Monday, January 8, 2018

Genealogical Resolutions of 2018!

2018 [Google Images]

It's been a while since I've posted but I wanted to start out the New Year with some genealogical resolutions that hopefully will kickstart my 2018 genealogical year! So here's a list of 10 things I would love to accomplish throughout the year, whether it's a one time thing or progressively done throughout the year, I've added it to the list in no specific order!

My 10 Genealogical Resolutions of 2018

1. Post more on my blog ─ Looking back on previous years, I've noticed that I've posted much more. With trying to balance work and a personal life, it's hard to add a genealogy blog into the mix. My goal is to hopefully write more about my genealogical searches. Even though something might seem mundane, it could be helpful for someone else to read or even a good note for myself in the future looking back on a search or theory. I want to post in Spanish as well and open up my audience more but also trying to find an easy way of separating yet combining both of those worlds. Any ideas are surely welcomed!

2. Test an Avilés male descendant for Y-DNA ─ I've been wanting to do this one for a while now! I have a few great-uncles and cousins that fall into this category. Problem is most of them still live in the mountains in Lares, Puerto Rico which means I have to make my way over there to see them and ask for some help with the research. Ultimately my goal is to try and find out whether or not Damián Magraner Morell is truly my 3rd great grandfather and use Y-DNA to confirm this. I would need a Magraner descendant to test as well but I'm taking this one step at a time 😉

3. Search more into my Yabucoa roots  This one is tied into another goal a bit more down but I want to search more about my roots in the town of Yabucoa. I was fortunate to visit the town with my grandmother (her birth town) and look around a bit but I want to take a deeper look into my ancestry there. Most of my family is labeled "mestizo", "mulato", or "pardos libres" in this town so I want to see if I can start to identify ancestors that specifically carried these genes and even some who were previously slaves or natives from Yabucoa. With the recent release of Yabucoa church records, I've been slowly but surely making my way through some of the records but since they're mostly not indexed it takes a painstakingly one-by-one view of them to make sure I'm not jumping over any important ones!

4. Learn more about my Correa family ─ Similarly with the release of the Coamo church records on FamilySearch, I need to peruse these books as well for my Correa ancestors. These are a tricky bunch of ancestors because they've moved from San Juan to Coamo and then Salinas, but luckily I've been able to mainly track every generation in those towns. Now the challenge becomes finding them in San Juan and figuring out where their origin lies. Especially since my grandfather's Y-DNA haplogroup is commonly found amongst Jews/Arabs, I'm interested in learning more about this specific line and their journey to Puerto Rico.

5. Read more books in relation to Genealogy, Genetics, Puerto Rico, etc. ─ With work being work, it's been a bit difficult trying to add books into my life. Now that I drive to work, I don't have the luxury of reading on the bus like I did 4-5 years ago. I have to intentionally add time into my day to read or otherwise I'll find perfect excuses for not reading. I want to widen my knowledge more in a lot of different genealogical fields so I'm trying to read some books here and there. I picked one up on native genes/genealogy and need to continue reading! Definitely going to be one of the harder goals since researching comes naturally to me, where as setting aside time for reading is a bit harder nowadays. Hoping I'll even post of the books here if they're good books to read!

6. Continue to help others discover their ancestors ─ This one isn't focused on me (luckily!) but it's something that I want to continue doing which is trying to help others with their research as well. Whether it's getting started, trying to knock down a brick wall, or giving some advice… I want to continue being involved with helping others the same way others have helped me as well. I'm also trying not to limit myself as well, recently I've been helping some friends with Jewish genealogy is Eastern Europe and it's taught me a lot about record searching there and even helping some friends with German/Austrian research as well… which has led me down a dark path of teaching myself to read old 19th/18th century German handwriting (check out Sütterlin to see how insane I am haha).

7. Find an ancestor from Spain ─ No doubt this is a hard one! I think ultimately I still want that "aha" moment where I was able to discover an ancestor by myself from Spain. Finding my ancestors from Guadeloupe and Martinique was an amazing albeit initial struggle to place all the pieces together and highly rewarding. I also think I just want to give myself another place to travel when I return to Spain.

8. Continue researching the Puerto Rican church records ─ This goal is tied into my #3 and #4 about using the church records to continue my searches in Yabucoa and Coamo but ultimately it's to use all church records to continue finding out more. It's interesting because even some of the church records after 1885 when the Civil Registry took over in Puerto Rico contain interesting pieces of information that otherwise were not included in the Registry. Other towns like Yauco have also been a goldmine of information on my ancestors and I need to keep digging in this records to find out more. And create a better system of what I have seen and what I have not seen so I'm not repeatedly searching the same records over and over again. Also checking neighboring towns is a good idea for finding branches that have gone off to live in neighboring towns that can give me some more insight to my ancestors.

9. Begin planning a trip to Martinique and Guadeloupe ─ This one is in NO WAY going to occur this year but it's something I want to start thinking about more deeply. My goal is to visit these islands sometime when I have vacation but before that I would love to up my French proficiency so that I'm able to travel the island without hesitating to speak with the locals. This would require me to study more French but also start looking into different routes I'd like to take and even possible research while on the islands. These are also costly trips so definitely making sure I'm saving up for them as best as possible to give myself the best genealogical trip while I'm there.

10. Research more into my African/Taíno roots ─ Last, but certainly not least, I want to learn more about my ancestors who were native to Puerto Rico and to the various countries in Africa. A lot of knowledge has been lost throughout the generations of colonialism, slavery, and genocide and it's important to bring that information to the forefront and make sure that I am not only honoring my Spanish ancestors but also those who had to endure so much for me to be here. What regions of the Taíno Cacique systems did my ancestors live in? What was life for my ancestors of color in the 16th and 17th century in Puerto Rico? What was intermarriage like on all levels on the island and what did it mean for them as a community? I know finding out specific African countries is difficult and the closest we've gotten is through the AncestryDNA test but I want to learn more about these ancestors and try to begin pinpointing more about their journeys and lives. It's important to keep these ancestors' names on the tip of my tongue and not just the Spanish towns and last names the majority of DNA resembles.

So for now that's it! It's actually a much longer post than I originally envisioned but glad that I've gotten one foot in the door for the 2018 year! 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

More Pieces... More of a Puzzle!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet my half-uncle (linked post!) who we discovered through 23andme. He and his family were visiting New York City and decided to stop by for the day to hang out with us. It was amazing getting to spend the day with new family and my uncle was able to meet two more of his siblings - meaning that he's meet 4 of his 8 siblings so far. One has passed so there are only 7 he can meet in total. With discovering our uncle and talks of the situation my grandmother was in, my family did some digging and came across a few letters she received back in the 1950s. I'm not sure how this person might be tied into our family and who this man may be, but hoping that this blog will bring me luck into finding out more about my grandmother's past!

Unearthing New Clues

Our family started digging around for old possessions of my grandmother and came across a few letters dating back to 1958. The reason these letters might be of importance to our new uncle's life is because these letters were written two years before his birth. These letters occur between my older uncle and my new uncle's birth, meaning it could potentially be one of their fathers. We're not sure of course without DNA evidence but for now it's only a theory.

Once I received the letters via text, I immediately realized something - this man was probably not Puerto Rican! And it wasn't the name that gave it away since I hadn't seen it at that point, but his spelling. I realized that his words in Spanish had mixtures of Portuguese and made common errors found amongst Portuguese speakers when translating into Spanish. So I was immediately intrigued as to who he was and what connection he had with my grandmother. I've transcribed the letters below and have placed them in chronological order for them to make the most sense. I haven't changed any spellings from the letters themselves. We also aren't sure how many are missing and where her written letters are as well, I imagine gone or in the possession on the other end! These letters will make 60 years next year!

Querida Carmen...

Letter #1: 

September 23, 1958 - New Bedford, Massachusetts 

Mi querida Carmen, 

Desejo de esta carta t'encuentre gozando salude junto a tu familia assim mismo como yo boy siempre bueno gracias a Dios. Bien Carmita estoy mucho alegre de recebir tu preciosa carta, que yo estoy loco tambien para encuentre contigo, talbies [tal vez] no seguinte semana boy tomar uno passeio para New York, quiere encontrar contigo para ablar contigo porque yo no puede explicar todas cosas por carta. Yo no boy olvidarte nunca porque yo amo te mucho Carmen. Bien recebi mi corazon cheio de amor e un beso com much recuerdo mi amorita. Ati encuentre querida. Tu Joao J. Graca

Letter #2:

September 30, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Mi mas querida Carmen, 

Desejo esta carta te encuentre gozando salude siempre junto a tu familias, que yo boy simpre bin gracia a Dios. Bien yo recebi tu carta que yo fico mucho alegre. Amosita por hora estoy em Philadelphia para embarcar, que yo estoy mas pierto [cerca] New York e mas pierto de tu, bien por caso que yo no embacar até esta fim de semana yo boy para New York. Carmen mi amor yo no puede esperar até cuando puede encontrar contigo quiere te mucho Amosi[ta]... missing words

Letter #3: 

October 7, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Querida Amosita Carmen, 

Com todo mi coraçon que estoy escrebite esta dos palabras [liemia?] para saber de ... Carmen que quire a Dios tencuentre de salude junto a tu nino e mas familias todas. Yo boy siempre bin graça a Dios. Yo recebi tu carta que yo fico siempre alegre porque yo no quiere que ti me olvidar. Bien mi Carmita ainda por tiempo estoy por ca esperando por trabajo por hora vive em un Hotel esperando para un barco, cuando yo boy para o [barco?]...   missing words

Letter 4: 

No date (probably 1958) - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Desejo que tu esta de mejor tu disse no carta passado que tu estaba enferma. Desejo que tu guta de America dice-me no outro carta se te guta de New York. Se yo ves Mario yo lo dise o que selodise. Bien Amosita te puede mi escribir para esta adress ma no estoy sierto se boy estar aqui, ate cuando boy em barco. Yo boy mandar te mi adress de certeza, bien esta adress 

Joao J. Graca
822 N. Broad St. 
N.M.V. Hall
Philadelphia, PA 

Bien recebi un abraso mucho pertado e um beso de tudo mi coraçon. Siempre para tu y siempre com amor. Joao J. Graca 

Hints and Theories

There are a few things that I can easily learn from these letters received by my grandmother:

  • By September 1958 my grandmother was somehow in New York. Not sure with who and under what conditions, but she apparently was here exchanging letters with Joao. From what I've heard she had an uncle who lived in New York around that time so she might have been with him! Joao was aware also of my grandmother's child who was born that same year, from stories I've heard I know my great grandmother did a lot to help out my grandmother with raising her first two children since she was young, so odds are he was in Puerto Rico with my great grandmother and not in New York with my grandmother. 
  • Joao and my grandmother seemed to have had a summer loving, quick fling kind and he was heads over heels for my grandmother... not sure if my grandmother felt the same way since these letters are only one side of the story. The question then becomes, how did they meet? In New York or Puerto Rico? There was also a lot to be discussed between the two since Joao mentions meeting in person and talking rather than over letters. Did they ever get to meet afterwards? 
  • Joao was probably stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia seeing as how he mentions "waiting for work on a boat". I'm not sure if New Bedford, Massachusetts is another stationed city or just a hometown? There's an actual address in Philadelphia to a "N.M.V. Hall" on 822 N. Broad Street. Doing some searches on Google and in some newspapers I couldn't find a mention of a N.M.V. but this little building seems to have hosted a music hall at one point. 

822 N. Broad a few years back [Google]

Circa 1910s, Philadelphia Conservatory of Music [Newspaper]

  • Joao was probably of Portuguese descendant. Based on the name and of the spellings of words in his Spanish such as coraçon > corazón, passado > pasado, graça > gracia, etc. His name Joao J. Graca should be spelled João J. Graça based off what I know of Portuguese. Based off of this information, I can think of three main places his family was from: Brazil, Portugal, or Cape Verde. I have heard of a big Lusophone population in Massachusetts, but now the question becomes, which is the right group? 
  • Who was Mario? My grandmother sent her greetings to someone named "Mario"? Was he a friend of Joao's? A brother or cousin? Where did my grandmother meet him? She must have known enough of him to send her regards in a letter. 
These new letters leave me probably with more questions than answers. Could Joao be alive today? Does he or his family remember Carmen and or have her letters as well from 1958? Could Joao be tied to my family via a son like my half-uncle? There is a lot to theorize and think about and so far the internet hasn't been too much of help. I've tried looking for "Joao J. Graca" both with the Portuguese and American spelling but I haven't come across much. Not knowing an age or place of origin means any and all Joaos can be an option. There are a few that seem promising, like one born in 1938 - just two years before my grandmother, but nothing is certain. 

Here's to hoping that someday more clues will begin to unravel to paint a clearer picture of my grandmother's life before I knew her as abuela

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Family Reunion… 57 years in the making!

I have been pretty quiet here lately since I have been away traveling around Europe (will post about that later) and especially now that I have started work, but I want to blog about something amazing that happened recently! Two weekends ago my dad got a chance to meet his half brother who was given up for adoption. So here's the story leading up to how this amazing reunion came to be… a family reunion 57 years in the making!


In May of 2016, I logged onto 23andme expecting nothing out of the ordinary on my accounts, but shortly realized that my father had a new member on his relative list… a half-brother. At first this was not too shocking since I grew up with a few half-uncles and half-aunts, but when I checked their haplogroups and realized that it was a maternal match and not a paternal match… I, and ultimately my family, was completely surprised. I knew my dad was 1 of 9 siblings and I grew up knowing about each of those siblings, but little did we know that my dad was actually 1 of 10! (the number is either 9 or 10 and I'll get into this debate in a bit which ties directly into this story).

Half-Brother Discovered [Personal Photo]

As you can see, directly after me the highest match my father has is his half-brother at 28.8% DNA shared across 58 segments. And a glance at their X-chromosome shows that they inherited a completely identical X from their mother through which they are related. Also, once I saw they both share the maternal haplogroup L2a1… I quickly knew that this match was through his mother as well.

Completely Identical X-Chromosome [Personal Photo]

When I broke the news to my dad he was a bit shocked. He knew of a half sister from his father's side and grew up with all of his maternal half-siblings… or so he thought. Our first reaction was to reach out to various family members. We called my grandfather, great-aunt, and a few uncles/aunts to see if anyone had any idea of an adoption in our family - specifically in regards to my grandmother. But to everyone's surprise, no one had known that my grandmother had had another child who would end up adopted. Because of the American name, I figured that this sibling was probably born in the USA and left for adoption there. We started to chronologically go through my grandmother's life listing major events and other children's birth years and I remembered hearing from my great-aunt that my grandmother had spent part of the 1950-1960s living in Florida working for a doctor as live-in help there. Could this half-uncle of mine be from Florida himself?

Sharing Maternal Haplogroups [Personal Photo]

I debated whether I should reach out first or give him some time to process this information and wait for his message. But then doubt set in, what if he never logs in again? What if he's not sure how to find/use relative finder? So I bit the bullet and sent him a message. The next day... I had a response! 

Getting to know Charles

As I had suspected, my new half-uncle had been born in 1960 and raised in Florida, which fits the narrative of my grandmother's time there. Though both parties were initially shocked, we chatted back and forth a bit sharing information and pictures of his mother, grandparents, and new half-siblings. We added each other on Facebook and knew we would try to remain in contact. As time passed, my family and I kept trying to dig in more into this unusual and unspoken adoption. 

The reason I say unusual is become Charles was neither the first born nor the last born of the bunch, Charles would be child 3 of 10 and my grandmother would go on to raise all of the children (we thought) she had given birth to. As our family kept thinking and coming up with new ideas, a story I had heard various times through my genealogy searches crept back into my head. 

My dad always told a story that my grandmother had lost a child right after childbirth. This child, a boy, was born alive and my grandmother held him on her chest. The nurses took him off to be cleaned up and that was the last my grandmother saw of him… he apparently had been declared dead shortly after. Hearing this story, I always figured that my dad was 1 of 9 (8 who made it to adulthood, and one who had died in infancy). I had searched for the records of the Civil Registry of Puerto Rico searching for a children born in the 1960-1970s to a Carmen María Vélez Avilés in San Juan, Puerto Rico but nothing was found. And then I began to wonder… could this "deceased child" be the same child who was given up for adoption? What's interesting is that after meeting Charles, he told us that he had been adopted shortly after his birth and that his mother who raised him was told that his bio-mom (my grandmother) had died giving birth to Charles. So as you can see... there is a lot of mystery surrounding this event in my grandmother's life. 

As my trip in Europe came to close, my mother wrote to me and told me that they were on vacation in Florida and my father wanted to meet his half-brother. I messaged back and forth between my parents and Charles and set on a date - Sunday at 2pm! I was excited and a bit jealous that I wasn't there myself to meet this new family member, but happy nonetheless that my family was reuniting with a piece we had no idea was missing. 

A family reunites 

The day of the meeting, my mom and I were in constant contact. Tu padre está nervioso… your dad's nervous she wrote. They were 30 minutes away and both my dad and his brother had texted each other that morning both excited and nervous of what was to come. A little past 2pm I got a FaceTime call from my mother… and on the other end was my newly acquired family members: a new uncle, aunt, and cousins! We chatted a bit and I was happy to see everything was going well - a genealogist's dream come true! 

Really it's thanks to 23andme that my father was able to meet his half brother, and thanks to my parents for testing which helped me with my genealogical journey. Though we had tested years ago (I initially testing around 2009-2010), you never know what your results will show and who they can help out as well throughout time! I am definitely happy that I was able to reunite my father to his brother via DNA!

Here are some pictures of their meeting. I am happy to say my parents got another chance to meet up with my uncle and his family before they left Florida. We are excited to see where our relationship goes next, whether meeting again in New York or hopefully having a chance to head to Puerto Rico for Charles to meet his other siblings and see places connected to his maternal heritage.

PS - Though our families were able to meet, there is still a lot to question about my grandmother's life. We have no idea what conditions or situation my grandmother was under to give up a child for adoption (whether on purpose or forcefully). However, we do know that my grandmother was a young single mother and only had her own mother at home and two siblings, seeing as how her father had died early on in her life. We aren't sure who Charles' father is and we are hoping that with DNA we will be able to find out about more his paternal side of the family and piece together more about this story. We can neither condemn nor forgive those of the past for the decisions they have had to make, especially when we are not in their shoes. Nonetheless, we are happy that though initially separated our families have been able to reunite through the power of DNA!

Brothers José and Charles reunited! [Personal Photo]

My parents and aunt meet their brother and his family [Personal Photo]

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Those Places Thursday – Salinas, Puerto Rico

Finally a prompt I can use on the actual day! This post is similar to Tuesday's prompt so I want to focus on a specific town I visited back in March 2015. One of the main towns I wanted to visit while I was in Puerto Rico was Salinas in the southern region of Puerto Rico. I mainly wanted to visit Salinas because my great grandfather Manuel Correa Rivera was from this town – who was a very hard line to crack! This was also the town my 4th great grandparents Jean Charles Gustave and Julienne Malvina Lautin settled in after reaching Puerto Rico through Vieques and traveling down the eastern coast. So I knew this town meant a lot to my family history and I wanted to set foot here.

My first stop in Salinas was the church which was located downtown. I stopped by to see the church where many of my ancestors had married and were baptized. While there, I started talking randomly to some people who were there setting up for an outside mass. The man had keys to the church so let me in to see this inside which was nice of him. He gave me a quick little tour giving me some information about the church and the parts that were recently renovated. I appreciated the fact that he took the time to give me this little tour though he had something else to do – Puerto Rican hospitality at its best!

Iglesia de Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]

Inside the church [Personal Photo]

Cuna del Mojo Isleño - Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]
My next stop was heading towards Playita or Playa, the area of Salinas I knew my family had last lived in. I knew distant family had owned a restaurant there named "Ladi's Place", so I headed there with the help of GPS to see if family still lived nearby. We parked the car and headed towards the water to get a view. It was amazing to see how close to the shore things were in this area of Salinas. Literally the ocean was the backyard to many families here!

As I stopped to take pictures we were approached by a woman selling lottery tickets. My grandmother decided to buy one and this is where my genealogical trip took a turn for the best! 

The ocean and mangroves [Personal Photo]

As my grandmother bought the ticket I worked up the courage to ask her if she knew of any "Correa" families living in the area. She stated that she herself was a Correa (from Río Jueyes… which is another area my family is from though she didn't want to engage me on her family history) and she pointed across the street and said that the man there was a Correa himself. I was excited because he was probably a cousin as well! We knocked on his door and he came out to speak to us – turns out he WAS a cousin! I think I scared him though when I started rattling off names and relations to his family and mine. He said that if I wanted to learn more, there was a cousin who would know more information about the family and that she was another cousin who lived down the street and was 100 years old. 

100, I thought?! I asked him for her name and was surprised when he said the name, as I already had her on my family tree with the help of census records! We walked over and knocked and luckily she was there! We were let in and we chatted about our family's connections, she showed us pictures, and talked about our family's origin in Salinas. Apparently our family had been one of the first families to arrive in Playa, Salinas, Puerto Rico and helped to settled the area. They had come from Coamo before that which was nice to hear because it is true on paper trail as well! She told me stories of how her father was referred to as "Monsieur" because of his mother's Martinican & Guadelupean mix; her father and my 2nd great grandfather were brothers! 

Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]

I was amazed to have met this family and yet kicking myself in the butt for not having a DNA kit with me at the time to see if she was willing to test!! Pro-Tip: Have at least one DNA kit with you as you travel just in case you meet distant family members willing to test! I'm hoping she's still alive and that I can write to them and send a letter over explaining my interest in getting her tested! I imagine her African percentages are higher than most Puerto Ricans seeing as how she is a descendant of slaves on various lines and fairly recently as well. Fingers-crossed she's alive and able/willing to do it! 

My family in Salinas were mainly fishermen and sugarcane workers while they lived there. This statue below is dedicated to those fishermen in Salinas who day-in and day-out worked in the waters to provide for their families. I'm glad I was able to take a picture of his statue while there. Here's to returning to Puerto Rico soon and returning to Salinas!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Travel Tuesday - Lares, Puerto Rico

Late again on this Travel Tuesday and pretty late seeing as how I took this trip last March but I wanted to highlight my quick trip to Lares, Puerto Rico.

Last year in March 2016, for Spring Break, I took a trip to Puerto Rico where I spent time with my grandmother both searching records across the island and visiting various towns where my ancestors had lived. Though my maternal grandmother's family is not from this town she was more than happy to join me on this journey. The drive to Lares was a little over 1 1/2 hours which isn't too bad though most on the island might feel differently since travel is so subjective especially on such a small island.

Drive from San Juan to Lares, Puerto Rico [Google Maps]

Growing up I had heard a lot about Lares, it was the town of my grandmother's mother Rosalia Avilés González who I had the luck of meeting very young in Lares, though I didn't remember much about the trip except her face and taking pictures with her. This is also the town of José Avilés Magraner, one of my ancestors whose story started this genealogy journey. He was the ancestor who was said to be the product of a Spanish man and an indigenous woman, and 13 years on this journey has brought me to understand that his father was actually a Spanish man though his mother was most definitely a mix of typical Puerto Rican genes and not just a Taíno woman as family lore told. 

So needless to say, I was very excited about visiting Lares. 

My Journey to Lares

My Great Grandmother - Rosa Avilés [Personal Photo]

My journey to Lares started not from San Juan but actually in Utuado, since I was there searching for land records for Lares, I actually had to go to Utuado where the records where physically held. Luckily, I was able to find information about Jose's land in Lares and who it went to once he died. I spent most of the day in Utuado searching and then headed over to Lares for a quick stint and sadly didn't have enough time to go to Río Prieto where my distant family lives. Since it was late we didn't want to get caught climbing the various mountainous roads and hills in the dark especially since I wasn't an experienced driver on the roads of Puerto Rico. Most of the things on my trip were easy to find with the help of GPS, though I was told Río Prieto was a whole another beast to handle.

Center Plaza of Lares [Personal Photo]

Most of our time was spent downtown in Lares' center since we didn't want to venture too far off. We walked around the plaza named after El Grito de Lares also known as the Lares Revolt or Uprising which began in September of 1868. In the plaza you can see Lares' main catholic church, the one many of my ancestors were probably baptized and married at. 

Parroquia San José [Personal Photo]

Lares' flag is very synonymous with the Grito de Lares and is very proudly displayed in many parts of the town. We ended up going to one of the heladerías near the main square since the main heladería that was popular for selling interesting flavors was shut down. We got some ice-cream and then walked around the little shops checking out souvenirs. I ended up buying a Lares flag and after chatting with the cashier, we found out that the lady who worked in the shop with her sister actually lived very close to where my grandmother lived in San Juan. 

Bandera de Lares [Puerto Rico]

Steep streets of Lares [Personal Photo]

After that we got in the car and headed back towards San Juan since we didn't want to be out too late and we had already spent most of the day sitting in an office checking old records. It was nice seeing the main part of Lares and my goal next time is to make it up to Río Prieto. We still have family members who live there and own land and they hold various events throughout the year, some around the Christmas/Three Kings' Day celebrations which I would love to be able to attend and actually get to meet many of them. 

It's definitely a town that our family goes back to constantly throughout the year and I'm always a bit jealous when I see my cousins or aunts/uncles head that way but here's to hopefully that I'll be able to join them sooner rather than later. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Puerto Rican Look at: Genetic Communities

Now that I'm on summer vacation I hope I can get some more posts out -- especially since I'll be traveling and doing some research as well! I want to dedicate this post to the Genetic Communities aspect of AncestryDNA that was recently released.

This new feature of AncestryDNA is currently listed as "beta" meaning there are some kinks that will probably still be worked out. Though for me it does give me a generally accurate genetic community, I've noticed that it's not available to all - for example: a co-workers Panamanian husband does not currently have a genetic community listed for him.

Currently, I am listed as a part of 1 genetic community - let's take a look at what that means!

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities [Personal Photo]

What are Genetic Communities?
AncestryDNA describes Genetic Communities as the following: 

Genetic Communities [AncestryDNA]

When you click on your genetic community it takes you to your Genetic Ancestry page and now on the left corner towards the bottom you can see your genetic community. I was expecting my community to be something along the lines of Caribbean/Hispanic/Latino/etc. but it actually gets most in-depth than that. 

"Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico"

It was able to group with "Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico". 

"Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico" Community [Personal Photo]

Genetic Community Grouping [Personal Photo]

I'm kind of torn with this grouping for various reasons. Something that's really cool about this grouping is that it gives you an overall history of the genetic community, and if you were raised outside that community it's a cool way of getting an overview of where your ancestors are from. For me, having done genealogy now for 13 years I can safely say that most of my family is spread ALL over the island and not just the west. Both of my parent's sides come from various towns across the islands, for example: my Rivera side has lived in in Toa Alta (more towards the East) for over 300 years and my maternal Correa side has traveled from San Juan to Coamo and finally to Salinas over the same time period. However, other sides do come from Lares, Adjuntas, Utuado (central), and some from San Sebastián, Mayagüez, Quebradillas (more western towns). However, shouldn't I belong to both West and East Genetic Communities? 

You are able to see all the other genetic communities they currently have listed in AncestryDNA. If you head into the South & Central American cluster you can find a Caribbean cluster that list three regions: 1) "African Caribbean", 2) "Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans", and 3) "Puerto Ricans". 

All Genetic Communities [Personal Photo]

Caribbean Regions [Personal Photo]

As you can see under "Puerto Ricans" there are 3 Genetic Communities, though when I click on it I'm led straight to my community rather than the various others. I'm not sure if there are other actual regions to Puerto Rico, especially since it's such a small island. I can't see my DNA cousins' Genetic communities so I can't investigate from there as well. 

Final Thoughts

Nonetheless, it's super interesting to see how AncestryDNA is developing this new area of DNA/Genetic genealogy. I'm guessing that this feature will continue to grow from the better and will ultimately be able to point more granular regions (maybe harder for places like Puerto Rico vs. countries like Spain, though). I wonder if my parents or other family members would have different regions show up. For example, I have Martinican and Guadeloupean ancestry… will that pop up for other cousins? 

Excited to see where this will take us genealogists in the future! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Puerto Rico Catholic Church Records - Uploaded!

So the day has finally come where FamilySearch has uploaded more of the church records for Puerto Rico!! I am super excited because this means that I can now search these records from home instead of having to order the microfilm, go into the city, and reserve a computer to see the records. Though it isn't that bad, it's still very time consuming and sometimes it's super difficult to get into the city and go at the times they are open. So how do I find these records, you ask?

If you enter into the typical "Catholic Church Records" you'll notice that the number is still at 191, 547 images which is the number it has always been but there is another way to find the record. I imagine one day these new files will be uploaded or attached to this tab but for now you will have to go another way.

FamilySearch Catalogs section [FamilySearch]

In order to find these records you have to enter the "Catalog" tab on the FamilySearch website. From there, you will find on the left hand corner the "place" tab. If you enter a town for example like "Yabucoa" you will notice there will be two mentions. One is "Puerto Rico, Yabucoa" and the other is "Puerto Rico, Yabucoa, Yabucoa". The former is the link to the Puerto Rican Civil Registry while the latter is the link to the Puerto Rican Catholic Church records. When you click on the second one you will be taken to another page. Notice that not all churches will appear for all towns in Puerto Rico, there are some towns that refused to be microfilmed which fell under the decision of the Archdiocese of that section. So towns like San Sebastián, Mayagüez, Añasco, Quebradillas, etc. will not appear here because the LDS church was not allowed to microfilm their church records.

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico Catholic Church records [FamilySearch]

Once you have clicked on the Catholic Church tab you will be taken to the different records available for that church and town. Notice here that there are various records for Yabucoa such as nacimientos (births), matrimonios (marriages), and defunciones (deaths). On the right hand side you will see a column called "format" and various camera icons. The camera means that the records are available for searching online. Once you click on the camera you will be taken to the regular search pages of FamilySearch, for example below you will see what pops up: 

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico Catholic Church records [FamilySearch]

Many of the churches around this time do not have indexes for the records and the conditions really vary as well as other variables like handwriting, page/name visibility, etc. Some churches are much easier to peruse while others will take some time figuring out. For example, Yauco's records are very clear to read for the most part, but other churches have damaged pages which makes reading a huge issue. 

This part of the search will be the longest since you will have to search most pages one by one for the ancestor you are looking for. It is good to have year estimates for the ancestor you have in mind or even "windows" of time for hen that person was born, married, or died. So far I have been able to find a few marriage records for ancestors in Maunabo as well as some baptism records in Yauco for other ancestors. These records have taken these branches back to the 1700s on my family tree which is pretty awesome! 

Good luck to all of those interested in searching! 
Happy Hunting [Google]