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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Los artesanos del mueble en Barcelona a finales de siglo XVIII: el espacio domestico

Monica Piera Miquel, “Los artesanos del mueble en Barcelona a finales de siglo XVIII: el espacio domestico,” Familias, recursos humanos y vida material, 161-179.

This article focuses on the furniture architects of Barcelona in the late eighteenth century, specifically their socio-economic status, genealogy, and what resources they used in their work. Miquel used notarical death inventories to make this examination of these individual’s lives. It is a fascinating glimpse into how much information can be pulled from a death inventory – a resource often overlooked by genealogists, and how, by comparing the description of goods, an accurate look into the socio-economic status, possible family size, and the priorities of the deceased individual can be ascertained.

They found that the majority of the artisans owned their own studio, usually attached to their house. They were evenly distributed throughout the city, and lived near major roads. The size of their houses varied, and based on the amount of property made up a mixed socio-economic class. Miquel made a specific note of the amounts of beds in the property, and how many were in every rooms, as well as furniture designed for children. Few homes mentioned furniture like this that indicated the artisans had large families.

Not only were the number of beds or similar furniture examined, but so were the types mentioned. Miquel defined the different types of beds, giving descriptions and showing how they indicated wealth. She repeated this for various other types of furniture, showing a large variation in the amount of elaborate decorations amount the artisans.

Most of the cutlery the artisans owned was made of brass, indicating the men likely couldn’t afford silverware. There were hardly any furnishings that served purely for decoration, although in each case there was an abundance of religious objects – both paintings, icons, and crucifixes.

In all, she found that very few of these carpenters possessed the same quality of goods that they created. Most live modestly, in contrast to their clients. Even on the modest scale, few incorporated the intricate design work they were qualified to produce into their own homes, indicating that they cared more about presenting their shops well than their own houses.

Familia, patrimonio y estrategias de transmisión de un linaje: los Valdés de Gijón (Siglos XVI y XVII)

Studying noble lines requires merging the study of the nuclear family with the study of the line of royalty, keeping in mind the inheritance patterns and using specific strategies to have success. Secades analyzes one family of gentility in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, using marriage records, transfers of goods, and inheritance documents to study this family.

Censuses were frequently taken of the nobility, which forms the backbone of all early nobility research, although Secades does acknowledges that the documents do not name all members of the family. This helped her realize that the familiar surname encompassed several houses, meaning she would have to use more documentation to narrow down a specific line.

Marriage between the nobility were of high importance. Location and wealth played key roles; the new spouse needed to contribute to the family (typically financially), and they had to live close enough that the family knew them. Marriage contracts were frequently drawn up to stipulate what both parties were bringing to the union. Not many have survived from such an early time period, but those that do have great information. Because the eldest son inherited the house, his marriage would be the most important to arrange, and typically have the greatest chance of being documented through such records.

Secades examined family relationships further than marriage strategies; he discusses the role of the firstborn son as heir, and the role that the rest of his siblings played as well as the options open to them. Illegitimate children, and how the family treated them are also discussed. Altogether, Secades does an excellent job giving the background knowledge necessary to conduct medieval nobility research, and know what to expect based off of inheritance documents; specifically who will be mentioned, and what they are likely to receive.