1.1. Which data – from information to documents to database
1.2. Structuring the information
1.3. Representing the documentary information
1.4. Integration of the documentary information in the global information system
1.5. List of archives and archival fonds


2.1. Institutions
2.2. Documents
2.3. Legislation
2.4. References
2.5. Archives



Welcome to the database of the ERC CoG. project VINCULUM (2019-2024) www.vinculum.fcsh.unl.pt. It is conceived both as a tool to gather the information for the project’s historical studies, and as an output in itself.

The database is, at the moment, a work-in-progress, planned to be finished in the end of the project, but reaching c. 80% finalization by mid 2022. At this milestone, we expect to make public the documentary information under treatment until then (“archival descriptions”), and to have achieved a medium-high level of completeness concerning historical information about persons and entails (“authority records” and “Entail/ vínculo”).

We are also planning to find out means allowing for the continuous collection of information after 2024, in a crowdsourcing way.

A few words on the principles and goals of the database.

1.1. Which data – from information to documents to database
1.2. Structuring the information
1.3. Representing the documentary information
1.4. Integration of the documentary information in the global information system

Which data

The aim is to provide complete and correctly structured information on all of the existing entails («vínculos», comprising both «morgados» and «capelas») in the Portuguese territories (excluding the “Estado da India”) from 1300 to until 1700, with lay familial administration. According to preliminary numbers, the database is expected to contain some 7000 entail institutions; the information and the documents to be found for each will vary greatly, ranging from simple mentions to having their very own archives, sometimes containing hundreds of documents. All kinds of documents produced/received by the entail will be inserted, although some especially important and rich will be privileged (namely foundation deeds, sentences, inventories, narrative documents). The database will include existent documents description, but also lost documents, whenever information from ancient inventories is considered suitable for use.

The archival fonds from which information will be gathered are presented in this list. A crowdsourcing action will be active from January 2021 onwards, aiming at reaching institutions and private researchers, in order to identify otherwise unknown documents.

Structuring the information

Underneath the elaboration of the database it is a central idea of the project – it is indispensable to reconstruct the structure of the information to be studied, under the concept of “entailment information system”. It is assumed that information and documents regarding entails are present in the archives in a lacunar way, and that archival fonds are often incorrectly arranged and described. To sum up, there is a central problem demanding an answer, previous to any historical research. This answer is understood as a research in itself: how to deal with a historically shattered archival landscape, aggravated by problematic archival and historiographical practices.

This misleading heuristic panorama is to be explained, in the first place, by the un-acknowledgment of the effects of a long process of archival transformation, fragmentation and dispersion, caused by the extinction of entails by the 19th century “Liberal” regime (1863). This process was actually preceded by the high pressure of the Enlighted Reformism towards limiting new foundations, and was followed by the proclamation of the Republican regime in 1910, which declared the end of the nobility. In the long run, from c. 1750 to 1910, entail archives were subjected to major changes, which largely modified them. In the end of the process, the destinies of the archives were either – immediate destruction; deliverance to the buyers of the then “free estates”, who destroyed them after registering these in the new legal system; conservation in the families by affective reasons, subjected to different fates during the 20th century (mostly divided or sold in auctions).

Additionally, the formation of the National Archives contributed largely to the fragmentation of the archives of the two central institutions with which entails interacted – Crown and Church (besides strong turbulence in the archival «fonds» of Liberal institutions, since many of these had short and hazardous existence during most of the 19th century)

A second factor is to be found in “classical” historiographical operations such as building prosopographical databases, which erase or neglect the origin of archival information or are designed in function of enquiries that do not take into account the institutional nature of entails and the existence of formal production of information / documents / archives. But also in archivists’ use of anachronistic or impoverished proposals for the organization and classification of materials, as well as by not studying the institution and ignoring the fact of the institutional otherness of societies such as the Old European Regime.

Under these circumstances, VINCULUM set, as its first and indispensable task, the reorganization of the information. The AtoM database is the central means for the effect.

By re-organizing documents on each entail, understood as the producer institution and the archival holder – while clearly registering the actual provenance of each document – and by studying information / documentalization / conservation flows, VINCULUM aims at de-scattering historical information.

In order to better achieve these goals, the database will have a related component, the “Information system guide”, a central output of the project. This guide will present the materials gathered and structured in the database according to the producer institution and the information’s flows, as well as a global view of present-day archival arrangement and description of the documents in the archives where they are kept. It also aims at explaining the processes of documentalization and subsequent conservation of social information, considered as the starting point of any research. We expect to publish a first version in the course of 2022.

Representing the documentary information

The database is built in AtoM, an archival database, that uses Open Source software which has been widely used in different countries for decades (guaranteeing continuity), using the archival standards of document treatment and allowing for the inclusion of digital copies of the documents. AtoM is organized in several interconnectable internal databases, of which the project will be using 1) Archival institutions (renamed for clarity’s sake as “Entail / vínculo”; 2) Authority Records; 3) Archival descriptions.

The single unit of data entry and organization will be the entail, according to both archivistic principles and the theoretical framework of the project, as above explained. Entails are understood as “Archival institutions”, and will be described following a simplified version of ISDIAH.

The use of AtoM will allow for the redirection of documents to their producer, no matter where they eventually came to be kept. The connected database of “Authority records”, will house, following archival standards (ISAAR-CPF), prosopographies of people and institutions connected to the entails. As a result of the project’s historical researches, these prosopographies may eventually include supplementary information on people and institutions; the methodology of Authority Records allows for inclusion of familiar relationships, which facilitates the kinship analyses.

Documents will be described in the “Archival descriptions database”, following ISAD (G) and general principles of diplomatic description (COSTA 1982).

Documents of specific typologies contained in the database (namely institution charters, wills, family partitions, court sentences) will be indexed by subject and by documentary expression (the semantic of entailment), using controlled terminology and thesauri.

Integration of the documentary information in the global information system

In the course of following years, the documentary information gathered in the database will be connected to information provided in other supports, such as images and architectural elements. Written documents of a different nature will also be related to the entails that have produced them, whenever found. This second stage of information assembly and integration will probably be done in sample method, on chosen case studies.


COSTA, Avelino de Jesus – Normas gerais de transcrição e publicação de documentos e textos medievais e modernos, 2nd ed., Coimbra 1982)

2.5. List of archives and archival fonds

1. FONDS RELATING TO ENTAILMENT CONTROL BY CROWN/ STATE AND CHURCH, dispersed by the National Archives, the 18 District Archives and 2 Regional archives (Azores & Madeira), Portugal

[fonds will be referred to using formal titles, unless when referring to typological groupings]

Junta dos Resíduos e Capelas
Registo Vincular
Ecclesiastical institutions

Only in the National Archives:
Royal chancelleries
Capelas da Coroa
Registo do Real Arquivo
Hospital de Todos-os-Santos
Instituições de morgados e capelas
Sentenças de morgados e capelas
Desembargo do Paço


A. In public archives

There are arranged and non-arranged family archives in all the National, District and Regional Archives mentioned above, as well as in some of the historical archives of the 308 Portuguese municipalities, and in some libraries’ Special collections (such as the National Library, Oporto and Coimbra U. libraries). There are no complete finding-aids or guides, although some of these archives provide partial descriptions (vg in Torre do Tombo the last guide listed, in 2005, 35 family archives, but several others entered since then). Consultation of municipal archives will be subjected to previous scrutiny, benefiting of the existing relationships with the ones that harbor significant family holdings (v.g. Arquivo Municipal de Penafiel, that has been collaborating in the ARQFAM program).

B. In private archives

Church archives – diocesan and archdiocesan (by donation or due to chantries administration, there are family holdings in some of these archives).

Family archives – holdings
Archives of Counts of Lapa (Luís da Costa de Sousa de Macedo)
Archives of the House of the Armeiro-Mor (Luís da Costa de Sousa de Macedo)
Archives of the House of the Armeiro-Mor (Pedro Villa Franca)
Archives of the Castro Family – Counts of Nova Goa (Luís Mendia de Castro)
Archives of the Viscounts of Vila Nova de Cerveira (Luís Vasconcelos e Sousa)
Archives of the House of Belmonte (Maria João d’Orey da Câmara and sons)
Archives of the House of Counts of Ficalho (Matilde Gago da Silva)
Archives of the House of Lavradio (Manuel de Bragança)
Archives of Quinta do Ferro, Trancoso (Alexander Freemon)
Archives Vale de Castro family, Tomar (Francisco Valle de Castro and brothers)
Collection of Jorge de Brito e Abreu, Lisbon (different family archives)
[Archives of the Counts of Arcos] (pending authorization)
[Others, pending negotiation and ongoing research; among other organizations, I’ve guaranteed the collaboration of Associação da Nobreza Histórica de Portugal, who contacts members on the project; and Instituto Português de Heráldica, that will promote session on the project among its members]

Family archives’ ancient inventories (containg documents 14th to 17th centuries)
House of Castelo Melhor (Luís Vasconcelos e Sousa)
House of the Counts of Vila Nova de Portimão, 17th century (Portimão CMP Archives)
Esporão Entail – Fonsecas e Vasconcelos, 1507
House of Palmela – D. Filipe de Sousa, c. 1700-1714
Count Meirinho-mor, 1588
Counts of Palma, Óbidos e Sabugal, 1836
Counts of Marialva, 1565
House of Sortelha, 1609
Miranda Henriques family, 1815
Viscounts of Vila Nova do Souto d’el Rei e House of Feira (1836; Counts of Feira, 1821; Canidelo entail, 1498)
House of Távora, 1709
Patameira and Caparica entails, [18th cent.?]
D. Brás da Silveira, 1782
House of Sortelha, 1609
Counts of Avintes, 18th century
Teles de Meneses, lords of Unhão, 1583
House of Alvito, 1784
[These inventories are kept either in public or in private archives; all were already studied, in a preliminary way, in the project INVENT.ARQ, and all are described in the project’s database www.inventarq.fcsh.unl.pt & EN online catalogue http://iem.fcsh.unl.pt/ebooks/estudos13/index.html#106.]

– Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (documents concerning Brazil and Cape Verde entails)
– Misericórdias’ archives (throughout the country)
– Casa de Bragança Archives, Vila Viçosa


PT version: press "Information system guide" in the Homepage; EN version coming soon