What Is Genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of you. It is the study of your family. It is the study of your history. It is the study of your genetic background.

WHY do genealogy?
Genealogy tells us what and who we are. It helps us understand ourselves, our families, and our history.

WHO cares?
You care, or you would not be reading this. Other members of your family will care, as they are just as curious about their history as you are

WHAT will I learn?
You will learn where you came from, and why. You will learn why you have the names you have, why you look the way you look, why you speak the way you do, why you believe the way you to. You will learn why you are here, and not there.

SHOULD I pay someone to do it?
You can, but it is much more rewarding and interesting to do your own research, and learn your family’s history firsthand.

You never know what you will find buried deep in your family history.

It will take a long time.

You never know what you will learn about your family history from genealogy.

Join a Genealogical society:

The New Mexico Genealogical Society (NMGS)
Focus:  The Southwest, mainly New Mexico Families
Meets once a month in Albuquerque at the Main Library downtown, publish a quarterly journal and have “Locating Catholic Church Records” on their website.

The Hispanic Genealogical Research Center of New Mexico (HGRC)
Focus:  New Mexico Families
Features an on-line database of about 200,000 people that can be accessed for free.  They also publish a quarterly journal and meet monthly at Botts Hall in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Genealogical Society (AGS)
focus:  Worldwide
Meets once a month at the Main Library and have multiple volunteers who can help with your genealogy needs.

Genealogical Society of Hispanic America
Focus: Hispanic genealogical and historical research and education.

How to do your Genealogy
Researching your genealogy and family history is like visiting a foreign country. You must do it with respect and with open eyes, and remember: they do things different there. New Mexico offers a unique research experience, with ancient Native American cultures tens of thousands of years old, Spanish Colonial families creating a new life and new culture on the frontier of northern New Spain, Mexican nationals living in a new era, and U.S. history and culture arriving and thriving in an already mixed tapestry of peoples and civilizations. Genealogy makes history come alive, and takes you on a personal journey through you and your family, and is one of the most effective ways of learning how and why we are who we are.

Getting Started
Family Research can pose unique and sometimes difficult challenges as you continue to make your way back in time. Using clues along with knowledge of cultural practices can help to further your research into the 19th and 18th centuries and beyond.

You will need:

  • Pedigree Charts
  • Family Group Sheets
  • Understanding the History of New Mexico
  • Have some maps of your area on hand
  • Using Guides to Find Your Church
  • Pencils
  • Big Eraser
  • 3-ring binder

Oral History
Your first step, typically, in researching your genealogy is to talk to experts most knowledgeable about your family: your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Ask significant questions about your family:

  • Names of grandparents. Names of great-grand parents.
  • Get as many maiden names for women as possible.
  • Places where these relatives lived; where they married, where they were born.
  • Dates when these events happened. Even approximate dates and guesses can be helpful.

Second step, write the information down. Organize your notes, and write down where, when, and from who you got the information.
Keep in mind, many families use nick names, so these will not likely show up on church and civil documents. For example, you may call your grandfather Manny, but he will likely show up as Manuel in records.

Where do I conduct research?

  • LDS Family History Centers
  • Special Collections Library – Albuquerque
  • State Records Center and Archives – Santa Fe
  • Center for Southwest Research – UNM, Albuquerque

Start with yourself
1.  Gather your documents
2.  Find records that pertain to your area

  • Guides are available
  • Keep your source material
  • New Mexicans were Catholic up to 1850

3.   Work in generations

  • Families lived and moved around together
  • They used family as padrinos and witnesses
  • Focus on one family and one generation at a time.


  • Women kept their maiden names, so use them that way in your documentation
  • Naming patterns are of value when looking at the oldest son, daughters and so on.
  • Spelling varies, don’t worry about the inconsistency. Find one that works for you and stick to it.  Example: Chavez, Chaves, Chabes, Chabez. Quintana, Qintana, Kintana. Baca, Vaca, Cabeza de Baca.

Note: Different spellings are not indicative of having Crypto Jewish or Native American ancestry.

Learn Local History
It is crucial to understand the history of New Mexico in order to get an understanding of the context in which your ancestors lived. A general history is a good place to start:
New Mexico: An Interpretive History by Marc Simmons
The Journals of Diego De Vargas vols 1-6; ed. By John Kessell, Rick Hendricks, Meredith Dodge, and Larry Miller.

Essential Books for New Mexico Genealogy:
Origins of New Mexico Families by Fray Angelico Chavez
The Spanish Recolonization of New Mexico of 1693 by Jack Colligan and Jose Antonio Esquibel


  • Work in generations
  • Families lived and moved around together
  • They used family as padrinos (godparents) and witnesses
  • Focus on one family and one generation at a time

Documentary Sources

  • Baptismal records
  • Marriage Records
  • Marriage Investigations – Diligencias Matrimoniales
  • Death Records
  • Census Records
  • Wills
  • Doweries
  • Diaries
  • Bibles

Baptismal records may have:

  • Person’s full name
  • Parent’s names
  • Grandparent’s names
  • Godparent’s names – important!
  • Place of origin
  • Ethnic or class designation

Marriage Records may have:

  • Maiden names
  • Parent’s names
  • Godparent’s names
  • Place of origin
  • Ethnic or class designation
  • Previous marriage information

Marriage Investigations – Diligencias Matrimoniales may have:

  • Ethnic designations
  • Places of origin
  • Parent’s names
  • Relatives as witnesses
  • Social history

Death records may have:

  • Parent’s names
  • Spouse names
  • Place of origin
  • Ethnic or class designation

Census records may have:

  • Family groups
  • Ages
  • Places of birth
  • Demographic information
  • Economic information
  • Relatives listed nearby

How do I do it?

  • Start with family stories – conduct an oral history of your family
  • Ask parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, anybody who may have information about your family origins
  • Research and find baptismal records and marriage records
  • Search for ancestors in census records and civil documents
  • Continue process to the next generation


  • A great deal has been extracted!
  • This is a beginning, not an end!
  • Always look at the original document!
  • Do not lose heart, people make mistakes!                                                                               

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Share your research!