Sunday, April 13, 2014

52 Ancestors – #15 Joseph de Rivera

I write today about my oldest male ancestor from whom I inherited the surname Rivera, my 4th great grandfather. I don't know too much about him, so I'll just add what I do know and see where it goes from there!

When I first began my research at the age of 14 (yup, I was that young when I really started my searches), there were a few goals I had in mind. I wanted to: 1) Find out my families ethnic backgrounds, 2) Find ancestors that traced back to Spain, and 3) Find the origins of my last name. I don't know if every genealogist goes through this or if it's more common amongst the male genealogists, but I wanted to know where my Rivera last name came from. Especially since I could and hopefully one day will pass this surname to my children, I wanted to know what it meant to be a Rivera descendant. The surname I carry everyday and identify myself with - the surname I sign on all my documents.

Don't get me wrong, I love both of my parents' surnames and definitely revere my mother's, but being born in the USA and only carrying one instead of both made me think a lot more about Rivera. When I started my search, it was definitely hard. Rivera is one, if not the #1, of the most common surnames in Puerto Rico. I had absolutely no idea where the name came from within Puerto Rico and only knew that my grandfather was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. One genealogy-altering conversation with my aunt revealed to me that my great grandfather was born in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and from there the family would begin to unravel itself.

Toa Alta, Puerto Rico [Google]


My Rivera ancestors have been in Toa Alta for about 150 years from what my research has shown. My great-aunt herself was born in Toa Alta and I imagine we still have distant cousins and family members there. With the help of the Toa Alta Civil Registry records as well as church records, I have been able to trace my surname back to a Joseph de Rivera. Equally, my Toa Alta family has lived through most of the municipality in the barrios of Río Lajas, Quebrada Arenas, Galateo and Quebrada Cruz (all on the Western side of Toa Alta).


Iglesia San Fernando Rey, Toa Alta, Puerto Rico [Geonorte Blog]
Joseph de Rivera (also written as José de Rivera), was probably born in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico himself. Based on the age of his earliest born child, Francisco Rivera Román born in 1806, it is likely that Joseph was born about the late 1770-mid 1780s. I have been able to find the baptism records for 9 of Joseph's children, and I'm pretty sure that's all of them. Joseph's wife was named Getrudis Román, also probably a native of Toa Alta. Since I haven't been able to find a death certificate for Joseph I can't tell whether he would have been categorized as blanco or mulato/pardo.

Gertrudis on the other hand passed away on the 29th of December 1844 and was written down as parda libre on her death record. Parda libre from my understanding was a term used for mixed people who were never enslaved in Puerto Rico. This would mean that Gertrudis was born and lived free while in Toa Alta; however there is some debate to what the actual mix of "pardo/parda" really is. Some argue that a person labeled as pardo/parda would have been mixed between Spanish and native Taíno, yet some argue that the term was synonymous with mulato/mulata and would have meant the mix of a Taíno and an African. Since many people at this time were all about keeping lines as pure as possible (not all families were of course), I tend to lean towards the first meaning of pardo. I imagine that Gertrudis could have been a mixed Puerto Rican for at least 2-3 generations if her parents arrived on the earliest boats to the island.

Toa Alta for me now means a lot. Growing up I had never heard of the town, despite it being so close to San Juan, I had no idea what "Toa Alta" was. I knew of towns such as Yabucoa, Lares, Manatí, and Vega Baja because we had family who had recently moved from these areas into San Juan. Yet because I didn't know my grandfather or his family I had no idea that we had ancestors from Toa Alta and from Corozal (a neighboring town of Toa Alta). Who knew that I had ancestors living in this town for close to 150 years and potentially some of the first settlers in this town as well.

Flag of Toa Alta, Puerto Rico [Google]


Emblem of Toa Alta "Non Deserit Alta" [Google]
I really hope to one day visit Toa Alta! In all the times I have been to Puerto Rico I have never visited this town - I have however been to Toa Baja which isn't too far off. The town is one of the oldest coastal towns of Puerto Rico being founded in 1751 and the church began its construction in 1752, who knows if Joseph or a brother/sister or maybe even parent was one of the first of their family to be baptized or married in this church. I also wonder how my Rivera family made its way into Toa Alta, being that they stayed on the western side of Toa Alta could they have moved in from Vega Alta or down from Dorado?


Like I previously mentioned, I don't know if Joseph de Rivera would have been categorized as blanco or pardo but with the help of my Y-DNA I can definitely take a guess as to which category he would fit into. When I took the 23andme test for myself, these were one of the results I was most excited for - the haplogroup of my paternal lineage. I would get a genetic glimpse into the origins of my paternal line, predating many current borders and even surname traditions. I was able to discover that my paternal haplogroup is a European group known as I2a1* commonly found in parts of Eastern and Southern Europe which definitely surprised me. But my specific group, I2a1*, has a bit of a different place of origin- up in the Pyrenees between present-day Spain and France.

Haplogroup I2a1* [23andme]

Origins of the branch I2a1 [23andme]

It is interesting to think that potentially Joseph de Rivera's father, grandfather or even great grandfather could have immigrated from this area and my guess most likely Spain. The origin of the surname "Rivera" is apparently a person who has lived by the riverbank, could that possibly be how we got our surname in Spain? It is very exciting being connected to a man born about 200 years before me who passed down his surname and haplogroup to me. I can't wait to discover more about Joseph and his origins, maybe I'll be able to trace my Riveras to a town/place outside of Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

52 Ancestors – #14 Julienne Malvina Lautin (1844-1897)

I know I have talked plenty about this ancestress but I love talking about her and she definitely deserves a spot in my 52 Ancestors Challenge! This ancestor is my 4th great grandmother, Julienne Malvina Lautin- a woman who was born a slave, later freed, and immigrated to another country with another culture and language. Even though we are separated by many years and generations, she is one ancestor I would have loved to get to know, if given the chance!

Rivière Salée, Martinique [Wikipedia]

Discovering Julienne Malvina Lautin definitely took a while! I've posted about her many a times before, pre- and post-discovery when all of the clues were beginning to unravel. Julienne Malvina Lautin was born on the 6th of February 1844 in Rivière Salée, section of Trois Bourgs in Martinique. Julienne was born a slave on a sugar plantation owned by a family named "Lapierre". She lived there for a good portion of her childhood, even after her emancipation. Julienne was labeled "negrésse" on her birth record which means that both of her parents were slaves, her father we have no idea who he is yet and her mother was Eglantine, a native of Africa.

Julienne Malvina Lautin, Birth Record, 1844 [ANOM]

Julienne was the oldest child of Eglantine and one of four. Her siblings were Pauline, Jean, Rose and Marie. Her sister Pauline passed away at the age of 8 which I imagine was hard for Julienne since they were so close in age. My 3rd great grandmother would receive the name María Paulina and I'm pretty sure it was in honor of her Pauline. I'm not sure if any of Julienne's sisters or brothers traveled outside of Martinique as well, but it is very possible. When Julienne left Martinique her mother was still alive as well as 3 out of her 4 siblings, I imagine it must have been very difficult leaving her family behind!

In 1848, when Julienne was 4 years old she and mother along with Pauline attained their freedom from slavery. This is when they received the last name "Lautin", which was not their slave owner's surname. I've talked about before how surnames were given to slaves after their emancipation, and mostly these names were given at random.

I ask myself a lot of questions about Julienne's life. Did she speak French to her children in Puerto Rico? Did she ever learn Spanish while living in Puerto Rico? How did she pay for her voyage to Puerto Rico from Martinique? Where did she meet her husband? Did she find the transition from French-cultured Martinique to Spanish-cultured Puerto Rico difficult?

As you can see, this is why I would have loved to meet Julienne. I would ask her all these questions and more, we would sit and chat about life, its subtle differences in various cultures and about her thoughts. From the research I've conducted so far, it seems that Julienne's health and sanity began to deteriorate not much after the birth of her first grandchild. Julienne seems to have moved from Salinas to Ponce and if my research is correct she passed away in Ponce in an insane asylum recorded as "Julia Juliana, Ynglesa (English)".

I plan to one day visit Martinique and walk around Rivière Salée and sit down and really think about Julienne's sacrifices and how generations and years later because of her voyage (as well as Gustave Jean-Charles), I am able to learn about their/our past and my history.

Merci Julienne, pour toutes les choses que tu as fait dans ta vie. 
Gracias Julienne, pour todas las cosas que has hecho en tu vida. 
Thank you Julienne, for all the things you have done in your life. 

Mwen ka rimèsié'w anlo.
Mèsi. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

52 Ancestors – #13 Juan Calderón Nazario (1829-1889)

Today I want to focus on my 4th great grandfather Juan Calderón Nazario, a native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico and the father of my 3rd great grandfather Augustin Calderón Meléndez. But the story gets interesting here!

Juan Calderón Nazario according to his death certificate was born about 1829 and the legitimate son of Juan Calderón and Concepción Nazario both natives of Vega Baja and deceased by the time Juan passed away.

Vega Baja, Puerto Rico [Google]

Juan Calderón was never married to my 4th great grandmother according to all the records I have found. Cresencia Meléndez always appears as single in her records and never really mentioned with Juan Calderón. My 3rd great grandfather went on to pass the surname "Meléndez" to his children rather than "Calderón" and so my great grandfather ended up becoming Meléndez. Juan Calderón never appeared on a census record and I don't have access to Vega Baja's church records so I had to rely on the information of his children and grandchildren to truly find out if he was their father/grandfather.

Here on the 1910 Census we see my 3rd great grandfather along with two his brothers living in Manatí, a town to the west of Vega Baja and carrying the surnames "Calderón Meléndez". I know this is my 3rd great grandfather because the wife is Ana Morán and my 2nd great grandfather José Meléndez Morán is listed as one of the children. 

Calderón Meléndez Brothers, 1910, Manatí, Puerto Rico [FamilySearch]

Since all of Juan Calderón's children were born before 1885, I can't find their birth records but I can look at this children's and nephews'/nieces' birth records to find Juan Calderón. Here is an example of Agustin and Ana's daughter carrying the surnames Meléndez Morán rather than Calderón Morán. 

María Luisa Meléndez Morán, Death Record, 1893 [FamilySearch]
Agustin's brother, Victoriano, however did use the surname Calderón for a good portion of his life. In 1897 Victoriano married his wife Raimunda González Rodríguez and we can see that he used the surnames "Calderón Meléndez" and listed his parents as Juan Calderón and Crescencia Meléndez. Also, when his daughter was born in 1918, she took the surname Calderón González. 

Victoriano Calderón Meléndez, Marriage Index, 1897 [FamilySearch]

Victoriano, son of Juan and Crescencia, Marriage, 1897 [FamilySearch]

Deogracia Calderón González, Daughter of Victoriano, 1918 [FamilySearch]

I'm not sure if there are descendants of Juan Calderón who still carry the surname "Calderón" rather than Meléndez, it seems that many of them switched over to Meléndez even if they began with Calderón. Something interesting about this Calderón paternal line is that the paternal haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a2f*, which is commonly found in Ireland, the Basque country, Britain and France. It makes me wonder where Juan Calderón Nazario's paternal lineage is from. Hopefully one day I'll be able to trace this line further with the help of Vega Baja church records!

R1b1b2a1a2f*, Calderón Haplogroup [23andme]

Saturday, April 5, 2014

52 Ancestors – #12 Estefania Marrero Rivera (1809-1890)

After a two week hiatus, I'm back and ready to continue my 52 Ancestor series- which means I have to catch up on past posts I missed. Today I will focus on ancestor #12, a paternal ancestor named Estefania Marrero Rivera (my 5th great grandmother).

Puerto Rican Records [FamilySearch]

When I first learned about the Puerto Rican Civil Registry on FamilySearch I was super excited to extend my branches further back than what the census records had allowed me. When suddenly some of the church records became available I was über excited because it meant I could potentially push the branches even further. I descend from Estefania Marrero Rivera through my great grandmother, Mercedes Marrero Ortiz, who I had previously written about. Here is my line from Mercedes to my 5th great grandmother.

Mercedes Marrero Ortiz --> Antonia Marrero Marrero (mother) --> Juan Marrero Rivera (grandfather) --> Bartolo Marrero (great grandfather) --> Estefania Marrero Rivera (2nd great grandmother)

My great grandmother would have never gotten the chance to meet Estefania but she might have heard stories of her 2nd great grandmother through her own grandfather Juan or even her great grandfather Bartolo who lived up until 1917 (Mercedes would have been around 13 years old at the time of his passing).

As you might remember, Mercedes my great grandmother was from a town called Corozal, Puerto Rico. Her mother, grandfather, and great grandfather were all born in Corozal as well. The family spent their years mostly living between the barrios of Palos Blancos and Palmajero in Corozal. Yet Estefania Marrero Rivera was born in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico- a neighboring town of Corozal to the north-east.

Corozal, Puerto Rico [Google]


Flag of Corozal, PR [Wikipedia]

When you take a look at Corozal's history, you realize that Corozal was founded in 1795 and officially became a town in 1804. Before Corozal became the town we know it as today, many of the lands were part of Toa Alta. Meaning that my Marrero family could have been some of the first families to help populate the newly formed town of Corozal in the early 19th century. Estefania was for a long time the oldest ancestor I had been able to track down with a paper trail due to Toa Alta's church records being readily available online. Look at the record below! This is Estefania's baptism record in the year 1809 in the town of Toa Alta, how I was able to finally break apart and understand this document I will never know! The ink is badly smudged and the words are barely legible, but her entry is on the right hand side, the fourth one down.

Estefania Marrero Rivera- Baptism [FamilySearch]

According to her baptism record Estefania was born on the 3rd of August 1809 in Toa Alta. Her godparents were Lucas Marrero and Catalina Rivera which I'm wondering are an uncle and aunt for both sides of her family since her parents' names are Juan de Dios Marrero and Rosa de Rivera. Estefania was one of five children potentially being the youngest or second to youngest of the bunch. Estefania's parents I think were well known and established in the town of Toa Alta, they were godparents to various children that from my knowledge are not related to me. See below for an example!

Padrinos: Juan de Dios Marrero and Rosa Rivera [FamilySearch]

I also have a theory that Estefania's parents might have been slave owners! Various documents show slaves being baptized and owned by a "Rosa Rivera/Rosa de Rivera" and sometimes "Juan de Dios Marrero", however they never appear together. Here is an example of a slave being confirmed, notice that the slave belongs to Rosa de Rivera and the godmother of the slave was (drumroll please) Catalina Rivera!!

Teresa, slave of Rosa de Rivera [FamilySearch]

Estefania at some point would move to Corozal since all of her children seem to have been born there. Her first child and my 4th great grandfather Bartolo Marrero was born circa 1828 which would mean that Estefania probably moved in her early/late teenage years. No father was listed for her children so all of them took on the name "Marrero" which should have been their maternal name and not passed down, had Estefania gotten married to the father of the children my great grandmother would have been Mercedes Ortiz (insert other Spanish name!). Crazy how certain circumstances can change a family's line. In total, Estefania had five children: Bartolo, Elena, Francisco, and Olivia and all of them lived long lives in Corozal. Estefania passed away in Dos Bocas, Corozal, Puerto Rico from chronic dysentery on the 31st of January 1890.

I wonder if Estefania is related to my 4th great grandfather Juan/José Monserrate Marrero, who is also from the Corozal/Toa Alta area. He would have been born in the early-mid 1800s so he could have been a cousin to Estefania. Only time will tell, hopefully I'll be able to see records from Corozal's church one day!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Time to Play Catch Up!

I have been away the last two weeks of this month on spring break and being in China and South Korea definitely did not allow me the time to write about my ancestors and work on my blog. So now I have some catching up to do! I have to post two new posts for the 52 Ancestor Challenge and write hopefully another about finding a new cousin! I also have some reaching out to do, messages to answer and some more (of course) genealogy work to do.

Until then here are some pictures you can enjoy from my 2 week trip to Asia!

上海,中国 (Shanghai, China)

昆明,中国 (Kunming, China)

北京,中国 (Beijing, China)

北京,中国 (Beijing, China)

서울,대한민국 (Seoul, South Korea)

부산,대한민국 ( Busan, South Korea)

Friday, March 14, 2014

52 Ancestors – #11 José de León Correa Carcaño (1778?-18??)

Today's ancestor is a maternal ancestor who I'm kind of stuck on and would love to learn more about! He is my 5th great grandfather and his name is José de León Correa Carcaño.


This ancestor is the earliest documented "Correa" on my family tree so far. Growing up, I was aware of my Correa family as it would have been my 2nd last name had I been born in Puerto Rico, yet I was unaware of the family's origin. I have written previously about this family and all of the information and even misinformation I had on them. Luckily, I was able to crack my Correa brick wall and learn more about my maternal family.

José de León Correa Carcaño was born about 1778 in San Juan, Puerto Rico to his parents Juan Francisco Correa and María Eugenia Carcaño. As you can see, José was born a long time ago and thus would not appear on any census records. So I must rely on church records in order to find out more about my ancestors. José's son and my 4th great grandfather was named Juan Nepomucino Correa Rodríguez and according to records he was born in Coamo yet he lived and passed away in Salinas, Puerto Rico in 1883 – he is the first generation of Salinas inhabitants of the Correas. As you can see we are dealing now with three different towns: San Juan, Coamo and Salinas. This Correa family moved around pretty quickly, within two generations they had covered three towns and finally settled in Salinas probably around the mid-1800s.

San Juan – Coamo – Salinas [Google Maps]


José de León had two marriages and both occurred in Coamo, PR. I was fortunate and lucky to use the microfilms from Coamo in order to try and find José's marriages. Jose's first marriage in 1809 was to Rosa Ortiz, a illegitimate daughter of Luisa Ortiz, both natives of Coamo. With Rosa, to date, I know that José had four children: Antonio, María, Maximo and Juana. 10 year after his first marriage, José married my 5th great grandmother María de la Cruz Rodríguez Ruiz – they married on the 21st of November in 1819 in Coamo, Puerto Rico. Since they lived in Coamo, they most likely married in the Church of San Blás de Illescas, which began construction in 1661 making it one of the oldest churches on the island.

San Blás de Illescas, Coamo, Puerto Rico [Wikipedia]

I'm not sure however of where or when José de León passed away. It is very possible that José moved to Salinas with his son and died there, but it would have to have happened before 1885 as I've checked the books after that year Or possibly José stayed in Coamo and lived out the rest of his life there; I also don't know where my 5th great grandmother María de la Cruz passed away. I'll have to order the church records from Salinas and Coamo again to search and see if I can find their death records. María de la Cruz was the daughter of Sebastián Rodríguez Rodríguez and María de Gracia Ruiz Sánchez, and it seems that both her parents and grandparents were from Coamo as well. Coamo was founded in 1579 and who knows how long my family had lived there! Salinas on the other hand wasn't founded until 1851!

Coamo, Puerto Rico [Google]

What's interesting is that my Correa line's Y-DNA is J1/J1e. This group can commonly be found in the Middle Eastern area which to me is super interesting. What's interesting is that Correa is commonly referred to as a Sephardic Jewish surname and there are males with a J1e paternal haplogroup who are Jewish. Could my male ancestor originally have fled Spain during or after the inquisition? Or was he a male that arrived in Spain from Africa via the Muslim Conquest? So far these are two possible theories, until I can truly document my Correa males with a paper trail or take a more in-depth Y-DNA test I'll have to settle for the hypotheses I have so far.

Haplogroup J1 Frequency [Eupedia]

Hopefully, I'll be able to find out who José de León's grandparents were and hopefully get a step closer to learning more about my Correa family origin. I haven't come across too many Correas in my life (besides my family) and/or in my genealogical search so hopefully finding them in documents will be easy peasy! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

52 Ancestors – #10 Hernán Pérez (1508-1581)

Post #10 already!! Today's ancestor I want to focus on I've talked a little bit about but in a different aspect. I've talked about his origins in my post "Travel Tuesday: Oh The Place I'll Go". This post will discuss more about my 11th great grandfather Hernán Pérez.

I would have NEVER imagined that by the age of 23 I would be able to say that I have reached far back to an 11th great grandfather. This, of course, was with the help of genealogists who have come before me and have complied a lot of this information. Hernán Pérez is a paternal ancestor who I connect to via my Sepúlveda line, I imagine I have a good number of distant cousins through Hernán seeing as how he is so far back the lines most extend so much outwards from him. So let's get started talking about Hernán!

Hernán Pérez, 11th great grandfather [Ancestry.com]

Hernán Pérez was born about 1508 in the town of Almonte, Huelva, Andalucía, España. That's roughly 482 years between his birth and mine! Almonte as I mentioned in my Travel Tuesday post is a southern city in Spain located in the Andalucia region. Hernán's parents Alonso de Lepe and Catalina de Pérez were most likely also from Almonte and were born in the 1490s. It's very interesting to think about my family in Spain at this time seeing as how this was when Christopher Columbus was around and Jews/Muslims were being told they had to leave Spain. What's interesting about Hernán's paternal side of the family is that it seems they were explores/conquistadores. His uncle, Hernando de Lepe seems to have arrived in 1513 with his brother Alonso de Lepe (my 12th great grandfather) to Americas. There is another record for a Hernando de Lepe traveling in 1565 to Puerto Rico with his wife Juana Díaz and listed as son of Diego, who is also my 13th great grandfather. Could have Hernando traveled back and forth for a bit before deciding to settle in Puerto Rico? My 12th great grandparents moved to Puerto Rico as well (Alonso de Lepe and Catalina Pérez), but what would have made them come to PR? Easily we can say that Hernán was looking for a better life and a new one but what about Alonso and Catalina? Were they Jews who feared the consequences of being discovered? Or were they simply adventurous and looking for a life away from boring, old Almonte? Hopefully I'll be able to find some information about their voyage here and place it into some historical context.

According to various sources and books, Hernán Pérez lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico and worked as an escribano which could mean notary or scribe. Here is a reference from the book Siglo en Blanco about Hernán Pérez and his arrival to Puerto Rico in 1540. It mentions that by marrying María del Rincón (my 11th great grandmother), Hernán was able to ascend the social ladder quickly seeing as how María's was a part of a influential and old well established family in Puerto Rico.

Siglo en Blanco [Google Books]

According to this book, it also seems that "Hernán Pérez arrived in Puerto Rico to answer a petition placed by his uncle who was also a scribe named Alonso de Molina. It states that the next year Alonso transferred his lucrative business in San Juan to Hernán as well as marrying off his step-daughter María del Rincón to him. According to various witnesses, 'their marriage was one of the richest marriages that there was on the island.' The dowry of his wife was large and included, 'more than 100,000 pesos in hacienda, slaves, estancias, jewelry…" this allowed Pérez to ascend the social ladder quickly". [My translation]

So it seems that Hernán had a lot to look forward to in Puerto Rico, I'm not sure if he was aware that a wife would be included in the offer but he probably certainly knew that a job was ready for him upon his arrival. I have a copy of Siglo en Blanco and definitely plan to read it as it'll give me more details in not only Hernán's life but also Puerto Rican life in those times. Paternally, Hernán came from a very interesting family because like I had mentioned his uncle and grandfather was a traveler and probably conquistador. His grandfather, Diego de Lepe, according to various sources had traveled to Brazil/South American coast between 1499-1500. Is this why Hernán Pérez himself and his parents traveled to Puerto Rico, knowing that there were more opportunities for them abroad than in Spain? 

Hopefully I'll be able to go to Almonte and see the town and hopefully learn more about Hernán Pérez and his family. I'm sure I'm walk by one of that family's descendants, a distant cousin, and have no idea they are related to me. As we probably do every day of our lives (depending on where we live)! 

According to a few sources (which I'm blanking on right now), Hernán Pérez passed away the 27th of December 1581 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His daughter, Ana del Rincón, is my 10th great grandmother and she is who ties into the Sepúlveda family. Ana might have been one of the last children to be born seeing as how her birth year is listed around 1580. 

I hope to learn more about Hernán Pérez, his travels to Puerto Rico, and his life back in Almonte!