In years past, the general message to those attempting Latin American or Mexican genealogy was “Learn Spanish.” Thankfully, digitized and indexed resources now available on Ancestry.com and other websites have lessened the need to be fluent in Spanish. As with any genealogy project, it is beneficial to know the resources and not simply rely on what can be found online; however, the online record accessibility is making it easier to find ancestors in Mexican records.
The Spaniards were dutiful record keepers and, because Mexico was a colony of Spain, the records are well kept. Mexican records benefit from the fact that no major wars have been fought that led to mass record destruction like that seen in Europe and the U.S. In addition, many Mexican records have duplicate copies in the archives of Spain.
Mexican records can be extremely fruitful if you know where to look. Records of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials were created and kept at the parish level.
Because of this record keeping system, it is best to know the town of origin and that is where the records now available on Ancestry.com come in handy. The 1930 Mexico National Census is a boon for genealogists. For the first time those with Mexican ancestry can easily locate the ancestral place in Mexico, if it was previously unknown.
One problem encountered when conducting Mexican research is the border crossing. Even in the early twentieth century those coming to the U.S. were escaping poverty, starvation and the Mexican Revolutionaries—the most famous being Pancho Villa, and the Federales. When conducting Mexican research it may be necessary to search using altered names to account for those here illegally.
The Cortez family emigrated from Cosio, Aguascalientes, Mexico to El Paso, Texas and eventually settled in Tehachapi, Kern County, California. The family consisted of: Benito Juan, Cipriana, Marcos, Dolores, Melecio, and Guadalupe. They were easy to find in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census at the address where they lived for many years in Tehachapi, though proved difficult to locate in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. However, the Juan Muro family was located, and although the surname is different, the first names and ages match what was known about the family. Note: Consider searching by an unusual first name. Another useful collection at Ancestry.com is the Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S. 1895-1964. In this collection we find Benito Cortez’s card, showing him crossing in 1916 using his correct name. In addition, the name of a likely relation is learned, Pedro Cortes. Benito’s wife’s maiden name was also confirmed with this record. The card just prior to Benito’s is that of his wife Cipriana Tristan and the two records used in conjunction provide a better picture of the family. An important item to note is that Mexican women used their maiden name throughout the course of their life, making female research a little easier in Mexico.
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