Searching the AGI on PARES

This from Roger Martínez:

An Update on Digitalization at the Achivo General de Indias (Sevilla) — Modifying Your Search Technique May Yield Access to More Digitalized Documents

Dear Colleagues,


I just returned from a short March 2011 research trip to the Achivo General de Indias (Sevilla) after a hiatus of several years and was pleased to learn about some new ways of finding hidden digitized manuscripts using PARES ( Perhaps, this information will help you collect substantial documentation at home, while saving research trips to find more obscure resources.

The Problem – PARES does not always report that collections are digitalized—but they are!

As you know, 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, at this moment, of PARES is that often it will locate a document and report a “signatura” for that document, but PARES will show 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 16th 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”. Lastly, we decide to limit our search to the AGI-Sevilla by selecting “Archivo General de Indias” from the “FILTRO POR ARCHIVO” field. Subsequently, you click “Buscar” and behold we find many documents under the “Audiencia de Charcas” listing.

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, BUT IT REPORTS THAT THE DOCUMENT IS NOT AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL ITEM. THAT IS, THERE IS NO CAMERA ICON TO CLICK ON TO SEE THE DIGITAL DOCUMENT.

The Solution – As the AGI-Sevilla staff demonstrated to me, finding all digitalized documents sometimes requires you to perform a second search on PARES.

One might believe that many of the documents you are searching for and locating using PARES are not digitalized — but they are digitalized. 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)”  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).  Yet, there is a digital document, but you need to search for it differently.

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)”  Here are your keys to this digital kingdom!  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 libro, 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”. Again, a sub-link to “Audiencia de Charcas” will appear and you should select it.

Behold! The next screen will report that you have digital access to the ENTIRE LIBRO, the title “Registro de oficio y partes para la Audiencia de Charcas” and signatura “CHARCAS,415,L.1”. Click on the camera icon and you can now view the entire book, and more importantly, browse your way to “F.143v” or folio 143 verso to see your document. I think it is safe to use this over used word at this time – “Amazing!”

Opportunities – As a rule of thumb, it appears that almost ALL “Libros” are digitalized, while other resources are still only available on paper and vellum.

During my time at the AGI-Sevilla, I learned that most, if not all “LIBROS” in collections are digitalized. I cannot verify that all libros are digital, but among 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”

Indiferente – all libros, such as “INDIFERENTE,422,L.16”

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.

I hope you found this update useful and my best to each of you for a productive and healthy year,

Roger Martinez


About emspanishhistorynotes

Scott Taylor is an associate professor in the history department at the University of Kentucky.


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