This tutorial will introduce you to basic 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 Spanish is not the same as reading, for example, a modem newspaper written in Spanish. 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 Spanish records with ease and accuracy.
When the records you will be reading were kept, Latin America and Spain 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 Hispanic ancestry. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church required that each of its parishes keep records of the sacraments, 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 as individual nations adopted Civil Registration Laws, they also prescribed 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 Spanish, consult the topics that appear in the sidebar under Techniques & Tools beginning with the Seven Practical Suggestions. As you do this be reassured about your ability to learn to read old Spanish records. Three things will help to make your task easier. First, some words in Spanish are very similar to English words that you already know. Second, the handwriting style in most Spanish 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 go to Seven Practical Suggestions.