Locating Mexican Family Roots from Outside Mexico

Although I am not of Mexican descent personally, many people I work with are, and ask about locating Mexican family roots from outside Mexico. So, this page will help people in the U.S. who have Mexican ancestry get started. Obviously, if you can travel to Mexico, many more sources would be available to you than from outside Mexico.
Civil registration records (Registro Civil) of births, deaths, and marriages, maintained mainly at the level of the municipality, have been kept in Mexico since 1859. Churches have been keeping records of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, and burials for about five hundred years. The catch is that you need to know which parish(es) and town(s) to consult. If you are lucky, you may even be able to find several generations of records for one family in parish records. But awareness of Registro Civil and church records suggests that a good deal of data exists.
From outside Mexico, accessing that data may seem challenging, but there are useful resources you can use. Many records are available online through Family Search, which is run by the Mormon Church. As a starter, Family Search’s Historical Records Collection lists material that is available online, mostly free of charge, complete with links. Examples include images of marriage records from the archdiocese of Guadalajara, or Civil Registration records from Chiapas. Family History centers in your town may have similar Mexican church records prior to 1930 available on microfilm; that’s also worth checking.
If you aren’t sure where to start, however, a good place is with the 1930 Mexico Census, where you can begin by simply entering first and last names of ancestors, and any other vital statistic information you happen to have about them. Information you gather from that census should enable you to work backward or forward in tracing individual family members.
Other assorted online resources may help situate your family within a cultural or historical context of Mexico. For example, Gary Felix maintains a website about Conquistador ancestors, as well as other related things. Mexican Genealogy has links to some potentially helpful tools such as family websites of specific people or surnames, histories of some Mexican states, and a Mexican Genealogy Forum where questions can be posted.
There are also books available that can be ordered online. Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide, by George R Ryskamp and Peggy Hill Ryskamp (Ancestry Pub., 2007) is inexpensive and designed for someone who is just starting out. The same authors wrote A Student’s Guide to Mexican American Genealogy (Greenwood Press, 1996) for students from sixth grade up. Another useful and inexpensive book is Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico by John Schmal and Donna Morales (Heritage Books, 2002).
If any readers have traced their own Mexican ancestry in its social and historical context, and would like to write a guest blog about resources and tools they found, and insights they gained, please contact me.

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