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Genealogy in the Philippines

While Filipinos value close family ties within their clans, very few of us, even those living abroad, have gone far to even posting their ancestors' and other relatives' data on the Internet, unlike Americans and Europeans. I, in my ultimate goal of being a genealogist as a profession, look forward to encourage more Filipinos to research on their roots.

Problems with genealogy research in this country (in my opinion)

  • Lack of access to a majority of the records (note: World War II destroyed a great majority of supposed-to-be-valuable records about our ancestors here)
  • Fear of harboring family secrets to others, especially to those who don't know the relatives personally
  • Lack of reliable sources about the family or clan as time progresses (i.e. we tend not to interview our older relatives about our ancestors), unless that older relative has set aside his or her time to write about his or her life or his or her ancestors
  • We tend to be forgetful with dates, especially with some relatives we aren't that close to
  • Some surnames are all too common (e.g. dela Cruz, Santos), and even two families that originated in the same municipality may not have the same bloodline. (I intend to do one-name studies of my chief surnames, Villarta and Paraso, sometime in the future, with the Villarta study already underway.)

The Great Philippine Migration

The Great Philippine Migration began during the American period, was at its peak during the Martial Law years and still continues today. With this came the inclusion of Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) in the vital records databases of all 50 states and the SSDI.

Some surnames, municipalities and provinces already have societies incorporated in the United States and elsewhere to help those left behind here. Please contact me if you know the website of any significant Filipino-focused society abroad that benefits a certain area or set of people (e.g. a province, a municipality or a surname). I will post it here as soon as I receive it.


What to do with relatives who were annulled

Since the Philippines remains the only country in the world that doesn't grant divorce (but does recognizes divorces granted in other countries), here are a few tips that remedy the dilemma of whether this fact should be in your database or not:

  • If you have a relative whose marriage was annulled and that marriage produced children, the father/mother of the child/children should be in the database but the marriage info should state "Not married". (Adding a note that the marriage was annulled may put embarrassment to the relative/s, so I am not encouraging you to do so. But it is at your sole discretion whether to put the parent of the child on your genealogical record if the marriage has already been annulled.)
  • If the said relative had his/her marriage annulled but the marriage produced no children, he/she should remain single (the spouse shouldn't be in your database at all.)

Starting Your Own Research

If you don't know where to start your own genealogical research, I suggest that you:

  • Start interviewing your extended family. These are usually your first sources of your genealogical information if you do not have your parents or even siblings living anymore. But if you have any of the latter still living, it's best to interview them first before extended family. Or better yet, if you are young, start it now.
  • When interviewing them, do not be embarrassed and mention that you are doing this for the cause of posterity (i.e. preserving your family story.)
  • As you progress in your research, use the Internet as a tool in helping your research. However, do note that many websites related to genealogy are paywalls and do not have much information about the Philippines.
  • Gather many pictures of your ancestors/relatives as you can; scan them once you have time and if possible, return them to the original owners.
  • You can upload your genealogical data on the web aside from storing these data in a program (e.g. if in case your hard drive crashes, your laptop or tablet is stolen, your relative wants part of your data for research, etc.). I prefer to let you have cloud backups and web versions of your genealogical data.