Enhancing Your Search for Mexican Ancestors

eduponcedeleon / Pixabay
eduponcedeleon / Pixabay

If you’re like most Americans, your genealogical search will eventually take you to other countries. For a great number of people, their search will take them to Mexico. If you are unable to travel there for answers, websites like Ancestry.com and Family Search make it easy to search for Mexican ancestors who lived prior to the year 1900. When going about a search in Mexican records, it is important to adjust your thinking to the time period and the country.

Church records have proven to be the best sources for ancestral information as not everyone has a documented civil record. Baptisms, marriages, and deaths were all recorded by the Catholic church. Online, the records are often broken down by city, year, and cultural ethnicity. For example, a church in the state Hidalgo might show baptism records for indigenous people between the years 1748 and 1908. These records may also provide you with information on your ancestor’s legitimacy, place of birth, and date of birth. If you’re lucky, the name of your ancestor’s grandparents and other family members may also be listed.

One thing to remember when searching for relatives is that people are often listed by their mother’s maiden name, not their father’s surname. Mexican names are usually listed as follows: first name, middle name, father’s surname, mother’s maiden name. It is important to have a list of maiden names handy before you get started.

In the past it was customary to name your girl child María after the Virgin Mary and your boy child José after St. Joseph. Be sure not to discount search results when these names appear before the name you are researching. Sometimes, these names plus the surnames are the only names to come up on your search. If the birthdates and parents’ names match, investigate that result and see if it is, in fact, your ancestor.

Spelling inconsistencies can be a hindrance to your search. When it comes to church records, you are having to rely on the priest’s documentation. If a priest heard the information incorrectly, or was a creative speller, you may not find your ancestor right away. You may have to broaden your search parameters to get a greater number of results.

It is important to remember that in Spanish the b and the v are pronounced the same. If your family surname begins with a v, you may need to alternatively spell the name with a b. For example, the surname Valera may also need to be searched for using the spelling Balera. The same holds true for ph and f. For example, Felipe may be recorded as Philipe. Another issue with spelling occurs between s and z. A surname ending in z may be recorded as ending in s. For example, Martinez could also be Martines.

Don’t be discouraged if your search turns up nothing or the wrong person comes up. Just remember that you may need to fine tune your search or try various spellings of your family names in order to gain the information you are seeking. Buena suerte!

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