Legacy Tree Onsite: The Historical National Archive in Cape Verde
Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked one of our onsite researchers located in Cape Verde to share an overview of the record collections available at the Historical National Archive in Cape Verde.
Historically, Cape Verde’s archipelago was a meeting point for citizens from Europe, America and Africa, mostly due to the slave trade, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to this unique past, the documents contained in the archives of Cape Verde can reveal answers about the shared past between Portugal and its islands of Azores and Madeira, Spain and the Canary Islands, the neighbouring countries of Angola, Mozambique, and Saint Tomé and Principe, and even Brazil.
Cape Verde Archives
Cape Verde’s historical legacy is preserved in the Historical National Archive (HNA), which has its headquarters in the old colonial customs building in Gamboa, Praia, on Santiago island. It is responsible for the protection of documentary heritage, and a dependency of the Ministry of Culture of Cape Verde.
In the 1960s, Cape Verde was under the administration of the Ministry of Overseas of Portugal, and was compelled to send a great amount of documentation to the mother country. Because of this, most of the key documents in Cape Verde’s history are kept in foreign collections, principally in Portuguese archives.
Record Collections at the Historical National Archive in Cape Verde
Although many collections are kept in foreign archives, the Historical National Archive keeps documentation of interest for African and Cape-Verdean culture and history, from the 16th to the 19th century, including the transition between the Ancien Régime and the new constitutional order; and the years before the independence of Cape Verde, into the 20th century. The main collections at HNA include the following:
- Church Registers Collection: this collection is the most important for genealogical research and holds Catholic Church registers of christening, marriage, and death from all islands. Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in 1867; the HNA keeps among its collections the church and civil registers from 1792 to 1916. In addition, the Church of Our Ladyship of Grace, in Plateau, Praia, also has a collection of earlier documents.
- Registry of Notaries Collection: includes protocols and wills which can contain useful genealogical information.
- Central Administration Collection: houses documents which belonged to the General Government’s Office (books of register and manuscripts from 1674 to 1928, and papers from 1803 to 1926). In addition, this collection houses documents of the civil administration, taxes and customs provincial departments; the Institute of Work, Insurance and Beneficence documents (from 1926 to 1975); and the Prime Minister’s Cabinet documentation from 1974 to 1990.
- Ministerial Collection: includes documents which belonged to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (from 1975), the Ministry of Economic Coordination, Justice, Culture, Infrastructure and Transports (from several years), including provincial departments.
- Taxes and Customs Collection: this collection has great value for the analysis of historical foreign trade relations with Cape Verde, including papers from the former taxes and customs authorities, such as the islands of São Nicolau, Fogo, Brava, Maio and Boavista.
- Judiciary Collection: this collection holds documents of the Cape-Verdean Court of Justice: all the civil and criminal proceedings between citizens and public institutions. This includes the papers of the Regional Court of Ribeira Grande, the Court of the Region of Sotavento, and the Court of Praia (from 1700 to 1969).
- Local Authorities Collection: documentation of the Administrative Office and the Council of Praia (from 1848 to 1975), and the papers of the City Council of Riberia Grande, Paúl, Porto Novo, São Nicolau, Sal, Boavista, Maio, Santa Catarina, Santa Cruz, Tarrafal, Praia (from 1812 to 1977), Fogo and Brava.
- African Collection: documentation of neighbouring countries which share strong bonds with Cape Verde, such as Saint Tome and Principe, through the papers of the Guardianship of Services and Colonists (from 1900 to 1975).
Finally, the rich documentary legacy of the HNA of Cape Verde includes an important bibliographical collection of legislative documents from the former Portuguese colonies, such as Angola (from 1870 to 1974), Guinea Bissau (from 1905 to 1974), India (from 1935 to 1961), Macau (from 1926 to 1974), Mozambique (from 1926 to 1974), Saint Tome and Principe (from 1910 to 1973) and Timor (from 1920 to 1972). The HNA brings this essential African and Cape-Verdean history documentation within researchers’ reach.
If you need help researching your Cape Verdean ancestry, the team at Legacy Tree Genealogists is experienced at tracing and extending family lines, wherever they originate from. Our network of onsite researchers have access to the archives you need to make serious progress on your family history. Contact us today to discuss your research goals and request a free quote!