Cebu Province, Philippines Genealogy

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Guide to Cebu Province, Philippines Genealogy ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

Province of Cebu


History[edit | edit source]

The history of Cebu goes way beyond 439 years ago when the island became a province at the start of the Spanish colonization. Long before that, Cebu was already the center of trade of what is now the southern Philippines, dealing with traders from China, Malaysia, Japan, India, Burma and other parts of Asia. Cebu had an organized social structure before the Spaniards came — with small groups headed by a datu who served as leader. A datu governed his community, settled disputes, made decisions, protected his village from enemies, led them into battle, and received labor and tributes from his people. The position being both a political office and a social class, his authority was taken from his lineage. A community ranged from 30 to 100 households grouped as a barangay and based mostly on kinship. Aside from the datu, there were free men called timawa and olipon. Spanish reports called the role of an olipon as dependent rather than a slave because of the absence of violence and harshness notable in European slavery.

People in Cebu then were called pintados because men were heavily tattooed. Lavish ornaments such as gold jewelry were used not only by women but also men.

Prior to Spanish colonization, there were already permanent townhouse-looking wooden structures where the datus lived. Ordinary people lived in field cottages or balay-balay that were on stilts. Hagdan (house ladder) was a common sight, with floors (salog) made of bamboo or wood and roof (atop) made of palm tree shingles.

In the summer of 1521, Ferdinand Magellan and his troops on board five ships arrived in Cebu. It was then the start of the transformation of Cebu’s civilization under the Spanish regime: Catholic churches were built, priests ruled communities alongside civil leaders, watchtowers were scattered along the island to guard against Moro raids. On the economic and cultural side, fiesta celebrations were embraced, new agricultural products were introduced, royal decrees led to commercial and agricultural expansion and the establishment of elementary schools in every municipality.

From 1872 to 1896 however, there were extensive propaganda against abuses of Spaniards. A sugar crisis ended the agricultural prosperity Cebu province enjoyed and in 1892, sugar barons or hacienderos were forced to declare bankruptcy. Philippine Revolution began against Spain in 1898, but before the fruits of independence could bloom, the American troops arrived. United States sovereignty over the Philippines was declared and in February 7, 1900, the Filipino-American war broke.

Research Methods[edit | edit source]

The vast majority of your family research will be in civil registration and church records. This article explains different methods for obtaining these records.

Civil Registration (Registros Civiles)[edit | edit source]

  • The recording births, marriages and deaths, provides important information of events in a person's life and required valid evidence, making these records very important.
  • Most vital records from before 1889 come from Catholic parish and diocesan archives.
  • In 1889, the Spanish government created the Central Office of Statistics, which required each parish priest to give the government a detailed list of the births, marriages, and deaths in his area.
  • After the Philippine Revolution of 1898, the church and state became separate. Within the first few years, officials responsible for civil registration were appointed in each municipality.
  • In 1930, civil registration became mandatory and, in 1932, the Bureau of Census and Statistics was created to oversee all civil registration in the Philippines. It was not until 1940 that most registrations began to be recorded.
  • Contents:
    • Births: Child’s name, birth date and place; parents’ names, residence, and occupation; witnesses’ ages, relationships, residences.
    • Marriages: Bride and groom names, ages, residences, occupations, marriage date and place; sometimes ages and/or birth dates and places; parents' names; residences, occupations; witnesses and officer who performed ceremony; former spouses.
    • Death registers: Name of deceased, age, death date and place, occupation, name of surviving spouse, informant’s name and residence, cause of death, sometimes birth date and place, parents’ names, children’s names.
    • Fetal deaths: Record of all stillbirths, includes information similar to birth and death data shown above.
  • Population coverage: Before 1922, 20%; after 1922, 90%.

1. Online Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

The following online collections may have records for your town. There is a small possibility that some of the records for your town have been indexed. A comprehensive index will search all the available indexed records of these collections at once: Search Historical Records. Do not be discouraged if records for your town are not found in these collections. The next section of this article 2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog, should lead you to many more records.


2. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

You can also search microfilmed copies of available civil registration records. If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to try to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Philippines, Cebú.
b. Click on "Places within Philippines, Cebú" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3.Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

  • Civil registry documents that can be obtained from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 1945 -.Click here for detailed instructions for requesting certificates by mail. Click here to order records online.
  • Civil registry records from the National Archives, prior to 1945. See Philippines Civil Registration (Archives Division) collection listed above under 1. Online Civil Registration Records to find the starting date for your province. Click here for the Archives Collection and Access Division. . Here you will find instructions and forms for ordering records from the National Archives.
  • A copy of the records have been retained in local civil registry offices. Because many records were lost or damaged in the war, checking both the national office and local office might help find a surviving record. Click here for a directory of office telephone numbers, fax numbers, and sometimes e-mail addresses. To write to them, address your letter to:

City Civil Registry
(postal code--find it here) (City)
Cebú, Philippines


English is the official language of the Philippines. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with organizing your letter and phrasing your requests.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church records are very important for family research. Civil authorities did not consistently register vital events in the Philippines until the nineteenth century. Church records, on the other hand, were well kept from 1569 (in accordance with the directives of the Council of Trent), with some records dating even earlier. They are generally an excellent source—and many times the only source—of names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Key records are baptisms/christenings, marriages, and deaths/burials.

Generally registers exist for the following denominations:

  • Roman Catholic (Iglesia Católica) 1579-
  • Philippine Independent (Aglipayan) 1902-
  • Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) 1914-
  • Presbyterian 1899-
  • Baptist 1900-
  • Methodist 1900-
  • Protestant Episcopal 1901-
  • United Brethren 1901-
  • Disciples of Christ 1901-
  • Congregational 1902-

Other religious groups in the Philippines:

  • Islam (Muslim immigrants and converts 11th-15th centuries, also called Moros)
  • Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian (Some Chinese immigrants arrived in the 16th-19th centuries, but many more arrived in the 20th century)
  • Hindu (East Indian immigrants arrived in the 20th century)
  • Jews (Arrived in the 20th century)

Contents:

  • Baptismal records: Baptism dates; children’s names; parents’ residence and names (sometimes mother's maiden name is given); witnesses’ and godparents’ names, and sometimes their residence and relationship to infants; sometimes grandparents’ names.
  • Marriage records: Candidates’ names; marriage and/or proclamation dates; often birth places, residence, witnesses, former spouses and parents’ names.
  • Death/burial records: Name of deceased; burial date; often age and cause of death; residence; spouse’s name, especially for women; parents’ names for deceased children.

1. Online Church Records[edit | edit source]

These very limited collections include some church records:


The Ancestry.com collections are the same, but their search engine seems more powerful.


The collections are also available on MyHeritage.


Ancestry.com, findmypast, and MyHeritage.com can be searched free of charge at your local Family History Center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. .

2. Microfilm Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

You can also search microfilmed copies of available church records. If the locality and time period you need are not included in the online records, the next step is to try to find them in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Philippines, Cebú.
b. Click on "Places within Philippines, Cebú" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor. "Bautismos" are baptisms. Matrimônios and "Casamentos" are marriages. "Óbitos" and Defunciones are deaths. "Índice" is the index.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3. Writing to Request Records[edit | edit source]

Unless you know your ancestor was of another religion, begin by searching Catholic records. Cebú Province is in the Diocese of Bangued. Write or telephone to inquire whether the diocese holds the parish records:

Archbishop of Cebu
Archbishop's Residence
P.O. Box 52
6000 Cebu City
Philippines

Tel. No. (032) 253-3382/254-0951
Fax No. (032) 54458
e-mail: rcv@col.net.ph

Or write directly or call the parish. See The Catholic Directory for addresses and telephone numbers for parishes
Use this address, substituting names:

Parish Priest
(name of parish)
(city), (postal code--find it here) Cebú
Philippines


For other religions, Google the denomination and the location. Many churches maintain websites.

Write, call, or personally visit the parish or church. Ask for permission to study their records or make arrangements for them to search for you. It is usual to pay for their help in the form of a donation to the church. When you write, send the following:

  • Full name and the gender of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
  • Check or cash for the search fee (usually about $10.00).


English is the official language of the Philippines. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with organizing your letter and phrasing your requests.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

  • Many records are written in Spanish. You do not have to be fluent in Spanish to read your documents. Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Spanish Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. Handwriting skills are taught in BYU Spanish Script Tutorial.
  • Online Learning Center class on reading Spanish handwriting:



Tips for finding your ancestor in the records[edit | edit source]

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies.

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records.
  • Then repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]