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.

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.

Francisco y Esteban de Sosa, Hermanos y Conquistadores

George Ryskamp. “Francisco y Esteban de Sosa, hermanos y conquistadores,” IV Congreso Iberoamericano de Ciencias Genealógica y Heráldica y XIV Reunión Americana de Genealogía, Lima, Peru, 22 November, 2007.

A sense of family identity and reliance on family formed a strong part of Spanish culture, especially in regards to emigration. Scholars have examined how kinship plays a role in the settlement of Latin America. This author uses a specific family as a case study in kinship and emigration. Their desire to go was likely propelled by tales of their conquistador uncle, and they lodged with their cousins once they arrived in New Spain. One married the daughter of their cousin, and they lived near family throughout their lives.

Many members of their family had similar emigration experiences. Some traveled back and forth between Spain and New Spain, bringing stories of the new world and the homeland with them and keeping family ties strong despite the large distance. Throughout it all, they kept up their family connections in both the old and new world.

This article shows how municipal and notarial records can be extremely useful in tracing migratory families, and is a good case study for researchers wishing to go beyond birth, marriage, and death records. It also gives insight into the family-centered culture of Hispanics and the societal norms and practices of New Spain.

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.

The Intergenerational Transmission of Surnames in Spain, 1500-1900

George Ryskamp, “The Intergenerational Transmission of Surnames in Spain, 1500-1900.” La Vie Genealogique, 28 (Acts of the 24th International Congress on Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, Besançon, France, May 5-7, 2000). 317-330.

This article is a great help for anyone interested in (or confused about) Hispanic naming patterns. It lists the different prevalent varieties, where and how frequently they were used, and reflects on the reasons why these variations existed.

In this article, Ryskamp traces the surname changes through family lines in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, revealing that Hispanic society had a very flexible selection in which surname each generation carried. This applied with well known surnames that were associated with nobility as well as the poorer class.

This study was done through studying the surname variations in pedigrees individuals bought to prove the purity of their Catholic blood in order to hold various offices, civil registration, parish records, and dispensation records. Previous studies agree that surnames are an important aspect of establishing identity. In certain regions of Spain in the sixteen-hundreds, children were occasionally given surnames completely different from either parent, reflecting back on a well known relative. Other times sons would receive their father’s surname, while the daughter’s inherited their mother’s surname. Hispanic surnames already have unique aspects in Spain, with the use of double surname emerging in the eighteenth century. Less frequently, an entire generation would take both parents names, and that double surname would be transmitted for generations. This method is fairly recent, originating around 1850, when names were already beginning to standardize.

The advent of civil registration in the late 1800s held solidify naming patterns, but the eventual legislation leading to double surnames was influenced by a cultural view that maternal heritage was equally important as paternal heritage. Heritage came from the entire family, not the patriarchal line, requiring greater awareness of naming patterns for anyone researching families in these areas.