This tutorial will introduce you to tbasic record formats; that is, it will focus on the specific information contained in each record and locate where that information can usually be found.


Reading old records written in Portuguese is not the same as reading, for example, a modem newspaper written in Portuguese. Besides having to become familiar with a different set of words, you will need to adjust to such things as old styles of handwriting, unfamiliar abbreviations, misspelled words, ink blotches, and torn pages. While some of these things may cause you concern, you will find that in a very short period of time, you will be able to read old Portuguese records with ease and accuracy.

Types and Formats

When the records you will be reading were kept, Portugal and Brazil were almost 100 percent Catholic. Of all the records mentioned on this site, Catholic records are the most important for family historians and genealogists with Portuguese ancestry. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church required that each of its parishes keep records of the scaraments, baptisms (christenings) and marriages, performed in the parish. The church also prescribed the form in which these records, or parish registers, were to be kept. During the nineteenth century Brazil adopted Civil Registration Laws, and Portugal adopted civil registration in 1905. Those laws prescibed the form and content of those records of births, marriages and deaths .

Although the specific requirements for keeping registers have changed from time to time, the formats of entries have stayed basically the same. This tutorial will introduce you to those basic formats; that is, it will focus on the specific information contained in each entry and locate where that information can usually be found.

As you begin reading through records in Portuguese, consult the topics that appear in the sidebar under TECHNIQUES & TOOLS beginning with the Overview and then the Seven Practical Suggestions. As you do this be reassured about your ability to learn to read old Portuguese records. Three things will help to make your task easier. First, some words in Portuguese are very similar to English words that you already know. Second, the handwriting style in most Portuguese records is basically the same style we use today. Third, the information that you have to read will be in roughly the same place in each record. Now to begin click here to go to Overview or here to go to Seven Practical Suggestions.​

The ​Portuguese Script Tutorial is currently under development. In the meantime you may want to consult the following online resources:

  1. Basic Portuguese Paleography (Available in English)
  2. FamilySearch.org - Handwriting Helps

Thank you for your interest in the Portuguese Script Tutorial.