The most useful combination of Latin American search tools is a Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES) search of the Archivo General de Indias (AGI) because of the robustness of the online search engine and the number of digitized records.
PARES is the online search catalogue for locating many of the items held in the collections of the national archives of Spain. While PARES is not a comprehensive tool, it is an ideal resource to begin one’s search for manuscripts. One specific limitation that remains ingrained into the structure of PARES search capability for the AGI-Sevilla is that often it will locate a document and report a “signatura” for that document, but PARES will indicate that a digital copy is not available. That is, only the original document is available for physical viewing at the AGI-Sevilla or by ordering a reproduction. However, often PARES reports incomplete information on access to digital documents. Thus, you may need to modify your search methods to find hidden pathways to electronic copies of your documents.
For example, go to the PARES website and click on the “Búsqueda Avanzada” link. Let us say that you are interested in the Mendoza family in colonial Peru or Bolivia during the later part of the sixteenth century. To locate some documents, you decide to perform a search for the terms “Mendoza” and “Charcas” (knowing that you might find documentation pertaining to the Audiencia de Charcas). In the “Fecha” or date fields you note the range of “1570” to “1600”. You also decide to search all items (“Todos los Registros”) available by selecting that radio button, not just those items that are reportedly digitalized. Lastly, we decide to limit our search to the AGI-Sevilla by selecting “Archivo General de Indias” from the “Filtro Por Archivo” field. See Figure 1: Searching for “Mendoza” and “Charcas” on PARES.
Subsequently, you click on “Buscar” and behold we find that the AGI-Sevilla holds documents in several collections, including: Audiencia de Charcas, Audiencia de Lima, Patronato Real, Indiferente General, Casa de la Contratación, Contaduría, Audiencia de Panamá, Mapas y Planos, Justicia. As we are interested specifically in the “Audiencia de Charcas”, you should click on it. See Figure 2: Initial Results of Search on PARES.
After PARES refreshes the screen, we see that it reportedly encountered twenty-three individual records relating to our search. See Figure 3: Final Results of Search on PARES.
The first item on the list of located items is, “Constancia de haberse despachado una cédula para que el presidente y oficiales de Sevilla dejen llevar al licenciado Montealegre, a quien se ha proveído por oidor de la Audiencia de los Charcas, a don Cristóbal de Mendoza, su yerno, llevando éste consigo a su mujer, dando informaciones” and it is noted under the signatura, “CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1).” Clicking the link for this document will subsequently bring up the unique descriptive record for the document. At this point you may believe that the document is not digitalized because there is no icon of a camera (the nomenclature that PARES uses to let you know there is an electronic document available). Thus, you may presume – wrongly – that the document is not available for digital viewing. See Figure 4: Individual Record Indicating No Digital Item on PARES.
As AGI-Sevilla’s generous staff demonstrated to me during an onsite research trip during 2011, finding all digitalized documents sometimes requires you to perform a second search on PARES. In order to access the electronic copies, you need to perform a secondary search on PARES for the volume of the collection that you wish to review. Returning to our example from above relating to the Mendoza family in colonial Peru and Bolivia, look closely at the unique descriptive record for the document relating to Cristóbal de Mendoza. The “Código de Referencia:” reports “ES.41091.AGI/ 16403.7.723// CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)” Determining if the document is in digital format requires a review of the “Signatura Histórico”. In the case of our example, we see that this reference number is “CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)”.
Now, you should perform a new search on PARES, but only for the book (libro), bundle (legajo), or number (numero) that you are seeking to locate. Returning to the PARES’ “Búsqueda Avanzada” link, we now can do a search for only the book, or “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. Again, be sure to limit your search to the AGI-Sevilla by selecting “Archivo General de Indias” from the “Filtro Por Archivo” field. Subsequently, in the “Filtro Por Signatura” field you should type in “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. (Be sure that you do not put any spaces in between letters, commas, and numbers.) Lastly, click on “Buscar”. See Figure 5: Searching for “CHARCAS,415,L.1” on PARES.
Again, a sub-hyperlink to “Audiencia de Charcas” will appear and you should select it. The next screen will report that you have digital access to the entire book, not just the document you were initially seeking. From this point forward you can access digitized images either by clicking on title “Registro de oficio y partes para la Audiencia de Charcas” and signatura “CHARCAS,415,L.1” or, more directly, by selecting the camera icon. If you select the title, then you will need to proceed through one additional step and select “Ver imágenes”. See Figure 6: Entire Digital Book Available to View on PARES.
The next PARES screen will present all 494 images of the entire book “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. See Figure 7: Digital Version of “CHARCAS,415,L.1” on PARES.
To locate your initial record you were searching for, again you should return to your first search results and find the “Código de Referencia:” that reports “ES.41091.AGI/ 16403.7.723// CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)”. With this discrete information, you know that you should the browse through the images using the “Elegir de la lista:” field to select “F.143v” or folio 143 verso to see your document. Clicking directly on the document image will automatically zoom the document for easier viewing. See Figure 8: Digital Version of “CHARCAS,415,L.1,F.143V(1)” on PARES.
As a rule of thumb, it appears that almost all libros are digitalized, while other resources are still only available on paper and vellum. Additionally, it appears that some other resources such as “numeros” in “Indiferente” are available in digital form, so it is worthwhile to use this same search technique for other signaturas.
While I cannot verify that all libros are digital, a few examples of those that can be viewed online include:
- Audiencia de Charcas – all libros, such as “CHARCAS,415,L.1”,
- Audiencia de Mexico – all libros, such as “MEXICO,1088,L.1”,
- Audiencia de Lima – all libros, such as “LIMA,567,L.7”,
- Audiencia de Panama – all libros, such as “PANAMA,233,L.1”,
- Casa de Contratacion – all libros, such as “CONTRATACION,5536,L.3”, and
- Indiferente – all libros, such as “INDIFERENTE,422,L.16”