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Archivo general de Indias - LEALs who migrated from Spain to the Americas
Posted by: Oscar Leal (ID *****6623) Date: April 17, 2008 at 10:11:50
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I. El Archivo general de Indias

Following the discovery of America by inhabitants of the Old World in 1492, many inhabitants of what is now Spain sailed and migrated to America where their descendants became to be one of the three main groups that make up the texture of current day Latin American populations.

During most of the colonial times, a Spanish government agency known as ‘La Casa y Audiencia de Indias’ or ‘La Casa de Contratación’ (The House of Trade) tried to control all matters concerning the Americas, such as trade and colonization. Every inhabitant of Spain who wanted to sail to the Americas during these times – be it as a trader who had the intention to return to the Spain, or as a permanent emigrant – had to obtain a permit from this agency before the individual could set sail. The traveller had to prove to the agency that he / she was of old Christian stock and trustworthy otherwise, else a permit would not be issued. New Christians (mainly descendants of Jewish Spaniards who (were forced to) convert(ed) to Christianity), Jewish Spaniards (although they were not allowed to live in Spain following the expulsion decree of 1492 officially) and Moorish Spaniards (most of them left Spain following the reconquering of Spain by Christian Spaniards) were among those who were not allowed to set sail to the Americas.

All permit requests were meticulously administered and they can now be found in ‘El Archivo general de Indias’ (the General Archive of the Indies) in Seville, which is part of the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The requests generally contain the name of the individual, the date the request was approved, the place of origin of the individual, the destination in the Americas, the names of the individual’s parents and, if applicable, the names of other individuals who followed the individual, such as the spouse, children and servants. The archive is a great source of information for anyone who does genealogical research in Latin America and who believes to have ancestors from Spain who migrated to the Americas in colonial times.

One should be aware of the fact, however, that the archive only contains records for those individuals who emigrated to the Americas legally. A large proportion of people who emigrated from Spain to the Americas during colonial times did so illegally and no records of them are found in the archive of course.

The archive can be searched at: Some knowledge of Spanish is required because the search engine is in Spanish only.

II. LEALs who have migrated from Spain to the Americas in colonial times legally

I have searched the database of the Archive of the Indies for individuals with the surname LEAL (including contractions) who obtained a permit to sail to the Americas.

II.1 All travellers

I found 39 individuals (excluding where applicable family members) to whom 53 permits were issued. The oldest permit was issued in the year 1513 and the latest in the year 1768.

Of the 39 individuals, 6 individuals seem to have been traders who made multiple return journeys and apparently did not intend to emigrate permanently. For the remaining 33 individuals I only found one permit and I assume that these individuals intended to emigrate permanently.

II.2 ‘Permanent emigrants’

Of the 33 permits to the ‘permanent emigrants’, 14 permits were issued in the 16th century, 15 were issued in the 17th century and the remaining 4 were issued in the 18th century.

Of the 33 permanent emigrants:
4 were from unknown regions in Spain (12%);
9 were from Andalusia (27%);
3 from the Canary Islands (9%);
4 from Castille-La-Mancha (12%);
2 from Castille-Leon (6%);
8 from Extremadura (24%);
1 from Galicia (3%); and
2 from Madrid (6%).

Of the 33 permanent emigrants:
4 went to unknown destinations (12%);
1 went to Cuba (3%);
1 went to Guatemala (3%);
1 went to Nueva Andalusia (current day Colombia approximately) (3%);
12 went to Nueva España (current day Mexico) (36%);
3 went to Nuevo Reino de Granada (current day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama approximately) (9%);
5 went to Peru (including current day Bolivia) (15%);
1 went to Nuevo Reino de Granada & Peru (3%); and
5 went to Tierra Firme (approximately current day Central America with the exception of Mexico) (15%).

Of the 33 permanent emigrants:
7 were married;
8 were mentioned as single explicitly; and
1 was a Franciscan brother.
For the remaining 17 individuals no remark of their marital status was made explicitly.

Of the 33 permanent emigrants, 12 came as servant.

II.3 ‘Traders’

Of the 6 ‘traders’ who made multiple return trips, 5 came from Cadiz in Andalusia and 1 came from the Canary Islands. They were captains / merchants / traders and some of them seem to be related. They made trips to Cuba (3 trips), Nueva España (12 trips) and Tierra Firme (5 trips).

II.4 More information

I intend to share more detailed information about the individuals on this website in future. I have put all the information in an excel spreadsheet. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the spreadsheet, drop me an email at and I will send you a copy.

Oscar Leal

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