Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Travel Tuesday - Maunabo, Puerto Rico

So they say time flies when you're having fun, right? That's also VERY true for being busy with work. One day I'm back from Spring Break and before I know it it's one day short of June! It's been part laziness and part tiredness that I've been disconnected from this blog, which I hate because I love genealogy so much. But enough excuses -- here's another Travel Tuesday post!

While in Puerto Rico another town I got to visit was the town of Maunabo on the southeastern coast of the island. My 2nd great grandfather's (Pedro Dávila Ruiz) family was from this town so I knew I had to stop when I visited Yabucoa. Even though my family is not from the barrio of Emajagua I decided to visit since it was right across the border near to where I was and I knew the Punta Tuna was there which had a nice view out to the ocean, thanks to my cousin who had recently visited! I didn't mind visiting because even though I wasn't visiting the actual barrio my family lived in, I was just happy stepping onto Maunabo land!

Maunabo, Puerto Rico [Google Images]

Maunabo, Puerto Rico barrios [Google Images]

The drive over from Yabucoa was fine but the weather seemed to get a bit worse as the clouds came in. Luckily the rain held while we toured the lighthouse and we caught it on the way back to San Juan. 

Maunabo, PR - looking toward Punta Tuna [Personal Photo] 

Maunabo, PR - looking toward Punta Tuna [Personal Photo]

The view towards the lighthouse and from it was amazing, just looking at into the water was so nice and hearing the waves and having the wind in my hair. The lighthouse surprisingly was free, you just had to sign up - so after my grandmother and I signed in we walked around quickly with the rain clouds on our tail. 

Maunabo, PR [Personal Photo]

Maunabo, PR [Personal Photo]

Punta Tuna - Maunabo, PR [Personal Photo]

Maunabo, PR [Personal Photo]

On the way back we drove through Yabucoa and stopped at a little kiosk to grab some food and luckily catch a view down the coast. Interestingly enough it hadn't rain up here even though it poured a few miles back -- one of the weird things about Puerto Rico I never seem to get used to! 

Stopping to catch a view! [Personal Photo]

Maunabo is definitely a town I want to visit again and actually go to the barrio my ancestors lived in. Our family had lived in this town dating back to the mid-1700s so we definitely have roots here! It seems like a nice quaint town and you can still see its agricultural roots are still fairly present throughout it. 

Down the coast [Personal Photo]

I'll end this post with a cool panoramic shoot I took of the beach off the coast of Punta Tuna! 

Maunabo, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Travel Tuesday- Yabucoa, Puerto Rico

Since I am in Puerto Rico for Spring Break I decided to rent a car and live out my long genealogical dream of traveling around the island to see the towns my family are from. Now, I didn't and won't get to visit every single town or barrio on this trip but just being in the actual town was an amazing first step. Having a car has been such a blessing on this trip and hopefully on another trip I'll be able to rent again and travel some more around the island. Today, I'll talk about my visit to Yabucoa - La ciudad del azúcar. 

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico [GozateaPR]
My grandmother was born in Yabucoa but a few short years later her parents decided to move to San Juan to find work since Yabucoa was (still is?) a fairly rural town. Her family has lived in Yabucoa for many years dating back to the early 1800s, and mainly lived in the barrio of Calabazas but other cousins have moved into the barrios of Guayabota, Playa, and I think even to Aguacate. Our family there has worked on sugar cane fields/farms and worked their own land to grow food for their families. My grandmother says that neighbors would share food with each other such as a pig since sometimes a whole family couldn't finish it and instead of it going to waste they would bring some over to their neighbors.

Getting to Yabucoa was fairly easy with the help of a GPS! The roads are windy in certain parts but nothing too treacherous I would say, I've only been driving for 6 months so if I can do it, you can too! There are some very small roads that barely fit two cars but luckily I had no problems along the way. The drive was very beautiful and weather-wise we were very lucky, I even stopped a few times along the road to get some shots. Here's one below!

Driving to Yabucoa! [Personal Photo]

Our first stop in the town was the church since it was in the actual 'pueblo' itself. The earliest record I have of my ancestors is in the year 1876 when Benito Orozco and his wife Dolores de Santiago Burgos married in this church, so it was pretty cool seeing the church and being able to walk inside.

Iglesia Santos Ángeles Custodios [Personal Photo] 

Santos Ángeles Custodios [Personal Photo]

Prepping for Semana Santa [Personal Photo]

After, we took a trolley to get around the center but we really didn't see much so we decided to head over to Calabazas. It was pretty cool being in Calabazas and seeing how green it was compared to San Juan. There were parts where you could overlook the town and look down even seeing the coast, my grandmother says she remembers that her father mentioned them living high up in Calabazas. 

Welcome to Barrio Calabazas [Personal Photo]

View from Yabucoa down to the coast! [Personal Photo]

"Please do not tie your horses" [Personal Photo]

View of the island [Personal Photo]

View of the island [Personal Photo]

I know there are some cousins around in Yabucoa and my next visit will probably be reaching out to them and visiting them to see the lands our family worked. For now, it was pretty amazing to just see the town itself and share that moment with my grandmother. I've been doing some traveling so some more Travel Tuesday posts will be coming your way! And maybe some Travel Thursday posts to not fall behind. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Searching La "Gaceta de Puerto Rico"

Now that I'm on Spring Break I'll try and write a few times and get back up to date on things since I am in Puerto Rico. One of the posts I've wanted to write is on the "Gazeta de Puerto Rico" and how I've recently looked more into using this resource to learn more about my ancestors.

Gaceta de Puerto Rico [Library of Congress]

The Gazeta de Puerto Rico (linked) ran from the mid-1800s to the early-1900s and at first ran only a few days a month and later began to run daily. On the Library of Congress' website you can search under state "Puerto Rico" and then enter a name into the search option. Looking at my family tree I decided to search various names one at a time to try and see if anything would pop up for my ancestors. There are possibilities that the person I found might not be my ancestors but seeing as how the dates, the names, and the towns match there are high possibilities that most of the hits I got in the Gazeta are ancestors of mine. I was able to find some possibly ancestors and then there were a few that were definitely ancestors, and it was interesting what I was able to find about them in the newspaper. Tip: Try different search options: with both surnames, one surname, different ancestors in your tree - anything that'll help bring up different results.

Posible Finds

There were a few people that I found that I'm not sure if they are my ancestors, for example I found a mention of a Bartolo Marrero and Estefanía Marrero, both ancestors from Corozal and my 4th and 5th great grandparents. One article written in 1852 mentions a "Bartolo Marrero" (liberto) in Toa Alta who was placed in jail for 30 days for an infraction of art. 176 of the "Banda de policia". Despite by 4th great grandfather being born in Corozal, his ancestors were from the town right over which was Toa Alta so very possible this is him in his 30s being placed in jail. I tried looking up article 176 but couldn't find what exactly it was. What's interesting here is that this Bartolo Marrero was listed as "free", so it makes me wonder if at one point his ancestors were slaves and/or because of his color they mentioned he is free to not be confused with those still enslaved. Not too sure!

Bartolo Marrero (Liberto) [Library of Congress]

The next year in 1853 there's a mention of "Estefanía Marrero" in Corozal, exactly where my 5th great grandmother lived (and the same name!), it mentions that Estefanía Marrero had to pay "2 pesos" for publicly insulting the wife of Francisco García, Sinforiana de los Santos, and equally Francisco García had to pay for his wife's insults made. The article however states that both were insolvente or insolvent/bankrupt and thus had to pay in jail. I wonder what they could have been arguing about in public strongly enough to have them have to pay a fee. The year was 1853 so probably a simple curse word from a woman could have made people flip out. I guess we'll never know what was said unless there is some actual case or paperwork that had to be filled.

Estefanía Marrero [Library of Congress]

Interestingly enough I was able to find a possible record that could or couldn't be my 4th great grandfather. In an article from the 22nd of December 1840 newspaper there's a list of entries and exits from Puerto Rico and one lists: "de Guadeloupe: balandra francesa San Jou, capitan Jean Charles, con 7 hombres y bacalao". It lists a capitan Jean Charles who leaves from Guadeloupe with 7 men and codfish on the yacht or "sloop" San Jou. It's interesting seeing as how my 4th great grandfather was from Guadeloupe and also dealt with ships. Seeing as how "Jean Charles" seems very common amongst French names I wouldn't exactly say this is my ancestor but it would interesting if he did trade in Puerto Rico, like it, and eventually decide to stay here. Always possible!

Capitan Jean Charles [Library of Congress]

Definite Finds

There were however some definite finds in the newspapers of some of my ancestors in Puerto Rico. One especially interesting find was of my 4th great grandparents from Martinique and Guadeloupe and the mention of their daughter. I can't quiet figure out what happened with the type of language used in the article but it seems that there was some kind of problem with injuries/wounds. The article was written in 1886 meaning that Jean Charles would be in his 60s, Julienne Malvina would be in her 40s and their daughter only 19 years old. Despite the article being something negative that happened it was nice to see a mention of my foreign ancestors and seeing their names which at this point was a mix of French and Spanish.

Juan Carlos Gustave, Balbina Loten, Paulina Gustave [Library of Congress]

Also, my "I'm-fairly-certain" 3rd great grandfather is mentioned various times throughout the history of the Gazeta. Damián Magraner Morell, a native of Sóller, Mallorca, lived in Lares for various years throughout the mid-1800s but eventually returned to Spain where he passed away. The latest mention was in the article on the 10th of March 1900 granting some sort of licenses but no idea for what. It says it was endorsed by Francisco Seir and Ramón Cueto approved in Lares. In 1902 there's quick mention that some land bought borders Damián's land in Río Prieto, Lares on the east of the property purchased. 

Damian Magraner [Library of Congress]

The earliest records by name appear only the 1890s dealing with from what I gather with some elections and his contribution to said election. I imagined there would be more mentions seeing as how his siblings and he owned an hacienda in Lares and land there. His brothers Nicolás and Cristóbal do appear in the Gazeta as well. I am always willing to find out more about these siblings and about their time in Puerto Rico. 

For anyone researching their ancestors in Puerto Rico I would recommend to search these newspapers seeing as how you never know what/how your ancestor will be mentioned in. Maybe they played some role in local politics in their town or got charged for a loose pig or cow (it did happen!). But having a small mention of an ancestor can help you narrow down years, towns they lived in, and certain aspects of their daily live. Go and check what you can find! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Plotting Puerto Rican Property

Recently in a Yahoo post, a member from one of the genealogical groups I am a member of sent us a link with the ability to search for property your family held/currently holds. This link allows you to search the island for property and then plots it for you showing you the size of the property. Also, there is information such as name of owner and if it was recently purchased it shows you from who it was bought. It seems to be current property and there is no option to see if property was held in the past, so for example, if your family held land but has since sold it the property won't appear as belonging to your ancestors. The only thing I don't really like about the website is that it shows current addresses for people living on the island still. I confirmed this by searching for aunts, uncles, great-uncles, and great-aunts that still live in Puerto Rico; I guess that information is available somewhere on the internet already but I found it kind of creepy to have that information so easily readily available to whoever wanted to search and see it Google Earth-style.

Nonetheless, I think this website can be useful for people searching for property their family has owned and I was told that with the help of those "parcela" numbers you can search at your local Registro de Propiedad to find out more information about the land, such as who bought it and how it was passed down. I personally haven't done this but I hope to do so when I visit the island. I was fortunate to find some property my ancestor owned in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico. As you can see below, it is highlighted the property that was under his name, equally you can click on the adjacent property and see who neighbors are, sometimes their own siblings and/or cousins.

Land Property in Lares, Puerto Rico

If you click on the blue binocular on the bottom left hand corner there is a option called "dueño" where you can search for your family ancestors who might have held land. Play around with this because for example I searched for my 2nd great-grandfather without his maternal surname and he didn't show up, but when I searched for him with both he appeared. Equally, if you don't find an ancestor trying searching for their wife or the combined searched of them and their spouse to see if any children held the land. Also, there are other options where you can trace the land and mark it on the map and other interesting options. I haven't played around too much with the site and from my understanding it is fairly new so there is a lot to be learned still. 

Hoping to keep digging and find some more property for my ancestors and hopefully when I'm Puerto Rico be able to learn about how and from who the land was acquired! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 Years and 10 Genotypes Later!

As the year 2015 comes to a close, I've decided to do some reflecting on the genetic side of my research! It's kind of crazy to think that it has already been 5 years since I first got my DNA tested with 23andme and currently I am up to 10 genotyped family members!

23andme home page [23andme]

Getting my DNA tested back in 2010 was an amazing and wonderful decision. I remember getting my DNA tested because I wanted to learn more about my family (duh--- right?) but I had VERY little information on my family at that time. I had heard about 23andme on TV and was interested in this test for a project I was interested in going into at the time. Since I had to start my family tree from scratch, I only knew the name of 6 of my 8 great-grandparents, and that was about it! At this point I was 20 years old and still naïve with certain things about genealogy since I had only known about the census records. Testing with 23andme opened many doors, I was introduced to various cousins and especially one (dunno if she reads my blog) who took the time to speak to me about the Puerto Rican Civil Registry, and other records, and how I could further my lines with their use. Since then I have searched other records online, in microfilm, and even in Puerto Rico allowing me to reach the 1600s in some lines and I have also discovered that I have ancestors from Martinique and Guadeloupe! Of course I was able to learn about myself genetically, but finding out about this community was really a refreshing breath of air; I had only known myself and co-worker who were interested in genealogy since no one in my family could be bothered, really.

After I tested myself, I decided I wanted to get other members of my family tested for various reasons (Y-DNA, mtDNA, disease inheritance, etc.) and so I decided to test various members of my family during sales, 9 besides myself including: my mother, father, maternal uncle, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal great-grandfather, maternal cousin, paternal great-aunt, paternal great-aunt. Sadly my great-grandfather and a paternal great-aunt have passed since they have tested and I am eternally grateful for their contribution to our genealogy.

Testing these members of my family allowed me to see how I have inherited certain DNA from both sides, for example: my mother contributes ~11% of African DNA to me while my dad only gives me ~5% and European-wise I get about ~35% from my paternal side while my maternal side gives me about ~28%, which isn't too different. My native DNA is pretty similar from both sides also as well my Middle Eastern/North African. I have also been able to learn more about the Y-DNA and mtDNA my ancestors carry, so far I've gotten European, African, and Asian haplogroups with African and Asian being only maternal haplogroups. With my grandfather, his J1e could be Jewish/Arab (there is still a debate as to what group it can specifically be attributed to) which is interesting since his last name Correa is popularly known as a Sephardic surname. On the other hand, my great-grandfather has a haplogroup which is commonly found amongst the Irish which was interesting to learn about as well. Also, I have tested another cousin through ftDNA who is a male descendant of my 4th great-grandfather Jean Charles Chaleau and I'm hoping to learn more about his mixed ancestry from Guadeloupe.

Parental Split View [23andme personal photo]

One thing that has been extremely difficult for me though is using my DNA to find and match cousins. Since Puerto Rican genes have been recycled throughout the years with endogamy and it being such a small island, sometimes it is difficult to see which side of my family a cousin comes from. A lot of the time, the genetic cousins match both my sides and those that I can bring down to a certain side - it's still difficult to pinpoint which of our ancestors match. Things like limited researched genealogies and limited documents on the island make it hard to find cousins through the site for many Puerto Ricans, not just myself. To this day I haven't been able to confirm through paper trail and genetics a cousin who I haven't previously known about on 23andme. Maybe I'm doing something wrong especially since I have so many family members tested, but so far no luck! A lot of it also is two-sided, I can't figure out our connection just with your parents' names or by telling me all of your ancestors are from Spain, but luckily there are cousins who we have been able to pinpoint a specific town and/or certain surnames but we're just missing the actual connection between us two.

I'm definitely grateful for what I have learned throughout these 5 years and 10 genotypes of my family. I have seen my family tree through a different light and especially how diverse my family is on the inside. I'm proud to know approximately how much I carry of each of my ancestors' European, African, or Native DNA and how that has contributed to who I am today. Hopefully DNA analysis gets much sharper and helps to pinpoint better certain aspects of DNA, for example finding African tribes/regions my African ancestors belonged to (AncestryDNA has gotten into this a bit). Equally, I hope to test some more cousins and learn some more about other lines in my family and help to prove/disprove certain theories I've been building with paper trail. 

Finally, testing with other companies and comparing my DNA has been interesting as well. I'm hoping that more cousins test and build their trees so that we can connect and see how we connect through our DNA. There are some cousins who I have confirmed through paper trail and would love for them to test! So don't be afraid... test primos!!

How has genetic DNA changed your perspective on genealogy? Feel free to share! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Languages They Spoke…

This is just a quick post looking at genealogy through another aspect --- linguistic heritage.

When I learn about ancestors, I always try to learn different aspects of their lives, and for me that includes even the languages they speak. Luckily, most of my ancestors spoke Spanish (in some form or another) and is the language I was raised in by my parents. However, there are other ancestors who spoke different languages that came into my family. Those languages so far are Catalan and French (creole as well).


Even though Catalan is very similar to Spanish, it is for sure another language. This language can be found in the eastern parts of Spain near France and on the balearic islands. Now a days, the language is blossoming again with Catalan pride where the language is used in everyday life, school, and government.

Catalan speaking areas of Europe [Wikipedia]

Recently, I found out that Duolingo in Spanish has a course for Catalan, which I had no idea since I usually take the courses for learning a foreign language from English. It has been cool to learn Catalan and see the similarities with Spanish and/or French. I'm not sure how good I'll get with it through Duolingo but I want to have some working knowledge of Catalan. It was most likely the language (or one of the languages) Damián Magraner spoke in Sóller, Mallorca and I would love to be able to converse and/or read in it. Hopefully if and when I return to Mallorca I'll have a good handle of Catalan and use it while I'm there!

Duolingo Catalan course tree 

French (Creole)

With my ancestors coming from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, I knew that I would like to relearn French and get much better at it. My goal is to one day head to both of the islands and use my French to get around. Chat with some people about life on the islands and who knows --- maybe even find some long lost cousins! But these islands also speak their own version of French, which are both creoles. From what I have seen it's hard to understand any of the creoles without some kind of base with how their grammar works; even though they are rooted in French they vary enough that not anyone could easily understand some of their words (think Jamaican Patois and English).

Similarly on Duolingo you can learn French which has been fun to relearn a lot of what I forgot from high school. Also, on Amazon I was able to find two books about Martinican and Guadeloupean Creole so hopefully I can learn a thing or two about speaking those languages. 

Guides to Créole Martiniquais & Guadeloupéen [Amazon]

Why learn a language?

Even though you might not have any plans on becoming fluent in the language, just learning some of the simple phrases can do a lot for you. It's never a bad idea to try and learn a foreign language especially if you have plans to travel there. Also, seeing as how your ancestor spoke this language it could bring you that much closer to understanding their life and even struggles in a new country. They say when you learn a new language you develop a new personality, so even though your 2nd great grandmother was known as stern and quiet in English, she might have been comedic and quick witted in her native tongue. Also, if you do decide to advance a lot in the language, it can help you read and study records in the original language. By taking French in high school and college, I was fortunate to be able to read records from the French islands and not have to hire a translator, allowing me to delve right into the documents myself and with the help of Google Translator I was able to fill in the gaps of words I didn't know. Having that knowledge provided, for me at least, some comfort knowing that I could at any moment read the documents and analyze them at my own pace. 

Languages play such important roles in our day-to-day lives, so why not take a look at what some of your ancestors spoke when they were around! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

First Puerto Rican MLB player - Hiram Bithorn

Hispanic heritage month came and went faster than I could blink an eye! I wanted to write a post and as you can see never got the chance; but while doing some research I came across someone I had not previously heard about from Puerto Rico and decided to find out some more information about his background after not seeing much about his origin, despite having a surname like "Bithorn". So I decided to do some digging on Puerto Rico's first MLB Player- Hiram Bithorn Sosa.

Hiram Bithorn Sosa [Google Images]

Initially when I saw his name I thought, "Wait… this guy is Puerto Rican? And his name is Hiram Bithorn..? And I don't know anything about him??" As you can see I was just all around surprised. During my time in high school and most of college I looked up and researched a lot about Puerto Rico -- its history, its politics, its linguistics… anything I could get my hands on. But for some reason, I never came across Hiram. I was especially surprised since he was the first Puerto Rican baseball player to play Major League Baseball. I decided to see what I could find out about Hiram Bithorn Sosa. 

Wikipedia told me that Hiram was born in 1916 in San Juan and so I knew where to search for his birth certificate. I was mainly interested in finding out where this "Bithorn" surname came from since I had never seen it in my searches and isn't a common surname. Hiram was born as "Hiram Gabriel Bithorn Sosa", on the 18th of March 1916 in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hiram was the son of Waldemar Bithorn and María Sosa, both from San Juan. His paternal grandparents were listed as Fernando Bithorn Andersen and Tomasa Huicy both deceased by 1916. And through his maternal line, Roque Sosa Reyes from Trujillo Alto and Santos Castillo, deceased. 

Hiram Gabriel Bithorn Sosa, 1916 [Ancestry]

Paternal Family 

Looking at his paternal grandfather's second surname Andersen we can guess sometime type of Danish origin or even Swedish if the person incorrectly wrote "Andersson". Huicy on the other hand I had no lead as to where that surname was from. The more I dug into his paternal family, the more information I found. It turns out that Fernando Bithorn Andersen was a native of St. Croix, at that point a Danish  island, son of a Danish man from Copenhagen and his mother a native of St. Croix. I was even able to find a 1846 census record from St. Croix listing his father, Carl Bithorn (originally from Copenhagen), his mother Elisa (née Andersen) along with his siblings Anna and Eugene. Notice that his name was originally Ferdinand and when moving to Puerto Rico he became "Fernando". We see this a lot with immigrants that come from non-Spanish countries who suddenly become "Juan" instead of John and "María" instead of Mary. 

St. Croix, 1846 Census [Ancestry]

So far I've been able to find one record for a potential baptism for Carl Bithorn in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1805. My guess is that it is the same man since it matches the information we have. 

Carl Bithorn - Danish Baptism, 1805 [Ancestry]

Hiram's paternal grandmother Tomasa Huicy has a different ancestry all together. Tomasa Huicy Marín died on the 24th of January 1889 and was the daughter of Bernardo Huicy and Catalina Marín Molinari. Her father was from Vizcaya, Spain while her mother was a native of Puerto Rico. Her grandparents though, Santiago Marín and Tomasa Molinari, where said to be from Corcega and the Dominican Republic respectively. I tried looking up more information about Bernardo Huicy (potential maternal surname "Ordorgoiti" but I can across nothing about his actual origin in Vizcaya. He was however important in Arecibo with different roles such as a member of the Board of Trustees as well as mayor in the early 1900s. 

Maternal Family

On Hiram's maternal side we see that his grandfather Roque Sosa Reyes was the son of Domingo Sosa Suarez and María Andrea Reyes Betancourt, both from the Canary Islands. María Andrea Reyes Betancourt specifically from the island of Lanzarote. Hiram's grandmother, Santos Castillo Pastrana has been the only ancestor hard to track. We know that she was from Trujillo Alto and passed away before 1906. Her parents were Fernando Castillo and María Pastrana but no idea if they were from Puerto Rico or somewhere else. 

It is interesting to notice that Hiram's family is fairly "recently" Puerto Rican seeing as how 3 out of his 4 grandparents had at least one parent born outside of Puerto Rico. From most of my searches, Puerto Ricans have deep roots on the island through at least one line or one side of the family, so it was interesting researching Hiram and finding his family easily traces out of Puerto Rico to various places such as Spain (Vizcaya and the Canary Islands), Italy, the Dominican Republic, and especially to Denmark. 

This link about Hiram's life gives a very interesting look into his career, life, and even some of what he faced due to his race. It's interesting how during those times, and even now a days, people quickly want to classify someone to a certain box in regards to race. With a name such as Hiram Bithorn, one might not expect a Puerto Rican to walk into the room, but that's the beautiful thing about our small island-- that there is such diversity amongst its inhabitants. 

Bithorn unfortunately passed away on the 29th of December, 1951 at the age of 35 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, México after being shot by a police officer. It was very interesting learning about Hiram his ancestry, and the life he lived as the first Puerto Rican MLB player.