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No more 'Libros de Familia' after 106 years: The 'family passbook' goes digital
30 April 2021 @ 20:02

OVER a century of having to show and update your births, deaths and marriages 'passport', or Libro de Familia, has come to an end with a nationwide digital database taking its place.

The 'Family Book' was first issued on November 15, 1915 by the Ministry of Grace and Justice under King Alfonso XIII, as a portable written record proving blood ties or legal relations between parents and children, and spouses, and deaths of anyone in the immediate family unit were noted in it, as were births of children.

It served as proof of these family links where needed, and was issued to couples upon registering their marriages.

Later, it would be updated to allow for children adopted to be registered in it, and from the early 1980s onwards, for divorces and separations – marriage annulments were not legal in Spain until then.

Decades ago, sight of the Libro de Familia would be requested at hotels to ensure the couple staying there and sharing a room were, indeed, husband and wife – the only marriage combination legal in Spain, or anywhere, until 2005 – and in particular where the couple was very young and on their honeymoon.

Since then, it has been a way of proving you are indeed the parent of your child, should the need arise, and nowadays is purely just a way of updating census information and enabling authorities to trace people's relatives if necessary.

Until 2015, parents had to go to their nearest district court in person to register the birth of their children – a necessity as soon as the mum left the hospital, since until the baby was recorded, he or she did not technically exist and getting an ID card, State healthcare or a passport would otherwise be impossible.

In larger towns, this could involve long queues on the pavement, frequently for hours and often overnight, to be near enough to the front when the tickets were handed out allowing the parent to go back on another given day to request an appointment.

Effectively, in a best-case scenario, a parent would have to go to the district court in person three times, but as the queues were often longer than the number of tickets dispensed, repeat visits would normally be needed until parents could get their hands on one.

Exactly what a new mum getting over labour or Caesarean surgery, on top of feeding and nappy-changing round the clock, does not need.

Socialist (PSOE) president of Spain at the time, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, had been planning on replacing the Libro de Familia with a database back in 2010, and from 2015, the system changed so that as soon as a baby was born, the hospital itself would register the birth online automatically, meaning the parents did not need to take any action.

For the first century of its life – and, indeed, even after this – the 'Family Book' did not undergo any changes in format, and still looks almost identical to the original print-run of November 1915.



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