Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Series I, Part I: An Ancestor's Story Through Records

So with college graduation and a break between my summer job I've decided to start a short series that I'll add to sporadically and will depend on how much I have to post on here. I've titled it "Series I" because I don't know how many I'll actually end up doing- hopefully I'll do more than one! This first series is titled An Ancestor's Story Through Records which is pretty much exactly what the title says- telling the stories of an ancestor through the records I have available for them (I'll try to choose ancestors that have multiple documents to give a full picture). The object of this series is to bring to life an ancestor I've never met and hopefully give them a voice. Every time I will pick an ancestor, whether a direct ancestor or one from a collateral line, and tell their story, about their families, their profession and anything else I can figure out from documents. For this first part I decided to pick my paternal great grandfather, Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez. I didn't know much about this line probably before two years ago, so to have all this information on him now is truly remarkable. Also, unknowingly-- at least by me, my uncle was his namesake. So let the story begin!

Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez was born in the barrio of Quebrada Arenas in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. His baptismal record states that he was born on the 9th of December of 1883, and later baptized on the 1st of June in 1884. It states that he is the legitimate son of Jesus Rivera and Laureana Gonzalez, his paternal grandparents were Pedro Rivera and Eusebia Diaz and his maternal grandparents were Valentin Gonzalez and Feliciana Mojica (This last name has also appeared as Muxica and Moxica on other records). His godparents were Ramon Mojica and Agustina Hernandez. As we can see, we learned who Alejandro's parents were as well as his grandparents on both sides of the family. Alejandro was one of 11 children to his parents (These are from the ones I've found so far) and he was the fourth born.

Alejandro's Baptismal Record from San Fernando Rey in Toa Alta
Alejandro has his first marriage on the 19th of June 1906 at the age of 22 to Brigida Hernandez Velez, daughter of Jesus Hernandez Bauta & Maria Florentina Velez. In this first marriage, Alejandro would have three children. During the 1910 Census, Alejandro is still living in Quebrada Areas in Toa Alta with his wife Brigida and their first son Demetrio Rivera Hernandez. They've been married for about four years now and Brigida would be days away from delivering their second child, Monica Rivera Hernandez. He works on his own farm as SC "Su Cuenta" meaning on his own account. He and his wife are both able to read and write (which I say is rare seeing as most of my ancestors were unable to read or write at this time). Alejandro and Brigida would have their last child, Pedro Rivera Hernandez three years later and he would sadly die two months later as a cause of rickets. I imagine that Brigida herself passed away some where between 1913-1916 (when his second marriage occurs)-- I haven't tracked down her death certificate yet.

Alejandro and his family in 1910 (Toa Alta, PR)
Alejandro marries his second wife, Petrona Ortiz Nieves on the 5th of May 1916. She was the daughter of Elias Ortiz Feliciano and Paula Nieves. They married in Toa Alta which makes me wonder how he met Petrona who was originally from Corozal. Both towns are close to one another but I wonder the story behind their encounter. Interestingly enough, Alejandro appears in his WWI Draft Registration Card living in Corozal and that he was depending on Francisco Rodriguez who is his sister's (Valentina Rivera Gonzalez) husband, Valentina also appears on the WWI Draft Card as the closest family member. This makes me wonder where Petrona was at the time, was their marriage in shambles? The draft card dated October 26, 1918 gives us more information on Alejandro himself. It tells us that his race was "white", his height: Medium, his build: Full, his eye color: Brown and his hair color: Brown. As well as his signature!!

My great grandfather's signature on the WWI Registration Card
Alejandro and Petrona would have two children, Amelia Rivera Ortiz and Maria Julia Rivera Ortiz. Petrona later had another children, Manuel but I don't know who the father is- in 1930 he appears like Amelia and Julia as "Rivera Ortiz" but I wonder if that was just done as a mistake/ to make the census process go faster. Alejandro and Petrona would be divorced by the 17th of February 1922 by the Tribunal District and he would be remarried for the third time with my great grandmother Mercedes Ortiz Marrero on the 31st March 1922. Interestingly, his sister Valentina Rivera Gonzalez was living in Corozal next door to Mercedes and her family in 1920 so I wonder if that's how he met her, which is very likely. I neither found Alejandro nor Petrona on the 1920 Census so I'm not sure where they were, whether in Toa Alta or Corozal.

1920 Census with Valentina's and Mercedes' family as neighbors
Mercedes would be his last wife and the starter of our family line. Unfortunately the records I have don't tell me why Alejandro and Petrona divorced but I imagine the Tribunal District should have that on record and could be something I could find while in Puerto Rico. So by 1930 Alejandro and Mercedes were living in San Juan, specifically in La Perla with six children-- two from his previous relationship with Petrona (Demetrio and Monica) and the other four from his marriage with Mercedes (Antuliano, Maria, Manuela, and Francisca Rivera Ortiz). In this census it still says he is able to read/write but his wife Mercedes isn't. I can't make out what his profession was but I can see that he is working with his son Demetrio in Plaza Mercado.

Alejandro and family living in San Juan, PR in 1930
I've been lucky to find Alejandro and his family in the 1940 Census and mainly because they were still living in the same area. Alejandro appears still with Mercedes and his children Antuliano, Iris Maria, Manuela, Francisca and my grandfather Felipe Rivera Ortiz! They would have one more daughter, Antonia Rivera Ortiz, born on 1942.

Alejandro and his family in the 1940 Census
The last bit of information I have of Alejandro comes from the WWII Draft Registration Cards. It shows that he works in La Princesa St. in San Juan, Puerto Rico and that Alberto Gomez will always know his address (I'm guessing this is a neighbor of his). Again I have his signature and some more physical information which shows: his race as "white", his height: 5'4'', his eye color: Brown, his weight: 140lbs, his hair color: Brown, and his complexion: Light Brown. The reason why I put white in quotations is because race in Puerto Rico wasn't so easily split into categories, I would say.

Alejandro's Signature on the WWII Draft Registration 
This year, two miraculously things happened to me: the first was finding my cousin Mercedes (the namesake of my great grandmother/ her grandmother) who led me to number two: being able to find our family tomb. I wrote about it before in an earlier post. She also gave me a picture of my grandfather which I won't put on here just for the fact that I went through so much to get it that I don't want it floating all around the internet and I want it to be treasured. But I will post the picture I took myself of the family tomb. Only one final piece of this story is missing which is his death date and under what causes he died. He was pretty old when he must have passed away somewhere around his mid 70s I'll guess. 

I would how Alejandro would have felt seeing Puerto Rico as a Spanish territory and then living through the Spanish American War and becoming a US citizen and the status of commonwealth. I learned a lot about him, that he was pretty short (5'4'') and was able to read and write. That he married three times and moved from the rural town of Toa Alta as a farmer to heart of the city in San Juan and worked. That he had brown eyes and brown hair and looped his "R" in Rivera similarly like how I do. You can learn a lot about a person you never met through the documents that recorded their stories. And hopefully there is still more to learn about my great grandfather, Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sneak Preview: Michelle Rodriguez!!

I usually post about a Finding Your Roots episode after it comes out but I'm SUPER excited for this one! This Sunday will feature both Michelle Rodriguez and Adrian Grenier. I'm excited to see Michelle's family tree because one of her sides is Puerto Rican!! I can't wait to see what they discover, where her family is from and how long they've been in Puerto Rico.

The clip that's up now (which I linked to her name above) shows Henry Louis Gates Jr. presenting Michelle her Puerto Rican family tree which he says is a tangled web. Which is very true for most families somewhere down the line because of the inbred population that results from the small island.

The genealogist who helped trace the family back in Puerto Rico puts it best when he states, "a beautiful depiction of the consanguinity and the endogamy of 19th century Puerto Rican families".

There are many reasons for stuff like this, keeping families "pure", small rural towns where everyone is somehow related, etc. For example on my dad's side of the family, we see a similar example where two first-cousins married. Here's the tree:

Blasina Rivera y Rivera has a set of great grandparents twice
We see here that Blasina's Rivera y Rivera (my 1st cousin, 2x removed) maternal grandfather and paternal grandfather are brothers.

I can't wait to see what they say on the show, and hopefully they include a detailed DNA portion of the show seeing as how the series is about to end (This might be the last episode?). Hopefully this episode can give me some insight to my own family tree!

Can't wait until the new episode!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding Your Roots: John Legend and Wanda Sykes

This past Sunday there was another great episode on Finding Your Roots featuring John Legend and Wanda Sykes! (All of the episodes have been awesome though!)

This episode was particularly interesting because it was able to trace their family back to free people of color that were able to break their families from slavery before the civil war and the emancipation of slaves. There were two very interesting stories featured in both families. In John Legend's family there was the story of his ancestor Peyton Polly (This link leads to a book with more details about what happened). Peyton Polly's seven children after having moved to Ohio to escape the slavery they were freed from were stolen in the dead of night by a group of white men who then sold them back into slavery in the states of Virginia and Kentucky. After a series of court battles and testimonies the four children sold back into slavery in Kentucky were released but those in Virginia had to wait until emancipation to be released.

The other story was the story of one of Wanda Sykes' ancestors who was able to gain one branch's family's independence seeing as how she was a white indentured servant. She had an illegitimate child by an African slave and that child was born free. Elizabeth Banks (Wanda's ninth great grandmother), was the woman who "fornicated with a negro slave"giving birth to her eighth great grandmother Mary Banks. Seeing as how her mother was a white indentured servant and not a slave, the status from the mother was passed down to the child granting her freedom.

Towards the end they used DNA analysis again to find the African tribes the guests' mtDNA belongs to, also they were able to find John Legend's y-DNA connection.

John Legend's mtDNA connection to the Mende tribe in Sierra Leone
John Legend's y-DNA connection to the Fula tribe in Guinea-Bissau 
Wanda Sykes' mtDNA connection to the Tikar/Fulani tribe in Cameroon
Margarett Cooper's mtDNA connection to the Temne tribe in Sierra Leone
It was really cool again to see this analysis and maybe hopefully one day I'll be able to get it done for the father's mtDNA line which is part of the Haplogroup L from Africa found mainly in Bantu speakers. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finding Your Roots: Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons

This was probably one of my favorite episodes from the Finding Your Roots series so far! Mostly because it helped three African Americans find some roots in certain Africa tribes. Granted, some could have other mixtures from other African slaves brought to the US which married into the family through other lines, seeing as how this only tested the mtDNA which is present in both males and females having been passed down from their mother's mother's mother's line.

With the 23andme testings I have done I have gotten some interesting results for my mtDNA Haplogroups in my family. A study was conducted in Puerto Rico which states that many Puerto Ricans carry Taino Haplogroups, Taino being the originally people to the island before Columbus got there later in 1493. Not everyone carries a maternal native group as you'll see in some of my examples. Provided below are the various maternal Haplogroups from my family. These include: two Indigenous Haplogroups (A2, C1b4)- most likely from Taino/Arawak ancestors, one European (U5b1b1b)- from the Basque area in Spain or the Saami in Northern Scandinavia and then finally one an African Haplogroup (L2a1)- commonly found in Bantu speakers. Here are the Haplogroup maps provided below:

My mother's maternal's grandmother haplogroup
My own maternal Haplogroup
My paternal grandmother's haplogroup
My maternal great grandfather's maternal haplogroup
What was really cool about the show was the exams they took pointed toward exact tribes in Africa, I don't know too much about the process/ science they used to reveal these African tribes but none the less I found it very interesting and amazing! Not every family is able to 'jump the pond' with paper trail, and it isn't too common in African American communities as well in communities effected greatly by diasporas (Jewish, African, etc.) and chattel slavery where slaves had no name or identity.

With Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice and Ruth Simmons they were able to trace back to a tribe in Africa. Ruth Simmons was an interesting case, her maternal Haplogroup was ACTUALLY an indigenous haplogroup which Henry Louis Gates Jr. mentions isn't too common among African Americans. Yet they tested Ruth's Y-DNA through her brother (Y-DNA is only passed down through the males in the family) and found her connection to Africa through her paternal line. 

Connection to the Kota tribe from Gabon

Connection to the Tikar tribe in Cameroon

Connection to the Benga tribe in Gabon
Hopefully one day I'll be able to connect myself to my other ancestors, the ancestors who either made their way to Puerto Rico looking for new opportunities, where there from the beginning or were brought over against their own will. Which tribes from Africa contribute to my family? What Spanish towns did my ancestors live in and dream of a new or better world? What did my native ancestors think as they saw the boats reach the shores of Puerto Rico filled with White "Gods"? And who's stories have I yet to unravel.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tracing a Surname

There's a pair of 4rd great grandparents that have been the topic of a few of these posts and the point of some of my frustrations with searching for their information.

They are Juan Carlos Gustavo and Julia/Balbina Lotten (and all their many alternations/alter-egos included) who according to documents immigrated from either Guadeloupe or Martinique (some documents mention Saint Thomas! -___-)

I decided to look at their grandchildren's birth records to trace their surnames and see how they've changed over time and how often they changed. The first apparently starts out at Gustave in 1885 but changes quickly to Gustavo and stays that way for the remainder of the documents. Sometimes Charles appears as their last name; both Gustave and Charles might not have even been their original surname! Here are the images of the surname "Gustave" across the years:

Gustave- 1885
Already "Gustavo" in 1887!
Still "Gustavo" at 1890- stays that way 

The second name starts out as Lotten and sometimes even looks like Lobben to me. I say though that the original was somewhere near Lotten instead of Lobben because every other alternative to the name includes a "T" rather than a "B" in its spelling. The name has had some crazy variations from Lotiz, to Sotin and everything in between. Here is the name also traced across some years:

"Lotten" or "Lobben"?- 1885
"Lote"- 1890
"Lotett"- 1893
"Loter"- 1895
"Lotis"- 1898
In the same year (1898) appear as "Lotiz"
"Soti"- 1899
The second surname has had many a variations throughout the years as we can see even within the span of two years the name can be changed very quickly. It all depended on 1) Who was speaking, 2) Who was recording and 3) Who cared to actually make it sound as close to the original name as possible. Even in 1920, in Alberto Gustavo y Lotten's census record his name appears as "Sotin", picture below.

1920 Census- Alberto Gustavo Sotin
Oddly enough, he also appears as Alberto Gustavo Perez in his 1910 Census and 1917 WWI Record.

Appears as "Gustavo Perez" instead of "Gustavo Lotten"
So I am all kinds of confused with what was the original spelling if they even got it right at all. The name to me sounds sort of French/German if I'm anywhere near right. 

Hopefully, I'll find their mother's death certificate (which I haven't been able to find yet) or maybe in some of the immigration records from the LDS, I'll be able to find it.