Latin Influence             

The Use of Latin in the Records

Latin has been used in official documents for centuries, either in notarial or church records. Because Latin has been the official language of the Catholic Church since its beginning, and because priests were used to reading and writing in Latin, it is common to see the influence of Latin in their writings in different languages.

There are many aspects of the text of old Spanish handwritten parish records that show the influence of Latin. Sometimes, scribes would include certain ecclesiastical phrases relative to sacraments directly in Latin, such as:

  • sub conditione (conditionally)
  • inter missarum solemnia (during the solemn mass)
  • in faciae ecclesiae (in front of the church)

Other phrases are included to explain the authority by which the priest is acting in performing the sacrament, such as:

  • ex licentia parochi (by license of the parish priest)
  • cum venia parochi (with permission of the parish priest)
  • coram testibus (In the presence of witnesses)
  • cum licentia in scriptis (with a license in writing)

One of the most commonly included phrases used in parish records is ut supra (as above) which is usually used referring to the date already mentioned above in the record.​

Regarding notarial records, most will start with the Latin phrase In Dei Nomine, Amen or In Nomini Domini, Amen (In the name of the Lord, Amen).

Online translators, like, are helpful for understanding Latin phrases:
Latin to Spanish​

The Influence of Latin on Spelling

Some names that in Spanish are written with one vowel could appear spelled with two vowels because of Latin influence, for example, Augustin for Agustin.

Sometimes, it is common to find Spanish words including additional consonants at the end of syllables that occur in the Latin spelling of the word, such as c and p - for example, baptice for bauticé, and sancto for santo.

Document Spelling Current Spelling Samples from Document
sancto Domingo santo Domingo
baptice​ bautice

The interchangeable use of j and i, and u and v, are very common in earlier records. For example, iglesja for iglesia, and auia for avia (había as spelled correctly).

Document Spelling Current Spelling Samples from Document
Resciuió Recibió
scriuano scribano

A very common case of Latin influence is the addition of the letter h in consonant groups such as thchjhph. In all of these cases, with the exception of ph, adding the h does not change the pronunciation of the letters since, in Spanish, the letter h is silent. Thus, Catalina and CathalinaChatalina and Chathalina would be possible and pronounced the same.

The case of the use of ph, however, is a little different in the sense that it is used as a unit with a phonetic value equal to that of the letter f, thus the names Phelipe and Felipe would be pronounced the same.

The effect of Latin can also be found in the use of old Latin abbreviation practices in Spanish handwriting. Among the most common Latin abbreviations are those used to replace syllables like com-, con-, pro-, per-, ver-, vir-, ser-, and many others by means of certain symbols. In Spanish records, words such as compadreconvenioprovisorpersonasverdaderovirtudesservicio could appeared spelled with those symbols.

Abbreviation Meaning
com-, con-, cum-, cun-
ver-, vir-
For a comprehensive Latin word list (including numbers and dates) see the FamilySearch Research Wiki:
​​For additional help with Latin practice, see the UK’s National Archives website:
For additional help with Latin Palaeography see the UK’s National Archives tutorial: