Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Researching in a Foreign Country?

Understand the Government Structure - Costa Rica
Although most of the best genealogical records in some countries are embedded in church records, you will want to understand the basic structure of the country’s government structure. Why? Because most often there was not a separation of church and state. And, by knowing a bit of the government structure you can perhaps distinguish your ancestor from others with a common name.

Costa Rica as An Example
While researching in Costa Rica, you will  want to understand the difference of a Province, a Canton, and a municipality.   

Costa Rica has seven provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas and San José.  Each province has its own capital, local courts and legal system and due to different terrains and climate you will find distinct ethnic settlements as early as the 1500’s.

Each province has several “cantones” or cantons in English and may be referenced as “counties.”  The 7 provinces are subdivided into 81 cantones.  For a listing of the cantones associated with a province visit the University of Costa Rica website. Know that the number of cantones is not static since based on present day population a new canton may be formed. But for genealogical purposes it is the canton that probably holds the most interest. Court records may be the key to you discovering new information on your ancestor.  

Cantones are further divided into municipalidades (municipalities) that has its own mayor. This may be important to note, when looking for local church records, although many (not all) church records can be found in the Archdiocese archives. (Many have been microfilmed and can be located at the Family History Library.)  Microfilmed parish records for San Jose, for example, are about 90% complete of the city’s population between 1595 and 1992. 

Researching Costa Rica Church Records
Church Records, Matrimonios

The Costa Rica Church Records, 1595-1992 online search may be found at the Family History Library website. These records hold baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths and burials. Using the province, canton and municipality information researched, you will be able to confirm your ancestral line. This is especially useful if your ancestor bore a common name and you are looking for distinguishing characteristics.   

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answersanswers

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