Cuban genealogy relies primarily on government civil registration and Roman Catholic church records. Unfortunately, very few of these records are available online. And knowing your ancestor’s exact location of where they lived in Cuba is also a requirement, making Cuban research seem next to impossible.
Though limited by access problems, researching your Cuban family is possible and can be highly successful given the right tools. Tracking down the town of origin and identifying available records in the country with our genealogists in Cuba has helped families build back their trees on the island but also to their family’s original country of origin before immigrating to Cuba.
Cuban Genealogy Research: How To Get Started
The best source of information is the immigration story from your older family members. Stories were often all they could take to America, and this information is invaluable. Afterward, conduct a preliminary survey of available documents in the home to gather details to determine the precise location in Cuba where research needs to begin. Cuban records are held within individual churches or regional government civil registration offices.
If your family was from a larger city like Havana or Santiago de Cuba, narrowing down the exact area of the town is essential because of the large number of parishes and municipal districts in those regions.
If the area where your ancestors are from is unknown, our genealogists can research in the United States to help with that process. Plane manifests, naturalization papers, alien registration documents, and death certificates are excellent starting documents to pinpoint information before research can begin in Cuba.
Cuban Research Transcriptions are the Same as the Original, Right? No!
Cuban civil and church records are patterned on the Spanish model and almost always mention the parents and the grandparents. These records often include where each of the ancestors was born, whether and where they lived during the event, and sometimes even their occupation.
Frequently, transcribed records that family members possess only include a portion of what was on the original document. Obtaining the original is always an essential step in the research process.
This record, a transcribed version of the original obtained by the client before leaving Cuba, shows a standard government record with limited fields.
The below record is the original transcription obtained in El Registro Civil in El Norte de La Habana. The original entry provides the birth location of the grandparents, which was not included in the client’s transcription.
This additional information allowed our researchers to extend the ancestral lineages several more generations in Cienfuegos and Santa Cruz de los Pinos.
Collateral Lines are Key
Researching a direct line of ancestors can yield a great deal of information. However, sometimes, baptismal and marriage records for an ancestor do not include essential clues needed to extend the family tree; however, the baptismal record or marriage of a sibling may contain the information required to build a tree back to its country of origin.
Therefore, sibling research should not be discounted and should always be integral to Cuban research. The example below demonstrates how a sister’s baptismal record provided information that the family was from Telde, Gran Canaria, Spain. (San Agustín de Ceiba Mocha, Libro 7, Folio 49, no. 328)
Researching in the United States
Though having a genealogist in Cuba is the golden ticket to Cuban research, several research sources in the United States are invaluable to getting started. The following websites can help.
Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami
The University of Miami Cuban Heritage Digital Collection
Florida International University, Digital Library of the Caribbean
If you have questions about your own Cuban family history research, you can schedule a consultation with one of our genealogists to get you on your way!