In my family, there is a long held verbal history that we were on the Spanish Armada and were stranded in Ireland when the Armada was sunk.

This may be a long shot, but is there anyway to access records of who was on the Armada, and related, who was rescued/imprisoned from the sinking of the fleet?

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    I'd be surprised if there were written records. I'd be even more surprised if they're available and complete. Do you know which ship they sailed on? You can see a many of the ships that made it to Ireland mentioned here.
    – Luke_0
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 16:54
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    Would DNA testing be helpful in a case like this? I don't know, but putting it out there. Commented May 24, 2013 at 20:51
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    I suspect you've little option but to use the tried and tested method of tracking your family back a generation at a time. Do you know which branch of your family the Spaniards are rumoured to be on?
    – user104
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 11:28
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    Which ship they were on or where they arrived in Ireland are probably the two most crucial facts to know. When they arrived in Ireland, they probably a) settled down and joined a Catholic church or b) tried to get back too Spain. So, if you know where they lived in Spain or where they settled in Ireland, you could check the local Church records.
    – Luke_0
    Commented May 25, 2013 at 13:40
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    If you are interested in an alternative hypothesis to explain family lore of Spanish heritage in Ireland, look into reports of the Battle of Kinsale (December 1601) that involved 12000 spanish troops in Co Cork. That is far more plausible than a few shipwreck survivors.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


As Luke pointed out, Wikipedia has a detailed article on the fate of the Armada ships that were wrecked off Ireland, which suggests that there were very few survivors and the majority of those that made it ashore alive were executed by the English or murdered by the Irish.

The fact that being found to protect a survivor would have placed the protector at great risk makes it unlikely that church records would have been kept of any lucky enough to evade those two fates. Most that did evade capture or murder seem to have been sent on to Scotland for safety (then a separate country).

Franscisco de Cuellar gives an account of what happened to him in Ireland en route to Scotland. (See Wikipedia for a summary.) He does not seem to have been impressed by the 'hospitality' he received, even including an offer of marriage.

In short, although it's not impossible that a very few Spanish survivors were absorbed into the Irish population (or left a genetic legacy behind on their way through to Scotland), it doesn't sound as if it was a widespread phenomenon or one that would have been recorded at the time.

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    Thank you for this, this adds to the mystery - as my family were also in Scotland.
    – user786
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 10:34
  • @user786 Amazing how often "Spanish ancestors" are rumoured to exist. In my family, the mythical Spanish ancestors are in Wales, and supposedly Jewish to boot! But the records don't support the myth, nor does DNA testing.
    – user104
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 10:39
  • I am beginning to suspect that as well - partly the reason for my research. It is quite likely that we are Celtic.
    – user786
    Commented May 31, 2013 at 10:43

Some ships were sent from Flanders to Scotland to return survivors back to Spain. A full account of the fate of survivors can be found in:

The Downfall of the Spanish Armada in Ireland by Ken Douglas (Dublin : Gill & Macmillan, 2009).

No names, only what happened to them.

  • Edited to add a link to WorldCat (enter your zip code in the finder to see where the book is in libraries near you).
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jun 9, 2014 at 0:46