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Documentary Relations of the Southwest
Master Index Online Search Help

History and description of the Master Index

Search strategies


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History and Description of the Master Index


The Documentary Relations of the Southwest (DRSW) Master Bibliography and Indexes is an application of modern technology to create research tools for the study of northern New Spain. DRSW devised a methodology to generate guides and indexes to primary documents dealing with the greater Southwest.

The sheer size of the documentary record required that the compilers follow certain principles of selection. The files are limited chronologically from 1520 to 1820, which corresponds to the Spanish colonial era. Documents included cover an extensive geographical area bounded by the 22nd to the 38th parallel of north latitude, and by the 92nd to the 123rd meridian of west longitude. This approximates the colonial frontiers of northern New Spain.

Document selection was relatively broad. In the case of small collections, all documents were included. In the case of large collections, we included only records that met our criteria of period, location, and significance. Large bundles of routine records, such as slave sales or military musters, were grouped under one entry without recording individual names. Generally, we attempted to record most pertinent information. However, information about a particular person, place or subject might be available in the archive even if it does not appear in the indexes.

Grant history

Under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities DRSW surveyed critical portions of the Archivo Histórico del Hidalgo de Parral, Chihuahua. This was the provincial archive of Nueva Vizcaya, which at times included present-day Arizona, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa and Sonora. Extensive analysis of the Parral archives was supplemented with documents from the Archivo General de Indias (AGI-Sevilla), the Archivo General de la Nación (AGN-Mexico City), the Archivo Histórico de Hacienda (AHH-Mexico City), and fifteen smaller archives.

A second grant funded research in two collections whose important holdings are available on microfilm in many major research libraries. These are the Spanish Archives of New Mexico Part 2 (SANM 2-Santa Fe) and the Béxar Archives of San Antonio up to the year 1790 (NLBLAC-Austin).

A third grant from the NEH allowed for the inclusion of the entire Ramo Provincias Internas of Mexico City's Archivo General de la Nación in the DRSW Master Index. This archive is the largest collection in the database, consisting of 263 volumes, (Volume 193 is either missing or represents an error in the original numbering of the volumes).


The Master Index contains over 17,000 records. These records describe an estimated total of 500,000 pages of colonial Spanish documents. A record might refer to a single document or to a group of closely related documents. Almost all of these documents deal with northern New Spain - the area that is now northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.

The documents indexed come from a total of thirty-one archives in Europe and the Americas. The indexing was selective: the Master Index does not represent a complete index for these archives. The following list names these archives; the numeral to the left forms the first part of the serial number for records from that archive. For example, all of the records for documents from the Provincias Internas section of the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City begin with 041-.

List of archives indexed
No. Abbreviated Title Complete Title


AG, Saltillo

Archivo del Gobierno, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico



Archivo Seccion Gobierno del Estado, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Mexico


AGI, Sevilla

Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla, Spain


AGN, Mexico

Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City, Mexico



Archivo General de la Nacion, Ramo Provincias Internas, Mexico City, Mexico



Archivum Generale O.F.M., Rome, Italy


AHH, Mexico

Archivo Historico de Hacienda Mexico City, Mexico


AHM, Mexico

Archivo Historico Militar, Mexico City, Mexico


AHN, Madrid

Archivo Historico-Nacional, Madrid, Spain


AHPMSI, Mexico

Archivo Historia Provincia Mexicana Soc. Iesu, Mexico City, Mexico


AP, Parral

Archivo de Parral, Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico


APA, Valencia

Archivo de la Provincia de Aragon, Soc. Iesu, Valencia, Spain


APM, Celaya

Archivo Provincia de Michoacan, Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico


ARI, Mexico

Archivo de Relaciones Internas, Mexico City Mexico


ARSJ, Rome

Archivum Romanum, Soc. Iesu, Rome, Italy


ASB, Sta. Barbara

Archives of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA


BH, Munich

Bavarian Hauptstaats


BM, London

British Museum, London, England


BN, Mexico

Biblioteca Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico


BNE, Madrid

Madrid Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Spain


BNF, Paris

Bibliotheque Nacional, Paris, France


BNM, Mexico

Archivo del San Francisco el Grande, Biblioteca Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico  


BNVE, Rome

Biblioteca National Vittore Emanuele, Rome, Italy


CUB, Berkeley

Bancroft library, University of California, Berkeley, California


MN, Mexico

Museo Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico


NL, Chicago

Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois


PAA, Rome

Archivum Colegii Antonini, Rome Italy


RAH, Madrid

Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid, Spain


SANM, Santa Fe

Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico



St. Francis Orphanage, Watsonville, CA


TXA, Nacogdoches  

Nacogdoches University of Texas, Austin, Texas


TXU, Austin, TX

N.L. Benson Library, University of Texas, Austin, TX

Information recorded

Each record contains standard information about a document or group of documents. This data includes the author, date, title, length, physical qualities, language, and location. In addition, the indexer recorded every geographic or personal name in the document (except in cases of some long lists, such as presidial musters), wrote a summary, and generated keywords to indicate topics that the document addresses.

Where you can read the documents

The Location fields specify where you can read the document summarized. Original Location names where the original, paper document resides. First Location indicates where DRSW staff read either the original document or a copy. Other Location lists other repositories for the document.

Abbreviations for Microfilm Locations
 Abbreviation  Location


Main Library, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona


Jesuit Historical Institute, American Division, housed at DRSW


Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona


Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, Missouri

Most records that do not specify a location refer to documents at DRSW. Specifically, we hold a copy of all the AGN Provincias Internas documents that we have indexed. Finally, DRSW has acquired microfilm since completing some sections of the Master Index, so we might have a copy of a document, even if the Master Index does not indicate this. It's best to contact us to be sure.

The other information in the Location fields indicates where to find the document within the archive or microfilm collection.

Search strategies

Search broadly

Try searching as broadly as possible at first. Then, if the number of documents you find is unmanageable, refine your search to be more restrictive. For example, if you were interested in agriculture in San Antonio, you might start by searching for "San Antonio" (4772 hits). Since this is probably too many records, then you could refine your search to "San Antonio mission agriculture" (540 hits) and so on until you found a manageable number of records relating to your interest.

Use General Search by default

The basic search is called General Search. When you choose to perform an Advanced search or to Refine a search, you should choose General Search by default. The only exception will be when you want to limit your search to a particular field, such as Author. The General Search locates terms in every field except those referring to archival locations (that is, Original Location, First Location, and Other Location).

Use the Browse function

The Browse function allows you to scroll through a list of all the words in the Master Index, arranged alphabetically. Click on the number next to the word to view all of the documents containing that term. This function is useful for viewing variant spellings of terms - including typos!

Check for different spellings

Names were spelled in a variety of ways in these documents. We typed them in as they were spelled in the document. In addition, errors in reading and typing undoubtedly occurred. Thus, the same person or place might appear under a variety of different spellings, and you should search under as many variations as possible. You can do this with separate searches or, preferably, using wildcards and Boolean operators. The Browse function also is helpful in such cases.

Some letters were commonly used equivalently:

  • c = s = z
  • ll = y
  • h = (no letter)
  • i = y
  • b = v
  • g = j = x

For example, "Tubac" (236 hits) was also spelled "Tuvac" (7 hits), among other variations. However, variations abound that do not conform to the above list, especially in Indian names for people and places. For example, the present-day term "Chiricahuas" has numerous variations that outnumber it in the index.

Note about accents

In the Master Index, the records do not record any accent marks, tildes, or other diacritical marks not found in English. Also, all of the words are capitalized. For example, "Zúñiga" is recorded as ZUNIGA.

Use special search-terms


The characters "*" and "?" serve the same function: they replace any number of letters (including zero letters) until the next letter specified in the word. For example, entering di*o or di?o as a General Search will find entries containing the terms, DIO, DICHO, DIEZMO, and DIEGO, among others.

Boolean operators and parentheses: and, or, not, ()

Boolean Operators Used to Limit Searches





Placing "and" between words will result in a search for entries that contain both terms. If only one of the terms is in a record, that record will not be found.

Searching for "Texas and Sinaloa" will yield a list of 67 documents that contain both of these words. If you omit "and", you will get the same result: searching for "Texas Sinaloa" results in 67 hits.


Placing "or" between words will result in a search for entries that contain either (or both) of these terms.

Searching for "Texas or Sinaloa" finds 2052 entries that contain one of these terms.


Placing "not" between words will result in a search for entries that contain the first word but not the second. If both words appear in a record, it will not be found.

Searching for "Texas not Sinaloa" yields 1290 records, but searching for "Sinaloa not Texas" yields 695.

( ):

You can create complex searches by grouping words and Boolean operators with parentheses. This can be useful when searching for variant spellings of names.

Searching for "(Texas or Tejas) and (Cinaloa or Sinaloa or Zinaloa)" will find all 74 records that contain one of the variations entered for each of these terms. In this case, the software looks for records that contain either "Texas" or "Tejas" and that also contain either "Cinaloa", "Sinaloa", or "Zinaloa".


When you conduct a search, the largest frame on the screen will list the Title, Author, and Date of the first ten records. Click on the colored line to see all of the information in the full record. To see another group of ten, click on one of the numbers next to "Jump to:". For example, if you click on "21", then the screen will display records 21-30.

Miscellaneous notes

  • Searches are not case-specific; that is, Vizcaya, VIZCAYA, and vizcaya are equal.
  • Wildcards and Boolean operators (see below) do not work in the Browse function.


We plan to make at least four more databases searchable simultaneously with the Master Index:

  • Biodex and Biodex2, compilations of index entries from secondary sources
  • the SMRC Books & Articles, an annotated bibliography with about 14,000 items.

For further information or to make suggestions

Please email us.


We would like to thank:

  • the University of Arizona Libraries for donating staff time and expertise in putting these databases online. In particular, Metadata Librarian Jeremy Frumkin has overseen this process
  • the scores of student workers who recorded this information
  • the architects and overseers of the project to create this finding aid - Fritz Jandrey and Dr. Charles Polzer, S.J.
  • grants from National Endowment for the Humanities paid for the bulk of the indexing