Your ancestors in Andorra
Andorra (officially the Principality of Andorra) is a landlocked country on the Iberian Peninsula. The present principality was formed by charter in 1278. Tourism is the big draw to Andorra with over 10 million visitors annually; I skied there in the 1980s. Andorra has the highest life expectancy in the world. Wanting to trace your Andorran ancestors? This blog will help you get started.
See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for my 5 steps to discovering your ancestors.
From the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD Roman influence over what is now Andorra flourished. The fall of the Roman Empire bought Andorra under the influence of the Visigoths. Christianity spread for over 200 years. The Franks sheltered Andorra from the conquest of the Muslim Empire.
Charlemagne is said to have granted a charter to the Andorran people for soldiers to take part in fighting against the Moors. It was reported in 805 that Andorra remained part of the Frankish Empire (guaranteed by the son of Charlemagne).
The Acta de Consagració i Dotació de la Catedral de la Seu d’Urgell (Deed of Consecration and Endowment of the Cathedral of La Seu d’Urgell) dated from 839 depicts the six old parishes of the Andorran valleys and therefore the administrative division of the country.
In 988 Andorran valleys were given to the Diocese of Urgell, since this date the Bishop of Urgell has been co-prince of Andorra (with the President of the French Republic).
In 1095, the Lord of Caboet and the bishop of Urgell signed under oath a declaration of their co-sovereignty over Andorra, agreeing military co-operation.
In 1278 a military dispute was resolved with the mediation of the king of Aragon, Peter II, between the bishop and the count, by the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra’s sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title ultimately transferred to the French head of state) and the bishop of Urgell. This gave the principality its territory and political form.
In 1364 the political structure of the country was re-organised with the naming of syndic (now spokesman and president of the parliament) as representative of the Andorrans.
The second oldest parliament in Europe was founded in 1419.
In 1601 the Tribunal de Corts (High Court of Justice) was created due to Huguenot rebellions from France.
When Henry III of Navarre ascended to the throne of France, he issued an edict (1607) that established the head of the French state and the bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra.
In the Reapers’ War and the War of the Spanish Succession, the Andorran people (professing to be neutral) supported the Catalans who saw their rights reduced in 1716.
In 1812–1813, the First French Empire annexed Catalonia during the Peninsular War and divided the region into four départements, with Andorra as a part of the district of Puigcerdà. In 1814, an imperial decree re-established the independence and economy of Andorra.
A so-called revolution of 1881 (due to the banning of casinos and betting houses) broke out when revolutionaries assaulted the house of the syndic in 1880. They established the Provisional Revolutionary Council which allowed for the construction of casinos and spas by foreign companies. The Treaty of the Bridge of Escalls was signed on 10 June 1881. The Council was replaced and new elections were held.
Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not take part directly in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.
In 1933, France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections due to the Revolution of 1933 and the FHASA strikes. On the 5 April 1933 Joves Andorrans seized the Andorran Parliament. These actions were preceded by the arrival of Colonel René-Jules Baulard with 50 gendarmes and the mobilization of 200 local militias or sometent led by the Síndic Francesc Cairat.
On 6 July 1934, adventurer and nobleman Boris Skossyreff received the support of the members of the General Council to proclaim himself the sovereign of Andorra. On 8 July 1934 Boris Skossyreff declared himself Boris I, King of Andorra, declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell and approving the King’s constitution on 10 July. He was arrested by the Co-Prince and Bishop and their authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain.
From 1936 until 1940, a French military detachment led by Colonel René-Jules Baulard was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the principality against disruption from the Spanish Civil War. During the Spanish Civil War, the inhabitants of Andorra welcomed refugees from both sides, and many of them settled permanently in the country.
Andorra remained neutral during World War II. It was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Francoist Spain.
The Andorran opening to the capitalist economy resulted in mass tourism and the country’s tax exemption. Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France, Spain and Portugal. Its political system was modernized in 1993 after the Andorran constitutional referendum, when the constitution was drafted by the Co-Princes and the General Council and approved on 14 March 1993. The first elections under the new constitution were held later in the year.
In 1993 Andorra became a member of the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Andorra la Vella is the capital of Andorra. Andorra consists of seven parishes, some of which have a further territorial subdivision; Ordino, La Massana and Sant Julià de Lòria are subdivided into quarters, while Canillo is subdivided into 10 veïnats (neighbourhoods). Those mostly coincide with villages, which are found in all parishes.
Each parish has its own elected mayor who is the nominal head of the local government known as a comú in Catalan. The parishes are Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, Escaldes-Engordany, La Massana, Ordino and Sant Julià de Lòria.
The population of Andorra is predominantly (88%) Catholic. Though not an official state religion, the constitution acknowledges a special relationship with the Catholic Church. Other Christian denominations include the Anglican Church, the Unification Church, the New Apostolic Church, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The small Muslim community is primarily made up of North African immigrants. There is a small community of Hindus and Bahá’ís and roughly 100 Jews live in Andorra.
Source: Wikipedia, accessed 2020
Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death) and church records are generally kept at a local level.
Birth, marriage or death records are known as civil registration and they begin in 1997. From January 2019 birth, marriage or death certificates were centralised and entered into a single civil registry.
In addition to those in England and Wales birth records typically provide the following information:
- Place and date of child’s birth (often times they provide the exact time of birth)
- Full name, profession and place of birth of the child’s father
- Full name and place of birth of the child’s mother
- Full name and place of birth of the child’s maternal and paternal grandparents.
In addition to those in England and Wales marriage records typically provide the following information:
- Full names, marital status (single or widowed) and places of birth for both the bride and groom
- Full names, and places of birth for the parents of the bride and groom
Note: Couples usually married in the home town of the bride (if the family still lived there).
In addition to those in England and Wales you can expect to find the following information:
If the deceased was single:
- Full name, age, occupation (if applicable), place of birth, and death date of the deceased
- Full name of the deceased parents, and often times their places of birth
- Cemetery where the deceased was buried.
If the deceased was married or widowed:
- Full name, age, occupation (if applicable), place of birth, and death date of the deceased
- Full name of spouse (whether deceased or living), and often their place of birth
- Cemetery where the deceased was buried
- If the deceased created a will and the name of the Notary
- Sometimes living descendants (could include name of living children, and other heirs).
A snapshot of a family, on one night of the year. Censuses have been conducted intermittently in Andorra on a town or parish basis from 1700 to the present day.
- Heads of households
- Names of spouse
- Ages (or birth dates)
- Names of children (with their ages or birth dates)
- Sometimes names of servants and other relatives living in a household
- Places of residence.
The Census can be found in the municipal archive in the town or in the main town for each parish.
Emigrants and Immigrants
Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France, Spain and Portugal. Immigration has been little studied and in fact the first major study was conducted in 2002.
See Key contacts and useful websites for organisations that maybe able to advise/help:
La Societat Catalana de Genealogia (SCGHSVN)
The aim of the SCGHSVN is to promote research in Catalan by gathering historical sources, publishing material, and advising researchers. Its headquarters are in the National Archive of Catalonia.
Parish Registers generally detail baptism, marriage and burial. They may be used as an alternative or substitute for civil registration. The population of Andorra is predominantly (88%) Catholic.
In Catholic and Anglican records, children were usually baptized a few days after birth. Other religions, such as Baptists, baptized at other points in the member’s life.
Baptism registers may give:
- baptism date
- the infant’s name
- parents’ names
- father’s occupation
- status of legitimacy
- occasionally names of grandparents
- names of witnesses or godparents, who may be relative
- birth date and place
- the family’s place of residence
- death information, as an added note or signified by a cross
Marriage registers may give:
- the marriage date
- the names of the bride and groom
- indicate whether the bride and groom were single or widowed
- their ages
- birth dates and places for the bride and groom
- their residences
- their occupations
- birthplaces of the bride and groom
- parents’ names (after 1800)
- the names of previous spouses and their death dates
- names of witnesses, who might be relatives
Burial registers may give:
- the name of the deceased
- the date and place of death or burial
- the deceased’s age
- place of residence
- cause of death
- the names of survivors, especially a widow or widower
- deceased’s birth date and place
- parents’ names, or at least the father’s name
Key contacts and useful websites
Research ancestors in other countries
- Wikipeadia, accessed 2020
- FamilySearch, accessed 2020
- https://all-andorra.com/, accessed 2020
- Photo by Samuel Moreno; freeimages.com/
Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.
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