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Translating "comparecer"

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By Corrine Ardoin - Posted on 18 December 2006

I have found also the word "comparecio," preceding someone's name and
translate that to mean: appears (person's name), meaning they appear before
the judge. So, in a particular civil record, it would say in such and such
town (En el Ciudad de --), on such and such day (a los cinco dias del mes de
--) , before such and such judge (ante mi --), appears Jose Salazar
(comparecio Jose Salazar). Anyways, that is what I have been translating it
as, comparecer, meaning to appear and comparecio, meaning he appears, so "el
compareciente" would tranlate literally as "the appearing," or the one
appearing before the judge. They also might write "se presente" before the
person's name, which literally translates as "presented himself," meaning
"presented" and the name of the person who was presenting himself before the

I have also come across the term, "exponente," before someone's name, which
is a legal term, translating easily as "exponent," but not so easily in
meaning. The legal interpretation for many of the terms in civil records
can be found in law dictionaries. Accoring to such a dictionary, an
"exponent" is an advocate or the one who goes before the judge on someone's
behalf. In civil birth records, the exponent can be the father of the
child, but not always, and it can be a friend or close relative of the
family, but not always. Later in the record, it may state the father of the
child is the exponent, but sometimes it doesn't and merely says who the
mother is, particularly if the child is an "hijo/a natural, though I have
also found records that give both parents names for an hijo/a natural.

A lesson learned: Not only have I found it wise to hold off drawing any
conclusions about a particular ancestor from these records, but I have found
it helpful to read other records on the same microfilm, in order to see if
the names in my record of interest are also in other records involving
people completely unrelated to my ancestor. When I do see names given
repeatedly in other records I then deduce that they may have worked in the
courthouse and were called upon to act as witnesses, etc. for a number of
cases. Gathering as much information as possible on any given ancestor
without making any assumptions about them, simply stating what I have found,
is what I have very painfully learned to be the wisest course of action in
my research, especially if it involves sharing what I have found with other
family members who are quick to draw premature conclusions and do not let
them go, despite repeated, frustrating attempts at correcting them!

Corrine Ardoin


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