Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Travel Tuesday – Sóller, Mallorca

This post will be about my visit to the island of Mallorca, specifically about the town of Sóller, where the Magraner family originally came from before arriving to Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico. I came to Sóller to learn more about Damián Magraner Morell and his life before and after Puerto Rico. I believe that Damián is possibly my 3rd great grandfather on my paternal side of the family.

I headed to Sóller from Palma on the touristic train hoping to catch some views of the island as I headed to the northern town of Sóller. Every time I visit a town where my ancestors lived there's a weird feeling of euphoria. Not only because I am visiting a new place, but because of this deeper connection with the town. Knowing that an ancestor lived their lives in a certain town, gives new meaning and appreciation to being able to travel there. One of my first views as I stepped off the train and towards the main square was the church of Sant Bartomeu, where Damián would have been baptized circa 1846.

Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu [Personal Photo]

While in Sóller I was able to learn more about Damián's life; he served as mayor for two years in the mid-1880s and was able to learn that he passed away in 1910. I was fortunate to see the "padrones" showing him and his family in Sóller. Since two of his sons traveled to Puerto Rico in 1911, they listed their mother's address in Sóller allowing me to easily find them listed by their address. Also, since the address still exists I was able to visit the street and the houses they would have lived in. I was told the addresses could have moved up or down one house since 1910, but generally they were in that same vicinity. Here is a picture below of the house(s) which were listed in Damián's death certificate where they would have been living since about 1880. I asked in the supermarket across the street if there was a Magraner family here in these houses but I was told the houses were currently being rented out.

Calle Sant Jaume [Personal Photo]

I also headed to the cemetery in search of Damián's tomb since the archives don't have him listed, most of their records start after his death and so there is no evidence of where exactly he would be buried though he is buried there. I walked around the cemetery looking for any Damiáns or Magraner tombs and I couldn't find many that really that tied into my family. I was, however, lucky to find the tomb of a Nicólas Magraner Morell, most likely the brother of Damián. Unfortunately, it doesn't list who else from his family is buried in the plot but it was nice to see at least one person's tomb. Here are pictures of the view as I walked up towards the cemetery (absolutely amazing!) and a picture of the tomb itself. 

View near the cemetery [Personal Photo]

Tomb of Nicólas Magraner Morell [Personal Photo]


Even though I learned a lot more about Damián, his family, and his life in Sóller I am still unsure of his connection and whether or not he is my third great grandfather. Damián spent some time coming back and forth between Puerto Rico and Sóller and so knowing whether or not he was officially in Puerto Rico to be José's and Lorenzo's father is a bit difficult. He was listed as living in Puerto Rico around 1887, but there is no proof (that I know of) that he was there in the years of 1891 and 1894. We do know that Damián would eventually return to Sóller, helping the town during the time of the Spanish-American War. In Palma, I tried to retrieve Damián's last testament/will to see if there was any mention of land being given to a José Avilés, but unfortunately I would have to prove my connection to Damián via a paper trail in order to see his will. Which, as we know, would be impossible since I am basing this on family lore, information from census records, and coincidences (which don't sound like too much to rely on really!)

Recently, while looking at the 1910 and 1920 census records and José Avilés' WWI Registration Card I was able to finally figure out who the "Ramón Magraner" on his WWI card was! It seems that there was a mistake on various WWI cards for a "Ramón/Raimundo Rullán Pons", who was the administrator of a coffee farm. Ramón Rullán Pons was living with Damián in the late 1880s and it is highly likely that he was working on the Hacienda Margarita de Magraner, which belonged to the Magraner Morell siblings -- Damián being one of them. So we know that José and Lorenzo did work on Damián's lands before owning their own; which helps to establish a connection between both families. 

While I was in Sóller, I began to think a bit more of Damián and the probabilities of him being my 3rd great-grandfather. It seems that Damián held some sort of status in Sóller: he helped build the Banc de Sóller, was mayor for 2 years, and probably held other positions before his death. If Damián truly was the father of José and Lorenzo, I think there were little odds back then for him to recognize his illegitimate children. Imagine a man of status and married, accepting these two children as his own -- there would have been much stir in Lares, Puerto Rico and Sóller, Mallorca about his relationship with a Puerto Rican woman and would have probably been scandalous. As we know, many of our ancestors did things that either were unearthed then or are being unearthed now by us genealogists. If I were able to establish a firm connection to Damián I really don't know how the Magraner family would react to this. Did the family know about it? Could the descendants already be informed about potential Puerto Rican cousins? Hopefully I'll be able to answer these questions one day and the million others surrounding my ancestors! 

I hope to return to Sóller one day and do more research. I would love to visit during the summer and stay a month to learn and research more about the Magraner family. Hopefully I'll able able to find some descendants of Damián and see my theory proven or disproven, and I'm really hoping for the former! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

52 Ancestors – #50 Manuel de Jesús Rivera Díaz (1855-1932)

Post #50! Almost at the end of the 52 Ancestor Challenge! This post will be about my 2nd great grandfather from the town of Toa Alta, where all my ancestors seem to be from haha. 

Manuel de Jesús was born in Toa Alta on the 1st of January in 1855 and baptized on the 3rd of March of the same year. Manuel appears in the pardo books of the town, which I have talked about before as one of the race identifiers of people on Puerto Rico which sometimes was synonymous with mestizo. Manuel was the son of Pedro Rivera Román and Eusebia Díaz Pacheco. Manuel's godparents were Juan Martin Pérez and Rosa Gutierrez who I'm not sure if they're related by blood or just good friends/neighbors of the parents. 

Manuel de Jesús later would marry Laureana González Mójica in 1855 in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. For most of life in records Manuel de Jesús would just appear as "Jesús" rather than Manuel de Jesús and it's not too uncommon to go by one's middle name especially when your first name is pretty common. Jesús was one of about 7 (documented) children and he himself would have 11 children with Laureana. 

Interestingly in 1910, we see Manuel de Jesús living on a farm he owned and lives on with his wife and children yet he is unable to read or write. To me this tells me that Jesús could have inherited the land he worked on from his parents or was a really hard worker and able to buy his own land. He would live on this land most of his life up until about 1930. He would later move to San Juan where his son was living and he would die there in 1932, living in the barrio of La Perla. 

I do wonder what Manuel de Jesús would have looked like, being listed as pardo yet a carrier of an European Y-DNA haplogroup. I would imagine that he would have darker features to categorize him under pardo. I have only one picture of his son late in his life and his son Alejandro does look mestizo-ish in the photo. It would be interesting to compare other pictures if any exist of the other children. As we know, within one single generation and within siblings the characteristics and phenotypes of each child can vary. 

I haven't been able to find any new Rivera cousins yet, but I am hopefully that one day I'll be able to find some Toa Alta cousins that connect with me on my Rivera side of the family! 

52 Ancestors – #49 Ana Morán Nazario (1870-1944)

Ana Morán Nazario, according to records is said to have been born in the town of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico around the year 1870. She would however spend most of her life in Manatí, where she would eventually pass away. 

Ana Morán Nazario married Agustin Calderón Meléndez around the year 1886, I haven't been able to find their marriage record and I'm not too surprised with this set of ancestors. Their surnames are constantly changing! Agustin was an illegitimate child so he therefore passed on the name Meléndez to his children and grandchildren. Ana on the other hand appears with the maternal surname "Rosario" or "Nazario" depending on the year and who is reporting the information. Ana and Agustin would have a big family -- about 16 children so far counted! This family so far has been a big tangled web that I'm still trying to take apart, since names are repeated across generations and the information for the family isn't consistent as well. It has truly been a dizzying experience to try and figure out exactly who is who! 

Ana in the 1910, 1930, 1935 and 1940 census appears as living in Manatí, Puerto Rico in the barrio of Coto with her husband Agustin. Ana would live there until her death in 1944 from a cardiac arrest. Ana was listed as white in most of the census records while her husband Agustin appears as mulatto. 

Ana's ancestors and her mix of surnames is one mystery I'm definitely still trying to crack! 

52 Ancestors – #48 Nicodemus Vélez Ríos (1878-1934)

I unfortunately never got to finish the 52 ancestors series before the end of 2014, with traveling around Europe and getting back into the swing of things here in Spain I haven't really been able to write new blog posts. But hopefully I'll be able to finish up the 52 Ancestors Challenge and write new posts I have been waiting to write for a bit now. Today I want to focus on Nicodemus, my 2nd great grandfather.

Nicodemus Vélez Ríos at first was a hard ancestor to track, in most records he appeared as "Nicodemo" and I only knew he was "Vélez" but no maternal surname. With some more researching and digging around I was able to learn more about his life. Nicodemus was born in the barrio of Guayabo Dulce in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. His parents were José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda and Ana Ríos González. Both sides of Nicodemus' family seem to come mainly from the towns of Mayagüez and San Sebastián. Luckily, some of his lines have been traced back to the early 1600s and to Spain by previous genealogists.

In 1906, Nicodemus would marry his wife Domitila Mercado Cruz, and at the time of their wedding Nicodemus would have been 28 years old while Domitila would have been only 15 years old. I'm not too sure why there was such an age gap between them, maybe Domitila's parents wanted to marry their daughter off into a well-to-do family (which from my research seems to be the story behind Nicodemus' family) or potentially Nicodemus fell in love and asked for her hand in marriage. I would need to read up more on Puerto Rican marriage and family ties throughout the island's history to better grasp their situation. Nicodemus and Domitila would have a TON of children, so far I have been able to count up to about 19 children in total… which is a humongous family!

By 1910, Nicodemus was married with Domitila and living in a rented home working as a majordomo on a coffee farm; he was unable to read or write. The family spent a lot of time moving back and forth from Utuado and Adjuntas seeing as how in 1910 they were living in Utuado but in 1918 he was working for Alfredo Palmieri in Adjuntas, in the 1920 census he would still be listed with his family in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. Throughout his life, Nicodemus mainly worked on coffee farms and never owned land of his own.

Nicodemus would pass away in the barrio of Juan González in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico in the year 1934. I had a really hard time finding his death certificate since I didn't know if he had died in Adjuntas or Utuado but finally I was able to track it down in Adjuntas. His cause of death was listed as "nefritis crónica" which is an inflammation of the kidneys and can be caused by toxins and infections. He and his wife died fairly young -- Nicodemus aged 55 and Domitila at the age of 48.

I didn't really grow up knowing too much about the Vélez family and most of the information I have learned is through genealogical searching, for example that Bernardina Sepúlveda (Nicodemus' grandmother) had owned slaves. I would like to learn more about this family and how things economically seemed to have changed for them within two generations. So far the Vélez family has been traced back to the mid-1700s in San Sebastián. I would love to learn about the paternal haplogroup of the Vélez family and see if I can trace them further back in Puerto Rico.

With 18 siblings for my great grandfather, I can only imagine that I have a ton of Vélez cousins spread around Puerto Rico and most likely the USA -- hopefully I can find some of them! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

52 Ancestors – #47 María de Carmen Chéverez Santiago

Today I want to focus on my 4th great grandmother on my maternal side of the family - María del Carmen Chéverez Santiago.

María del Carmen was probably born in Corozal around the 1830s, it is also possible that she was born in Toa Alta but from my search I haven't been able to find her there. María del Carmen was the daughter of Felipe Chéverez Rosado and Teresa de Jesús de Santiago, her parents themselves were born in Toa Alta and at some point move around to Morovis and probably lived some time in Ciales. María del Carmen later would marry José María Santos Avilés and together have five children (documented so far): María Guadalupe, María Leonor, Felipe, Gumercinda and Lorenzo.

Since María del Carmen wasn't born around the time of census taking I don't have much information on her or her life. I know that she had a sister named Simona Chéverez Santiago who lived in Ciales and married a man named Jesús Ortega Ocasio. Also, that María del Carmen probably died in Morovis around 1893-1909 but I haven't been able to find her death certificate.

The main reason I wanted to include her in this challenge, is because of just that reason, she has been quite a challenge to learn information about! I believe her family holds a potential key to finding a connection to my dad's side of the family. Equally her husband could also be related to my paternal side of the family being that both of their families comes from Toa Alta.

Hopefully I'll be able to trace some more information on her family and learn more about her. Let's see! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

52 Ancestors – #46 Francisca Orozco Santiago (1885-1945)

Ok, not fun being behind but hopefully I'll be able to catch up and get these posts down before the year is over and my holidays start! Here is my 46th post about my 2nd great grandmother Francisca Orozco Santiago. When I first had started my research on my maternal side of the family, I had heard about her from my own grandmother but being that she passed away before my grandmother got a chance to meet her, I didn't have too much information on her. Luckily, with census records and the Civil Registry of Puerto Rico I was able to learn some more information on her and her life in Yabucoa.

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico [Wikipedia] 

My 2nd great grandmother was born in the barrio and town of Calabazas, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on the 17th of October 1885. On her birth record she was registered with the surnames "Orozco Santiago" while some of her siblings were registered with a slight variation of the surname. Seems there was a bit of confusion with the order of the surnames as well as which ones to use. Francisca's parents were Benito Orozco and Dolores Santiago Burgos, and occasionally her father would appear as Benito Santana. My theory is that since Benito appears with only one surname, "Orozco", then Santana is probably his father's surname. However, records don't show any father for Benito and we can't know for such until we have some more proof and information about either his father or mother.

Yabucoa's Flag [CRWFlags]

Later Francisca would appear in 1909 marrying her husband Pedro Dávila Ruiz in Maunabo, Puerto Rico; his family's town of origin. One year later in 1910, she would appear living with her own parents back in Yabucoa along with her husband. This document would later help a cousin and I prove our relationship through the Orozco line in our families. It is also interesting to note that most of the time her and her family would appear as mulato or trigueño to describe their race.

From some reason, I can't seem to find the family in 1920 but in 1930, 1935 and 1940 the family still lives in Calabazas, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Pedro and Francisco would have seven children in total: Modesto, Epifania, Josefina, Juan, Dominga, Juan, and Eulalia. It was this generation that would start to move out of Yabucoa and even Puerto Rico to find a better life for their families.

Francisca would also pass away in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico in the year 1945. Unfortunately from my knowledge there aren't any pictures of Francisca being that in that year cameras still weren't that popular, especially in the rural areas of Puerto Rico. Being that I have pictures for some of her children I can imagine that Francisca was a mulata colored woman probably leaning more towards Taíno looks. Francisca is my maternal ancestress that carries the C1b4 native line so she comes from a long line of native woman (either Taíno, Arawak, or other).

The library of congress has a series of photos mostly taken by Jack Delano and most of them were taken around 1942 during a sugar mill strike happening in Yabucoa. It's so interesting to see the pictures and imagine my family's life then and potentially knowing some of these people in the picture. Here are some of the pictures from Yabucoa. My great grandmother Francisca would have been in her late 50s and the children in their 20s-30s around this time.

Houses in Yabucoa, PR [LOC]

Family from Yabucoa, PR [LOC]

Homes in Yabucoa, PR [LOC]

Men from Yabucoa, PR [LOC]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

52 Ancestors – #45 José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda (1837-1894)

Today I'm going to focus on my 3rd great grandfather from my paternal side of the family. This will bring me into my November posts and only 7 posts away from finishing the 52 Ancestors Challenge!

José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda was born on 6th of November 1837 in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico according to his baptismal record which occurred on the 19th of November 1837. José Severo was the legitimate son of José María Vélez Pérez and his wife Bernardina Sepúlveda Román (who I've mentioned in this challenge!). His godparents were Valerio Pérez and Jacinta González, I'm not if Valerio was an uncle to José María via his mother but it could be possible.

I'm not sure how long José Severo would live in Adjuntas but it seems that the family spent time between both Adjuntas and Utuado, located in the central part of Puerto Rico. This family did some moving around seeing as José María was from San Sebastián, Bernardina from Mayagüez, both passed away in Adjuntas but José Severo himself would pass away in Utuado. All of these towns though are fairly close to one another so traveling around wouldn't be as bad as saying going from Mayagüez to Fajardo.

José Severo would marry sometime around the early 1860s to his wife Ana Ríos González, she was said to have been born in Lares but her own parents were born in San Sebastián (so possibly she was born in San Sebastián herself). Together they would have an astonishing number of children: 17!! This is the number I have been able to trace through records, but who knows if there are a few missing. It seems that José Severo and Ana both came from pretty big families themselves so probably for them it wasn't out of the ordinary. It seems that José Severo was one of 10 children and Ana one of 12, those are pretty big numbers!

José Severo like most of my other ancestors was most likely a farmer, but I was surprised to see that he could sign his name! José Severo was born in the early 1800s and I imagine the importance of education wasn't forced onto children, especially when they themselves grew up to be farmers. José Severo's death certificate in 1894 doesn't mention his profession but I would imagine it was that of an agricultural farmer. None the less, here is his signature:

Signature- José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda [FamilySearch]

It does make me wonder however about the kind of wealth his family had, seeing as his mother had slaves in 1872. This probably means that they owned some land and got enough profits off of it to own slaves and have their children educated. Could this be wealth that they inherited from old Spanish immigrant ancestors? Did they work their way up and earn money through hard work and dedication to farming? I'm actually not too sure. The Sepúlveda side of the family does have a line long of ancestors living in Puerto Rico tracing back to the early 1500s and some of the wealth could have come from that side of the family. Only digging further into more records could expose more information on this matter. José Severo died four short years before Puerto Rico became an American territory, but I do wonder about his political standing during the time. His wife on the other hand did live during the Spanish-American war and but died one year short of seeing Puerto Ricans become recognized American citizenships. It's always interesting to look at genealogy through a historical lens seeing as it does add to the story of the ancestor and your family in general.