Monday, July 11, 2016

Searching el "Registro de la Propiedad"

While in Puerto Rico during my spring break, one of the main things I wanted to do was go to a Registo de la Propiedad. I had heard a lot about them and how they could provide certain information that census records and church records didn't. So I knew that this was a place I wanted to visit since according to census records various ancestors in my family had owned land. I mainly wanted to see if I could find land records for my Avilés family in Lares (equally searching for the Magraner side as well) and Benito Orozco and the land he owned in Yabucoa according to the census.

I'll go over my process of getting to the Registros and what I was able to find out about my family along the way!

Getting Started

First, I began by looking up all the information and jotting it down for the necessary ancestor. In particular I was searching for José Avilés and Benito Orozco, both illegitimate children so that was something to keep in mind. I jotted down what barrios they lived in, their birth and death records, and the list of their children. I did this because I wanted to make sure I had everything necessary readily available for when I went to do searching. Since I'm fairly young, I wanted them to see that I was serious about my searching as well.

I chose these two ancestors for a reason: since José Avilés and Benito Orozco are illegitimate children, I wanted to learn more about them. How did they acquire their land? Was it through their parent or through handwork? Would it mention a father's name or something new that I previously not known? With José Avilés I'm fairly certain his father is Damián Magraner as I had mentioned in other posts and thoroughly searched finding pretty good evidence. Benito on the other hand had no father mentioned on any of his records, we know that Benito used the surname "Santana" later in life, but we aren't sure who his father was.

Preliminary Checks

Before heading out I checked where exactly these records would be held. Since Puerto Rico has many municipalities, each are clumped together into bigger regions. This isn't only true for Registro de la Propiedad records but it's also true for church records as well. Lares for example falls under the "Utuado" Registro while Yabucoa falls under the "Humacao" Registro. If you don't know where each town may fall, like how I didn't, check out this link to the Departamento de Justicia or here to see where you would need to go.

After that I made sure to call each place beforehand, not only to make sure they would let me go and look for records but to see that they were actually open. Since my first week in Puerto Rico was during Semana Santa (Holy Week) I knew that some places would be closed and would have to go the second week. So make sure to check and call before heading over. My first call was to the Humacao register and the lady there was very nice explaining what I needed to do. She asked if I knew the numbers for the plots of each land (número de finca), and since I didn't she said I would have to search for my ancestor through the actual tomes of indexes. I didn't have a problem with that since I had done it a million times already for the church and civil registry books, and so I was ready for what was in store. She told me that even though the actual books are in their offices, the Registro de la Propiedad has moved online and so with the numbers I could search the online database for my ancestors. Calling Utuado was easy since I already had known what I needed and what I needed to do. Do not get deterred from going and searching!! From my understanding the records are available to be searched by the public, all you need to do is go in and search!

Also, before heading out make sure to map out where the place is. A lot of places in Puerto Rico don't necessarily match the GPS or can't be found. So even though the Registro wasn't showing up I would look at the nearby landmarks to see how to find them. That way when I was close enough because I had noticed the supermarket, gas station, etc. that I had seen on Google Maps, I would ask someone where I could find the register. In both cases I was just one turn and one street away from the location and people were nice enough to point me the right way. So don't feel nervous about getting lost either if you've done your work beforehand!


This was the bulk of my time at the registers, I was searching the gigantic books for mentions of my ancestors and trying to see if I could find some sort of mention of land being sold or bought by Benito Orozco, I searched under "O" and "S" for Orozco and Santana respectively in Humacao. In Humacao, I had found some cousins who had bought and sold land, cousins of Benito's children and grandchildren but I was unable to find a mention of Benito himself. I decided to ask the lady how this could be possible, I knew that my ancestor owned land but why wasn't he showing up? She responded that though many people owned land, some of it was bought, sold, and passed on to children without the registry being informed (before I think it was actually required). So even though Benito could have owned land, he could have left it to his children without leaving anything written with the Registro. This made sense, seeing as how I couldn't find my other ancestor Pedro Dávila Ruiz who also owned land in the south of Puerto Rico. It is also possible that I could have missed his name in the registry books but I have pretty good eyes when it comes to searching names, so I don't think I missed him. Though a bit bummed I was still looking forward to the registro in Utuado!

Registo de la Propiedad [Personal Photo]
Sección de Humacao [Personal Photo]

Next in Utuado I checked for José Avilés and any mention of Damián Magraner, though Damián owned land during the time of Spain's rule, I wanted to see if maybe there was a mention of him. When I arrived to the registro in Utuado I was told that I was welcome to search the indexes but that the internet was down and therefore I wouldn't be able to use the computers until they had the restored internet service. I thought this was a bit of an ironic situation seeing as how their walls are LINED with all the books that I would potentially need to check, all of the information online was readily available in person. But seeing as how all the documents were digitalized, they wanted people searching online and not in person -- bummer! So I got to work searching the books, in both cases I was luckily to have my grandmother with me who would initially scan over some books with me searching for names. Searching the indexes my heart jumped as I came across the name José Avilés Magraner -- my 2nd great grandfather! I jotted down the número de finca and all the information next to his name. I continued to search all the books just in case anything else came up, I was able to find two mentions of my 2nd great grandfather. Towards the end of my search I was bummed that the internet hadn't come back on but as I closed the last book, I heard the only other man there say "¡Llegó el Internet!" The internet was back! I was elated that I would actually get to search for José and his plot of land!

In Utuado! [Personal Photo]
Registro de la Propiedad - Sección Utuado [Personal Photo]

Some results

With the number at hand I got the lady to help me log on to their website (known as "Karibe") and I searched under Utuado to see if I could find José Avilés. Lo and behold the number took me to his record of land. Quick side note: The website is technically able to be used from home once you register yourself but I have yet gotten it to work, if someone has gotten in, let me know!

I was able to learn that my ancestor José Avilés Magraner purchased the land from a José Rodríguez Santiago married to Matilde Torres Vélez, both from Lares which means that José didn't receive land from his father but bought it himself. It doesn't seem that José Rodríguez and Matilde were neighbors with my ancestors and who knows if they knew this family somehow before purchasing their land. It seems that José bought that land for 760 dollars in 1924. Interestingly enough, the amount of land and when he purchased it coincides with the 1935 Agricultural Census! Also, José is mentioned as "Avilés Magraner" again on this record, helping further demonstrate that his father was indeed a Magraner.

I was also able to find the record for my ancestor leaving the land to his children! I somehow can't dig it up on my computer at the moment but the record mentions all of his children from his different marriages, where they were at the moment this was being written up, and how much land he gave each of them. My great grandmother had inherited land and when it was turn for my grandmother to get a piece she decided to sell her share since she wasn't interested in living in Lares and using that land. Though we don't currently own land ourselves there, many of our Avilés cousins still live and work the lands in Río Prieto, Lares. I was fortunately enough to visit the town of Lares but not the barrio of Río Prieto -- definitely next time around!


I'll make this brief! If you're interesting in searching for land records, make sure you have all the necessary information readily available, you call ahead of time to see if they are open, be ready to search index books for your ancestor(s), and have patience along the way. Even though I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, I was happy to find a mention of my ancestor nonetheless! Hopefully you'll be able to find something too! Happy searching! 

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