Regional archives

This page was last updated in 2009

One very important difference between Spanish and English genealogy concerns the probate process.

Wills are a standard and invaluable ingredient in many English family trees – especially since groups of records like the PCC wills became available online. Spanish wills can be just as valuable but they were never recorded before courts, as in England.

Testators would make wills before a notary of their choosing, and the papers would be archived along with land sales, marriage contracts and all other papers witnessed by that notary. A Spanish will can name the testator’s parents, identify other relations and the family’s place of origin, shed light on the family’s socio-economic status and prove the links between parents and children.

Surviving wills along with other notarised records will usually be found either in the provincial archives of a given locality, or in a special notarial archive housing that district’s notarial records. Usually, you will need to find a person’s death or burial record and see if the notary who held the will is named.

A handful of archives, such as Madrid’s notarial and Cadiz’s provincial, have surname-searchable databases to will holdings. Other useful details can be gleaned from lawsuits – particularly those dealing with estate partitions, which clearly identify family members and relationships.

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