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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Collegi de Notaris de Catalunya

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The Catalonia Notarial Archive is a short walk from the Barcelona Diocesan Archive, making it an easy transition from church to government records. Passport identification was not needed. The archive permits photography, and allows an individual to order up to ten records a day.

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Around the archive room are indexes by notary, so if you already know the name of the notary who worked with your ancestor, your work there will be significantly easier. If not, you’ll have to work with the archivist to find the notaries in your town at the specific time you wish to do research.

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To obtain the notarial books, you fill out a form with the information on the indexes, and pass it to the archivist. They will bring you the books, and let you extract information or photograph anything of interest to you.

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We were searching for a specific surname, and found surname indexes in all of the books our specific notary put together, with accurate page numbers and a short description of the record type in the front of each book. This is very typical; some notaries even included the home town of the individuals they served.

Archivo Histórico Dieciséis – Barcelona

The Archivo Histórico Dieciséis of Barcelona is located in a charming plaza in the heart of Barcelona. Many parish records have been centralized to this archive, so if you have ancestors in the city of Barcelona, this can be a great resource. Just tell the security guard you’re going to the archive, and he’ll let you in.

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The archive itself is on the third floor. You can only order up to four documents per person per day, so plan accordingly. There are indexed copies of the records created by the Dioceses throughout the room, but keep an eye out for little black plaques located on the bottom- right of each drawer indicating that those records are actually held by the archive. Everything else was indexed before the civil war, and the original records were then destroyed during the war.

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