Cuban Genealogy Research Tips

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

Family origins

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).

Family histories

  • 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.
  • “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:


  • 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:
  • 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:

Church records

  • 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.
    1. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Cuba maintains a map of and links to modern-day dioceses:
    2. The Catholic Hierarchy Organization lists the Dioceses and Bishops of the Catholic Church in Cuba, both current and historical:

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].

Additional Resources

Cuban National Archives:

Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami:

Cuban Genealogy Center: Cuban ancestry message board:

University of Havana –
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:

Deciphering city directory entries

U.S. City directories provide a wealth of information for historians. Beyond simply establishing location or residence, directories offer details about individuals and their community. Directories have been published usually annually (yearly) since the early 1800’s. City and county directories are similar to present day telephone  books and are useful records for locating people.

City directories include an alphabetical listing of inhabitants (arranged by name, address, and occupation); widows, working women, and adult children at home. Some directories list a wife in parenthesis or whether a woman is a widow (including name of husband); a list of marriages and deaths of previous year; and death date.

Directories include ward maps; street locators, including cross streets; street name changes; businesses (and index to advertisers); and addresses and maps of churches, schools, funeral homes, cemeteries, post offices, courts, hospitals, benevolent associations and newspapers.

Often, this information appears in abbreviated form. The following table provides a few examples of the more common abbreviations found in U.S. city directories. Taken in context, they can provide a valuable insight into a person’s lifestyle and situation, and the community in which they lived. In addition, city directories may act as a census substitute for the 1890 federal census that was mostly lost in a fire in the 1920s.

For more information about city directories and their use in family or community history research, take a look at:

Direct Me NYC 1786: A History of City Directories in the United States and New York City by Philip Sutton, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. June 8, 2012.

ab above
agcy agency
agt agent
al alley
agrl agricultural
apt apartment
assn, Assn Association
auto automobile
av, Av avenue
b, bdg, bds boards (room and board)
bdg hse boarding house
bel below
bet between
bld, bldg building
blk block
blvd, boul boulevard
br branch
bros brothers
c, cor corner
causew causeway
ch, Ch church
chmbrs chambers
civ civil, civic
ck creek
co county
col, col’d colored
coll college
com commission, commons
com’l commercial
confry confectionary
cres crescent
ct court
dept department
dist district
div division
do ditto (or the same as above)
dom domestic
drugst drugstore
e, E east
Ea east
elec electric
e.s. east side
est estate
ex, exch exchange
f freeholder
fcty factory
fl floor
for forest
ft foot
frt freight
gdns gardens
gds goods
gen, genl general
govt government
gr fl ground floor
gt great
h house, householder (owns the house)
hd hand
hdqtrs headquarters
hdw hardware
heth heath
hngr hangar
ho house
hosp hospital
imp import
implts implements
imptr importer
inc incorporated
ins insurance
jct junction
l lives
la lane
lbr lumber
ldg lodging
ltd, Ltd Limited
mdse merchandise
mer merchant
mfg manufacturing
mfr manufacturer
mkt market
mn man
mut mutual
n, N north
n, nr near
n.e. northeast
n.s. north side
n.w. northwest
natl national
off office
op, opp opposite
pass passenger
ph penthouse
pk park
pkwy parkway
pl place
p.o. post office
pt point
propr proprietor (owner)
prov province
r roomer or resides (renter)
r, rr rear
R.C. Roman Catholic
rd road
regd registered
real est real estate
res residence, resides
ret retail, retired
rm room
rms rooms (renter)
RR rural route
rw row
Ry railway
s, S south
sch school
s.e. southeast or side entrance
ship shipping
side side entrance
soc society
spec special
sq square
st store
s.s. south side
sta stable
sta, stn station
sum res summer residence
s.w. southwest
t tenant
tav tavern
tel telephone
teleg telegraph
ter terrace
tn town
tp township
trans transportation
trans transfer
trav travelling
up upper
var variety
w, W west
ware warehouse
wf, whf wharf
w.s. west side
whol wholesale
wid widow
wks works
wlk walk
wmn woman
yd yard


What’s a Palatine German?

A client recently asked me to clarify the meaning of “Palatine German” in researching their family origins. In simple terms, a “palatine” is someone from the “palatinate”, an area near the Rhine River near present-day Southwestern Germany. The term has been used to refer to German immigrants who originated from that particular region of Europe.

In this particular research project, the “German Palatines” were early 18th century emigrants from the Middle Rhine region who immigrated to North America by way of Rotterdam as part of a larger wave of Palatine immigration. Like many of their brethren, they settled near present-day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and remained for several generations.

Some  genealogical resources use the terms “Pennsylvania Dutch” and “German Palatines” interchangeably. It’s important to note that many but not all Pennsylvania Dutch are descendants of refugees from the Palatinate of the German Rhine.

Here are a few additional and excellent resources for better understanding this terminology and it’s application in family history research:

Researching orphanages and asylums in Chicago

This month, I researched a young man who spent time in a Chicago orphanage in the late 1800s. Through this process, I discovered the following excellent resources:



Chicago Nursery and Half-Orphan Asylum aka Chapin Hall
These records are held at the University of Chicago Black Metropolis Research Consortium

Chicago Child Care Society
The Chicago Child Care Society (CCCS) is the oldest child welfare organization in Illinois, founded in 1849 as the Chicago Orphan Asylum.
These records are also held at the University of Chicago Black Metropolis Research Consortium


  • Cmiel, Kenneth. 1995. A Home of Another Kind: One Chicago Orphanage and the Tangle of Child Welfare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • McCausland, Clare L.  1976. Children of circumstance : a history of the first 125 years (1849-1974) of Chicago Child Care Society.
  • Heenen, Kathleen Mackin. 2002. St. Vincent’s : an orphanage that shined. Gold Leaf Publications and Productions.


Take me out to the ball game

Digging for resources documenting the history of minor league baseball, players and teams, farm clubs, in the United States.

  1. The Official Site of Minor League Baseball –
  2. Society for American Baseball Research –
  3. The National Pastime Archives –
  4. The Baseball Cube –
  5. Baseball Hall of Fame –
  6. Baseball Hall of Fame Library/Archives Collections –
  7. Sean Lahman Baseball Archive –
  8. Obojski, Robert. Bush League: A history of minor league baseball. 1975.
  9. Sullivan, Neal J. The Minors: The Struggles and Triumph of Baseball’s Poor Relation from 1876 to the Present. 1990.
  10. Seymour, Harold. Baseball – The Early Years.  Oxford University Press. 1989.
  11. Baseball American –
  12. The Baseball HIstorian –
  13. Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress –
  14. Baseball Resources at the Library of Congress – Online Finding Aids –
  15. Baseball Records in the National Archives –

Great Chicago Fire of 1871

A few excellent resources to kick start (no pun intended) research on the Chicago Fire of 1871. Spoiler alert! Mrs. O’Leary’s cow is not to blame…


Texas’ Ellis Island

Don’t overlook this port of entry when researching 19th century immigration routes. Thousands of immigrants, primarily from Germany and Eastern Europe, disembarked at the port of Galveston, Texas, between 1846 and 1948.

Beginning in the 1830s, Galveston was an increasingly popular port of entry for German immigrants. Up to 20,000 German immigrants settled in Texas after Texas Independence in March 1836 and prior to U.S. annexation in December 1845. Many settled in the Texas towns of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.

Note: If your German ancestors passed through the port of Galveston prior to 1847, you won’t find their passenger records on Microfilm Series M575 (see below) because during that time, Texas was an independent nation and not subject to U.S. Customs Passenger statutes.



  • National Archives Microfilm Collection – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston, TX, 1896–1951. M1359. 36 rolls. (PDF)
  • Copies of Lists of Passengers Arriving at Miscellaneous Ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and at Ports on the Great Lakes, 1820–1873. M575. 16 rolls. (PDF)
  • Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston, TX, 1906-1951. This is an alphabetical index to the names of passengers arriving at Galveston and the subports of Houston and Brownsville, Texas beginning in October 1906.

NARA Roll# / FHL Roll# / Covers
M1358-1 / 1402454 / Aab, Maria–Duquesne, Isidro Ariosa
M1358-2 / 1402455 / Duran, Carlos–Inglis, Elizabeth
M1358-3 / 1402456 / Ingram, Joseph–Lavitjanz, Arschak
M1358-4 / 1402457 / Lawenda, Joel–Papurlieff
M1358-5 / 1402458 / Paracheroff, Dimitar–Schriever
M1358-6 / 1402459 / Schrobenhauser, Anni–Weigert, Jacques
M1358-7 / 1402460 / Weiger, Georg–Zyzora, Wasyi


  • A New Land Beckoned: German Immigration to Texas, 1844-1847, Chester W. Geue and Ethel H. Geue; 2nd enlarged ed; Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1972.
  • Ships Passenger Lists, Port of Galveston, Texas, 1846-1871, the Galveston County Genealogical Society; Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1984.
  • Galveston: Ellis Island of the West (Suny Series in Modern Jewish History), Bernard Marinbach. June 30, 1984.