • Citizenship papers
  • Military service records

Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives[edit | edit source]

Find the oldest living relatives that you can and ask them:

  1. What do you know about our first ancestor to come from Spain? (open-ended)
  2. Have you ever heard mention of towns in Spain where the family lived?
  3. Do you have contact with any relatives in Spain?
  4. Do you have contact with other branches of the family in the U.S.?
  5. When _____________ came from Spain, did he travel with other family members?
  6. Do you know when _________________ arrived?
  7. Did _______________ever become a citizen?
  8. Did_________________fight in World War I or II?
  9. When they first came, were there already family members here who they joined?
  10. Did_______________ever mention their parents in Spain?
  11. Do you have any old letters or postcards from Spain family?
  12. Do you have any pictures of family members in Spain?

Indexed Records Created in Spain[edit | edit source]

Make Sure You Found the Correct Entry for Your Ancestor[edit | edit source]


There may be many types of indexed records that cover parts, even large parts of Spain. Searching those indexes by name only can turn up several entries of the same name. Never jump to an immediate conclusion that you have found an entry that matches your ancestor. Study the information for other clues that verify the match.

  • Make sure the person you found in Spanish records left Spain. Look for them in marriage and death records of the same vicinity. See whether they have children a generation later in the vicinity. These things prove they remained in Spain and would rule them out as your ancestor.
  • Match any other relationships. If you already know the parents' names, spouse's name, and/or siblings' names, make sure they match the parents' names, spouse's name, and/or siblings' names of the person you are considering in the Spanish records. The parents and grandparents will usually be listed in birth records found in church records or civil records. Search for siblings' birth records and any marriage before leaving Spain in the same index.
  • Study all available entries for that name born at the same approximate time, not just the first possible match you see.
  • Consider the coverage of the database you are using. Does it cover all of Spain? Or could there be many other records not covered that could hold your ancestor's record. For example, if the database is for just one province, there are 110 other provinces which could have your ancestor's record.
  • Make sure the details you have learned about the person after they immigrate have no discrepancies with the person you found in Spanish records.

Spain Records Databases to Try[edit | edit source]

  • Spain Guided Research
  • Spain Civil Registration, government birth, marriage, and death records could be available from the early 1800s to the early or mid-1900s. These records can name grandparents in addition to parents, and towns for residence and/or birth for both.
  • There are several Spain Church Records online.
  • See Spain Emigration and Immigration for records of Spanishs immigrating, including some online digitized records and indexes.
  • See Spain Online Genealogy Records for other databases that might hold clues.
  • Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES): Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES) is a documentary archive established and hosted by the Spanish Ministry of Education. It offers free access to digitized images of the Spanish Archives. On 10 May 2016, it was updated to PARES 2.0, with more than 33.9 million digital images and 8.6 million document archives. There are a variety of emigration/immigration digitized. [1]

Records of the Country of Destination[edit | edit source]

  • Church Records: If your ancestor immigrated to a European or a South American/Hispanic country, church records can be detailed enough to identify a former residence or birthplace in the home country. These countries, unlike the United States, had state churches. In many countries, these state churches were used by the country to keep birth, marriage, and death records. Even though your ancestor was born in his former country, he may have married, and certainly died in his new country. Marriage and death records can state birthplace.
  • Civil Registration: Eventually, most governments began keeping birth, marriage, and death records. These tend to be quite detailed. Again, if your ancestor was possibly married and certainly died in their new country, those records can state birthplace.
  • Citizenship Records: If your ancestor became a full citizen, those records probably name birthplace and former residence.
  • Online Genealogy Records: See Online Genealogy Records by Location and find the online genealogy record page for your country to see other indexed collections that can be consulted.

Records to Search Created in the United States[edit | edit source]

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Understand that any birth, marriage, or death certificate gives information about other people besides the primary person it is about

  1. It is important to remember that a birth certificate for a child might tell it's parents' birthplaces.
  2. Marriage certificates might name birth dates and places of the bride and groom. They might also give the names and birth places of the parents of the bride and groom.
  3. Death certificates are very important. Birth and marriage certificates might not have kept by a state during the earlier years of your ancestor's life. There is a greater chance that your ancestor died after detailed record-keeping began. Death certificates frequently state birth date and place. They also state the names of parents and their birth places.
  • There are wiki articles giving details on how to find vital records o each state. You can select the state of interest and the record (birth, marriage, or death) from this list: How-To Articles.
  • Many records may be online. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State, for online vital record databases.

Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Websites such as FindAGrave and Billion Graves are making it easier to get information from headstones, which frequently give birth dates, and occasionally give birth places. Each state has additional collections of cemetery records. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to other online cemetery records.

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Modern obituaries usually list birth date and place and parents' names. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State and select your state for links to online obituary collections.

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Draft records for World War I and II ask for birth place, which can be listed as just Spain or in greater detail.

Social Security[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

  • The censuses for 1900 to 1930 ask for the year of immigration and whether or not the person was naturalized. This information can help you find naturalization records or a passenger list.
  • United States Census Online Genealogy Records will give you links to every census. The FamilySearch links lead to a free search, but the search engine is not as reliable. The other links are for subscription websites, but they can be searched free-of-charge at any Family History Center.
  • State census records vary in availability and the type of information they contain, but they are always useful as another source to document an ancestor in a specific locality. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online state censuses.

Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

  • Naturalization records may also list an ancestor’s birth place.
  • Prior to 1906 any U.S. court could naturalize foreigners. Many pre-1900 records only list “Spain” as the country of citizenship; however, there are notable exceptions, so these records should be checked routinely.
  • The process involved two sets of papers: a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen, and a petition filed some time later.
  • Beginning in 1906, naturalization records became more detailed, as the responsibility shifted to the Federal government.
  • More information about naturalization records, along with helpful links, is found at Beginning Research in United States Naturalization Records and United States Naturalization and Citizenship Online Genealogy Records.

Passport Applications[edit | edit source]

Passenger Arrival Lists[edit | edit source]

Passenger lists, especially in the 20th century, may list birth place, last residence in mother country, and name and residence of a close relative in the mother country. United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records is a comprehensive list of passenger arrival databases that you can search right now from your computer. There are many, many databases. The following search strategy will make your search more efficient.

Suggested Search Strategy[edit | edit source]
  1. Check the partner website indexes, as these cover many, many databases at once. The FamilySearch Historical Records databases is free to search with a free registered account. The other websites are subscription-based but can be searched for free at a Family History Center near you. Try to search each partner site because their search engines can often bring up slightly different results.
  2. If it is difficult for you to get access to the subscription databases, next try Additional Nationwide Collections Not Included in Partner Sites. These websites have a lot of overlap with the subscription websites.
  3. Search the state collection for the first state where your ancestor lived.
Specialized Spanish Immigration Records[edit | edit source]
  • Index of Spanish citizens entering the port of New Orleans between January 1840 and December 1865. Charles R. Mauduell, Jr. New Orleans: Charles Midrell, 1966. FHL US/CAN Book 976.335/N1 W2.
  • Border Crossing Records if your ancestor went to Mexico and then later crossed into the United States. These records are for the years 1895-1957. Indexes are available on FamilySearch. Indexes and images are available on, which is a subscription website which you may be able to access at your local FamilySearch center or public library.

Alien Registration[edit | edit source]

Church Records[edit | edit source]


  1. "Portal de Archivos Españoles", in Wikipedia,, accessed 15 May 2021.