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Making sense of old handwriting

Civil Records: Births




Family Books


Birth records could be completely handwritten records or a form filled out with handwritten or typed text, depending on the time period when they were created. Before the invention of photocopies, when people requested a copy of a birth record, the civil registration officials would provide a certificate of the record. Birth certificates could be a literal and complete transcription of the record or an extract of the same. The Spanish terms used to refer to these are usually: acta, partida, certificado, and extracto de nacimiento. Each civil birth entry may contain the following information:

  • given names and surname(s) of the newborn
  • the hour, day, month, and year of birth
  • the town (distinguishable from the municipality or judicial district of the birth)
  • the street address of the house, or the hospital, in which the birth took place
  • declarant's marital status, age and/or place of birth and/or residence, and relationship to the newborn child
  • given names and surnames, birthplaces, age, domicile, professions, race, and marital status of the parents, including their places of birth, marital status, professions, and in some cases, dates of birth
  • given names and surnames, birthplaces, professions, race, and marital status of the maternal and paternal grandparents, and/or if they have died.
  • names of the witnesses who were present for the act of recording the birth


Paleography Introduction