Find Your Mexican Ancestors Using Civil Registry Documents

Tamaulipas SealHopefully at this point you have already gotten rid of your misconceptions, gathered all your family’s information, and have already entered it into your genealogy software to manage it.

With this post I will show you how to find your Mexican ancestors using Civil Registry Documents with techniques and examples that have worked for me in my own quest of finding my ancestors.

Brief Civil Registry History

Just for those of you whom are not familiar with El Registro Civil or the Civil Registry let me give you some background information. During Spanish rule and some time after it’s independence Mexico’s vital records were kept by the Catholic Church from about the 1500’s up until 1860’s. Of course some states started to keep records even before 1860. What happened was that in 1860 or 1859, Benito Juarez the president of Mexico at the time declared that all Vital records Birth, Marriage, and Death records had to be kept by the state. Church records would no longer be valid for government transactions. Thus the Registro Civil was created.

Ok, good, we are done with my sketchy history lets move along to the good stuff.

Where to Find Mexican Civil Registry Records Online

The first thing and most important of all is that FamilySearch has made the civil registry records accessible online for most of the Mexican States and you can access them from here Civil Registry, but don’t go there just yet. Most of these records span from 1859 to mostly 1930’s due to privacy laws, but I have found some records up until 2005. Another thing you need to be aware of is that most of these records are also copies of the originals that the Civil Registry official had to send to the state capital at the end of each year. Due to this reason most of these documents don’t contain the original signatures of our ancestors since the originals are still on the shelves of the local Civil Registration Offices.

Unfortunately this gold mine of records have not been indexed and the search for your ancestors has to be done manually. I say gold mine since these records contain the following:

  • Birth: Name of child, and time of birth. Names of parents, age, occupation  and where they were from. Names of grandparents and where they were from.
  • Marriage Licences: Names of couple, their age. Names of parents and sometimes their age. Location of marriage and names of witnesses.
  • Marriage: Names of couple, date of marriage announcement, their age. Names of parents and sometimes their age. Location of marriage and names of witnesses.
  • Death: Location of death, burial, occupation, name of spouse, name of parents, and location of burial.

How to Browse or Download Mexican Civil Registry Images

When I first started to research these records I discovered that most of the years had indexes at the front or end of each year. Soon I discovered that if I divided the pages by years of any particular collection I could estimate the number of pages that the indexes were located on or about every 50 pages then with the dates on the documents I would either go forward or backward to locate the index. For example, if the collection contained 500 pages and covered 10 years I would divide 500 by 10 thus getting 50. This is a simple way and somewhat faster than searching page by page but not very efficient.

Thankfully I discovered a small tool named FastFilm, this small tool is a time saver since it lets you download entire collections of online documents located at FamilySearch. Lets say you know the town your ancestor came from and assume that he was born about 1905 and there is a collection for that town covering 1898 to 1915. Well this tool will let you download it and then the searching for the indexes is much faster since you don’t have to wait for each image to download.

With either method once you find the indexes just search for your ancestors name. Once you find their name next to it there will be a number labeled Acta this is the Record entry number. Just look for that number within that years pages and you will find his Birth record. You can use this same method to look for a death, or marriage.

If the town you are looking for is not listed on the Civil Registry records do a Google search and locate the biggest town around it. More than likely that’s were your ancestors had to register. Just to be sure do some research on the history of the town and Municipio (county) boundaries.

How I Found My Maternal 2nd Great Grandparents

I had been searching for my Maternal 2nd Great grandparents for years and had no luck in finding out their names. It wasn’t until I located them thanks to the Civil Registration records available at FamilySearch.

So the family had no documents nor clues as to whom they were or their names. I only had the names for my great grandparents but not birth dates for them. I first searched for my great grandparents small Mexican town of Los Trevino’s but it would not even come up on Google, fortunately I had been to that town a few years ago and I knew it’s location and was able to find it, then I looked at the nearest towns and there was only Ciudad Miguel Aleman, and Ciudad Mier. After some research I learned that Ciudad Miguel Aleman was founded in 1950 so there was no way they had what I was looking for even though Los Trevinos belonged to it jurisdiction. After some more research I found out that Ciudad Mier was founded in 1753 and Los Trevinos was in land that used to belong to Ciudad Mier’s jurisdiction before 1950. I quickly found the Civil Registration Records for Ciudad Mier in the State of Tamaulipas.

I then figured that since my grandmother was born in 1925 I should at least look 10 years prior for the marriage of my Great grandparents. So I found the index of 1915 and did not find them. Then on the one for 1916 I found them with Acta 4 next to them. I quickly browsed my way to number four and there is was a page and half document about their marriage. It had their ages, occupation, and best of all the names of four new ancestors.

These are the following states that are available for browsing:

Let me know in the comments about your finds in the Mexican Civil Registry Documents.

Read Next Article in the Getting Started Series

About Moises Garza

I have doing my family genealogy since 1998. I am also the creator of this blog Mexican Genealogy, and my personal blog We Are Cousins. To always be up to date with both of these sites follow me on facebook. Please feel free to contact me for anything.

17 thoughts on “Find Your Mexican Ancestors Using Civil Registry Documents

  1. Lee

    Thank you for the introduction to FastFilm. It is already simplifying my research. In the past I was only using the Catholic records and just recently started accessing the civil records. I have been looking for my great grandparents wedding information for a long while and found it in the civil records today using your suggested technique. Definitely easier than searching/downloading each page individually.

    1. Moises Garza Post author

      I am glad that I helped, believe me it will free up more time to do more research. The civil records are an awesome resource. I only wished they would have started recording earlier than 1860. Have fun!

  2. Christian

    Good Afternoon,

    I am doing research on my ancestors…. I read about the tool called “Fastfilm” you mentioned above and would love to get access to it as it would save me a great deal of time! However, once I click on it, it says “Forbidden, you do not have permission to access…”

    How and where can I get access to it? I have a Macbook if that makes any difference.


    1. Moises Garza Post author

      Thanks for your interest but unfortunately this software has been discontinued and no longer works. I have been looking for an alternative but have yet to find one.


      Moises Garza

  3. Nikki

    I have been doing research on my husband’s ancestors in Sonora. Some times I come across books with an index. Some of the books do not list the name of the person I’m looking for in the index, though I’m pretty sure they were born in that particular year. Is it possible that sometimes a person is left out of the index but their record is in the book?

    1. Moises Garza Post author

      It might be possible, after all they were indexed by humans whom tend to do mistakes. The unfortunate thing is that it will be very time consuming to go record by records. Try to narrow it down to a specific years or years, that will make it easier. What is the name of the book?

  4. Flora Sandoval

    Hi Moises i would like to actually purchase my Grandfather birth certificate in Nuevo Leon how is it possible to buy one one line. Thanks Flora

  5. Liliana Coronado-Gil

    I have names, birth dates and copies of birth and death certificates of grandparents, but they do not show up anywhere- birth, baptist, marriage, death, etc. What could be the reason for this?

  6. George Garcia

    My mothers ancestor came from Sinaloa, i am unnable to find any records. were do i go to find these?

  7. Lenna D.

    Do you know where they would have archived scans of birth records from zacoalco de Torres, Jalisco, Mexico from the 1950s? I’ve searched manually to find my father’s (the copy of his that I found was a bad copy and very hard to read without being able to manipulate the lighting and contrast to read certain names on it), as I’m trying to trace his side of the family. I’ve looked on some of the sites and I can’t find the ones I need. They mostly stop at the 1930s for births (I can’t even find his parents as they were both born in 1931, and 1935). Any help you can give is much appreciated. I’m new to all of this so I don’t know where to start at all.

    1. Moises Garza Post author

      Hello Lenna, due to privacy laws you will not find anything online before 1930. In order to get what you need you need to contact the local civil registration office where your father was registered at birth. Try looking for a government website for Jalisco that may provide that service for you.

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