Tuesday, July 5, 2011

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.

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