Saturday, January 28, 2017

Guadeloupeans in Puerto Rico

After having found out that my 4th great-grandfather from Guadeloupe, I was interested in seeing who else came to Puerto Rico from that island. Maybe there were other people from the same town or (smaller) island as my 4th great grandfather. I was also interested in seeing how surnames changed once they came to Puerto Rico and seeing if there was a way to track the immigrants via records and ship manifests. I was able to track a good number of people in Puerto Rico and I imagine there are many more who can be traced with some more leg work. So here I want to talk about some Guadeloupeans in Puerto Rico and just open up that conversation especially for those interested in finding out how to establish connections with their ancestors back to Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe [Google]

Many of the people I traced back to Guadeloupe was easily down back of ship manifests showing their town or city of origin on their native Guadeloupe. Without that the search can be quiet difficult, like how it was finding my 4th great-grandfather and this can be for various reasons. Guadeloupe is quiet a big island, similarly set up to Puerto Rico, in the sense that there are various towns and even other smaller islands that make up part of the whole of "Guadeloupe". Taking that into consideration and the fact that many surnames were changed, it can take quiet a while to trace someone to their original town.

To start the search, I began creating Excel sheet with the names, dates, and any information available in the Puerto Rican records. With that information I could see where I could head my search. Some death or marriage records of the Guadeloupeans provided information and even birth records of children, though mainly their ship manifests recorded their origins. Guadeloupeans and even Martinicans who appear in Puerto Rico mostly before 1910 are sometimes hard to trace because those ship manifests from that time for Puerto Rico aren't online. 

It's interesting seeing how many people from the island married others who immigrated from Guadeloupe and even though who came from Martinique, which is the same case with my 4th great-grandparents. So far I found one woman marrying a Spaniard in Puerto Rico, her name was Emilia Duteil and I will focus on how I found out more information about her. 

Emilia Duteil first appears on the 1910 Census living in Vieques, Puerto Rico, widowed and says that 6 children were born but 0 are alive at the time of the census. It says her birthplace is Guadeloupe while her parents are listed as "France", and says that Emilia immigrated in 1870. Interestingly enough the it says she is white which I haven't seen too many of since many are mixed, mulatto, or black. Emilia was living in the 1910 census with two "criadas" one being a servant and the other a cook, Leocadia was listed as mulatto while Ana Colberg who was also from Guadeloupe was listed as "N" for negra. 

1910 Census [Ancestry]

Emilia would die in Santurce, living in Miramar on the 29th of April 1918. Here was listed as Emilia Duteil Rosseaux, widowed of Juan Lujan and the daughter of Juan A. Duteil and Adela Rousseaux. The person who came forward to report her death was Salvador Giuliani, listed as sobrino or nephew of the deceased.

Emilia Duteil Rousseaux - Death [Ancestry]

It seems that Emilia wasn't the only one from her family to make it to Puerto Rico. There is a Rose Alsina Duteil Rousseaux who passed away in Vieques, Puerto Rico in 1909 also the daughter of Juan Duteil and Adela, most likely her sister. Both are said to be from Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe where I will need to search for a birth record -- which I haven't found yet. This can be because the years listed as their birth years are incorrect and so I have to expand my search to other years. Also, their town of origin can be listed incorrectly and isn't where they were born if not where they last lived before coming to Puerto Rico.

But this is for the most part the process - using documents to trace backwards their origin. Sometimes some cases are easier than others. Coming from a white béké family can help make the search easier while those were mulatto or black might come from families that were previously slaves and so the search can be harder depending on when they were released and how far into Guadeloupe their time as slaves goes. Also those who didn't know how to spell their name ended up received warped Spanish-ifed names which makes the surname harder. I noticed that more Martinicans received small name changes while though from Guadeloupe necessarily didn't.  In the meantime I'll keep collecting information about those who came from Martinique and Guadeloupe to Puerto Rico and trying to piece together the information. 

If you need help searching or have any of these surnames in your family, give me a shout and I don't mind sharing the information I have! These are the surnames I have for Guadeloupe, I'll probably create another post but dealing with those that came from Martinique. 

Guadeloupe: Ballet, Baptiste, Benjamin, Cognet, Duteil, Harris, Guiougou, Lastor, Manceau, Saint-Paul

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Puerto Rican Look at: 23andMe's Ancestry Timeline

So it's been a while since I've posted and it's already 2017! As the new school year kicked off I saw myself being less and less able to write on the blog, despite having some new blog ideas! So finally I'm back and hopefully I'll continue to post throughout the year evenly and not in chunks. The reason I want to post today is because there is a new feature on 23andme and I'm excited to see how this feature can help discover or clarify more about my past. The feature is called "Ancestry Timeline" and I want to take a look at how this feature works through the lens of a Puerto Rican -- myself and my family! As a reminder, how is what my genetic breakdown looks like:

23andme results [personal photo]

I'm not sure exactly when the Ancestry Timeline feature was released but one of my genetic cousins posted her results on Facebook and so I had to go in and check mine! Here's what it looks like for me:

Ancestry Timeline [personal photo]

There you can see a couple of things you can see. First you can see colored bars which represent various different populations used to test against your DNA. Next on the top you can see various numbers and years, these represent approximately when that ancestor would have been alive in your family tree. There are, however, a few things to take into consideration, of course. Reading their white paper I was able to see a few things I should look out for as I consider these results. 

Translating Generations [23andme]

Not everyone's family follows the same trend of generation years, though the average is 30 and it is usually held that way just to estimate generations it can vary in your family. For example, I have fairly young parents and grandparents but before that it varies. My oldest great-grandparent was born in 1884 while my youngest great-grandparent was born in 1923 - a whole 39 years between them! Just remember that as you look at your own timeline. 

Violations of the "one genealogical ancestor" assumption [23andme]

In my case, I am sure that there are multiple ancestors that carry for example African genes, so I wouldn't be able to know exactly where and when this ancestor would have been alive in my timeline. Besides an 100% ancestor, who would be one of my 4th great grandparents, it is hard to know which of the segments combined or didn't to give me my 15.7% African DNA. 

Nonetheless, the results are very interesting and I think there is some truth to the timeline. Also, it would be interesting to compare my results to my parents' as well. It's interesting that my "Iberian" bar shows up between 1900-1840 while my parents and other tested family members have it at about 1860-1800. Initially I thought it was representing my 3rd great grandfather who lived around 1846-1910 and was from Mallorca, but shouldn't it appear for my father and great-aunt in the same spot since we share that common bar so recently? Equally interesting is my West African bar which appears between 1840-1750 and it states that "you most likely had a third great-grandparent, four great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, or sixth great-grandparent who was 100% West African". This does coincide with my 4th great-grandmother who was born in 1844 and was the daughter of two slaves in Martinique. But it's also important to notice that there are more ancestors in my tree somewhere that contribute to that West African bar. Bars like "Chinese" and "South Asian" represent only <0.1% of my DNA and I'm guessing that's just noise so I'm surprised that such a small percentage would show up here. 

It'll be interesting to see how other people can use this to find out certain information about themselves. For us new world people, it's interesting to see where time wise they place these bars and I would like to see how accurate or close to accurate they are for others. For me, I've seen some coincidences and based on what I know about my family they seem to correlate with the information. Excited to see where this heads! 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

174 Years After Emancipation

Broken Chains - Free at last! [Google Images]
The 26th of August marked 174 years of freedom for my 5th great grandfather, Chaleau Jean Charles. He was lucky to receive emancipation 6 years prior to all French slaves being freed on the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. There is still much to learn about this family, especially since DNA results show that Chaleau Jean Charles carried an European Y-DNA haplogroup meaning that his paternal side was either White or a Freed Mulatto. So I want to dedicate this post to trying to understand more the situation surrounding his freedom.

First we start with the actual record which mentions his freedom. It states:

L'an mil huit cent quarante deux et le lundi cinquième jour du mois de septembre, à huit heures du matin, par devant nous Vincent Lasserre, maire officier de l'état civil de la Commune des Saintes, dépendances de la Guadeloupe, est comparu le sieur Chaleau Jean Charles, âgé de cinquante six ans, charpentier, né est domicilié en cette île, le quel assisté des sieurs Jean Baptiste Caille, âgé de quarante six ans, et Paul Désiré Petit, âgé de trente ans, tous deux propriétaires et domiciliés en cette commune, nous à présenté l'extrait de l'arrêté de Monsieur gouverneur, en date de vingt six du mois d'août dernier, de cette année, qui déclare libre le dit comparant, et il nous à requis de faire sur nos registres l'inscription présente pour l'article V de L'ordonnance de Rois du douze juillet mil huit cent trente deux. A cet effet, nous avons arrêté, et avons signé avec les témoins après lecture. Le requérant a déclaré ne le savoir, de ce requis. 

1842, Terre de Bas, Guadeloupe - Affranchissement [ANOM]

1842, Terre de Bas, Guadeloupe - Affranchissement [ANOM]

So my 5th great grandfather was a native of Terre de Bas, a island part of the chain of islands of Guadeloupe known as "Les Saintes". There he was born circa 1786 (no parents listed), and his profession is listed as a carpenter. David, my genealogist helper, says that possibly his parents were still slaves and therefore could not come forward in certain records since slaves had no say. Two men though appeared for his "affranchissment" or emancipation, their names being Jean Baptiste Caille, born about 1796 and Paul Désiré Petit born about 1812. Since both of these men were born after Chaleau Jean Charles, we know that none are eligible to be his father. But who were these men and why did they appear to help attest to the freedom of 5th great grandfather? Could their families have owned him? And was there any significance for his freedom in 1842?

I'm currently trying to decipher the information I have found on these men, for example: Paul Désiré Petit seems to be native to France where his parents still live, so we know that Paul Désiré's parents couldn't have been Jean Charles' slave owners since they were abroad in France. Jean Baptiste Caille's family could have been the slave owners or even Paul Désiré himself having purchased Jean Charles from another family once he established himself on Terre-de-Bas. I'll have to update this post with more information once I have found some to make a better theory surrounding my 5th great grandfather's freedom. Currently, I'm documenting all of the births, deaths, and marriages on Terre-de-Bas onto an Excel sheet since many weren't occurring every year since the island is tiny enough. Hopefully this will allow me to see some patterns and learn more!

Stay tuned! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Puerto Rican DNA Crumbs

Every time I search my DNA matches, I'm overwhelmed by Puerto Rican results which makes sense right! Well, it does… in a sense. Since my family is from Puerto Rico and has been since at least the 1700s/1600s, easily it makes sense that most of my DNA matches come from Puerto Rico. Though at the same time, I have seen others say that though are 1/2 or even 1/4 Puerto Rican, their results are overwhelmed with Puerto Rican matches, which genetically shouldn't be. However, this is frequently explained by the "founder effect" that has occurred on the island, since many arrived early on and then whether on purpose or by mistake, married into their families through close and distant cousins thus causing DNA to be recycled through various generations of contact. I've mentioned before that my own parents are cousins, and not because they wanted to be but because their families through time moved around the island and then my parents had no idea they were related 4-5 generations back.

However, I occasionally find what I call "DNA crumbs", small pieces or fragments of DNA that may point to other origins outside of Puerto Rico somewhere further back in my tree. For example, I have received two cousins that were particular interest to me - one with ancestry in Angola and the other in Zimbabwe which tells me that my ancestors, specifically my slave ancestors, might have been from those regions themselves. What's even more interesting is when these DNA fragments also match other people in my list of DNA cousins that also aren't Puerto Rican!

For example, I have been able to find a cousin who matches me exclusively through my maternal side. Though he doesn't not match my mother, he does match my maternal uncle, my maternal grandfather, and even my maternal great grandfather, therefore my mother did not receive this specific piece of DNA. This cousin is mainly descendant from Ashkenazi Jews and it definitely show in his DNA. So I wanted to see if where we matched had any pieces of Ashkenazi traces. The chromosome in question was Chromosome 12.

Taking a look at my own Chromosome 12 I could tell that I had no Jewish DNA there, and neither did my mother.

Chromosome 12- Luis [23andMe]

However, when I checked my family members who matched this cousin I noticed that they all had inherited this piece of DNA, and all in the exact same spot!

Ashkenazi DNA Chromosome 12 [23andMe]

As you can see, this cousin has ancestry mainly from Ukraine and Poland while my family comes from Puerto Rico. That same piece that my great grandfather had my grandmother inherited and passed it to her son but not her daughter. Below you can see how this cousin compares to the maternal members of my family.

Cousin #4 vs. Maternal Family [23andMe]

Though I'm not sure where this DNA came from exactly in my family, I'm not surprised to see I have Jewish ancestry. My historical guess would be that this match has a Sephardic Jewish ancestor who traveled to this region and was absorbed by the local Ashkenazi Jewish community there, just a guess of course based on what I know about my own family's countries' of origin histories.

When I started digging a bit further I started finding some more interesting things, also dealing with Jewish cousins! I had noticed that I had a match who 96% Ashkenazi Jewish, another cousin 95%, and one with 50% Jewish DNA. All of these cousins where from European countries (all three different areas) and none had ties to the Caribbean. Individually I had compared them to my family and then I had an idea -- could they match each other?! And I was astonished when they did! When I compared them in Ancestry Tools > Family Inheritance: Advanced, I noticed that not only were they matching my family on Chromosome #1, they were also matching each other! Even more interesting is that two of these cousins have full Ashkenazi Chromosomes but none of my family members have Ashkenazi DNA there, just an European segment that is common amongst all three. Not sure how to genetically explain that, though! 

And then something else more interesting happened, I noticed that each had the surname Ross (or a variation of the name: Rosenberg, Rosen, etc.) in their list! Below you can see how these cousins match my family, this time the segment was received by both my mother and maternal uncle by their father, my maternal grandfather. 

Chromosome 1 Comparisons [23andMe]

Of course, the connection of the surname "Ross" could be a coincidence, but I thought it was interesting that these cousins not only matched each other and my family but also had this surname associated to them as well. Not sure that I would ever be able to find this connection and/or triangulate how I am related to them but I think it's interesting that DNA does allow this sort of analysis.

I'm hoping that as genetic research keeps advancing and more people continue to test, I will be able to match more Puerto Ricans who can confirm my connection to them on their tree. Also, thinking about testing more cousins to see if I can divide up how I have done with these cousins to find where these matches originate from down my tree. Time will tell! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Whisperings of the Past

So while researching through Puerto Rican records I came across something very interesting that I had never seen before and decided to post about it! While researching in the "Registro Central de Esclavos" of 1872 I came across a slave born in Africa who mentions her African parents' names! I'm not sure how often this happens but from the different experiences I've had searching in Puerto Rico, Martinique, and Guadeloupe this is the first time I have seen it. I imagine this has happened to others and I would love to see those stories! So today I'll talk about a woman named Julia Tirado and the whisperings of her African past.

By coincidence I ran into this woman's record and I can't remember how I came across her, I imagine I was searching for all "Julia" slaves in the registry and was surprised when I came across her record. Julia appears as the slave of a "Guillermo F. Tirado" and she is listed as a single laborer of 53 years of age. There are other things about her such as a description about her height, color, hair, eyes, nose, and mouth as well as where she was documented. Here is the record below!

Julia, slave of Guillermo Tirado [Ancestry]

Julia's physical descriptions [Ancestry]

If you notice, Julia was a slave living in barrio Indios, in the town of Guayanilla, a native of Africa, and the daughter of Osaré and Dango having one daughter named Cecilia also known as Celia. When I saw this I did a double take. Was an African slave just registered with the name of her African parents?!?!

Julia Tirado, African slave [Ancestry]

Now this shocked me for many reasons, one mainly being that we had some sort of connection to her past "across the pond". Though we don't know where Julia was from, probably somewhere in the range of Western Africa, we do know her parents' names… which to me was huge! This also surprised me because I had figured that the registry was made of slaves in which the slave masters had noted to the census takers… but could the slaves have had a say in who they were the sons/daughters of? Many slaves probably didn't remember the names of their parents because they were taken away at such a small age but Julia probably made the voyage over as a grown woman or at least a teenager and therefore knew very well the name of her parents. What could this information tell us?

First let's try to explore more about Julia's life in Puerto Rico! Julia was said to be 53 in 1872 meaning she was born about 1819 according to the registry. The registry states that thanks to the "Ley Moret approved on the 4th of June 1870, certain categories of slaves were freed such as the ones over the age of 60 or children of slaves born after the 17th of September 1868" (Ancestry). Therefore, Julia was already very close to receiving freedom but the following year in 1873 all slaves were freed in Puerto Rico. 

Since I don't have access to census records from Guayanilla in that time we can only use this registry and the civil registry to try and learn more about Julia. She would later pass away in the same town in the barrio of Magas on the 2nd of June 1887 from a fever, she was recorded to be from Africa and 90 years old. Interestingly here no parents are listed for her, I imagine after time the names were forgotten and not repeated. It seems that Julia was a laborer all her life while in Puerto Rico making a living tilling the land. We do also know that in 1872, Julia claims having a daughter named Cecilia and I was able to find a Cecilia, slave to the same man Guillermo Tirado, and the daughter of Eliceo and Julia. This Cecilia was 24 years old meaning she would have been born about 1848. 

Cecilia Tirado, Slave - 1872 [Ancestry]

If this Cecilia is the same girl, then we have another generation, a son named Ramón. I haven't been able to find a Ramón, slave of Guillermo Tirado but seeing as how he was possibly born after 1868 then he might fit under the Ley Moret and therefore was born with freedom. I was able to find a Cecilia dying in Magas, Guayanilla on the 8th of April 1821 at the age of 75, however no parents or grandparents are listed. Seeing though that this would place this Cecilia born about 1846 and being listed as "black (negra)" we can assume that they are one and the same. A 1910 census search shows a Cecilia Tirado, black, living as a boarder with a Yordán Dávila family in Guayanilla, she lists born parents as having being born in Africa. She lists having had 4 children though none were alive at the time of the 1910 census. 

Cecilia Tirado - 1910 Census [Ancestry]

I was interested if I could find out more about the names "Osaré" and "Dango", could we find any association to a tribe or country? There is one website that I found in my research called African-Origins which uses information from other sources to give life to liberated Africans and others. Could I find any mentions of others with similar names? 

African-Origins Website

I searched "Dango" to see what I could find, so I searched the name as well as "female" to see what results I would get. I surprised to see I did get various results! 

Dango results [African Origins]

Interestingly enough the first four hits show that those Dango women aged 21, 17, 9, and 20 respectively were on all separate voyages but all had one thing in common: all disembarked from Sierra Leone and in their geographical profile says that they belong to the language group "Kuranko". The Kuranko people are known to be an ethnic group from Sierra Leone and Guinea. I'm not sure if this could be a potentially point to Julia's origin but it's interesting to be able to make this hypothesis with the information available. 

Kuranko - Sierra Leone [Ancestry]

Now the father's name I'm not too sure, I want to say the name is Osaré but sometimes I think it might be Ocaré or Ocan, but based on what I can tell I'm leaning towards the former and not the latter options. Those results were a bit more varied than "Dango", I got various spellings of the name and I'm not sure that in Puerto Rico the name was spelled correctly since it was written with Spanish conventions, so I tried both Osare and Osaray. 

Osaré/Osaray results [African Origins]

The first result (Ocaray) gave me Igbo origins, while Osará gave me no language group connection. Other results such as Okaray and Ocaree point to Igbo origins as well. So I'm left with not really knowing where Julia's origins could be from, since the Igbo are mainly found in Nigeria which isn't a bordering country to Sierra Leone or Guinea. Though I can not point to a certain African origin, just even having the opportunity to be able to do this for someone is thrilling none the less. When many of us search our slave ancestors were are trapped in the New World with no names or evidence that might point us to any African origins. However having names of African parents gives us a different view into slave genealogy and research, I would say! 

As I was writing this post, I discovered two other slaves who also knew the name of their parents, both interestingly enough in Guayanilla and one even another slave of Guillermo Tirado which makes me wonder! Interestingly enough these two slaves were also in the 50s as well! What makes think about the relation these slaves had with their masters as well. So much to think about! 

Serafina, slave of Guillermo Tirado - 1872 [Ancestry]

Ramón, slave of Pedro Villoch - 1872 [Ancestry]

Combining traditional genealogy research and DNA research would definitely yield some interesting results when it comes to research slaves' past! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Puerto Rican Look at Sephardic Jews

For most hispanic genealogist, at one point during our research, the question: Do I have Sephardic Jewish ancestors? has come up! Not only across Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean, Southern and Central America can Sephardic Jews be found but even on islands such as Jamaica, Curaçao, and as far as the old territories of the Ottoman Empire. Along with slave ancestors, these can be hard ancestors to find and each respectively have their difficulties. While slaves were not considered people and therefore many times do not appear by names on most records, Sephardic Jews who hid from the inquisition changed names, sometimes very frequently, and tried to evade shifting eyes from the "old Christians" in order to not cause too much alarm.

So I want to talk about the prospects of having Jewish ancestors and somethings to take into consideration while doing your research. I am in no way an expert when it comes to judaism, Sephardic Jewish migration, or anything of the likes. If not, I'm learning along the way as well!

Jewish presence in Spain [Google]

Quick Historical Background

To write a historical background on the Sephardic Jews and their diaspora could take forever! And I say this because many people dedicate their lives to studying the Sephardic Jews, their customs, language, travel routes, and ways of life. So here's a quick background for those who might not know much about these kinds of Jews. So to start off: yes, there are various types of Jews! The main two are Ashkenazi (which are most of the Jewish people you might know with origins in Eastern European countries such as Germany, Poland, Ukraine all the way to Russia) and then there are the Sephardic Jews (which I'll explain in just a moment). There are also the Mizrahi Jews which can be found in Middle Eastern countries.

The Sephardic Jews are said to have lived in Spain since the second temple's destruction in Israel. Their name derives from "ספרד" (Sepharad), the name given to Spain in Hebrew and therefore they are known are Sephardic Jews in English, sometimes also called "Sefarditas" or sefardíes in Spanish. In 1492, with a royal edict given by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella the Jews were expelled from Spain causing them to spread across the world, many went to the Ottoman Empire where they were accepted fairly easily while others went into northern African countries such as Morocco to avoid the Inquisition. Those that quickly fled into Portugal needed to once again uproot and leave their new country once Portugal expelled the Jews as well. There were those that went to the new world as well, some right after the edict and as late as the 1600s since the Inquisition lasted longer than what most people expect. Let as also not forget that the Moors/Arabs were also expelled from Spain, I think a lot of people forget that part of history when he talk about the year 1492.

Of course, there were those who stayed and became nuevos cristianos or "New Christians" who were seen differently from those who were Old Christians before the royal edict. There were different treatments to those who recently converted, and not in a good way. Those in Mallorca for example where called "Chuetas/Xuetas" and were made fun of until not so long ago. Many of the Jews who converted are also known as "B'nei anusim" for their forced conversion to Christianity. Another name given to the Sephardic Jews are crypto Jews because many under the guise of Christians, still practiced many Jewish customs at home amongst close family members. So much so, that now a days Christians don't even know they have Jewish traditions within their family due to these dark times.

There is much, much, and I mean much, more to cover! There are many books to read and personal stories of those who have gone back in time to find their Jewish roots through genealogy and studying family customs. I have recently just read Genie Milgrom's My 15 grandmothers and Doreen Carvajal's The Forgetting River which I recommend to any interested in learning more about Sephardic Jews and their journey to countries such as Cuba and Costa Rica. Even though they don't focus so much on the actual genealogy research conducted, it's interesting to see the much more personal side of research.

Sephardic Jewish Migration [Google]

Some things to consider

As you research your genealogy, there have been a few tips and tricks that other Sephardic Jewish genealogists have said you should keep an eye out for. For example, taking into consideration the years your ancestors have traveled to your countries. I have ancestors who came to Puerto Rico at the turn of the 15th century. Some would have seen the edict declared and the expulsion of Jews from Spain, and I ask myself were these ancestors part of that wave to leave? Like I mentioned, some if not most will be hard to trace and you need to keep in mind possible name changes and evasion on their part.

Another thing to keep in mind are traditions and customs dealing with things such as food, burial, marriage, etc. Some say that the Sephardic Jews are known to intermarry within their community in order to preserve their Jewish traditions. There are many families on the western side of the island of Puerto Rico who are well known for intermarrying and I wonder if they go back to Jewish origins. There are many little things that can be clues to a Sephardic Jewish past! 

Something to take into consideration also is your DNA haplogroups and connections to others. For example, my grandfather has the Y-DNA haplogroup J1e which is commonly associated with Jews (but also with Muslims/Arabs). Since it originates and concretes in the Near East, it can be from either one of these groups. This leads me to believe that one of my original Correa ancestors was from Spain and was either a Muslim or a Jew who later came to the new world. 

J1e World Map [23andme]

J1 Haplogroup Description [23andme]

This also leads me to next consideration -- names! 

Now this one is tough! Many people believe that having a surname that ends in "-ez" in a guaranteed ticket to claiming Jewish origins. The reason behind is that "-ez" surnames mean 'son of' which was a common naming tradition amongst Jews which can be seen with the modern use of 'Ben'. Therefore surnames such as Pérez, Hernández, Fernández, and González to name a few are considered to be surnames of Jews. Now, this is and isn't possible for some people. Yes, Jews did take on surnames with "-ez" endings but not all did. Some are known to have taken surnames of cities such as Toledo/ Toledano, Zamora, etc. and that some took natural places names such as Ríos, Flores, etc. Again, we can't just say "Yes! They were Jews" without researching and looking into their history. 

Even first names can be a hint to a Jewish past, but again -- research, research, research! For example, I just came across an aunt's branch in my tree with "typical Jewish names" for their children. This is the first time on my tree that I have seen children have names that overwhelming point to Jewish origins. The four children's names are : Luz María, Ismael, Abraham, and Benjamin the last three being names that can be found within the Jewish naming tradition. But again, who knows? Maybe this couple enjoyed reading the Old Testament and was influenced by writers with such names. In my family there is a person with a name of Lebanese origin, does it mean we are Lebanese? No, just that child received that name to honor a Lebanese writer. Therefore, it's hard to tell! Nothing is just black and white in genealogy and when it comes to Sephardic Jews it can definitely be hard to tell.

Familia Carrero-Medina [Personal Photo]


For me personally, it has been a work in progress. There are a few branches that I think can potentially identity to have Sephardic Jewish ancestry but I haven't jumped to a definite "yes" just yet! For example, with my J1e haplogroup I have to explore more into the paper trail to see how far this branch was in Puerto Rico before originating somewhere else. This line has been in Puerto Rico since at least the mid-1700s but I would need to search more into the church records to see if they were from Spain and if so from where. 

I still have a lot of reading to do to make sure I am aware of these origins without falsely associating names or traditions to Sephardic Jews. There is a lot of "junk research" on the internet as well, so trying to sleuth through that and not get caught up in the wrong information can be hard. There are websites that will tell you to check if your surname is there to be Jewish, but again... thread lightly! 

In Puerto Rico, many people already by the 1800s were being documented by the church and I have never seen synagogue records or any other type of church/temple, etc. records for Puerto Rico. And of course, the 1800s is 400 years far removed from the times of the expulsion so proving a certain Sephardic Jewish pedigree can be hard but not necessarily impossible. It takes patience, a bit of luck, and a lot of knowledge on how to use the records and what to look for to actually find those ancestors.  

To those searching -- best of luck and hopefully we'll find our ancestors soon! 

Medieval Jewish Manuscript [Google]

Friday, July 15, 2016

How DNA Uncovered a Family Secret

It's taken a while to sit and write this, originally I learned about this back in May but since then I have left it on the "back burner" of genealogy to process the information. I mostly wanted to write this post because I think it speaks volumes to the power of genealogy, but especially to genetic genealogy and how it not only can be helpful to you but also to others. This post is about how I figured out that one of parents had a (previously) unknown half-sibling through In order to provide privacy to my living family members, I won't be using any actual names.

23andme homepage [23andme]

I guess you could say this story began like any other day for me. I was home visiting my parents and it was a typical lazy Sunday. I decided to log onto my 23andme account just to see if there was anything new going on on the site. Recently, I've been logging on less and less to the site and I am not sure why. Maybe because I am focusing more on other things than genetic genealogy and/or the buzz for me has died down, but I occasionally go on to see what new relatives I might have gotten or any news such as possible sales.

Except logging in this time was very different than the last times I have done it over the last past 6 years. As I logged into my account on the right top hand corner it said, "We've found a genetic relative! Add your 1st cousin" and my originally thought was, "Hmm, how weird!'. I'm pretty sure I know all my first cousins and so having this pop up was weird, but yet again Puerto Rican genetics work different than most others because of DNA that has been recycled… but not this recycled right?! So I decided to check my other accounts. Having various accounts for my family members allows me to easily see where and how a person matches me with other family members. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten good enough to do triangulation and cross-checking since like I mentioned there are high odds that this person will match me on my mom's side and my dad's side if they're a full Puerto Rico. Sometimes, even half Puerto Ricans match both of my parents which makes it tough to find one branch of our tree or an ancestor we match through.

So I logged onto both of my parents' account seeing who would receive this match, and then I came across this message that dropped my jaw:

23andme Genetic Message Relative Message [Personal Photo]

All of my years of genealogy had not prepared me for this! Initially I denied it, and not because I did not want one of my parents to have a half-sibling but like I mentioned I knew that genes had a weird way of arranging and working themselves. But I had read enough forum messages and personal stories on 23andme about adoptions and family secrets revealed that I knew that something had to be up. I immediately jumped over to the relative finder to see how this could be! Right up on the list, appearing second (right after me, son) was this half-brother. Though there wasn't much information I knew that with the Y-DNA and MtDNA I would know what side of the family this match was from. I noticed that they shared the same MtDNA and not Y-DNA with one of my parents and so I knew it had to be from their mother. But wait, how was that possible? I knew both of my grandmothers and I knew them fairly well… or did I?

Having this conversation with my parents was difficult, how could I tell them this without shattering their world? But fortunately, genealogy had prepared for me for this in a sense. I had always been the one asking random questions and wondering about our origins that no genealogical conversation was too random for me. Luckily, the conversation went well… surprised at first, questioning, but then understanding. We were able to deduce when and where and between what time frame this sibling would have been born. There were no hard feelings on our end and we knew that life made people make tough decisions sometimes. Some phone calls were made to Puerto Rico to see if anyone had heard anything, even a potential murmur of this, but it seems that mum was the word in our family.

I initially decided to give this person some time for them to reach out to me but then doubt started to sink in. What if they never search their relative finder? What if they just log on once and then never again? What if they don't know how to manage the site and don't see their matches?! So I decided to reach out to this sibling the next day and explain what the results were showing me. Luckily by the end of the day I had a response! The person knew they were adopted but did not know much about their story so we exchanged some messages back and forth and discussed my family origins, sending them some pictures along the way. I am not sure how this person must have felt but knowing there was someone out there directly related to me in such a close way but not knowing them was hard in a sense for me. Maybe it's because I'm the family genealogist and I spend so much time crafting and editing my tree, that every ancestor and their story in a way speaks to me. Hopefully I'll get a chance to chat more with this person and hopefully have them meet our family.

It's funny how one day a simple message can change your life, we know only so much through paper trails and genetic genealogy is truly opening up a new way to see family history and genealogy. There are a lot of skeptics out there about genealogy, I was even told once that was a scam because it was just built to find connections to anyone out there… which obviously is not true and I'm fairly sure this person had no understanding of census records. But here genetic genealogy floored me with something I did not expect to find in my recent family. Yet again, there are many family skeletons in all of our closets, it's just being opening to dusty out those closets and being open to what's inside! You never know what you'll find!