Spanish Censuses of the Sixteenth Century

George Ryskamp. “Spanish Censuses of the Sixteenth Century.” BYU Family Historian 1 (Sep 2002), 21-29.

Census records are an incredible resource for any genealogist. This article describes the different types of censuses taken in the sixteenth century, and where it is located. Crown censuses were taken in the first half of the century, and fell under the jurisdiction of the individual towns, which would still hold any surviving censuses today. Tax lists of heads of households can also be used, especially the Censo de 1528-1536; municipal archives sometimes have the original documents, as right now only the statistics exist on the national level.

The Archivo General de Simancas has the censo de 1561, divided by towns, and providing a list of the heads of households (sometimes with complete descriptions) as well as tax records. In 1591 another census was taken for tax persons, including all people in Castille. Bishops were ordered to take diocesan censuses from 1587 to 1589, the summaries of which are stored in Simancas. Some non-population censuses were taken as well around 1576.

Many municipal archives contain local censuses, which may be hard to find due to lack of inventory and indexes within the archive itself. If the original did not survive, the local notary may havea copy in their protocols for the year, most of which are stored at the local Archivo Historico Provincial. Hildalgos status (nobility) was determined by submitting copies of padrinos, or censuses, showing the nobility of ones ancestors, which provides another way to access census information.

With the right amount of perseverance, it is possible to use these censuses to track ones Spanish ancestors throughout the 1500s.

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