Tyler Stahle | May 15, 2017

3 Tips for Finding and Understanding Online Mexican Records

This is the first of a two-part series exploring Hispanic genealogy research. Read part two.

If you’ve been researching the Hispanic portions of your family lineage and wonder what resources are available online to help, take heart! There are dozens of online resources that contain crucial information that you can use in your research.

“If I could choose between US and Spanish research, I would choose Spanish research, because the records are beautiful,” said Kelly Summers, an accredited genealogist, in her presentation at RootsTech 2017. “They have so much information. There’s so much you can do with it.”

Summers outlined how to use some of the tools and websites available to help in your Hispanic research. We’ve compiled three of them here, focusing on Mexican records.

1) Use gazetteers to pinpoint a specific location.

As with all genealogy research, it’s a good idea to start by gathering the information you already have, organizing it, and then analyzing it. Look for the holes in the research, and identify what you need to do next.

Then, before jumping into the records, try to pinpoint a specific location.

“Let’s assume that you’ve gathered records, and you have a location, maybe the name of a city or town,” said Summers. “Now you need to make sure that you have the right city and town, because do you know there may be a few cities by the same name in Mexico?”

To clearly identify the right location to begin your research, Summers suggests using a gazetteer, or geographical dictionary.

Gazetteers describe towns or villages, parishes and municipalities, states, populations, and even geographical features. Typically, gazetteers include the names of places that existed at the time it was published.

One of the best gazetteers for Mexico is Antonio García-Cubas’s Diccionario Geográfico, Histórico y Biográfico de los Estados Unidos Mexicano. This gazetteer can be found online here and here.

2) Use the FamilySearch Wiki.

One of the best online resources for genealogy, regardless of country, is the FamilySearch Wiki, a tool for finding information about subjects, records that may have been generated about your ancestors, and the places where these records can be found.

Type Mexico in the search bar, and press Enter, and you’ll be led to dozens of resources specific to Mexico and genealogy research in Mexico.

 

“If you click on the Mexico Online Records button, it will take you to records that have been indexed or just digitized online, including FamilySearch records, but outside of FamilySearch too,” said Summers.

3) Use handwriting scripts.

Researching in foreign languages, such as Spanish, can be difficult, especially if you don’t speak the language. Even if you do speak the language, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to read the old handwriting.

If you want to improve your ability to read old handwriting, Summers recommends going to script.byu.edu. This website, originally developed as a resource for BYU students, can be used by anyone wanting to improve their ability to read and understand old records.

“In the middle of the page, you will see you have the option to start a tutorial for multiple languages,” said Summers. “One [section] … you might be most interested in [is] Spanish documents.”

 

These tutorials will offer a wealth of information regarding old handwriting.

“They give you some historical background about the handwriting and who’s doing the writing and the different styles,” said Summers. “Then there are charts that you can download.”

Thanks to dozens of online records and resources to help you make sense of foreign records, researching your Mexican ancestry is now easier than ever.

What tips can you offer regarding Hispanic genealogy research? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.

Tyler Stahle

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