Archivo Historico Provincal de Burgos

This cozy little archive is a pleasure to research in. It is open in the afternoon, so if you wish to work in both the Diocesan and Provincial archive, you can do the first in the morning and come here after [a late Spanish] lunch.


The research room has three tables with four chairs around each one. Photography is allowed, provided you record the documents you have photographed on a form they provide. The atmosphere is very relaxed, with patrons and archivists chatting together about their research and whatever else comes to mind.

We were looking for notarial records in towns too small to have their own notaries, and the archivists worked one-on-one with us to go through their database looking for any notary that covered the towns. By so doing, we were able to find several books with a wealth of information about these towns. The archivists also gave us the email addresses of two researchers working in the same area that could give us additional resources.


Like the Diocesan Archive at Burgos, the Provincial Archive is small, but the archivists there will bend over backwards to help you be successful.


Archivo Historico Diocesano de Burgos

This archive is unique. There are exactly ten desks available to researchers each day, and in order to make sure you have claim on one of these desks you need to be standing outside the archive’s door at least an hour before the archive opened. To be safe, we arrived an hour and a half early and average the fifth and sixth persons there.


A half-hour before the archive opens, an archivist arrives and lets all the patrons into the waiting room. By this time there were always at least ten people waiting, and we were happy to get into the heated building.


This limited seating arrangement has two wonderful perks. The first is that, once in the archive, the three archivists and priest can give you one-on-one attention, and pull your books quickly. The archivists are incredibly friendly, and will explain and re-explain their archive’s one of a kind cataloging system, help you analyze documents, and scour their holdings for whatever document you need. They can only bring you one book at a time, but with so few patrons to occupy their time, the wait between books is very short.

The books themselves are in excellent condition. Most were saved from the devistation caused by the civil war, and all are taken very good care of.

The other perk is your fellow patrons. For an hour and a half each day, we were able to chat with fellow genealogists, most of whom are sacrificing vacations and free time to work on their own family lines. Most live near Burgos, and have been doing this research for years. They are a wonderful resource if you have a tricky research problem, are curious about trends in different puebos, or immigration patterns of specific families.

We learned that the reason why so many women we had found near the town of Solas were named Casilda was because the town was very close to a shrine to a Catholic saint of that name. We learned a possible reason why one of our surnames dissappeared from a specific town was that it was part of a compound surname belonging to three brothers who moved in as notaries in the early sixteenth century, and the priest frequently wrote down one or the other surname instead of both. Genealogists who were researching in nearby towns were willing to compare notes in the hope that we would have the same ancestors and could pool resources. We compared note taking methodologies, told our stories of how we became interested in geneology, and at the end took down the emails of two different researchers who promised us if we ever needed a quick lookup, they would do it for us. The wait outside and unique cataloging system are a measly price to pay for the personal care of archivists and sense of community among your fellow researchers.

Cañamero Parish Research

While the majority of Spanish parishes have centralized their records into Diocesan archives, some priests have chosen to keep their church registers within the parish. This was the case in Cañamero.

We had called a few days ahead of time and asked if it would be possible to research from the books. The nun was very polite, and told us what days and times she could let us come. Because this is not an archive, we could only come when the priest and/or the nuns were not otherwise occupied, and it was an incredible blessing that she had an entire afternoon open the weekend we would be near the parish.


We arrived exactly when we had arranged to come, and after chatting about what we wished to do, we cleared a place at the kitchen table and sat down with the books. We did not feel it was appropriate to ask to take pictures, but we took extensive notes and were allowed to work for several hours.


Our time in the parish was a lovely break from typical archival research. People came and went as we researched, the nuns were singing and chatting together in the next room, and there was a pile displaced dishes and silverware just off to my right. We were able to find many people in the early parish baptism books that we never would have been able to locate another way. When it was close to dinnertime, we packed our belongings, thanked everyone for being so accommodating, and left with the promise we would call when we were next in Spain to set up a return appointment. It truly was a unique and rewarding experience.

Archivo Historico Provincal de Salamanca

This archive is just down the street from the Archivo Historico Provincal de Salamanca, meaning that, if you wished to work in both archives, you will only have a three-minute walk between the two. I suggest visiting the Diocesan archive first, as it closes two hours before the Provincial Archive.


You will need your passport when you enter, and will need to write your passport number down each time you request a book. You can request up to three books at a time, but can only bring one to your table at a time.


Most records can be photographed, but make sure to ask permission first.

There are inventories and indexes available, organized chronologically, geographically, and by the surnames of notaries, allowing for easy access to the records. Many of the notaries’ books are quite large – prepare yourself for some heavy lifting.

When we arrived, we were not sure which notaries existed in our specific town. The archivists were very accommodating in explaining the three different index systems they have: geographic, chronological, and alphabetical by notary’s surnames. Once we got the books we hunkered down on one of their wide tables and copied down relevant information as fast as we could type.

The facilities are well lit and spacious, making a quiet and relaxed research experience.

Archivo Historico Diocesano de Salamanca

This archive is just down the street from the Archivo Historico Provincal de Salamanca, meaning that as soon as the archive closes (12:30), you can head there for two hours of additional research.

You’ll need your passport to get in. To request books, you just need to bring the archivists a slip of paper with the ID number written on it. They allow you to have up to three books in front of you at a time.


Pictures are not permitted, but you can order either a photocopy, available instantly, take a picture in the archivist’s office, or order a digital copy that will be mailed to you. All three options have a small associated fee.

Most of the records of this Diocesan have been centralized here, meaning that you can trace lines that came from nearby towns in one sitting, and many go into the early 1600s or later.

Although our own research was straightforward (we stayed in baptism and marriage records), anytime another patron had a question an archivist would kindly show them how to locate the record. One patron needed the parish record inventory we had left on our table, and the archivist went from person to person until he located us to kindly ask if he could give it to the other patron.

Our only complaint is that the archive is only open for three and a half hours each day, which limits the amount of research one can accomplish in a short amount of time. However, the archivists were very kind, and when they found out that we were doing research for several days in a row, and the archivists stored our books on a small bookshelf inside their office overnight so we could continue working the next day without waiting for them to locate the books again.

Archivo de la Real Chancilleria

This archive has been recently renovated, and is a delight to work in. It only contains appellate judicial records and nobility records, both of which can give a wealth of genealogical information. There are power outlets at every table, widows to let in natural light, and a break room down the hall with a water fountain, vending machines, and tables. A passport and investigator card is required. If you do not have one, they can create it there, or pull up a second copy if you have forgotten your card.


You can only have one book at a time at your table, but they can have up to three books waiting for you on the counter, so you will waste no time waiting for the books you called to be delivered to you.

The archive’s database is available online, but they have a second database onsite that allows you to search in a wide variety of ways. The archivists were very kind in showing us exactly how to work the search engine, and by so doing we were able to find several documents that did not appear on the online search.

Our research focused on padrinos, or census taken in the 1500s and 1600s. The archivist informed us that this is becoming a popular research topic, and advised us to also check the Hijosdalgos database, as many people included padrinos in their files to prove their nobility.


You will not be permitted to take photographs, but you can order photocopies or have a digital copy delivered to your home via CDROM for a small fee.

If you have a chance to research here, be ready for a relaxed, professional environment. We came on a weekday, and were the only patrons for the majority of our time there, and were treated with every courtesy imaginable.

Genealogy in Medieval Muslim Societies

Zoltán Szombathy “Genealogy in Medieval Muslim Societies.” Studia Islamica, No. 95. (2002), pp. 5-35.

This article is a great analysis of why people recorded genealogies. Even though it spotlights a very specific group of people, the principles discussed can be applied universally.

Throughout the history of Arabic genealogy, all additions to the field have grown from previously published lines, with individuals making great leaps to tie their ancestry into already-established lines. This has lead to a folklore-based system, where genealogies are created out of heresy or family legends.

Genealogy expresses ones social status, making people have ‘selective amnesia’ in some aspects of their heritage, omitting undesirable ancestors, and latching on to any similarities that would tie ones self to prestigious ancestry. While any sort of forgery was frowned upon, people across socio-economic classes frequently attempted to prove their descendency from royalty.

Szombathy then traces the interest and use of genealogy in various Arab populations. In many cases, this lead to ethnic genealogy, where entire groups of persons claimed descendency from a specific noble family or persons from scripture. Of course, the amount of interest in genealogy varies greatly across cultures and people both in nomadic and urban settings. Increasing literacy is correlated with increased interest in genealogy, likely because it makes it easier for one to find, record, and share ones genealogical charts.

Throughout the article, he emphasizes that ones genealogy was a symbol of ones status, functioning within a web of other social factors. This applies to any form of genealogy. One must be aware of ones motivations in seeking out their ancestors, taking care that it does not color their findings as drastically as some of the cases Szombathy describes.

Culture in the Time of Tolerance: Al-Andalus as a Model for Our Time

Menocal, Maria Rosa , “Culture in the Time of Tolerance: Al-Andalus as a Model for Our Time” (2000). Occasional Papers. Paper 1.

The Muslims of al-Andalus were ethnically diverse. Most soldiers were first-generation immigrants, and were very similar to their Christian and Jewish subjects. The culture itself was accepting of all sorts of contradictions within its religion and its people, allowing for the integration of different cultures (specifically Jewish culture) into their traditions.

This allowed for Jewish tradition to flourish within the Arabic empire, holding important offices and creating a second Jewish Golden Age.

Noble, but Not Too Noble: Social Functioning of Hidalgos as a Distinct Subclass in Spain

Ryskamp, George, ”Noble, pero no tan Noble: La búsqueda de la nobleza en las líneas de Melitón González Trejo” Memorias de la XXVI Reunion Americana de Genealogía, (Morelia, Mexico, Oct 2010.) or unpublished English Version: Noble, but Not Too Noble: Social Functioning of Hidalgos as a Distinct Subclass in Spain, 1450-1650.

This article discussed the research process used to disprove the family tradition that Meliton Gonzalez Trejo was a descendant of Spanish nobility. Most parish records seemed to disprove this fact, until a 1792 census listed his great grandfather as a member of the nobility. They were members of the hidalgos, or the lowest of the tree classes of nobility, a symbol of status but no rank, entitling them to tax breaks, the ability to serve office, and other perks. Noble blood was not required for this status, making the class a strange go-between of the elite and everyday workers in Spain.

Admission to the hidalgo class was done on the municipal level, and since it was transmitted along male lines, appeals to prove ones inherited status was done through the local municipality. The person wishing to prove hidalguia filed a petition to appeal a tax assessment. They were required to provide written testimonies from court-appointed witnesses and supporting documents (tax lists in which they did not appear, copies of parish records giving genealogy) before the court awarded them the papers stating their hildalgo status.

Ryskamp found several documents linking the ancestors of the Gonzales Trejo family to persons with hildalgo status, and by connecting several petitions from various family lines through parish registers, were able to mesh the genealogies given in the hidalguias with the baptism and marriage records, as well as relationships stated in notarial records where parish registers were not present. In total, three ancestral families were found with hidalgo status.

He then discusses the rights of hidalgos, their tendency towards intermarriage, and the perspective on women’s place within the class he found through research in marriage dispensations and wills. The research showed that women seemed to maintain control of their property and civil rights, a tendency that is confirmed by much of the literature about hidalgo women at the time. Men of the class were also active participants in the economic and social fields. Family connects were important, shown through frequent intermarriage, marriage witnesses, and godparents. Altogether, the ancestry of Meliton Gonzelez Trejo were of the lesser noble class, but they were industrious and hardworking, showing a class of nobility that still actively participated in all classes of commercial endeavors while maintaining their individual rights and privileges.


Research in the Archives of Galicia

George R. Ryskamp. “Research in the Archives of Galicia.” In I Congreso Internacional de Historia y Genealogía Gallega , eds. Lucio Ricardo Perez Calvo and Enrique D. Piñeyro Velasco Del Castillo. Buenos Aires: Instituto Argentino Gallego de Ciencias Históricas y Genealógicas, 1999. pp. 107-116.

In this article, Ryskamp describes the different types of archives across Spain, what they hold, and what a researcher can expect there. He focuses in on Galacian archives, both ecclesiastical and governmental.

He breaks down ecclesiastical archives into parish and diocesan archives, describing the resources to identify a parish, and where the records may now be stored if the parish no longer exists. For governmental, he describes the Civil Registration archives (only available later than 1871), municipal archives that hold city and town records, provincial archives with censuses, tax, military, and nobility records, national archives, with distinct categories of records, and military archives.

He then lists the different archival reference material: guides, inventories, indexes, and catalogues, describing the differences between each, and then listing how to access these reference materials online. Of course, this article was written several years ago. Most archives have digitized their inventories into searchable databases, and many are digitizing large portions of their collection, making it easier for researchers to access information and know what will be available should they search the archive. However, the descriptions of archives and their resources is an invaluable source for anyone new to archival research in Spain.