Tracing Mexican Roots with DNA and Records

Family History
8 August 2023
by Jensen Cordon, Professional Genealogist at Ancestry

Immigration from Mexico to the U.S. has been ongoing for hundreds of years. But tracing your family’s story across time and borders can be tricky, especially if you don’t know where that story begins. As a professional genealogist, I’ll show you a few of the different methods I use to help Mexican-Americans learn about and discover their Mexican origins.

Find your ancestral hometown using the new Mexican AncestryDNA® Communities 

Whether you have lived in the U.S. for generations or you are a first-generation immigrant, the first step is to identify a specific hometown in Mexico. Each area of Mexico has its own history and nuances when it comes to genealogy.

How to start if you don’t know where your ancestors came from? A good place to begin is usually by talking to family members. But you can also unlock the power of DNA.

An AncestryDNA® test and your DNA Communities (which are part of your test results) can help pinpoint specific locations in Mexico that some of your ancestors may have come from. 

DNA Communities are groups of people connected through their DNA matches, most likely because their ancestors came from the same place or group of people within the past 300 years. DNA Communities can show you the specific areas your ancestors likely lived, getting as precise as a state or even county. With our latest update, AncestryDNA now has 350+ Mexico communities that we can connect users to. 

My wife, who was born in Mexico, has taken an AncestryDNA test and her results identify Central & Southern Mexico as one of her communities, and further specifies Bajío, Hidalgo & Ciudad de México and Northeast Michoacán & Central State of Mexico as additional communities. Incredibly, many of her ancestors were from these regions in the following states: Mexico City and State, Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca, and Guanajuato.

AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimates with Communities
AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimates with Communities

If she hadn’t already known where her family was from, these DNA Communities would give her a great idea of where to start exploring her family’s story. She could either ask more specific questions of family members or look for official records related to these areas.

Search for family in U.S. records

Once you’ve talked with family and looked at your DNA communities, hopefully you’ll have an idea of where in Mexico your ancestors were from, and when they may have moved to the U.S. Now you can look for records of these ancestors in available historical documents.

On Ancestry®, you can find numerous record collections to help you trace your Mexican ancestors in the U.S. Some examples include: Border crossing records, immigration records, World War draft registrations, occupation and job histories, death records, naturalization records, Social Security applications, and the U.S. Census.

You might identify other family members through these documents, like parents, siblings, and children. For example, the border crossing record below shows that in 1935, Estefena Quirino reported to Texas border crossing officials that she was born in San Luis Potosí City in San Luis Potosí State, Mexico. It also lists her daughter’s name, who was still living in Mexico at the time.

Border Crossing for Estefena Quirino dated 28 October 1935Source: U.S., Border Crossings from Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964, Ancestry.
Border Crossing for Estefena Quirino dated 28 October 1935
Source: U.S., Border Crossings from Mexico to U.S., 1895-1964, Ancestry

Identify your family in Mexico using Mexican records

There are also plenty of Mexican records to investigate. If you are working your way backwards, a good place to start is the 1930 Mexico National census, which is free to search.

Going further back in time, the two most common record types are civil registration and Catholic sacramental records. Try and find the closest Catholic parish and civil registrar to where your ancestors lived.

These records can carry lots of extra information. For example, the baptism record below says that María Angela Rosario was born on 2 August 1894 at 7 a.m. in Culiacan and was baptized at the Culiacan Parish on 2 December 1894. It also lists her parents, grandparents, and godparents.

María Angela Rosario García’s Baptism dated 2 December 1894Source: Sinaloa, Mexico, Catholic Church Records, 1671-1968, Ancestry.
María Angela Rosario García’s Baptism dated 2 December 1894
Source: Sinaloa, Mexico, Catholic Church Records, 1671-1968, Ancestry

Researching your family’s story can be an exciting way to discover more about your ancestors and yourself. An AncestryDNA® test and our 350+ Mexico DNA communities can be a great way to start that journey. You can discover some of the specific areas of Mexico that your ancestors may have called home and dive into U.S. and Mexico records with an Ancestry® membership to get more details about their lives and the journeys they took.