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.

Without Parish Records in Pelahustán

George R. Ryskamp. “Protocolos in Pelahustán, completando las historias familiares sin registros parroquiales,” Tereceras Jornadas Plateneses de Genealogía, Heráldica y Vexilogías, La Plata, Argentina, 6-8 November 2003. English versión< Without Parish Records in Pelahustán>

This case study shows how to conduct genealogical research when no parish records are available. It focuses on notarial records because of their consistent locality, consistency, and abundance of records pertaining to family.

Ryskamp located an individual on a census record in the United States, and then found his birth year and birthplace on an immigration record, as well as that of his father. His military record gave a rough outline of his residences throughout his service, with the most likely place bing Pelahustan, where the records were destroyed during the civil war.

A break is taken from the case study to explain how notarial records are created and stored, as well as some basic suggestions to have in mind for when one begins to study them.

Ryskamp located the notarial records for Pelahustan. There was only one notary in the town at the time he was looking, which made so he only needed to search the records of one notary. He found the individual listed in a will, alongside the father and brother mentioned in the immigration records. This document helped link him to the specific place, as well as greatly broadened his known relatives. Another document named additional siblings and their spouses, and a final will listed him as a son-in-law, along with his wife, her siblings, and parents.

By piecing together the family structures listed in wills and other protocols, Ryskamp was able to extend his individual’s pedigree back several generations, using multiple documents to prove relationships back to the sixteenth century. The process was slow, and frequently involved carefully documenting individual who turned out to have no relationship to the family, but it is an effective way of doing genealogy while simultaneously learning much about the lives of each individual through the wills, land sales, powers of attorney, and inventories recorded in notarial records.

Archivo Historico Militar de Segovia

If you have ancestors that served in the Spanish military, this is the place to go.

Be warned, even though the archive is open from 9:00-2:00, unless you make an appointment you cannot enter until 11:00. You will need to bring your passport, and cannot take pictures. They provide photocopies (for a small fee) and occasionally make digital copies.

The archive is located inside the castle at Segovia, home of Ferdinand and Isabella. It cost money to enter the castle, but if you tell then you’re going to the archive to do research, they’ll let you in for free.


I suggest paying a few euros to get a ticket, as the inside of the castle is incredible. It was undergoing renovations during our visit, but there were signs pointing the way up to the archive.


Also, tours of the archive can be purchased for groups of five or more. This is a great way to see how a national archive functions, and gain a thorough understanding of what this military archive offers.

Once inside, you’ll be given a researcher tag, and shown to the reading room. Bring your passports along, as you’ll need them again to fill out a form allowing you to request records. The archivist was extremely helpful. We knew that a certain family had all served in the military, and by giving him their names and birthdates, he was able to locate them in the archive’s index and call up their military files, which contained enrollment information, progression through ranks, any correspondence from or about the ancestor, promotions, and discharge information.

We were able to read through them at our leisure, requesting additional files as new evidence emerged, and marking with (provided) slips of paper the documents we wished to be photocopied.

The time between when we brought our marked packets to the desk to the time the photocopies were in hand was roughly fifteen minutes, but they told us that the wait was unusual, all of the staff was busy on other projects.

As a reward for your research efforts, I highly suggest driving down around the castle to the park underneath. The view is stunning.



Arxiu Eclesiàstic de Vic

This is quite possibly the most user friendly archive in Spain. Located in the heart of historic Vic, the archive is open in the afternoons and almost all day Saturday to allow patrons access after work. You can take as many photographs as you wish, provided you ask permission first, and there is no limit to the amount of books you can order.


The archive is a little tricky to get to. You go through a door in the side of a church, across a courtyard, up two flight of stairs, and then need to ring a doorbell in order for the archivist to let you in. The locked door frequently fools people into thinking the archive is closed, but ring the bell and wait a few minutes, and either the archivist or the priest will come let you inside.


We spent three wonderful days researching family lines across several parishes. The priest was enormously kind in letting us work until the very last minute every day, and the archivist kept our books at ‘our’ table, so we could go right back to them the next afternoon. By the end of the week we had quite a stack.


The archivist also went above and beyond in giving us helpful information. He pulled out the book entitled “Seva” in the far right of the above picture when he heard that we had spent the afternoon looking for maises, old family farmhomes, in the parish of Seva. The book contained a lot of information about the different masies, and was an incredibly useful find. The article we used to locate our specific mas had been published by the archive a few years ago, and gave a sufficiently-detailed map to allow us to find this homestead.


It was an incredible experience to see the place where the families we researched lived, and to read their names over the door after seeing them in the parish records.


If you’re lucky enough to be doing research within the Vic Dioceses, this archive will give you an incredible experience. The archivist and priest (pictured below) take excellent care off all their patrons, and will help you as best as they can.


Beyond Words

Auslander, Lorna, “Beyond Words,” American Historical Review, Oct 2005, 1015-1035.

This article discusses the benefits of including nonlinguistic historical resources in our research. This includes art, architecture, and the objects people used in their everyday lives. They allow us to use more senses than merely sight. By examining them, historians can better tap into the emotions and flavor of the time. Objects also played an active role in history. Crowns made a person a king, rings changed single persons to married couples, glass windows shaped how one viewed the world.

There are challenged to working with these objects. The historical context must already be known. We possess different value systems both throughout our individual lives and across generations, which shape our perception of different objects, and we do not know the emotional experiences associated with these objects.

However, the study of goods gives an excellent view of the commercial values of a society. The objects associated with different socio-economic classes show their values and concepts of beauty. Literary and art scholars have already done much to interpret how these objects have been portrayed, usually separating into either the study of the material aspects or the cultural aspects. Archeologists do a better job combining the two aspects, and historians should follow their careful methodologies in analyzing what they have found.

Auslander gives two examples of how nonlinguistic study can benefit historical research: She shows that during the French revolution shows that the furniture, porcelain, and other decorations changed very little, except in public buildings. Such objects held vvery little political meaning, and shows a deeper sense of universality in the way the ‘revolutionaries’ viewed France.

She also studied French Jews, showing how their homes had been at the exact same level as other residences before the war. Afterwards, many of their hoes had been ransacked, and the returnees were forced to compile large inventories of the stolen goods in an effort to reclaim some of their lost possessions. These inventories frequently followed the paths the applicant would take through their homes: starting at the front door and working inward, listing the objects most important to them first, and filling in the rest as they came to mind. Bedrooms occupied the most space for women, while dining rooms were given in large detail by men. These inventories provide a intricate view of the values of these people, their place in society, and their place within their homes.

This article provides a fascinating way of analyzing any heirlooms one may have of their ancestors, as well as any inventories they took out, or the layout of an ancestral home. By following Auslander’s advice, a genealogist can add a new degree o

Actividad laboral y estrategias familiares ante el empleo en L’Hospitalet de Llobregat: Las mujeres de Can Vilumara” Familias, recursos humanos y vida aterial

“Actividad laboral y estrategias familiares ante el empleo en L’Hospitalet de Llobregat: Las mujeres de Can Vilumara” Familias, recursos humanos y vida aterial, (1920) Carles Enrech 333-345.

This article addresses the difficulty finding feminine professions, especially in census records. Enrech used registration books for workers in Can Vilumara to find the actual professions that women assigned themselves. Even though almost half of the women were workers, the majority were married or lived with their families. And while census records listed the major occupation of heads of household of the town as agriculture and construction, according to the register, the majority of other family members only listed general labor. By using the registration books, Enrech found that the majority of the household engaged in labor, instead of the 56% given in the census. They frequently sent single daughters to factories to work until they were married, and then continued to work from home afterwards.

This article gives insight into the inconsistencies with census records, especially when they are designed to focus on the profession of the head of household. It shows that many people (especially women) worked, and within ‘general labor,’ there was a large variety of tasks. For anyone interested in learning more about the day-to-day lives of their female ancestors, it is a great read.