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Puerto Rico Genealogy: Names

A research guide to online and print resources for genealogy related to individuals from Puerto Rico.
Guide by Diane Dias De Fazio.

[detail] Casa Blanca and Sea Wall, post card

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs,: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library.
Detroit Publishing Company. "Casa Blanca and Sea Wall, San Juan, P. R." [detail], New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Advices: Searching by Name

Records from Puerto Rico offer a great history of naming trends on the island, from Spanish influences, to Classical (Greek and Roman) references, to "American-sounding" first names in the recent past.

  • Greek origin: Hipólito/a (Hippolytus), Telésforo (Telesphoros), Ceferino/a (Zephyrus)
  • Roman origin: Agripino/a (Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, architect of Caesar's Rome)
  • German origin: Clotilde, Anselmo/a

In addition, the website, PuertoRicanGenealogy.Weebly.Com deftly explains the common practice of "multiple surnames", which can actually make your Puerto Rican genealogy research easier!:

Puerto Rican genealogy is made exponentially easier because of the use of multiple surnames. Puerto Rico used the Spanish practice of using the last names of both parents. A child born would be given a first and middle name and then the first last name of the father followed by the first last name of the mother. (e.g. Maria Luisa Rivera Garcia.) You may find it written with or without the word y meaning 'and' between the two last names. (e.g. Tomas Rivera y Castro.Upon marriage, a Puerto Rican woman could choose to add her husband's last name by adding the word de meaning 'of' before her husband's first last name. (e.g. Maria Luisa Rivera Garcia de Feliciano or Maria Luisa Rivera y Garcia de Feliciano.)
To the average American, that seems like a mouthful but for a genealogist, it is a practice that is extremely useful for various reasons. First, because it is easy to track a person over periods of time in various documents. Second, it aids in finding siblings if you are looking to create a larger family tree. Third, upon discovering cousins or grandchildren living in the home, you can investigate to find out who the parents are by tracing the two last names. And of course, the most obvious, there is no issue with finding maiden names! It is amazingly easier to trace back further generations with the mother's name already known.

Rather than include long lists of names, below are suggested resources—at NYPL and online—that explain surname practices, first names and their translations, and nicknames with origins. It is intended that this serve as reference when viewing handwritten digitized records.

NYPL Catalog by Subject:

Internet Resources: