A good friend recently asked how to get started researching family history in Cuba which piqued my curiosity. What records ARE available, either online or in-country, that document a family’s life in Cuba, in particular, late 19th and early 20th century? The information below serves only as a starting point and is by no means complete nor comprehensive. More records may become available as Cuba becomes more accessible to visitors researching family histories.
Researching Cuban Family History
How long did the family unit reside in Cuba? What was their country of origin prior to residing in Cuba? Consider researching the family unit in other country’s records (e.g. Spain).
- The Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collections is a unique research collection at the Green Library at Florida International University Special Collections and University Archives. The collection includes thousands of books, handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy, collected over four decades by Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza. Search by family name, browse by subject. Part of FIU’s Digital Library of the Caribbean. http://dloc.com/iFiuHurtado
- “HISTORIA DE FAMILIAS CUBANAS” by Francisco Xavier de Santa Cruz y Mallen Conde de San Juan de Jaruco y de Santa Cruz de Mopox. ISBN: 0-89729-379-70. 9-volume work, 850 surnames. Searchable index: http://www.cubagenweb.org/jaruco.htm
- There were six original provinces in Cuba until 1978. Currently there are 15 provinces. Find a good map of the area you are researching, with the current province as well as the province in the time period you are researching. Cuban provinces over time: http://www.cubagenweb.org/prov.htm
- Pay attention to location-related terminology “ciudad” (city), “municipio” (municipality), “provincia” (province.) Sometimes the capital city of a province and the province carry the same name. For example: the city of Pinar del Rio versus the province of Pinar del Rio.
- University of Texas Library, Historic Maps of Cuba collection: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/cuba.html
- Cuban church records are patterned on the Spanish model and often will mention not only the parents but the grandparents as well. Often these records include information as to where each of the ancestors was born, whether and where they were living at the time of the event, and sometimes even their occupation.
- You can acquire records from Cuba, especially church records, by writing directly to the ancestral parish. Records have been centralized in the corresponding province Archdioceses.
- Conference of Catholic Bishops in Cuba maintains a map of and links to modern-day dioceses: http://www.iglesiacubana.net/index.php/diocesis
- The Catholic Hierarchy Organization lists the Dioceses and Bishops of the Catholic Church in Cuba, both current and historical: http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/country/dcu.html
Travel and ship records
Did your ancestor travel between Cuba and the United States? Check US immigration and border crossing records, and ship manifests. On occasion, a traveler will list the name/address of the person they are visiting in a foreign country.
Military records (1868-1898)
Did your ancestor serve in the military? In the struggle for independence from Spain, Cubans fought three revolutionary conflicts:
- La Guerra de Los Diez Años – The Ten-Years War (1868-1878)
- La Guerra Chiquita – The Small War (1879-1880)
- La Guerra de Independencia – The War of Independence (1895-1898): A list of all the soldiers and officers who participated in this conflict was prepared for veteran’s pensions. If they survived, the original records are most likely in the National Archive of Cuba and also compiled and published in the following book: Yndice Alfabético y Defunciones del Ejército Libertador de Cuba – Guerra de Independencia, iniciada el 24 de Febrero de 1895 y terminada oficialmente El 24 de Agosto de 1898. (Trans: Alphabetic Index and Deaths of the Cuban Liberation Army – Cuban War of Independence, started 24 February 1895 and officially ended 24 Aug 1898), by Carlos Roloff. Habana, Impr. de Rambla y Bouza, 1901. [LOC Call number F1786.C95, LDS microfilm number 1844674].
Cuban National Archives: http://www.arnac.cu/
Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami: http://www.cubangenclub.org/index.php
Cuban Genealogy Center: http://www.cubagenweb.org/index.htm
Ancestry.com Cuban ancestry message board: http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.caribbean.cuba.general/mb.ashx
University of Havana – http://www.uh.cu/
Founded in 1727, this is the oldest university on the island. Their library may have suggestions for conducting and/or additional resources to facilitate family history research: http://www.uh.cu/Biblioteca-Central