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.