Government Records in Hispanic Research
While the exact nature of government service records is as diverse as the government entities themselves, there are three primary types of records of interest to the family historian: nombramientos or empleos; hojas de servicio and relacciones de méritos y servicios; and pensiones.
Nombramientos or Empleos
Of special interest are those documents relating to the appointment of government officials in the Americas. Because these records deal with specific places in the Americas and also a specific place in Spain, they can be very valuable in linking an immigrant ancestor with a place of origin in the mother country.
The nombramientos or empleos is an order or decree that names the person to a particular job or promotion. Such documents may provide the name of the person, date and place of birth, parents’ names, marital status, and perhaps other personal information. If you are searching in the archives of Spain for government service records, check Catálogo XX del Archivo General de Simancas, Títulos de Indias, which indexes records from the Sección General del Tesoro (General Treasury Section), from which colonial officials were paid. Although many who held government positions in the colonial period were of the nobility, there were also, in the colonial areas especially, many individuals who were not.
Hojas de Servicio and Relacciones de Méritos y Servicios
These were formal documents prepared, and frequently printed, for individuals who were involved in the civil service. In many cases, several copies were filed with the appropriate authorities for use as they saw fit in petitions for promotion or other activities. In some cases, these are listed in published indexes. An example of this is Indice de Relaciones de Méritos y Servicios Conservadas en la Sección de Consejos by Ramón Paz, which sets forth the printed relaciones de méritos found in the records of the consejo real (royal counsel) in the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid.
This last category can be of the greatest interest to the genealogist because of the extensive information that may be provided in proving the relationship of a deceased government worker to the widow, orphans, or other persons who had a right to the pension. A request for a pension is likely to set forth the name of the spouse of the deceased government worker, the names of his or her children, and, frequently, those of his or her parents. It will also very likely set forth the dates and places of his government service. In many cases, it also includes copies of his baptismal or birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate, and will. It may also include the same type of records for his spouse and children. Unfortunately, published indexes for these types of records are not extensive, although often the original collections are alphabetically arranged. In exceptional cases where indexes exist, they can be very valuable. An example of this type of index is Antonio Matilla Tascón’s Indice de Expedientes de Funcionarios Públicos, Viudedad y Orfandad, 1763–1872, which sets forth the pensions granted by the Sección Montepíos (Welfare Section).
Miscellaneous Legal, Court, and Land Records
Never overlook legal documents. It is always possible that the immigrant ancestor may have had to state his place of birth in either court transactions or other documents of a legal nature. Check the indexes to all local court records, and check the grantor and grantee land records indexes. In Hispanic countries, private legal documents were prepared by notaries. Copies are preserved in bound volumes called protocolos and can be found in local municipal or provincial or state archives of the country of origin.
- Catálogo XX del Archivo General de Simancas, Títulos de Indias (Valladolid, Spain: Patronato Nacional de Archivos Históricos, 1954).
- Ramon Paz, Indice de Relaciones de Méritos y Servicios Conservados en la Sección de Consejos (Madrid, Spain: Cuerpo de Archiveros, 1943).
- Antonio Matilla Tascón, Indice de Expedientes de Funcionarios Públicos, Viudedad y Orfandad, 1763-1872 (Madrid, Spain: Hidalguía, 1962).