Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some "Spring Cleaning"

So while I've been here in Puerto Rico I've been trying to get the ball rolling on getting some ancestry work done. I've visited the AGPR (Archivo General de Puerto Rico) and tomorrow the records I ordered are supposed to come in! (The records are from Lares, Puerto Rico). I've been looking at pictures and trying to match names to faces and trying to find a way to get to the InterAmericana University here in Puerto Rico to order records from the church in Yabucoa.

I also went to the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery to see if I could find my great grandmother who is supposedly buried there. I looked at the tombs to see if I could find it by glancing over them but some were almost completely destroyed and unreadable which was really sad to see. I went to the office to ask and apparently you need to know the name of the owner of the tomb. I asked her to check for a Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez, her husband and the one who would have been buried first if he died there but nothing came up. So many years have passed and so many generations that I'm not sure who was the last person to 'own' the tomb. Could it be a friend, or maybe a relative? The only way to be sure that she is or isn't buried there would be to actually walk around the entire cemetery and even then with the illegible tombs I wouldn't be able to know if one of them were her's.

One of the old defense points along the coast this one near La Perla

Even though I wasn't able to find their tomb I was able to walk by La Perla and see the street a bit of where my great grandparents would have lived. Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez and Mercedes Ortiz Marrero in 1930 lived in Barrio Mercado in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The part of Mercado they lived in was a part of La Perla; specifically they lived on Calle Lucila Silva which from the picture here you can see near the bend. I was able to take a picture from that point down Calle Lucila Silva, or what it was named then. It was kind of surreal to see a place where my ancestors lived about 80 years ago and having not known them.

Calle Lucila Silva in La Perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico
I was pretty happy with being able to see that street but it would have been cool to walk down the street and potentially find the house but that is asking for a bit too much. Since I have one month of ancestry.com I've been adding records to family members and trying to get in contact with the distant cousins I've found, luckily some have responded! I have about 400 members left that have hints or records attached to them to go through.

Hopefully if I find some interesting pictures I'll post them up here! Also if I find anything new out from the AGPR records!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Finding Where They Lived

So we all know that technology is awesome, for the most part. We are able to see things miles and miles away from simply typing in some words and BAM there is the Eiffel Tower on our screen. But more importantly we can see where our ancestors lived.

By looking at the 1930 Census and using Google Maps I was able to look at where my great grandparents had lived during that time. My great grandfather Alejandro Rivera González born in 1883 married for the third time in 1922 with Mercedes Ortiz Marrero who was only about 18 years old. Alejandro was originally from Toa Alta, Puerto Rico while Mercedes was from Corozal, Puerto Rico. In 1930, both were living together in the barrio Mercado in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Alejandro & Mercedes in 1930 living in Mercado, San Juan

Along the left-hand side you can see that it says they were living on Calle Lucila Silva in Mercado, San Juan, Puerto Rico. By typing in Cll (Short for Calle) Lucila Silva into Google Maps I was able to find it on the map. Calle Lucila Silva is actually located inside La Perla located near the Fort of El Morro in Old San Juan. Ironically, if always passed near this place every time I go visit Puerto Rico not knowing that my great grandparents lived in that neighborhood. The neighborhood unfortunately isn't very welcoming to outsiders due to the high issues with drug trafficking so it wouldn't be safe for me to roam around and find Calle Lucila Silva.

Calle Lucila Silva in La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you notice, La Perla is located very close to the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. Here it is said that my great grandmother is buried! I didn't even know this as well until last year when I spoke to an aunt in Puerto Rico. So hopefully I'll be able to head into that cemetery and check to see if she really is buried in there! The story goes they had a plot in the cemetery so they buried her in there, my guess is that maybe her husband Alejandro Rivera González is buried in there who passed away before her. I guess we'll find out soon! Thanks to the power of technology we're able to figure out things like this!

Digging For More Information

So today at the wee hours of the morning I was searching for the death certificate of my great aunt, Luz Lilliame Correa Miranda. I knew that she only lived to be about 4-5 years old and lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I started searching from July 1950 backwards and once I hit March I found her!!

On a trip to Puerto Rico last year, I found my great grandmother's bible in my grandmother's closet (it was her husband's mother's bible). Inside as either a page holder or tucked away for safety was Luz' birth certificate; sadly when I pulled it out it ripped in half from how sensitive the paper was, luckily there is tape! On the certificate it stated that she was born on April 8th, 1945 in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico and that her parents were Manuel Correa (my elusive great grandfather) and Ernestina Miranda. I asked my grandmother what she knew about her and she told me that Luz only lived to be about 5, unfortunately dieing as a little girl. I was lucky enough to have pictures of her that had once belonged to my grandfather and so I decided to keep them since they were only sitting inside a closet in Puerto Rico.

Luz Lilliame Correa Miranda, circa late 1940s
Finding Luz' death certificate helped me solidify more that Manuel Correa is the man I think he is and what I know about him. On her death certificate he is stated to be 'Manuel Correa Rivera' (Just like on his Social Security Application and what my grandfather told me). Interestingly, Luz is buried in the Isla Verde cemetery (it says Mapal. Isla Verde, but I wonder if "Mapal." is short for Municipal, maybe I'll be able to visit!)

Luz and Carlos (her brother/my grandfather)

Unfortunately Manuel didn't sign his name on the Death Certificate so I'm not able to compare it to the two other signatures I have of him. Manuel himself is said to have passed away on May 7th, 1993 in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico but I haven't had any luck finding his death certificate. From my knowledge Manuel and Ernestina only had Carlos (my grandfather) and Luz (his sister) so the picture I have of them with a man has to be their father, especially since both Manuel Correa and my grandfather look so similar. I wonder where the picture was taken? My guess is somewhere in San Juan, but where; it looks like they're near a road or very open space. The search still continues and each day my great grandfather becomes less and less elusive!


Manuel and his children Carlos and Luz

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Importance of Other Branches- Part II

I will continue with the Antonetti family except going forward and how they helped me find my elusive great grandfather in the 1930 Census.

Francisco and Luisa never seemed to live together. Neither on the 1910, 1920 1930 Census did they live in the same household, though Francisco Antonetti does recognize in the 1910 Census that he was married. But they did have one child (don't know if there were more) that Luisa Correa lived with in 1920 in Catedral, San Juan, Puerto Rico. His name was Celedonio Sécola Correa and was born on January 20th, 1906 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. I don't know why but his father is written down with the Sécola rather than Antonetti, all the information matches on the document though. My guess is that either: 1) His father was from a family named Sécola or 2) His father decided to change his name himself. Either way this new name must have had some significance to the father or family.

In 1930, Celedonio was married to a Carmen Davila and had one daughter named Ana Maria Sécola Davila born around March 1930. What's interesting is that along with the family is living a Manuel Correa, the name of my great grandfather!!!! He is written down as primo which means cousin; I instantly jumped into my family tree to see if this made sense. Julio Correa Gustavo and Luisa Gustavo were brothers and sisters, Julio had Manuel and Luisa had Celedonio meaning that they ARE cousins!! He is written down as "Col" short for colored (which is correct) and is said to be 8 years old, making him born around 1922 (My great grandfather was born in 1920!) I think and strongly believe this is Manuel my great grandfather. This would also explain how he got from Salinas to San Juan, but I wonder what happened to his parents who I couldn't find in the 1930 Census anywhere!

Pictured below are the two streets Manuel Correa would have lived in in the 1930 Census and 1944 when his son was born. Calle Salvador Brau was where Manuel was written down to have lived with his cousin Celedonio Sécola while Calle Loiza was where Manuel Correa lived with Ernestina when my grandfather was born in 1944. The two streets aren't completely far away from each other and both are in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I hope he didn't have any other cousins named Manuel Correa!

Distance from Calle Salvador Brau and Calle Loiza in San Juan, PR
So this is why searching other lines is important, it can help you find information out about people you've been searching for and might have not had luck finding otherwise. So thanks to the Sécola/Antonetti family I found [and really hope it is him] my great grandfather on the 1930 Census in San Juan, Puerto Rico!

The Importance of Other Branches- Part I

When researching your family, I think it's important to research other branches that have married in. Each of them can carry a unique story that adds to your overall ancestry and can give you more of an insight to how your family and their siblings lived. The family I'm going to focus on today is Luisa Correa Gustavo but more so her husband Francisco Antonetti.

Luisa and Francisco got married on the 5th of June 1902 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Luisa is the daughter of Manuel Correa Ortiz and Maria Paulina Gustavo, who's family immigrated from Guadeloupe/Martinique. Francisco Antonetti is the illegitimate son of Catalina Antonetti, the father is unknown but might have ties with the family Sécola (more on that in the next post). Their family history is interesting; Catalina in the 1910 Census appears as born in Puerto Rico while her parents were born in Africa. Looking for documents I found a Catalina Antonetti in the 1872 Slave Registry living in Salinas at the age of 16 as a laborer to what I believe says "brothers Antonetti". Therefore Antonetti would not/is not her original family name but from her master. Catalina is the daughter of Fabiana, who was either born in Africa or Puerto Rico and was also a slave to the Antonetti family at the same time Catalina was.

Catalina Antonetti, living in Salinas, Puerto Rico
Going one more generation back, Fabiana "Antonetti" was the daughter of Florina/Flora "Antonetti" who was also a slave at the time her daughter and granddaughter were. My guess is that Flora was originally bought by the Antonetti family, she definitely is reported being from Africa, sadly it doesn't say from where in Africa. Then either intentionally or not, Fabiana and then Catalina were born. Later after slavery ended, Catalina remained with the name Antonetti and remained in Salinas, Puerto Rico. Florina, her grandmother, later died in Talas Viejas, Salinas, Puerto Rico on October 17th 1894, having seen freedom.

Pictured below should be three generations: Catalina, Fabiana and Florina of daughters and mothers all slaves in 1872 to the Antonetti family. Note: Catalina at the time is said to be 16 while her mother is written down as 23. My guess is that the ages were not exact for obvious reasons. At the time of Catalina's death she was written down to be 125 years old which to me is exaggerated.  

Catalina as a slave to the Antonetti family, 1872.

Fabiana as a slave to the Antonetti family, 1872.

Florina as a slave to the Antonetti family, 1872.


The Antonetti family owned a good number of slaves at the time of the registration in 1872. I don't know if they have any relation to Vicente Antoneti who was from Salinas, Puerto Rico as well and was robbed by Roberto Cofresí, a Puerto Rican pirate. I wonder what were the names of the brothers so that I could research them and learn more about this family; Antonetti is said to be a name of Corsican ancestry. I also wonder from where in Africa Florina came from, many Africans were brought over from Western Africa but I wonder what country. The next best documents to look at would be to check if they were baptized in Salinas, Puerto Rico.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ancestry Finder from 23&Me

So stepping away a bit from paper trail ancestry and back to genealogy from 23andme, I decided to take some screen shots from a tool called "Ancestry Finder" and talk a bit about its awesomeness and the results I have. So 23andme has some really cool stuff that you can get dragged into sometimes it seems for hours. Among them besides Relative Finder, Ancestry Painting, Maternal/Paternal Haplogroups and the "My Health" Section there is the Ancestry Finder tool. So the way it works is you fill out a survey telling them where your four grandparents were born (there are some more questions but you only see the countries they list). From those answers, whoever matches you as a cousin will show up in where ever they match you along your chromosomes and then show the countries where the grandparents were born. What's real cool about it is that you can switch around controls in the advanced options to what you'll like to see. For example, here is my Ancestry Finder set to: "5cm" Minimum Segment Size and 4 Grandparents born in the same country.

My results for Ancestry Finder

I added the countries over the bars to show where the grandparents were from. I was VERY surprised by the results; I matched people with grandparents born in Cuba, Columbia, Mexico, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Russia, and the U.K. This doesn't mean that you have direct ancestors from there but that someone centuries ago from in your ancestry could have moved there, had extended family there, etc.. The ones that surprised me the most were ones like Lithuania and Russia! These are unexpected I would say for me being that my family is from Puerto Rico and you don't really hear about these groups having descendants in Puerto Rico.I do match people from Puerto Rico but since I didn't set it to show matches from the "US" they didn't show up.

You can also change around the advanced settings to 1+, 2+, 3+, born in the same country; to show matches from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa; to show public segments; indicate segments people have marked to be of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and the minimum segment size.

I also took screen shots of my grandmother's and great grandfather's Ancestry Finders to show the different results they got. Here they are below:

Grandmother's Ancestry Results

Great Grandfahter's Ancestry Finder results

You can see how some segments my grandmother inherited from her father while other segments don't show up on his. What's really interesting is when segments overlap one another such as where on my great grandfather's Ireland, U.K., Portugal and Switzerland matches overlap. I wonder if they all/most of them share some same common ancestor? Its really cool to play around with the settings and see what countries you have distant cousins in.

I hope I can prove some paper trail matches with these cousins one day!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

10 Genealogical Research Tips

This advice is mainly for Puerto Ricans, especially to those living on the mainland (the United States) wanting to look up their family history. Of course, most of this advice also applies to anyone starting out family history and ancestry searches. Here are some tips, steps and general advice!
For Puerto Ricans living in the United States, it might seem difficult trying to research and find your family that was born on the island when you're not actually in Puerto Rico. Yet there are ways to research from the United States and get what you need, I've been able to do it myself so there are be little excuses that you can't!

1. Begin by asking your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and pretty much anyone older than you for information. Of course the oldest person with a good memory might be a good start but sometimes others have already asked your same questions and so they hold the answers.Write down EVERYTHING you are told, stress on everything!! From names, nicknames, dates, towns, professions, years, births, baptisms, marriages, divorces, brothers, sisters, parents, step parents, god parents, cousins, to even phenotype (hair color, eye color, skin color), etc. All of these things can be keys to helping you unlock ancestors, sometimes an ancestor might be written down by their nickname and so having the names of the siblings allows you to confirm and/or use those names as well for searching. [It happened to me, my great grandfather in the census was written down by his nickname and thankfully by knowing his brothers' and sisters' names I was able to find him.] Also look in family bibles and even on the back of pictures for hints about your ancestors is helpful. Town names can become important especially when people in your family start moving, a lot of families may have come from more rural parts of Puerto Rico and later moved into the urbanized parts to seek better jobs and opportunities. Not all families come from San Juan you know :)

***Side note: In Puerto Rico, many if not everyone goes by both paternal and maternal surnames, make sure to jot down both of these names. It'll be very helpful when you need to look through tons and tons of people with common names like Rivera, Torres, Sanchez, Gonzalez, etc or Maria, Jose, Juan, etc. EX: Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez (my great grandfather- Rivera from his father, Gonzalez from mother). Also, sometimes ancestors might have switched around surnames, ex: mother's first, father's last, or take on different surnames. The Census records are documents filled by what the people going around have been told, so not all the information is 100% accurate just because it's an 'official' document.***

2. After you've gathered all the information you can/enough to begin research, start by looking for ancestors on census records, the 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 will be the only current available records for Puerto Rican families seeing as how Puerto Rico only became a commonwealth only after 1898. Start by typing in names and towns (if you're unaware of where they're from leave that part empty) and begin your search. Check to see if your public library offers free service to www.ancestry.com or HeritageQuest. For ancestry use, you'll have to use the library's computers for searching and with HeritageQuest you can use it at home only if your library has a compatible library card to use; this website only contains 1910 and 1920 Census records from Puerto Rico. SAVE THESE DOCUMENTS for future reference!!

3. Keep faith and keep searching!! You don't know many times I've searched and searched to find nothing and later to come back and find what I was looking for! [Perfect example: I've been searching and searching for my great great grandmother in the 1920 Census records and wasn't able to find her. I typed in just Maria, expecting either her surname as Charles or Gustavo and expecting to find her in Caguas. I found her as Maria Chales, the 'r' missing in her surname.] That's another thing, expect mistakes, sometimes people spelled the names based on sounds, so Orozco can also appear as Orosco or Alvarez as Albarez. Spanish tends to allow that possibility :)

4. Keep tabs on your ancestors, I have a family tree on www.ancestry.com with attached pictures and documents (you can make it either public or private, mine is private). I prefer ancestry.com because if there is a hint for the ancestor you can see what type of hint it is and see whether is it accurate or not; sometimes it helps to figure out a rough estimate for when ancestors lived/died. Keep some sort of tree with all the branches you have and make it as accurate as possible. If you're unsure of a surname, place of origin, etc. make sure to jot that down as well. For example: Soler (?), the question mark will tell you you're unsure of the name; Rivera/Rodriguez, the (/) tells you you don't know which of the two it might be but you it it's one of them; Mojica (Muxica), providing an alternate spelling lets you know that an ancestor might have spelled their name differently or appear with one or the other or both depending on time frames of the documents. [These are my methods for keeping tabs on information, it might work for some but not for others, so if you need to create your own system by all means!]

5. Don't forget about WWI and WWII Registration Cards!! These can provide hints for (male) ancestors and their professions, whether they had a wife/children and sometimes even their height, eye color, hair color, skin color and any condition they might have had. [One of my ancestors notes in his Registration Card that he has a broken rib.] These registration cards are available on www.ancestry.com as well. 
***Side Note: Make sure to check in the Census Records where it says Mother's & Father's Birthplace, maybe not all of your ancestors were born in Puerto Rico. You might find some from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Spain, France, Corsica, Denmark, amongst the many countries immigrates came from. For those ancestors you'll have to search the appropriate country's documents for them.***

6. After you've searched all the Census Records and Registration Cards you'll get to a point where you won't be able to find all your ancestors on these documents, now that you're a seasoned genealogist time to move on to bigger and badder documents (I say bigger and badder because they're really cool and sometimes difficult to use haha!) Try your luck at FamilySearch. Go to the "Caribbean, Central and South America" section, and then click on "Puerto Rico". Two options will come out: The Registro Civil (Civil Registry) and Church Records. I personally would say go for the Civil Registry first seeing as how they have birth, marriage and death all there. The church records are complimentary to the Registry records and can be helpful as well. Two important things: 1) You'll need to have a basic level of reading Spanish for this, seeing as how all the documents are in Spanish. If you can't read Spanish grab a loving friend to help you figure out what it means. (All the documents follow a similar layout so once you have that figured out the names and dates will be the most important things) 2) Some records do not have indexes to them. This means you'll have to search records one by one. This is a hassle only if you see it as one, remember, you are searching old documents so be prepared to put your mind frame in those years when the documents were made that there was no "Google" search bar. Every document you find from then on will be rewarding to you.

7. Save these documents in an appropriate manner that will allow you to find them easily when you go back for them. Example, keep a folder titled 'Ancestry' and within that one, one labeled "Maternal Files" and the other "Paternal Files" (This way you won't have to search through ALL the records when you want to go back to one.) Save files for example like this: Pedro Sanchez Torres- Matrimonio- Image 178.jpeg This allows you to easily see a) the name of the ancestor, b) what sort of document it is and c) on what image it is on. You can also save the Folio number which is the actual sheet number of the book, I don't tend to since it's on the actual document. Also by saving it as .jpeg it allows it to open as an actual picture you can zoom in on and everything.

8. Some ancestors, the more recent ones at least who've worked and applied for them might have SSN Social Security Numbers. Sometimes if you search websites such as: Social Security Death Index or Tributes you'll be able to find some ancestors. Sometimes if you can't find them on documents and you have their SSN try using this website to order their Social Security Application; the person will have to be deceased. It costs 27$ to order if you have the SSN and 29$ if you don't. I've done it twice and have gotten back results, it takes about average 3-4 weeks to receive the copy. It helped me crack a brick wall for an ancestor I wasn't sure about. (Read my post about my great grandfather Manuel Correa Rivera to see what I mean.)

9. Only some of the church records for Puerto Rico have been added online under the "church records" link under 'Puerto Rico'. To check to see if your town has church records but not online check FamilySearch Catalog and type in the name of the town. There you'll see what is available and you'll be able to order the microfiche to a FamilySearch center near you, click on the link to see which are near you based on your zip code. You'll need to pay a fee for having the microfiche sent to you and it'll depend on how much you want it to stay there at the center. I'm not completely sure on the prices so check by calling the center or asking in person if it's close by.

10. Last but not definitely not least, have fun with it! Remember you gotta do this for the love of it, it will become hard at times and you'll want to forget ever starting your tree but without a challenge how will you be rewarded? If you're unsure try, try again and even ask someone for help or reassurance if you need it. Be open to new information and maybe even shocking information if you find something no one has talked about in your family. (Hey, it can happen, for example an adoption or NPE- Non-Paternity Event) Learn the story of your ancestors and their past!

***Final Side Note: Don't believe everything you read online. Unless it has a proper source cited you can trace don't be too sure it's the right information. Sometimes people have public trees up but which contain wrong information (or at least to you), a simple slip up can lead you down branches that don't really belong on your tree [It happened with one of my ancestors while searching in the Census records, I had the wrong woman on my tree]. Also make sure to double check everything you have and have your own citing system. That way if you ever have to prove you have the right information, you'll have it all ready and presentable!

So those are my 10 research tips for how to start up a family tree! Good luck and God speed!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Race Categories

In Puerto Rico, there can sometimes be a hodgepodge of culture mixing. Besides the typical European, African and Native mix there also happen to be other cultures that have found their way onto the island. From the French and Corsicans, to the Dutch, Italians, Irish and nearby Dominicans and Cubans, and through my research I've even seen Syrians and Chinese! I bring this up because when on certificates they categorize people, they tend to write blanco, negro, trigueño, pardo, mulato, which are the most I've seen. A lot of these are argued about what they mean and when to actually use them so I won't classify them or explain them myself.

One interesting classification of race I came across during my research for an ancestor was 'Indio/ Indian'. My first thought would be India!- but seeing as how Indian took both the Native American and Indian meaning back then I would have to say that it is the former rather than the latter. My g-g-g grandfather, Buenaventura Ortiz Rivera was identified in his death certificate as 'Indio' as well as his parents. Look below:

Buenaventura Ortiz Rivera's Death Certificate

Buenaventura Ortiz Rivera was born abt. 1850 in Corozal, Puerto Rico to Ramón Ortiz and Sotera Rivera, both from Corozal, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of these ancestors or of their descendants such as my great grandmother Mercedes Ortiz Marrero, daughter of Martin Ortiz Pérez, son of Buenaventura Ortiz Rivera and Blasina Pérez Vásquez. It would be very interesting to see a picture of them seeing as how they were written down as 'Indian' race rather than say mulato, pardo or trigueño. I wonder how 'Indian' they were.

The Importance of Storytelling

I would say I'm a strong advocate for parents telling children stories about their family's past, of course I don't think there's some campaign for this; but for me most of the stories, whether true or leaning towards false, can contain important information for when looking up family history.

There's one story on my dad's side about his great grandmother that helped me crack a brick wall with both her and her husband. My paternal great grandfather Alejandro Rivera González was born in Quebrada Arenas, Toa Alta, Puerto Rico according to his Baptismal Record on the 9th of December 1883. He would marry three times in his life: the first time to Brigida Hernández Vélez who later died sometime between 1906 and 1916. His second marriage was to Petrona Ortiz Nieves who he later divorced in 1922. And his third wife, my great grandmother, was Mercedes Ortiz Marrero. Yet since I didn't know that Alejandro was my great grandfather, I wasn't able to find Mercedes. One of my aunt's knew that Mercedes and Alejandro were her grandparents and that they lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. So with that I found them together in San Juan in 1930 and in their parents in the 1910 and 1920 Censuses. 

Yet I didn't know when Mercedes had died but this strange and sad story helped me find her death certificate: Tia Toña who lived in Carolina died the same day as abuela Mercedes. They say that Toña died first and when Mercedes saw her in the coffin she died on top of it. With this story I started searching Carolina/San Juan Death Certificates around the early 1980s, I was looking for a Antonia Rivera Ortiz and Mercedes Ortiz that died in the same year. Finally I struck gold and found the death certificate for them both dieing in 1984. When I looked at their records, it gave me a chill because not only did they die the same year but the same day, the story could be true!

Antonia Rivera Ortiz' Death Certificate

Antonia 'Toña' Rivera Ortiz was born in 1942 and died at 7:30am on December 1st, 1984. She apparently had gone up to the 4th year of university and worked in Centro Medico my guess as secretary (the word is cut off but it shows 'aria' my guess from secretaría). She had been in the hospital for 18 days and died from a respiratory cardiac arrest. Her mother, Mercedes Ortiz was born in 1903 in Corozal, Puerto Rico daughter of Martin Ortiz and Antonia Marrero. Mercedes' death certificate says she died 5:45pm also on December 1st, 1984. It says she died while arriving/on route and only minutes was at the hospital; it says she also died from a respiratory cardiac arrest. I'm not sure if her daughter was already in a coffin being that it was the same day but surely hearing about her daughter's death might have caused her to die. (The death certificate states that Hypertension also could be a contributing factor to her death.)

Mercedes Ortiz' Death Certificate

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of these ancestors, hopefully one day I will!! But until then I'll have to settle for the stories of the past that help extend my tree.

Discovering Foreign Ancestors

At the beginning of this journey, I had one goal besides creating my family tree: to find Spanish-born or foreign born ancestors. I don't know why I thought it important for me to find an ancestor born outside of Puerto Rico, but being that a lot of my ancestors (aka, all the ones I've found so far) were born in Puerto Rico I wanted someone to break the monotony and I guess potentially provide me a place to visit seeing as I love to travel. My elusive great grandfather provided me with an ancestor born outside of Puerto Rico after much searching on his branch.

With the new information I had I was able to find out that Manuel Correa was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico on March 4th, 1920 as Isidoro Correa Rivera, a legitimate child of Julio Correa Gustavo and Amalia Rivera Masantini. Both Gustavo and Masantini are 'weird' names I would say compared to the common ones like Rivera, García, Rodríguez, etc. Unfortunately I haven't been able to crack the Masantini line, so for know I'll focus on the Gustavo line. Manuel's father Julio Correa Gustavo was born on the 5th of August 1895 in Playas, Salinas, Puerto Rico the son of Manuel Correa Ortiz and Maria Paulina Gustavo Lotten (Sometimes she appears as Octavia and her mother's last name appears also through out different documents as Loten, Lotiz, Lotez, Loteis); its hard to make out what exactly it is.

Julio's father was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico around 1862 and his mother somewhere around 1866-1872 and appears to be born in Vieques, Puerto Rico. This is where it begins to get interesting! Maria Gustavo, also sometimes appears as Maria Charles was the daughter of Juan Carlos Gustavo Charles and Julianna Barbara Lotten/Loten/Loteis. Both her parents were born OUTSIDE of Puerto Rico apparently on the island of Martinique. (Sometimes it says Guadeloupe so I don't want to rule out one over the other being that both of them were French territories and still are and very close in geography.) Thanks to Google Maps, I've been able to show how the Gustavo/Charles family would have made their way from Guadeloupe/Martinique to Vieques and then onto the mainland of Puerto Rico.

Gustavo Charles family makes their way to Puerto Rico

There are some things that I've taken into account as I look at this family: 1. Gustavo could have started out as Gustav/Gustaf/Gustave and the "O" was added to give the name more of a Spanish ring to it. 2. "Juan Carlos Gustavo" could have been "Jean Charles/Carl Gustave", again the name could have been changed to fit the Spanish culture in Puerto Rico. 3. Julianna could have been Julienne. 4. "Charles" could have been the actually surname instead of Gustavo and there was a mix-up, seeing as how their children and some future generations jump back and forth between Gustavo and Charles.

Thanks to the power and technology of the internet I have become aware of the "Archive nationales d'outre-mar" which contain French documents from territories such as Algeria, Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, and Haiti to name some; the documents are of course in French. Thanks to the 2 years in High School and 1 semester in college of French I was able to look at the documents for Martinique and Guadeloupe. But since I don't know where exactly they're from on what island I haven't had any luck finding them among the available records.

I don't know too much about these islands' history but I am aware that there were French, African, Arawak/Carib influences on the island. Being that the family is written down as 'black' I'm guessing they are a creole family of African and European mixture. It would be interesting to find out exactly where they come from, Gustavo has a sort of Germanic ring to it while Charles sounds both English and/or French. Of course I'm still working on this family branch and maybe one day I'll be able to visit both these islands with more information at hand.

Solving A Mystery- Detective Style

Like I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't know too much about my mom's grandfather and his family. My grandmother had told me that his father, Manuel Correa (The elusive man in my family tree), worked in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a bus driver after meeting Ernesta. From my knowledge, I don't know if they married and didn't know when he died; on Ernesta's Death Certificate according to her brother she never married. So really I had no starting points for Manuel. My grandmother mentioned that Guayama, Puerto Rico is where my grandfather's family was from but after searching Manuel Correa, or just Manuel on the 1910-1930 Censuses there was no hint of a Manuel Correa that matched my great grandfather in Puerto Rico.

My grandfather (right), his sister and Manuel Correa

After a trip to Puerto Rico last year to visit my grandmother, I found in her closet some things that belonged to my grandfather (along with this picture above). Amongst the things were pictures of my grandfather as a kid, his army training in Fort Gordon in Georgia, my great grandmother's bible (and tucked away inside my grandfather's sister's birth certificate), along with some documents such as a copy of my grandfather's birth certificate. In the copy of the birth certificate, some things were cleared up: My great grandfather worked as a 'choffer' (driver) like my grandmother told me, he was marked as "T" - trigueño which means dark-skinned, was born about 1920 apparently from Ponce, Puerto Rico. After, I asked my grandmother for more information, asking her for everything she knew even if she wasn't sure if it correct. She told me that Manuel had separated from Ernesta and died in Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico around the early 1990s. With that new information I searched and didn't find anything except a potential social security death which matched, this Manuel was born in 1920 and died in 1993 in San Juan. With the SSN at hand I ordered his Social Security Application which cost 27$.

When I received the Social Security Application, I noticed similarities between these two Manuels. First that he had lived in San Juan, was born in 1920, worked for a Taxi Company called " Majestic Taxi Cabs, Inc." but was from Salinas (which actually isn't too far from Guayama or Ponce). Something else caught my attention, Manuel's second last name was "Rivera" (early that same year I had called my grandfather who did say that his father was Manuel Correa Rivera and I thought he was confusing him with his own mother who was Ernesta Rivera- but turns out Manuel was Correa Rivera!) Thanks to the power of Google Maps I was able to figure out that Calle Loiza where he lived in 1944 was only a 3 minute drive from Calle Julián Blanco were he lived in 1951 (picture below.)

Streets from 1944 and 1951 where Manuel Correa lived

Every fiber in my body told me this HAD to be my great grandfather Manuel Correa, being that everything seemed to add up and rather nicely! But I wanted harder evidence than just streets close by in San Juan and similar years, seeing my last post with what happened with Ramona Rivera Rivera I didn't want the same thing to happen again and end up back in square one. I kept looking at the documents, at every single fact on the papers. There had to be something that would prove that these two men were actually the same person! Reviewing the documents again, it hit me-- there had to be signatures on the documents!! This for me sealed the deal, look at the signatures below and see the similarities.

Manuel Correa's signatures in 1944 and 1951

Our signatures change as we get older, we develop more elegant hand writing and it later remains stable after we have decided to keep something that makes our names 'ours'. The first signature, took place in 1944, in the year my grandfather was born. You can see that it looks legible but neither perfect nor beautiful; in this year Manuel was 24 years old and he could have just learned how to write recently or barely practiced seeing as during these times not many children continued their education past middle school/ high school, as they were needed on their parents' farms to work or had to provide for their own families. It seems he had some trouble writing his last name on the first document. 7 years later in 1951, we see that Manuel's signature has changed but has kept some of the earlier features. The "M" in Manuel has a loop before beginning the letter in both years, the "C" in Correa has an inner circles that he starts both "C"s with in the documents and finally the "R"s in Correa have loops in the upper left corner which appear in both years. Besides the fact that he later writes Rivera in 1951 I'm pretty sure this is the same Manuel (Ernesta only writes Miranda as well in 1944.) I felt like a detective after finding this on both documents! After this I started searching for Manuel's family since both his parents were listed on his Social Security Application, Julio Correa and Amalia Rivera from Salinas, Puerto Rico I'll post about the research in another post!

Finally the brick wall that has been there since about 2004 has been broken down and can finally continue adding to my ancestry!!

Clearing Up A Mix-Up

In all honesty, my maternal grandfather's line has been one of the hardest to trace for what ever reason. Mostly because I have no communication with him, but I was fortunate enough that my grandmother was aware of some names in his family such as his mother's name as well as her parents which was a great start. His father (my great grandfather, Manuel Correa) was the hardest person I probably had on my tree to find. Every time I looked at my family tree, that area of the family tree was blank, along with my father's branch because no one was aware of names, dates or places, but later that all changed.

With my maternal grandfather's line, I knew that his mother's name was Ernesta Miranda Rivera who died in 1989 and that her parents' names were Jose Miranda and Ramona Rivera. I also knew that Ernesta was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico with a twin brother. The story goes that while her mother was giving birth at her home, first came out Ernesto (her twin brother) and then her mother gave birth to a 'bag' (which was the placenta of Ernesta) and the doctor cut open the placenta to find Ernesta inside. I don't know if this is medically possible but it makes a great story about her birth.

My Great Grandmother Ernesta Miranda Rivera (1923-1989)

Knowing she was born in Vega Baja and in 1923 she would have to appear on the 1930 Census with her family in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico I searched the records on ancestry.com and found them.

Ernesta Miranda Rivera in 1930 living in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico

For some reason, mainly because I was told that Ramona Rivera was Ramona Rivera Rodríguez , I thought her parents were Conrado Rivera Ortiz and Asunción Rodríguez Figueroa who lived in Vaga, Morovis, Puerto Rico in 1910; where my great great grandmother had also lived (There was a Ramona listed with them in 1910). Yet after finding both Ernesta's birth and death certificate, I found out that her mother was actually not Ramona Rivera Rodríguez but Ramona Rivera Rivera. Both her parents were Rivera Rodríguez themselves, Ramona's father being Francisco Rivera Rodríguez from Morovis and her mother Estebanía Rivera Rodríguez according to records from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico she was born abt 1839 and died on 23 July 1919 in Vaga, Morovis, Puerto Rico. (Estebanía and Francisco do not share the same parents and from the looks of it might not be closely related since it's said that his Francisco's father was from Bayamón and his mother from Morovis while Estebanía's family was from Barranquitas.) So for a while I was confused about who Ramona was but thankfully I've corrected her branch and added the right names! Pictured below is a woman who I believe is my great great grandmother Ramona Rivera Rivera, I'm not completely sure but I found her picture in my grandfather's photo album where I also found pictures of his mother and him as a child. Notice how half of the picture seems to be missing, there's a hand (looks like a man's hand) holding the woman around at the arm. Who could that be and was he intentionally wiped out of the picture? Sometimes some mysteries may never be solved!

A picture of who I believe is Ramona Rivera Rivera

The Magic of Genes

Joining 23&me at the age of 18 opened my mind to A LOT, not just about genealogy, ancestry, genes and everything in between but it allowed me to take part and become a member of a community with genealogy buffs like myself. Logging on and seeing how some people have reached ancestors born in the 16th century pushed me to want to get to that level! I chatted with one very friendly and well informed cousin on the website who taught me some of the ropes of what all this meant and more. I was able to find out things like my Maternal and Paternal Haplogroups, my 'ancestry painting' and 'connect' to, at this most currently over 550, relatives. This relative introduced me to FamilySearch, a website which actually contains records before 1910 for Puerto Rico. How ecstatic and ready I was to start searching for records! Though at first I was a bit hesitant because it required me to search documents one by one (luckily some have indexes), I bit the bullet and started searching for ancestors and boy have I found a ton!!

Going back to my 23andme results, I got back some interesting information. My paternal haplogroup, which is passed down through the Y chromosome along the males in the family (son, father, grandfather, etc.) came back as I2a1*. Haplogroup I is surprisingly most common amongst Southern Europeans such as Balkans and Sardinians with 40% of Sardinian men belonging to this group. Yet my specific branch/subgroup (I2a1*) is "believed it originate high in the Pyrenees, the string of mountains that separates Spain from France. About 12,000 years ago, as temperatures warmed and glaciers retreated, men bearing I2a1 expanded into Spain, France, and nearby Mediterranean Islands." (23andme website). So this would mean that centuries ago, one of my paternal ancestors came from around that area of Europe. Pictured below is the screen shot for members of the I2a1* haplogroup and its concentration around Europe.

I2a1* Paternal Haplogroup passed down only to men
My maternal haplogroup, which is passed down from mothers to both sons and daughters, was very interesting. It came back as C1b4, which arrived from Asia into the Americas and is most common amongst Native Americans. Wanting to learn more I began to research this haplogroup and found that it was one of the common Haplogroups among the Taíno people of Puerto Rico!! This would mean that centuries ago a woman along my maternal line was most likely a native from either Puerto Rico or a nearby island. Due to the fact that many Spaniards arrived without woman on their conquest for new lands, they reproduced with the natives and/or slaves giving people such as myself these Haplogroups. Pictured below is the screen shot for members of the C1b4 haplogroup and its concentration around Asia as well as the Americas.

C1b4, Maternal Haplogroup passed down by mothers
All this information was fascinating, something I had seen on a TV show actually was real and capable for the average person to buy, use and understand! My ancestry painting, which has changed a bit from when I first tested, shows that I am (approximating of course): 75% European, 15% African, and 9% Asian. (As you saw from my results, Asian doesn't necessarily mean one my grandparents was Chinese, Indian, etc but can also be natives who carry those genes from their ancestors from the Asian continent and moved into the Americas.

My genealogical search was taking a new technological turn and with FamilySearch records in my hand, my branches on my tree were going to stretch a bit farther into the past!

Monday, July 4, 2011

What Started It All- Part II

I started searching for records, stories, and information at about the age of 14/15; at this time I was working for the New York Public Library and thanks to a co-worker I found out that I was able to search for documents, luckily, for free on the ancestry.com website. During those years, though young and naïve, I was able to figure out a lot of things. Thanks to some family members I was able to start my family tree slowly but surely. [Note: From my knowledge, I'm the only person in my family to have started/have a family tree; so for me this is a BIG achievement.] Due to the fact that Puerto Rico was only an American territory until after the Spanish-American War of 1898, the only available records I was aware of at the time were the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Censuses as well as the World War I and World War II Registration Records [These available only of course for male ancestors who fit the age ranges at the time of registration.] So with that information at hand I was only able to extend my tree to about 3 generations and barely 4 generations (which for me were ancestors born about the mid-1800s, and for many who I didn't have actually documents but just estimated dates of birth.)


So up until the end of high school, I wasn't sure that the story that started all this seeking and searching held any truth. Could I actually have a Spaniard for a great great grandfather and a Taíno woman for a great great grandmother? Was I even sure the people I found were MY ancestors? (I actually did have one great great grandmother wrong due to two women living with the same name in the same town- more about that later). I had hit many brick walls and many that I couldn't crack so easily due to no more records available records before 1910 (me being young and naïve I was unaware of church records or Civil Registration records on the island which I would find out about later.) So for a while I stopped searching and settled on the information I had, I was sort of content with what I had but hungry to find more. My main goal was to figure out whether or not my g-g grandfather WAS from Spain and if not to find an ancestor who actually was from Spain- I wanted to find a foreign born ancestor. I had heard about 23&me on a show once but never really payed any attention and didn't know if it was real. It wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I took a real interest in the website and what it was capable of for ancestral and genealogical purposes. I'll post more about it on the next post. 
José Avilés Magraner circa 1977
Pictured above and below is my great-great grandfather José Avilés Magraner, who according to the family story was born in Spain and immigrated to Puerto Rico [documentation of his birth shows me otherwise] but his father might have been from Spain. José was very tall and apparently had blue eyes, he was said to have lived to about 100 in Lares, Puerto Rico. I'm currently waiting for his death certificate from the Demographic Registry in Puerto Rico. (*Cross fingers* that it'll come soon!!)

José Avilés dancing at his granddaughter's wedding

As you can see in the 1920 Census (picture below), my great-great grandfather was living with his brother Lorenzo and at the time he was widowed with three children (my great grandmother being Rosa Avilés). Both have their father listed as born in Spain, even though they were born out of wedlock and received their mother's name Avilés, no father was listed on the birth certificate. There is some uncertainty about whether or not Magraner is really their father's last name. Both Lorenzo and José show up in the 1930 Census listed with the last names "Avilés Magraner" and both appeared circa 1917 according to their WWI Registration Cards working with a "Ramón Magraner" in Rio Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico (where they were from) who may or may not be a relative; Ramón never appears on any of the Census records. Family in Puerto Rico have said that Magraner is the paternal name but without any real proof I can't be too sure. And the search continues!! 

1920 Census from Lares, Puerto Rico listing my G-G Grandfather

What Started It All- Part I

My great grandparents, my grandmother and her siblings  


This portrait of my great grandparents, Felix Vélez Mercado and Rosalia Avilés González along with my grandmother Carmen Avilés Vélez (seated close to her father) along with her brother Antonio (older boy) and a baby sibling I don't know the name of, was the start of my interest in genealogy.

The picture hung in our apartment where I lived when I was younger and I always remember seeing it in the dining room and asking myself two questions: 1) Who were these people? and 2) How did MY brother end up in this picture? (I was convinced my older brother was the little boy in the picture, hey- I was young at the time!). Along with the picture came a story that also sparked my interest in genealogy.

I was told that my great grandmother (pictured above) was from Spanish and Taíno descendants (if you look at my great grandmother, holding her baby, you can notice her straight black hair and rather small, slanted eyes); this coming from her mother, a "pure" Taíno Indian. [I haven't confirmed this claim, but I have high doubts it is completely true being that around the time her mother was born (abt. 1892), there weren't too many full bloodied natives running around the island- from what I've gathered from research.] I was also told that her father came to Puerto Rico during the "war" (my guess the Spanish-American War) where he fell in love and decided to stay and had my great grandmother. I was completely enthralled by this story, could I really have Spanish blood as close as 4 centuries back and have a full-bloodied Taíno great-great grandmother?!? I was too young at the time to actually begin research, sadly, and wasn't able to ask my grandmother the necessary questions about this picture and her family. But it was up to me to solve this mystery and many more about my family's past.