In the United States, we are in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month, a month set aside to celebrate the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Ironically, Hispanic Heritage Month doesn't follow the calendar, instead running from September 15 - October 15 each year, because September 15th marks the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively. Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, held on October 12, also falls within the 30-day period.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 14 percent of the nation's total population -- an estimated 42.7 million Americans -- claim Hispanic origin, making it the nation's largest ethnic minority.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by learning more about your Hispanic roots and heritage:
- Get started Tracing Your Hispanic Family Tree, including the basics of family tree research and country specific organizations, records and resources for Spain, Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean and other Spanish speaking countries.
- Mexico's rich history and meticulous record keeping means that there are many church, civil and even census records for those hoping to learn more about their Mexican ancestry. Learn how to Trace Your Family Tree in Mexico with this introductory guide to the major genealogical records and resources of Mexico.
- A distinguishing characteristic of Hispanic naming patterns is their use of a double surname, one from the father and one from the mother. In Spain, the first surname is generally the father's name or family name, while in Portugal the opposite is generally true. Learn more about Spanish naming customs or uncover the meaning of your last name with this free guide to Hispanic Surname Meanings & Origins.
- California is home to 13.7 million Hispanics, over a third of the state's entire population. The state also has a very diverse population, however, making genealogy research in California a lesson in history. Start digging into your California ancestors in these Online California Genealogy Databases and digitized record collections, many available for free.