How To Obtain Original American Southwest Genealogical Records
Obtaining original American Southwest Genealogical records can seem complicated, but in this article we’ll help you request original documents to help you on your journey.
Exploring Genealogical Records from the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico
Anyone familiar with the ins and outs of genealogical research in New Mexico has probably come across documents, abstracts, transcriptions, indexes, or citations associated with collections held at the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. If you’re one of those genealogical researchers, you may have wondered how to obtain original records kept in this archive’s extensive collection.
Brief History: Why you need the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe
The Roman Catholic Church’s presence in New Mexico began as early as the 1500s when the Franciscan missionaries began proselyting to the Native Americans there. By 1850, this mission became so expansive that “all of New Mexico came under the Diocese of Santa Fe jurisdiction.” The Archdiocese of Santa Fe reigned supreme in New Mexico until the territory it covered was too massive and started to divide in 1868. Inevitably, the ecclesiastical Archdiocese of Santa Fe affected anyone living in New Mexico between the 1500s to the mid-1800s.
While the State and counties of New Mexico didn’t record births before 1907; marriages before 1852; or deaths before 1906, the Roman Catholic Church records in some parts of New Mexico can go back as early as the 1600s. These records include baptisms, marriages, marriage information records, deaths, and burials. Sometimes one record alone will name multiple generations of one’s family, becoming an invaluable asset to genealogical research. Therefore, if you would like to push your ancestry back to the 19th century, utilizing the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, records is a great place to start.
The Archive’s Online Collections of American Southwest Records
Many of the Archdiocese’s records have been digitized and made available online; you can access these records for free. Start there if the records you’re searching for are readily available online. The Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe will redirect you to conducting your research in these collections if they are publicly available. Fortunately, the New Mexico Genealogical Society (NMGS) has created several fantastic guides for “E-Research Resources,” making your family history journey easier. Their guides include:
- Family & Church Records
- Marriage & Prenuptial Investigations
- Wills & Land Grants
- Burials & Death Records
- Maps, Online Collections & New Mexico History
One of the most helpful, comprehensive guides created by the NMGS for navigating records from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is called “Finding Aids for Church Records” (to access this guide, see this link). This fantastic guide is organized alphabetically by location and includes records from New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas. Their finding aid includes hyperlinks that will take you directly to the record set you need and also provide tips for researchers and names other places to search if you cannot find the target ancestor in an expected location. Below is an example of this guide’s compilation for records in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
Screenshot of the Finding Aids for Church Records from the NMGS, Location: Albuquerque
Note that in the image above, there is a column for “AASF;” this stands for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The numbers in this column are associated with microfilms kept by the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe; these collections are unavailable online. Keep in mind that there are currently three Archdioceses in New Mexico—Santa Fe, Las Cruces, and Gallup—and that this guide only lists offline microfilms kept at the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The NMGS notes that “the other two dioceses have not released their records” for public use.
The NMGS’s church records guide hyperlinks are associated with microfilms kept in the FamilySearch Catalog. If you’d like, you may also explore the online record collections of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe by going directly there. You can search The Family Search Catalog by place, surname, title, author, subject, or keyword and by the microfilm number. Since indexes are not always available for these records, many collections must be searched page by page.
American Southwest Genealogical Records Offline
Although the records you’re seeking may be abstracted, transcribed, or referenced online, the original records are sometimes unavailable to the public online. In this case, you must go through the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe directly. Their website states, “The Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Office of Historic-Artistic Patrimony and Archives does not conduct extensive family genealogical research.” The Archive is currently closed to the general public and is not accepting in-house research appointments.
Therefore, when you make a family history request to the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, your request must be for a specific record. If you find a record that you’d like to order from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, you can use the Archive’s “Archival Sacramental Record Search” request form. A link to this form can be accessed here or on their webpage for the “Office of Historic-Artistic Patrimony & Archives” in the documents section. While they will not accept an emailed copy of the record request form, you can mail a physical copy of your request to the archive.
Each record search costs $20, which must be paid in cash or check; they do not take credit card payments. In paying the fee, the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe will search for up to two hours for the record requested, and they guarantee a 6-to-8-week turnaround time. They cannot, however, guarantee to locate the record, and if they do not find the record you’ve requested, they will keep the $20 research fee. If they do find the record requested, you will receive a photocopy of the microfilmed original records. Please keep in mind that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe does not accept record search requests for records pre-1700; all record requests must be kept between 1700 to 1956.
To assist them in their search, provide as much information as possible—names, dates, places, etc. This increases the likelihood of success in their search. The Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe emphasize that modern-day county lines do not break down their records; therefore, it is essential to provide the specific town/city name in which the requested record is kept.
If you have questions or need further assistance from the archive, contact them at 505-983-3811 or [email protected].
Many resources are available to those seeking their New Mexican ancestors online and offline from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Don’t be afraid to start poking around!
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