Finding your Portuguese Roots_3a


Reading Portuguese Records

The following are some samples of Portuguese records. It is not important to be able to read each and every word. Your goal is to be able to recognize key words and to be able to extract genealogical information from the records. The FHL has published a series of Word Lists, including one in Portuguese. It is available from or their Wiki. Links to the Portuguese Word List can also be found on the Azores GenWeb. If you want to do more than extract genealogical information, go to your local bookstore and browse the foreign language section. You will find discrepancies between the word lists and language tapes and what you are encountering in the handwriting. Part of this may be due to the Brazilian vs. Continental Portuguese, or modern vs. old Portuguese. Keep this in mind as you "read" the records.

The format of these records changed over time. 3 basic time periods exist as outlined below. Each contain varying amounts of information. Being familiar with the time periods will enable the researcher to know what to expect from the records.

(Credit: Joao Ventura, Archivist)


Key Baptism Words:

baptisei solemnemente = baptize solemnly

um individuo do sexo masculino/feminino =(an individual of the sex masculine/feminine)

nome = name

nasceu = born

filho legitimo = son legitimate

filha natural = daughter illegitimate

Pai nao sabido = father unknown

Pais incognitos = parents unknown

natural (with a location) = native

onde  se receberam = where received (married)

neto paterno = grandson paternal

neta materna = granddaughter maternal

Foi paderinho = For godfather

madrinha = godmother

Third Baptism Period 1860-1911 (approx).

Order of the info that appears in a record from this time period:

• Baptism date

• Village and neighborhood

• Council and priest

• Sex of child

• First name of child, date and time of birth

• Sometimes number born before with the same name

• Name: first, middle, mother’s family name, father’s family name

• Legitimate or illegitimate

• Father’s name

• Mother’s name

• Place of birth

• Where living

• Place married

• Maternal/paternal grandparents names

• Godparents

Second Baptism Period (again, a guideline, not a hard and fast rule with these dates)

(1696/early 1700s – 1860)  

These are the easiest records to read (not because of the handwriting/paleography per se, but because all the information that you need is right up on the top lines).

• Name of baby

• Father’s name

• Mother’s name

• Village of origin

• Date born

• Date baptized

• Priest’s name

• Godparents

• Sometimes relationship between child & godparents

• Witnesses (sometimes godfather)

• If mother single, information about her parents

•Godfather necessary

• Godmother could be by invocation (call upon a saint or blessed mother)

• Dona was a title for a lady of higher position or nobility

    > 1600s, title was real

    > 1700s titles was sometimes real

    > 1800s titles were less accurate

• Priest and godparents signed records

• No abbreviations (they are forbidden) (except for the few priests who didn't get the memo!)

First Baptism Period 

(1500s - 1696)

Very basic information is contained in the first period records.

• Date

• Priest

• Child’s name

• Parents names sometimes missing

• Only priest signed record

• Lots of abbreviations

Some abbreviations can be found here (from the LDS' Portuguese Paleography booklet): <<Insert your here>>

The full booklet (already posted previously) can be found here: <<YOur link here>>
Portuguese Word List: <<Your link here>>


Key Words (Marriage)

igreja parochial = parish church

lugar = place

nubentes = betrothed

sem impedimento = without impediment (means the couple is not related)

consanguinidade = consanguinity (related by blood - such as a cousin marriage)

afinidade = affinity (related, such as the wife died and so he married his sister-in-law)

grau = degree

elle = he; ella = she

idade = age

annos = years

solteiro = single; solteira = single (female)

moradores = both living/residing

ja de functo = had died (male); functos = both dead

testimunhas = witnesses

Third Marriage Period (1860 – 1911) - Again, the years are approximate.  

General info:

• Age of individual determined age at time of marriage - the person had to be self-sufficient

• Those with resources married younger

Those without resources married at an older age

Order (usually) that the info appears:

• Date, church, place, council, island, diocese, Priest

• Groom and bride, papers, impediments

• Groom’s age, status, occupation, parents

• Brides’s age, status, occupation, parents

• Witnesses

Second Marriage Period 

(1696/early 1700s – 1860) (again, a guideline)

• Date, church, place

• Dispensation

• Priest and church stuff

• Name of groom, age (sometimes), status, parents

• Name of bride, age (sometimes), status, parents

• Witnesses
Much less info in this time period.

First Marriage Period 

(1500s - 1696)

 Less information



 Sometimes parents

 If widow/widower, name of deceased spouse

 No place of baptism

 1600s, priest used shorter names (left out parts)


Key words for the death or obitos:

faleceu/falleceu = died

viuvo = widower; viuva = widow

mais ou menos = more or less

sepultado = buried

cemiterio = cemetery

afinidade = affinity

grau = degree

Third Death Period (1860 – 1911)

•Date and hour of death  

• Place of death

• Whether received sacraments (confession, communion, extreme unction (sacrament of the dead). 

• If sacraments of confession and communion not received, cause of death is recorded.

• If not of sound mind, could not receive confession or communion (also if could not swallow).

* Name and age

• Marital status

• Parents names

• Where lived

• Native of which village

• Whether left a will

• Number of children (number of  legitimate and illegitimate)

Second Death Period

(1696/early 1700s – 1860) (a guideline)

* Date of death

* Place of death

* If received sacraments

* Name of deceased, age more or less

* Marital status; if married, to whom

* If left a will

* Sometimes, description of grave (#)

* Before 1830/1840, deceased were buried inside the church; after this period, every church had a cemetery

First Death Period 

(1500s - 1696)

These records give minimal information.  The name and date is there.  Other info that could be there:

* Date of death

* Son/daughter of

* Buried in mother’s grave

* Mother’s name

Examples of birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records

© Kathy Andrade Cardoza 2022