Historical Laws of Mexico

Resources for learning about the laws that impacted your Mexican ancestors and better understanding the historical records that name your ancestors.

Civil Registrations

Mexico’s civil legal code (el código civil) dictates the type of civil registrations, who creates these, how they should be organized, and the type of information reported in the records.

Civil Marriage Laws

The 2014 Ley General de los Derechos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes (General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents) set the legal age of consent nationwide to 18 years for females and males, with some judicially-approved exceptions.1

Prior to this 2014 law, no national legal age of consent existed, and this was left to state laws. The federal civil marriage law of 1859, however, prohibited marriage for a boy under age 14 and/or a girl under age 12, and required consent (una licencia, a license) from the parents or guardian for men under age 21 and women under age 20.2

Catholic Parish Registers

Catholic Marriage Laws

The Catholic Church first codified its laws under a single comprehensive collection with the Code of Canon Law in 1917, which went into effect in May 1918. This codex set the legal age of consent for marriage at 16 years for boys and 14 years for boys. These age requirements continue into the present-day under Code of Canon Law revised in 1983, however this revision allows Bishops to raise the age according to local customs. Prior to 1917, including back to the establishment of Spanish colonies in the Americas, Church law allowed marriages at age 12 for both parties.3

Source Citations

  1. Ley General de los Derechos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes {General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents},” Leyes Federales {Federal Laws}, capítulo séptimo {chapter 7}, artículo 45 {article 45}; Web edition, Secretaría de Gobernación {Secretary of the Interior}, Diario Oficial de la Federación {Official Journal of the Federation}, DOF: 04/12/2014 {4 December 2014} (https://www.dof.gob.mx/ : accessed 11 April 2023).
  2. Ley de Matrimonio Civil {Civil Marriage Law},” Centenario de la Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos {Centenary of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States}, Secretaría de Cultura {Ministry of Culture}, Instituto Nacional de Estudios Históricos de la Revolución Mexicana {National Institute of Historical Studies of the Mexican Revolution} (https://constitucion1917.gob.mx/work/models/Constitucion1917/Resource/338/1/images/LR_bjuarez33.pdf : accessed 19 April 2023), no. 5-6.
  3. Hassan, Laura Bramon, “Canon Law and the Fight Against Child Marriage,” McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame, Church Life Journal, 14 September 2020 (https://churchlifejournal.nd.edu/articles/canon-law-and-the-fight-against-child-marriage/: accessed 19 April 2023), para. 28.

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