Portugal: Algarve

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1249
Location: Portugalmap
Surnames/tags: Algarve Portugal Portugal_Project
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This regional page is managed by the Algarve Team which is part of the Portugal Project.



18th century map of Algarve and its most important settlements.

The Algarve is Portugal's only mainland region and is situated in the south of the country, bordering the Atlantic Ocean in its west and south sides. Settled since pre-Roman times, it is today the home of 467 495 people[1], with many more having ancestors whom lived in it in the past.

The toponym Algarve originates from the Arabic expression الغرب (Al-garbe) meaning "the west". As evidenced by the name, the Algarve was once part of the Muslim kingdom of Al-Andalus. Its control over the region lasted a few hundred years, until it was captured during the Reconquista by the nascent Portuguese Christian kingdom. For this reason, people with roots to the Algarve might find themselves sharing some part of their genetic material with people of North Africa.

Geography and subdivisions

The 4,996.80 km² (1,929.28 sq mi) region that defines the Algarve was the last to be conquered from the Moors in 1249. It is the oldest Portuguese administrative division that is still present today and the only one whose borders have always remained the same.

The parishes (freguesias) correspond to the lowest and most stable type of administrative division, and it is in these that you will find parochial records. Parishes are grouped into municipalities, of which there are currently 16. Most of its municipalities are ancient, though some are newer. This has led to geographical confusion and uncertainty for genealogists when going through the paroquial records of the Algarve.

The list below contains the current 16 subdivisions and their year of founding, and by clicking on their name it is possible to see the parishes they currently englobe.

Name Founding Additional information
Albufeira Albufeira 20 Aug 1504 Albufeira was the last Moorish holdout to be conquered in 1249 by King Afonso III of Portugal.

Almost destroyed by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755, where a tsunami submerged the lower part of the village.

Due to the liberal revolution, miguelist militias surrounded the liberal militia that had taken refuge in the town, to which a merciless siege was laid and culminated in a devastating fire and the death of 174 people, as well as all recorded parochial records, in 27 Jul 1833.

Alcoutim Alcoutim 9 Jan 1304
Aljezur Aljezur 12 Nov 1280 Devastated by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.
Castro Marim Castro Marim 8 Jul 1277 Devastated by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.
Faro Faro 1266 Had an important jewish community in the 14th century that was expelled by King Manuel I of Portugal in 1496.

In 1577 the head of the Bishopric of the Algarve was transferred from Silves to Faro.

Sacked in 1597 by English privateers, which sized the library of the Bishop of Faro, leading to a lack of parochial records before this date.

Almost destroyed by the tsunami wrought by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.

Lagoa Lagoa 16 Jan 1773 Lagoa was governed within the municipality of Silves until 1773 when it was made independent by King Joseph I of Braganza.
Lagos Lagos 1255 Famously the place where the first boats that kickstarted the Age of Discovery departed from, by incentive of Infante Henry "the Navigator" of Aviz, and infamously as the first gateway of African slaves into Europe.

Historically the capital of the Province of Algarve until it's destruction by the earthquake and tsunami of 1 Nov 1755, after which Faro became the capital.

Loulé Loulé 1266 Devastated by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.
Monchique Monchique 1773 Monchique was governed within the municipality of Silves until 1773.
Olhão Olhão 16 Jun 1808 When under French occupation, during the Peninsular Wars, Olhão was notable for having one of the few public uprisings against the occupiers, occurring on 16 Jun 1808. This revolt culminated in the expulsion of the French from Olhão and, as a result, from the rest of the Algarve. As a reward, a law was signed by the then Prince Regent (future King John VI of Braganza) to distinguish Olhão and its inhabitants by ordering that it be referred to as Olhão da Restauração (Olhão of the Restoration) and the creation of a new municipality with local autonomy from Faro.
Portimão Portimão 1453 Devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 1 Nov 1755.

Known as Vila Nova de Portimão until the 11 Dec 1924, hence parochial records might mention it as Vila Nova instead.

São Brás de Alportel São Brás de Alportel 1 Jun 1914 The newest municipality and the only one founded after the historical Province of Algarve was replaced by the Distrito of Faro. Founded in 1914 when congressman Machado Santos submitted a bill two years previouly for the creation of a new municipality, to what was then the most populous rural parish of Faro with around 12 500 inhabitats.

Contains a single parish with the same name. Historically known simply as São Brás.

Silves Silves 1266 Devastated by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.
Tavira Tavira 1266 Devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 1 Nov 1755.
Vila do Bispo Vila do Bispo 26 Aug 1662 Devastated by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755.

Has a peculiar administrative history. Separated from the municipality of Lagos during the reign of King Afonso VI of Braganza in 1662, it was later reintegrated in 1855, before again regaining autonomy in 1861, containing the same parishes besides Bordeira and Carrapateria, which were integrated in the municipality of Aljezur. The municipality was once again abolished in 1895, and later obtained autonomy for the second and final time in 1898.

Vila Real de Santo António Vila Real de Santo António 1774 Prompted by the earthquake of 1 Nov 1755, the Marquis of Pombal, chief minister to King Joseph I of Braganza, who effectively ruled Portugal from 1750 to 1777, attempted to plan a town from the ground up with the pioneering design he had envisioned for the new downtown for Lisbon. This design followed illuminist ideals, namely orthogonal grids of buildings, which were prefabricated in areas outside the town, and then transported to their final destination to be assembled, permitting this way a fast and methodical construction of the town. This proved to be a success, and because of this the previous village of Santo António gained the honorific of Vila Real (Royal Town), as well as autonomy from Castro Marim.

Notable People


  1. INE - Plataforma de divulgação dos Censos 2021; 2021

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