These are some of the questions I occasionally receive from new contacts via e-mail. Actually, they mostly deal with things I can’t do!
I’d like to do my own research into my Spanish ancestry, can you tell me what websites and records I can use, or which archives I should go to when I visit Spain?
A. No. I can only provide professional services to my clients. If you’d like free tips for conducting research in Spain, FamilySearch offers a variety of how-to resources on their site, click on the link.
I don’t know which town in Spain my ancestor was born in, can you still trace my family tree?
A. This needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Even for recent births, there is still no national database of records that can be searched for leads. There are things that help get through this brick wall: if your ancestor had an unusual surname, or – say – held an official post in colonial government, with extra work we may be able to get around the lack of precise knowledge about where to begin. In other words, we may need to search before we research. Contact me for more details.
I’d like to track my birth father, is this something you can do?
A. Probably not. Spain’s privacy laws are quite strict for most record sets less than 75 years old. In some specific cases I’ve tried – for example, where a person was trying to locate their father, and had a full address for him dated 1963 – local authorities were unmoved and refused to disclose whether he still lived in the same city, or to pass a message to him on the client’s behalf if he did. In another case, an inheritance I was trying to distribute eventually went to the state because although I had the 2011 address of the legatee, who had died shortly after the testator, the local town hall would not tell me to whom who the legatee was married or who else resided at her last known address. This leaves little beyond social media as a resource for finding living individuals.
I already know what town/province/region of Spain my family came from, can you recommend a genealogist there to assist me?
A. No. This website is here to offer my skills and experience. That said, I did previously offer referrals in a small number of cases, but – regrettably, and to my surprise – on nearly every occasion, clients were disappointed. I therefore concluded that I can only vouch for my own work, not anyone else’s.
Can you trace my Spanish ancestry over the internet or using microfilm, without having to travel?
A. Probably not. Civil registry – records of births and so on – exists in Spain only from 1872. Before that, family trees have to be built mainly from the sacramental records of the Catholic Church – baptism, marriage and burial records. For a variety of reasons, most parishes have not been microfilmed and probably never will be. Unless all of your ancestors happened to live and die within one of the dioceses that has been microfilmed, eventually someone will have to go to the appropriate diocesan archive and consult the original records. The same is true for tracing one’s Spanish ancestry over the internet. The internet has become a wonderful asset to genealogists everywhere, and those tracing British or American ancestry, among others, can make huge progress using a variety of pay-per-use websites operated by private enterprise. Unfortunately, there is no such online commercial resource for Spanish genealogy, so what remains are a variety of sites covering limited areas – a particular diocese, province or archive – which leaves the outlook for success very much hit-and-miss.