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I Don’t Speak Spanish, How Can I Read the Documents?!

Key Spanish Words That Can Help When You Read Old Spanish Documents


Is the reason that you have not started your research is because you don’t know Spanish? I could easily tell you that is when you hire someone like me to do the research for you, but my mission is not just about doing research for others. It is also about motivating more Latinos out there to look to their history and the reason above is one of many reasons some don’t even get started. Ok yes and then there is the whole old fashion cursive that can make things more fun! (absolutely sarcastic tone here). I love what I do and that can still give me a headache.


Below are Spanish words that are commonly found in the documents from the different countries of South & Central America and the Carribbean.


Padre- father

Mother-Mother

Abuelos Paternos- Paternal Grandparents.

Abuelos Maternos- Maternal Grandparents

Origen- Place they originally came from.

Vecino/Vecina- per the records when they say “Originario del pueblo de Aguas Buenas pero vecino de Ponce” it means that is where they currently reside in Ponce but they were originally from Aguas Buenas”; or “Originario y Vecino…” means originally from that town and currently lives there also.

Nacimiento- Birth

Matrimonio - Matrimony

Muerte- Death

Padrinos- Godparents, you will find this term in Baptismal records but also in marriage records, since traditionally in Latin Parents the bride and groom also choose “padrinos”

Viudo/Viuda- Widower

Hijo/Hija – Son/Daughter

Legitimo/Legitima- Legitimate: This is important because this word can be a clue that the parents were married, which means there might be a marriage record.

Hijo Natural/Hija Natural- Natural son or Natural daughter, this is also important this means that the child was born out of wedlock. This was a lot more common then you might think.

Mestizo/Mestiza- Describes someone of mixed European and Indigenous.

Mulato/Mulata- Describes someone of mixed European and African.

Blanco/Blanca- White


Word of advise, take your time with the documents, and, as you become more familiar with the documents you will be able to understand the collections and their content. Yes there is the indexed information, but there can be errors in the indexed information so always read the documents anyway. Also there are plenty of Genealogy Groups for your area of research that you can join and there is always someone ready to help and of course there is me. We are here to help and motivate each other, and we all have a right to our story.


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