Documenting Padrinos (Godparents & Sponsors) in Your Ancestry Tree

Padrinos of Jose Refugio Nieto Mesa
The 1863 baptism record for my great-grandfather José Refugio Nieto Mesa, baptized in Santa Isabel parish, Armadillo de los Infante, state of San Luis Potosí, Mexico.1

Padrinos play an important role in Hispanic culture and family history. Identifying and tracking the names of padrinos found in the records of your ancestors can provide clues to help further trace your ancestral lines, and can help you develop a better understanding of the kinship ties between various families in your ancestral hometown. Documenting padrinos in your family tree is important.

What are Padrinos?

Traditionally padrinos have been a male (padrino) and female (madrina) who are expected to provide a guiding influence in the life of the person for whom they are standing up. Sometimes, only a single padrino or madrina might be selected.

Parents choose padrinos for different stages of their child’s life, and the responsibility of padrinos can range from spiritual, to financial, to social, to legal. Perhaps the role most familiar to non-Hispanics is the role of padrinos in a baptism; these are the godparents. However, the term “sponsors” is the more general translation for padrinos. Parents (and sometimes the child, depending on age of that child) also choose padrinos for life events such as confirmations, quinceañeras (celebration at 15 years old of a girl transitioning to womanhood), and weddings. For those events that are Catholic sacraments, Canon Law has specific requirements about who can serve as the padrinos.

Why Padrinos Matter to Genealogists

Asking someone to serve as a padrino or madrina is a sign of great honor, and accepting this request traditionally was not done casually. Padrinos were close family or friends, part of your ancestor’s FAN Club. We genealogists need to pay attention to the names of padrinos referenced in historical records, and document those individuals in our research notes and family trees.

The 11 July 1863 Mexican Catholic baptism record for my 2nd great-grandfather José Refugio Nieto Mesa (1963 – 1906)–shown at the top of this blog post– illustrates this point. The record identifies his padrinos (godparents) as Pablo Sanchez and Juana Compean.2 When I first found this record in 2015, I saved those names in my notes, not having any idea of who these two individuals were, but I I knew they had to be important to Refugio’s parents (my 3rd great-grandparents), and both surnames are common in my family tree. Further research told me that Pablo Sanchez and Juana Compean were the parents of José Refugio’s future sister-in-law, the first wife of his oldest brother.3

Research Tip
Pablo Sanchez and Juana Compean are a couple that I definitely want to pay attention to when researching my Nieto Mesa family line further. This couple was important enough to my 3rd great-grandparents that those 3rd great-grandparents selected Pablo Sanchez and Juana Compean to be the godparents to one son, and selected Pablo and Juana’s daughter to later marry their oldest son.

Documenting Padrinos in Your Tree

There are a few ways that I document padrino connections in my Ancestry Tree.

Recording Padrino Names in Fact Descriptions

When I add a new Fact for an ancestor or relative, I include the padrino names in the Description field for that Fact. I want to be able to easily read those padrino names any time I glance at the Fact (in my case, usually a baptism or marriage).

Jose Refugio Nieto Mesa - 1863 - Baptism Entry
Figure 1: Include the names of padrinos in the Description field for the relevant Fact. The area highlighted in green illustrates how I do this.

Linking an Ancestor to Their Padrinos

I also want to create a relationship link from my ancestor’s profile to the Tree profile page for each padrino, and I cannot do that from the Fact entry.

Edit Relationships Feature

Ideally, I want to be able to do this in a manner similar to how we link an ancestor’s profile to their parents, siblings, and children. This would allow us to use the Edit Relationships feature, then search for an existing individual in our Tree (or create a new one on the fly), link to that other person, and automatically have them displayed in the right sidebar of  the ancestor profile. But Ancestry only supports that feature for use with individuals in a parent, child, or spouse role.

Ancestry Member Tree Edit Relationships
Figure 2: The Edit Relationships feature allows us to automatically add and link individuals in our Ancestry Tree to an ancestor profile.
Jose Refugio Nieto Mesa - Edit Relationships
Figure 3: However, that Edit Relationships feature only supports parent, child, and spouse roles.

I would really like to see Ancestry add a Padrino role to the Edit Relationships feature (probably called something more generic like godparent or sponsor), because of how important those relationships are to Hispanic families. Godparents for baptism are an important role for other Catholics and some Christian denominations, from non-Hispanic cultures; so it’s not just Hispanics that would benefit from a “godparent” role in the Edit Relationships feature.

The Workaround

So how do I link padrinos to my ancestor in the meantime? I use the Web Links feature that is available in the center column on your ancestor profile.

You can use Web Links to save any type of web content that has a hyperlink, such as links to a Facebook profile, a record on FamilySearch, a YouTube video, etc. I use this feature to save web content that is relevant to that particular ancestor. Since Ancestry Trees are web pages, the profile page for every person in your Tree has its own unique URL.

Jose Refugio Nieto Mesa - 1863 - Baptism - Godparents Links
Figure 4: The Web Links feature can be used to save the URL to each padrino’s profile in your Tree.
Ancestry Member Tree Add Web Link
Figure 5: The Web Link feature allows you to add the URL and a name/description for that hyperlink. For Link Name, I add something like “Baptism Padrino for [Ancestor Name].”

I copy and paste the URL for the padrino’s profile page into the Web Address field of the Add Web Link dialog box. I then create a distinct meaningful name in the Link Name field, such as “Baptism Padrina: Juana Compean.” This allows me to quickly and easily view and access those links whenever I am on my ancestor’s Tree profile page.

Documenting Things from the Padrino’s Profile

Relationships are not just one-sided. Documenting and linking padrino information on the relevant child/teen/young adult’s Tree profile page is just half the story. You want to do the same thing on the padrino’s profile page so that when you are viewing that person’s profile page, you can see and quickly access anyone for whom they served as a padrino. That same individual might be the baptism padrino for one person, and the marriage padrino for another.

Juana Compean - 1863 - Padrina for Jose Refugio Nieto Mesa
Figure 6: From each padrino’s profile in my Tree, I do the same process, but with the opposite emphasis. Add a Fact for their padrino role, and add a Web Link to the relevant profile page.

I use the same Web Links feature and process to link to the Ancestry Tree profile page for the individual(s) they sponsored. In the case of a baptism, I use a Link Name along the lines of “Padrino for Baptism of [name].”

But I also want these sponsorship life events to show up in the timeline of Facts pertaining to that padrino. I can do this by creating a Custom Fact for the padrino. If you have not done this before, you just select the Custom Event option from the Add Fact dropdown menu (see the red arrow in Figure 6). I then add the date of the event, the location, and a description along the lines of “Padrina for José Refugio Nieto” or “Baptism Padrina for José Refugio Nieto.”

Ancestry Tree Custom Event
Figure 7: To add a “Padrino Fact” to the profile, I create a Custom Event.

Have you found others ways to document and link padrino relationships in your online tree and/or genealogy database? If so, please feel free to share your process by adding a Comment below.

Sources Cited

  1.  Iglesia Católica {Catholic Church}, Santa Isabel, San Luis Potosí, Archivo Diocesano {diocesan archive} de San Luis Potosí, entry for José del Refugio Nieto Mesa, 11 July 1863; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 March 2018) > Mexico > Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Catholic Church Records, 1586-1977 > Armadillo de los Infante > Santa Isabel > Bautismos {baptisms} 1855-1866 > image 510; 1863, vol. 186, folio 62 verso.
  2. Iglesia Católica {Catholic Church}, Santa Isabel, San Luis Potosí, Archivo Diocesano {diocesan archive} de San Luis Potosí, entry for José del Refugio Nieto Mesa, 11 July 1863.
  3. “San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Civil Registration Deaths, 1860-1987,” entry for Adelaida Sanchez, 23 October 1894 {died 22 October 1894}; database with digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 March 2018; citing Registro Civil {Civil Registration} del Estado {state} de San Luis Potosí, México; Armadillo de los Infante, 1892-1895; no. 258, 1894, folio 53 back. Iglesia Católica {Catholic Church}, Santa Isabel, San Luis Potosí, Archivo Diocesano {diocesan archive} de San Luis Potosí, entry for Maria Refugio Nieto Sanchez, 11 February 1877; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 March 2018) > Mexico > Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Catholic Church Records, 1586-1977 > Villa Hidalgo > San José > Bautismos {baptisms} 1875-1885 > image 91; 1877, vol. 8, folio 85 front.

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5 thoughts on “Documenting Padrinos (Godparents & Sponsors) in Your Ancestry Tree”

    1. Correct. That’s exactly why I use both terms, and explain that padrino is the male and madrina is the female. But the plural when referring to both uses the male plural, padrinos.

    1. Hi Horacio.

      Thanks for stopping by. Small world! You’ll have to share your surnames with me. Most of my family is from nearby Rancho Temaxcal in that municipio. Their records were usually registered in Armadillo or Villa Hidalgo. I visited the region for the first time this past November, and I fell in love with Armadillo. It’s so beautiful, with gorgeous historic buildings. And the gorditas from the place right across from the church are spectacular.

      If your’e on Facebook, there’s an Armadillo FB Group:


  1. Just stumbled across this post. As you say, it’s an important role in many cultures. In Irish (and I-american) culture, it’s generally life-long, starting from baptism.

    I have been using notes and a weblink as you suggest, but I had not thought of adding a custom event to the godparent’s profile. So thanks for that! 🙂

    A great example of this info coming in handy… I’ve had a “maybe” event for my own grandfather for a number of years… he’s missing in the NY census of 1905 and I have a possible in NJ with a family I don’t recognize, working on a farm. Odd though, as he’s a city-bred kid. I finally figured out that the wife in that family is his baptismal godmother, which takes it from a maybe to a definite in my eyes.

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