ATLAS - Cartografia Histórica
POS Conhecimento União Europeia - FEDER

Parish Descriptions of 1758

This application results from collaboration between the Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais/Torre do Tombo and a research team from the Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (New University of Lisbon), indicated at the foot of this text.

The IAN/TT provided digitalised images of the Memórias Paroquiais (‘Parish Descriptions’) and the research team was responsible for making them available online on this site.

The Parish Descriptions

The so-called Parish Descriptions arise from a series of attempts to gather information about the country, through a questionnaire, beginning early in the 18th century. They continue the work of Fr. Luís Cardoso, who, between 1747 and 1751, published two volumes of his Geographical Dictionary, which remained incomplete. The project was once more taken up in 1758, with government support, when the original questionnaire was enlarged and divided into three parts, containing questions on the parish, the mountains and the rivers. The inquiry was directed at parish priests and the quality of the responses is extremely varied, depending on the effort and capacity of each cleric. The documentation is made up of 44 manuscript volumes, taking in the responses of the incumbents and summaries relating to a series of parishes for which there are no ‘descriptions’.

Methodology followed in making them available

The images of the Parish Descriptions are available via a map of parishes in 1758. There is also a search box which facilitates locating them through the respective name. In order to place the parishes within the administrative and religious division of the period, you can superimpose the various levels of these maps on those of the parishes. If you wish to follow the evolution recorded between 1758 and 1991, you can also activate the distritos (districts), concelhos (councils) and freguesias that existed in 1991.

This application is based on SIGMA, the Sistema de Informação Geográfica e Modelação de Dados Aplicado à História de Portugal (Geographic Information System and Data Modelling Applied to the History of Portugal), which has been developed since 1993 in various research projects financed by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Foundation for Science and Technology).

SIGMA was born of an attempt to resolve the problems of comparing data arising from the profound change in the administrative division of Portugal that took place between 1832 and 1836. Indeed, prior to the creation of this system it was virtually impossible to compare information relating to territorial units as different as those that existed before and after the change. SIGMA, through the combined use of a relational database and a Geographic Information System, makes it possible not only to register, manage and map the information relating to any of the years included in the system, but also to transpose this information – provided it is available at the level of the freguesia – to other dates and produce a map according to territorial units different from those that were used as the basis for the original data collection. At present, SIGMA covers the period 1758-1911, for mainland Portugal, and 1840-1911, for the islands of the Azores and Madeira.

The maps have been produced through a retrospective methodology, starting from the administrative map of 1991. However, the need to fill gaps and correct existing errors, especially at the level of the freguesia, led us to try to reconstruct the boundaries of these territorial units when they had been incorporated meanwhile in others or when their boundaries were in doubt.


Although this methodology of reconstruction has made it possible to map a greater number of freguesias and to fill in a substantial part of the gaps in the maps for the years furthest back, certain failings remain which can probably only be resolved through research work done locally.
Thus, for the year 1758, of all of the freguesias on the mainland (4073), it has been impossible to draw 423, even though we know into which freguesia or freguesias they were incorporated. Hence it was only possible to identify them and locate them approximately on various maps, through reference to the units of which they came to form part.

Unidentified parishes: there are still 14 parishes from 1758 for which it was impossible to find correspondences with those of 1991. It is probable that they now simply form part of other freguesias. Here follows a list of them (in brackets is the concelho, comarca (judicial district) or província (province) to which they belonged in 1758): Covide (Neiva), Escutelo (Bragança), Pedrógão (Coja), Real de Corvos (Neiva), Sabugal (Foz Côa), Santiago (Óbidos, Alenquer), Santíssimo Milagre (Santarém), Santo Antão (Évora), São Julião (Santarém), São Lourenço (Santarém), Senhora da Orada (Coimbra), Sérvio (Miranda do Corvo), Valongo (Douro), Vila Real (Juromenha).

Base Map

The map of 1758 was produced from the Carta Administrativa Oficial de Portugal (Official Administrative Map of Portugal) relating to the year 1991, published by the Instituto Nacional de Estatística (National Institute of Statistics) in vector format, also available on this site.

Research Team

Luís Nuno Espinha da Silveira (principal investigator)
Daniel Ribeiro Alves (database management)
Nuno Lima (research and treatment of images)
Ana Alcântara (research and treatment of images)