Tracing Scottish Forebears in Argentina and Southern Patagonia
How then does one set about tracing forebears and perhaps their
descendants, and creating an account of their lives in Argentina or
Patagonia? Clearly, it is essential to start with what one knows,
perhaps a family oral tradition, a document or a letter. From one or
more of these, it should be possible to establish approximate dates,
perhaps a likely place and a possible occupation. Then, if one knows
little about Argentina or Patagonia it may be helpful to get some
background information from maps and books.
For general information on Argentina in the second half of the 19th century the various editions of M. and E. Mulhall's "Handbook of the River Plate Republics"
make excellent reading; they give descriptions of the various provinces
and include names of principal landowners, some of whom are Scots. Some
editions are available in the Mitchell Library. Also, in the National
Archives of Scotland, there is James Dodds' "Scottish Settlers on the River Plate and Their Churches"
which contains many names of members of the Scots community in Buenos
Aires. The National Archives of Scotland also has William Blain's "A Shepherd in Falkland and Patagonia", describing his experiences on the estancias. Michael Mainwaring's "From the Falklands to Patagonia" and Greta MacKenzie's "Why Patagonia?",
both in the National Library, are valuable sources for background and
for many names of shepherds and estancieros from the Hebrides and other
parts of Scotland. These and other books in the National Library of
Scotland, National Archives of Scotland and the Mitchell Library offer a
good start and may even turn up a relevant name. The two editions of
Andrew Graham-Yooll's "The Forgotten Colony" offer a wider
introduction to the British community in Argentina. Finally, Maxine
Hanon's "Diccionario de Britanicos en Buenos Aires" is a marvellous
source of brief biographies of Scots and other British subjects who
entered Buenos Aires in the first half of the 19th century.
from consular returns from Buenos Aires, held in the Public Record
Office and the General Register Office in London, much of the relevant
documentary material for Scots in Argentina is held in the National
Archive and the Archive of the Civil Registry in Buenos Aires or by the
Scots Church in Buenos Aires. The National Archive holds immigration
records, censuses, Roman Catholic registers, property and other legal
documents, cemetery records and directories. The Civil Registry has
civil records of births, deaths and marriages. The Scots Church in
Buenos Aires has records of baptisms, marriages and burials. In most
respects, then, the records parallel those for Scotland. However,
various factors affect availability. As one would expect with a
developing nation with a distinctive culture and language, some records
start later than their equivalents in Scotland, are mostly in Spanish,
and may or not be indexed.
The censuses, taken in 1869 and
1895, are very useful, and contain entries for nationality - although
Scots are usually lumped together with other Britons as "Inglaterra" or "Britanico"! The 1869 and 1895 Censuses for Argentina can now be accessed at http://search.labs.familysearch.org/recordsearch/start.html.
The immigration records, from 1820-70 are very useful, giving dates,
names, ages, occupations, ports of origin and names of ships. Data from
later immigration records are available from a body called The Centre
for Latinoamerican Migratory Studies (CEMLA). Civil registration began
in the 1880's and certificates are similar to Scottish ones in content,
with the added bonus of nationality. However, there is no equivalent to
the Registers of Sasines with indexes and abridgements, although vast
records of landownership and other legal processes exist.
most of the key records survive but are several thousand miles away,
accessible only to a searcher on the spot or by precise correspondence
with an archive! However, the combined contributions of communication by
Internet, the Genealogical Society of Utah and individual researchers
have radically changed the situation. Through the Internet it is now
possible to access websites holding transcribed data and to correspond
with people with expert knowledge who may have the information one
The Family History Library of the Genealogical Society
of Utah holds extensive microfilm on Argentina, including the 1820-70
immigration records, census data and records of the Scots Church in
Buenos Aires and elsewhere, Roman Catholic registers and so forth.
Searches on the internet of the catalogue can be made at lds familysearch under
"Family History Library Catalogue", and microfilm can then be ordered
for study at a local Mormon Family History Centre. Other transcribed
data can be accessed in two ways, either by entering individual websites
or sending e-mail to a mailroom. Neil Hampshire's Brits in South America,
(BiSA) is a growing compilation currently containing some eleven
thousand names of British emigrants, with dates and places, for
Argentina and elsewhere. Patagonia is particularly well-served: Ricardo
contains Scots among others; and Duncan Campbell has a fine collection
of data on British subjects in southern Patagonian territories of Chile
and Argentina. His site at patbrit.org
has among other things: extracts from the 1895 Argentine census for
Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Anglican marriages at Punta Arenas, some
Scots Church baptisms, an index of protestant burials in Punta Arenas,
an index of British consular registrations at Punta Arenas, a list of
names of pioneer settlers taken from a plaque at the British Club in Rio
Gallegos, names of men who went to serve in the first world war, names
of businesses, photographs and other information. Lastly, the baptisms,
marriages and burials at St. Andrew's Scots Church, Buenos Aires, up to
1900 can be accessed on Jeremy Howat's site at http://www.argbrit.org.
E-mail requests can lead to other data or enable one to ask questions. The best starting point is to e-mail SOUTH-AM-EMIfirstname.lastname@example.org
and subscribe (free). Thereafter, e-mails of a specific or general
nature can be posted. This is an excellent mailroom with many expert
correspondents. Among the data currently available from subscribers'
personal websites are lists of doctors and other professionals, an 1871
yellow fever death roll for Buenos Aires, a list of passengers aboard
the "Symmetry" in 1825, lists of merchants, burials in the
Socorro cemetery in Buenos Aires, foreign residents in Buenos Aires in
1863, marriages at St. John's Episcopal Church, Buenos Aires 1824-51 and
so forth. Alternatively, specific requests may turn up all sorts of
information about particular persons and families, places of settlement,
occupations and so forth.
As yet, some key records are either
not directly accessible by internet from official archival databases in
Argentina so require different routes to be taken. Civil registers can
only be accessed on the spot or by correspondence. At present the same
holds for searches of the immigration records in the National Archive,
but happily these are in the process of being digitised and will then be
available from source instead of ordering microfilm from Utah. Also,
the later immigration data for the 1880's through to the 1920's which
are held by the Centre for Latinoamerican Migratory Studies (CEMLA)
cannot be directly accessed; however, requests (a fee is payable) for a
search of their database can be made by e-mail to <email@example.com>.
Despite the obstacles that remain, research is now a practical
proposition for researchers living in Scotland. Consequently, it may be
possible to use records and other sources to trace a forebear to a
particular place, find his or her occupation, identify marriages and
children and, most interestingly, create a picture of the communities
and landscapes of their new homeland.
A short list of readings
available in Scotland is given below, and for those who wish to have a
fuller account of the emigrants and sources for research, a booklet may
be purchased from the present author by e-mailing Akmgendance@aol.com .
An Englishman (George Thomas Love), Five Years Residence in Buenos Aires 1820-25, London, 1827.
Blain, William, A Shepherd of Scotland, GD1/987/1-18.
Dodds, J., Records of Scottish Settlers on the River Plate and Their Churches, Buenos Aires, 1897.
Graham-Yooll, A., The Forgotten Colony, Hutchinson, London, 1981.
Hanon, Maxine, Diccionario de Britanicos en Buenos Aires (Primera Epoca), Gutten Press, Buenos Aires, 2005.
Hudson, W.H., Far Away and Long Ago: A Childhood in Argentina, Century Hutchinson, 1985.
Mainwaring, M., From the Falklands to Patagonia, Allison and Busby, 1983.
MacKenzie, G., Return to Patagonia, The Islands Book Trust, Kershader, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9QA, 2010.
Morrison, A., Scots in Argentina and Patagonia: An Illustrated Guide to Researching Scottish Forebears, 2002.
Mulhall, M. and E., Handbook of the River Plate Republics, Buenos Aires, 1885 (several editions between 1863 and 1892).
Seymour, R., Pioneering in the Pampas; or the First Four Years of a Settler's Experience in the La Plata Pampas, London, 1869.
Stewart, I.A.D. (Ed.), From Caledonia to the Pampas, Tuckwell Press, 2000.