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buber.net > Basque > Diaspora > Genealogical Tips
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Genealogical Tips

Tips for doing genealogical research, tailored for researchers of the Basque Country

I've been getting a lot of comments lately about tips on how to find out about one's Basque roots. So, I figured I'd write up a quick little guide, based upon my own experience and some help given to me by Xabier Ormaetxea. I hope this helps most of you.

The first thing you should do when trying to research your roots, regardless of where in the world they come from, is ask your relatives as many questions as possible. Try to find out about their parents, grandparents, etc. Ask cousins too. Sometimes they might know more about great grandma than your parents do.

The best place to find other information about people from the Basque Country is through Church records. The Basque Country is historically strongly Catholic, thus, at least until recently, most everyone was baptized. The individual churches have birth, death, marriage, and baptismal records for the last 100 years. Records from before then have been microfilmed by both the Diocese of each province and by the Mormons. The Mormon records are based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and can be accessed by anyone. What you need to do is contact your local Family History Center and ask them for the details. For $3.50 you can order a microfilm from Salt Lake and you have 2 weeks to look at it. Please note that the Church of Bizkaia does not allow Salt Lake to send microfilms of documents from that area out of Salt Lake. For Bizkaians, the only other option is to go to Bizkaia and search there (or Salt Lake. I think that one can go there to search.). There are currently efforts underway to try and get a copy of those records in Boise, Idaho, for people of Basque decent to do research there, but, as far as I know, this project is still in it's infancy.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Ralph Serrano informs me that the films of Bizkaia are now available to everyone outside of Spain. So, you can now do research about Bizkaians. :) Thanks Ralph.

You can also contact the Town Halls of the cities from which your relatives are from. Civil records exist for dates after 1870. You can write to either the Town Hall for the smaller towns or the Civil Record Office for the larger towns asking for the records you want. Send with your letter an envelope with your name and address and an International Answer coupon. It is not necessary to send money. You will probably get a better response if you write your letter in Basque or Spanish, instead of English.

Beyond this, there isn't too much advice we can give. But, after having exhausted these possibilities, you should have a good grasp of what you can do and what a next step might be. Good luck!

If anyone has found other resources that might be generally helpful, please contact me so I can add them to this list. Eskerrik asko!

This was sent to me by: Ignacio Orduña

Efectivamente, los Registros Civiles existen desde 1870, y aprox. desde esa fecha usamos el sistema de dos apellidos (padre y madre). Anteriormente existía libertad para apellidar a los hijos, por lo que puede haber sorpresas porque el apellido del hijo no es igual que el del padre. Había muchos casos de herencias en que era necesario apellidarse como el que fundó un mayorazgo para heredar, y la solución era darle su apellido. Convienen aclarar a los aficionados el sistema, y que la mujer no cambia de apellido al casarse. Las parroquias tienen registros desde mucho antes de 100 años. El Concilio de Trento lo hizo obligatorio desde 1550, copiando un sistema anterior impuesto por el Cardenal Cisneros alrededor de 1500 para Castilla, y creo que también era válido para Euzkadi. En zonas de León, donde emigraron vizcainos, el registro existe desde 1412. El Archivo Diocesano de San Sebastián también es interesante de visitar. Son amables y te envían la documentación por correo. Se encuentra en el Seminario Diocesano funciona de Martes a Sábado 9:30 a 13:00 Tfno 943 214987

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Eskerrik asko!