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.
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.
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.
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.
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.