1. Introduce yourself
My name is Daniel Smith-Ramos, I’m an Anglo-Spanish researcher, blogger and speaker specialising in genealogical research in Spain.
2. What got you into genealogy?
A number of factors: I remember seeing a tree of my family that a relative had drawn up when I was very young, and became utterly fascinated with how I was a jigsaw piece in a much larger puzzle (over the years I’ve realised just how much genealogy has the capacity of giving one a sense of belonging and a community feeling). Another major reason why I’ve devoted more than half my life to genealogical research is the fact that, until very recently, my paternal grandfather’s identity was a mystery – and as my dad grew up without a father, finding out who his father was became the main driving force behind my research.
3. What interesting things have you discovered from your ancestors?
Perhaps far too many to include here. Every individual story is, after all, an untold story, and each person is interesting in his or her own right, regardless of whether they led a remarkable life, or otherwise remained more or less anonymous until the day they died. One of the episodes in my family that I enjoy researching the most is the case of my Spanish five-times great-grandfather Alonso Martínez, a very strict and unfeeling character who had no qualms in kicking eight of his nine surviving children from the family home – disinheriting them and breaking off all contact with them until his dying day.
4. Is there any source in your research that you’ve used that usually might be overlooked?
Spanish university archives are a magnificent resource because they contain a wide range of documents. Depending on the archive, you may find academic records, such as your ancestors’ exam results at the end of each school term, or census returns (which are very difficult to come by in Spain, as they are neither centralised nor digitised), or personal files where a given individual who wished to work for the Spanish administration had to prove to the Spanish Inquisition that they had no Jewish blood in their ancestry... In a nutshell, university archives in Spain are a treasure trove of information!
5. What are you currently focusing on in your research?
Galicia, in north-west Spain, tends to be my specialty area, but I tend to get requests from all over. I’m currently focusing my personal research on a one-place study for San Marzano Oliveto, a small hill-top village in Italy’s Piedmont region where my great-grandmother came from.
6. What difficulties have you come across in your research?
Spanish genealogical research is challenging for a number of reasons, not least because there is no centralised index for births, marriages or deaths. This means you need to know where to focus your research exactly before going to an archive or even before ordering a certificate from the civil registry office – which is also, unfortunately, decentralised. Luckily, thanks to a range of valuable sources as well as years of research, finding a specific record is slowly becoming easier.
7. What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy?
Don’t give up if you come across a brick wall (after all, that’s part of the fun!) and always always ALWAYS make a note of the source where you found a specific reference or record, because it’s very easy to get lost or become overwhelmed with all the information there is out there!
Hope you all enjoyed this interview! You can follow Daniel on Twitter here. Stay tuned for the next one!