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Puerto Rico Genealogy: Records

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

1930 Federal Census [detail], Ancestry Library Edition. (accessed April 2018)

Puerto Rico records—even the United States Federal Census—are in Spanish. The major record groups are indicated on this page, and include: Census; Vital Records (Birth, Marriage, Death); Religious Records; and Other Records (Naturalization, Migration).

From Ancestry Library Edition (accessible in all NYPL locations):

Birth Records

Birth record (Acta de Nacimiento), 1907 [detail], Ancestry Library Edition. (accessed April 2018)

Births in Puerto Rico often occurred at home. A parent or other relative would have to register the birth at a municipal office, and this is where we get the "Acta de nacimiento", or birth register. Below is a glossary of the terms and phrases shown in these documents:

The beginning of the birth register should indicate in what municipality/town the birth was registered. Depending on where your ancestor was born, their birth record might show a different municipality than their adult home address.

The text of the birth register document reads as follows:

Register of Birth

In the [name of municipality/town], at [numerical hour of the day] on the [numerical day] of the [month] of the [year spelled out in words], before [name of Judge], Judge of the Municipal District of [name of District], and [name of Secretary], Secretary, appeared [name of declarant], of [hometown (country, if not Puerto Rico)], adult, of [marital status], [profession], and resident of [street address and number], in order to register a [daughter / son], and to do that as [relationship to child]:

That said [daughter / son] was born at the home of the declarant on [xx day of xx month].

That this child is the [legitimate / acknowledged / illegitimate] child of the declarant and [information about other parent; this section might include information on grandparents, as well].

That this child is [granddaughter/grandson] of [paternal grandfather's name], [aged xx years / deceased], and [maternal grandfather's name], [aged xx years / deceased].

And that this child has been given the name [name of child].

All of which was been witnessed by [names and titles of witnesses].

Sealed by the Municipal Court Judge, declarant, and witnesses.


Some useful phrases in translation:

mil novecientos = 19__ (rarely, "mil ochocientos" = 18__)

comparecio = appears

legitimo = legitimate

natural = illegitimate

ya difunto = deceased

de __ años de edad = is __ years old

Some records also list the race of the child, which literally translate as: blanca/o = white; mestiza/o = literally "mixed", typically refers to a person of Spanish and Native American ancestry; mulata/o = a person with one parent of African descent and one parent of European descent; negra/o = black; parda/o = brown; triqueña/o = "three cultures".

Marriage Records

Marriage record (Acta de Matrimonio), 1950 [detail], Ancestry Library Edition. (accessed June 2018)

Marriage records, Acta de Matrimonio, include a wealth of information. In addition to the names of the bride and groom, and their parents, you can find the following about the marriage:

  • Town in which it was performed
  • Date of event
  • Groom:
    • Name, age, marital status, profession, hometown, current residence 
  • Bride:
    • Name, age, marital status, profession, hometown, current residence
  • Groom's father and mother:
    • Names, hometowns, ages, races, marital statuses, professions, current residences, is/is not living
  • Bride's father and mother:
    • Names, hometowns, ages, races, marital statuses, professions, current residences, is/is not living
  • Information about any previous marriage(s) and/or children
  • Witnesses to the marriage:
    • Names, ages, race, professions, current residences

Death Records

Death record (Certificado de defuncion), 1975 [detail], Ancestry Library Edition. (accessed August 2018)

Death certificates are Certificado de defuncion, and include:

  • About the deceased:
    • Name
    • Years of residency in town of death
    • Gender
    • Race
    • Name of spouse
    • Age
    • Hometown of deceased
    • Mother's and Father's names and hometowns
  • Town and neighborhood (barrio) in which the decedent died
  • Date of death (see information on years, under "Births")
  • Cause of death

Some death certificates also include:

  • Type of interment (cremation, burial, traslado (transferred [to another location])
  • If death was ruled accidental, suicide, or homicide
  • Social Security Number of deceased

Census

1930 Federal Census [detail], Ancestry Library Edition. (accessed April 2018)

Residents of Puerto Rico are counted in the following Federal Census years:

  • 1910
  • 1920
  • 1930
  • 1940
  • 1950–Present*

In 1900, only U.S. armed forces in Puerto Rico were included.

A Social and Population Schedule was conducted in Puerto Rico in 1935 and 1936, and an Agricultural Schedule in 1935. From Ancestry Library Edition:

"Agricultural schedules are useful for both historians and family historians, providing an overall view of the agricultural state of the nation. These schedules recorded statistics on farms, plantations, and market gardens, listing the names of owners, agents, and managers. The type of statistics recorded included the total acreage of land, the value of the farm, machinery and livestock, amount of staples (wool, cotton, grain, etc.) produced, and the value of animals slaughtered, etc."

*Census records are made publicly available after seventy-two years. The next publicly available Federal Census, enumerated in 1950, will be released in 2022.

Religious Records

Religion in Puerto Rico

Under Spanish rule and through the American era (1898–Present), Catholicism has been the dominant religion of the island. Most genealogists may therefore find useful information in Catholic church records.

Other Records

WEBSITE of national archives new york city office

National Archives at New York City Website, July 2018.

Naturalization

Though individuals born in Puerto Rico are American citizens, some residents of Puerto Rico have become naturalized U. S. citizens.

Some copies of naturalization records have been transferred from The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to regional offices.

The National Archives at New York City holds "permanent records created by Federal agencies and courts" in Puerto Rico, including naturalization records. NARA NYC's contact information is:

The National Archives at New York City
One Bowling Green, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10004

Hours: Monday–Friday, 10AM–5PM

Toll-free: 1-866-840-1752 or 212-401-1620
Fax: 212-401-1638
Email: newyork.archives@nara.gov

Guides to Records at NARA NYC:

Other Puerto Rico Records at NARA

The National Archives catalog can be searched online at catalog.archives.gov. In addition to maps, photographs, moving images, and sound recordings, NARA holds records pertaining to Puerto Rico, including: