Since I started to study genealogy and discovered a contradistinc approach to history, the genealogy and social history of Puerto Rico is one of the richest that I have so far encountered.

Puerto Rico, nicknamed Land of Enchantment, has a unique heritage. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain when he landed there in 1493 and 400 years later following the Spanish-American War Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States.

By that time the Spanish had left their mark on the island, which is evidenced by the language and social norms.

Although Puerto Rico’s official languages are both Spanish and English the island’s culture is definitely Spanish with a twist of African, Indian and Anglo influences.

Immigrants from all over the world have settled there, so when you trace your Puerto Rican roots, you shouldn’t be surprised to find, in addition to Spanish, you might also find African, British, French, Dutch or South American ancestors.

When Columbus arrived, Taino Indians lived on the Island but, as you’ll learn in texts like “A Patriot’s History”, the combination of European diseases and enslavement by the Spanish diminished their numbers.

The island’s first town of Caparra, was founded in 1508 and by 1521 the town had moved and renamed Puerto Rico (rich port). The name was changed yet again to San Juan and the entire island became known as Puerto Rico.

Spain turned San Juan into a military outpost in the second half of the 1500s and the British, French and Dutch began to settle the on other Caribbean islands.

In the late 1700s the Spanish encouraged Canary islanders, French settlers from Louisiana, and Spaniards from Santa Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) to settle in Puerto Rico. Large sugar cane plantations were prosperous.

In the mid-1800s, immigrants arrived from China, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Ireland and Lebanon.

When Spain ceded the island to the United States in 1898, Americans began moving there.

Today, the island is a self-governing territory of the United States and its residents are United States citizens.

Before I add some sites to explore your Puerto Rican family history here’s a list of facts to consider:

  • Civil Registration started 1885
  • Puerto Rico – US territory status 1898
  • First US Census 1910
  • Birth, Marriage and Death records began 1931
  • US Commonwealth Status 1952

As with all family history research, if possible, you should gather as much information as you can from relatives, then focus on an ancestor you know to start your family tree.

The Family Search Latin American Outline is a good place to start learning about the type of records at your disposal as you plan your research strategy.

Here’s a list of links that could prove to be very useful in your ancestral search:

Hispanic Genealogical Society of New York

NARA North East Region-NewYork City

Demographic Registry (Registro Demografico)

Puerto Rico General Archive (Archivo General de Puerto Rico)

Family Search – Puerto Rico Civil Registration 1836-2001 and Puerto Rico Roman Catholic Church Records 1645-1969

Census Information:

Family Search U.S. Census 1910, 1920, 1930

Ancestry.com (You have to pay for this one but many libraries have a subscription)

Heritage-Quest Online (also free through subscribing libraries)

Organizations and Archives

Florida International University Libraries Latin American and Caribbean Information Center

The Hispanic Society of America

Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro de Estudios  Puertorriquenos)

New York State Archives

Puerto Rican/Hispanic Genealogical Society

 

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16 Comments on Trace your Puerto Rican ancestry

  1. olga i. gonzalez says:

    Looking for my ancestors;Gonzalez Santiago from Utuado,Puerto Rico and Rodriguez Gonzalez from Patillas, Puerto Rico.

  2. Sandy says:

    Olga, I hope someone knows your relatives from Utuado and Patillas, Puerto Rico.
    Good Luck.

  3. Miracle says:

    Gee whiz, and I thuoght this would be hard to find out.

  4. rosemary hernandez says:

    Looking for family members. My mother’s name was georgina moreno. Her mother’s name was carlina moreno. They lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

  5. Matilde says:

    I only have my mother name she was borm betewen 1915 and 1028 in
    san juan puerto rico

  6. Sandy Arnone says:

    Matilde, check out FamilySearch.org it’s free and might have the information you’re looking for. Good Luck.

  7. julio says:

    looking for any andino’s from santulse?
    my mom was born there and was black, so was the rest of her family

  8. Sergio says:

    Does anyone have any information on the civil registration records for San Lorenzo, PR? Not all of them are on familysearch.org

    Also looking for any Ortiz y Gonzalez ancestry from Toa Alta, PR. If anyone has any info I’d appreciate it. My ancestors were Ramon Ortiz and Marcela Gonzalez both born around 1770.

  9. I did just that with my 2 last names and wrote 2 books about it. Now I have my website where I share my passion:
    http://www.mypuertoricangenealogy.com

  10. Miriam says:

    Looking for my father or his family. He was born in Utuado, PR, but lived in playa de ponce. His name is Felix Massanet Martinez.
    Busco a mi padre o Su familia. Su nombre es Felix Massanet Martinez, quien nacio en Utuado, PR, Pero vivio en la playa de ponce.

  11. Miriam says:

    Looking for my father or his family. His name is Felix Massanet Martinez, born on Utuado, PR, but lived in
    La playa de ponce en Ponce.
    Busco a mi padre. Su nombre es Feliz Massanet Martinez, nacio en Utuado, Pero vivio en la playa de ponce, en Ponce.

  12. Marisol Colon Santoni says:

    Hi, I am looking for relatives of my mother, Lydia Margarita Santoni, born in Utuado, PR, her parents were Cristian Santoni and Margarita Gonzalez. Her aunt and uncle owned the farmacia in Uttuado. Thanks

  13. Maria Aviles says:

    I am looking for Aviles Y Gonzalez family. My great grandfathers name was Turbucio Heredia Y Aviles and my great grand mother was Tomasa Villanueva De Aviles. In 1910 they lived in Tetuan Pr in 1920 they lived in Caonollas Arriba and in 1930 they lived in Jayuya They had 10 children their names were Antonio Primitivo, Manuel, Maria, Carlos, Onelia, Virgilio, Isolina, Santas, Manuel Marin and Victoria. We have not found my grandfathers brothers or sisters or any of their children or grandchildren. We are taking a family trip to Puerto Rico in June and would love to meet a lot of our family members. Does anyone know how to go about it besides ancestry we already tried and have not had luck

  14. Hi im looking for my grandparents family
    My GGrandfather’s name is
    Juan Nieves please contact me if you think you are related to me

  15. Carmen Rodriguez says:

    Familia Rodriguez Rodriguez Bo, RioHondo Mayaguez PRINCIPIOS DE 1900

  16. Sandy says:

    Hi Carmen, Try FamilySearch.org

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