Monday, July 30, 2007

Diane Godinez' talk on "Researching Hispanic Family History"

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society program today was on "Researching Hispanic Family History" by Diane Godinez. Diane's biography and talk summary are posted here. I was really looking forward to her presentation because it provides an opportunity to better understand this area of genealogy research which applies to about 50% of our local population.

Perhaps the most useful information she passed on was the naming system used for many centuries in Hispanic families. A person has a first given name, perhaps a second given name, and then two surnames - the first is the father's father's surname and the second is the mother's father's surname. The wife retains her father's surname in her identity. The children of the family are called by the father's surname. For instance, Maria Barragan Gutierrez has a given name of Maria, her father's surname was Barragan, her mother's surname was Gutierrez, and she was known in public as Maria Barragan. If she married Jose Garcia Ramirez and they had a child Pablo, the child's name would have been Pablo Garcia Barragan. It's a really simple and useful system, but confusing to English speaking Americans who often use the "last name" when referring to people of Hispanic heritage.

Diane works at the Bonita FHC and has compiled a list of Mexican church records available at the Center on microfilm, which we will soon post on the CVGS web site. She noted that Mexican church records were the most useful documents available for pre-1900 records, and many church records are available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Library Catalog. The church records contain baptisms (often immediately after birth, with godparents who are usually family members), marriages (they usually list the birth places and birth parents of each person), and deaths (which list the parents for a child, the spouse for a married adult). Since many Mexican church records have been extracted into the LDS IGI, once you find an event in a certain church, you can usually use the Batch Number to find the entire set of extracted records and find other family members.

She said that the 1930 census for Mexico is the only useful census data, and provided an example of the information enumerated. She also mentioned Civil Registration, which is a more recent birth, marriage or death record filed with the state.

Diane was asked about the coverage of Mexican church records in the LDS microfilms, and said that very many churches had their records microfilmed, but that they were not complete. Her example for a small village church in Jalisco had records from 1699 to 1958. You really have to consult the Family History Library Catalog for a specific village or city.

She provided a number of references, including:

* "Spanish Records Extraction - An Instructional Guide" available online for download at

* Al's Genealogy at - an excellent introduction to Hispanic Family History research.

* - provides information on many research areas and different countries. There are links to 8 years of Society of Hispanic Historic and Ancestral Research (SHHAR) monthly publications with significant genealogy content.

* - for researchers of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes families.

Diane's talk was a great eye-opener for our members, interesting and intriguing, and fun. At the very least, now our CVGS members know a bit more about Hispanic research and have someone that we can direct local Hispanic families to for expert help.

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