Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's In A (sur)Name?

The last four days I spent pouring through Puerto Rico's Civil Registry Birth Records from 1894-1908 from Patillas, Puerto Rico in search of my 2nd great grandmother. 3,003 documents later, I haven't found her. The reason why I decided to bite the bullet and search each document one-by-one is because in other documents where she is mentioned, there a surname which she uses which I have yet to see anywhere else in Puerto Rico (including census records). Which prompted me to write this blog post about the surname and hopefully someone with some knowledge of it or a lead could help me out!


Some background about my 2nd great grandmother: Her name is Amalia Rivera Rodriguez/Masantini (she goes back and forth between Rodriguez & Masantini) and she was born about 1898-1901 in what the documents state is Patillas, Puerto Rico. Her father was Cruz Rivera Collazo also from Patillas, Puerto Rico and her mother was Luisa Rodriguez/Masantini from Patillas/Maunabo, Puerto Rico. Amalia married Julio Correa Gustavo/Charles on the 9th of March 1919 in Salinas, Puerto Rico. In her marriage certificate she is mentioned as Amalia Rodriguez (pictured below) and the reason being most likely because her parents were never married. 

9 March 1919 in Salinas, Puerto Rico
In 1910, Amalia Rivera is living with her father Cruz Rivera Collazo in Guardarraya, Patillas, Puerto Rico; her father's martial status is marked as (S): Single. By 1920, Amalia is already living in Rio Jueyes, Salinas, Puerto Rico with her husband. Here, she is mentioned as Masantini (picture below): 

1920 Census in Rio Jueyes, Salinas, Puerto Rico
Months later in March her first son, Manuel Correa Rivera (my great grandfather) was born. On his birth certificate Amalia is mentioned as Rivera and her mother was mentioned as Luisa Masantini. (Pictures below):
1920, Amalia Rivera appears on Manuel's birth certificate
My 3rd great grandmother, Luisa Masantini (sometimes appears as Rodriguez)
The name Masantini doesn't appear again until her third child, Modesta Correa Rivera is born in 1927 when it mentions again Luisa, her mother, as Masantini instead of Rodriguez:

Masantini appears again in 1927


This surname sounds very Italian/Corsican which is why I'm so interested in it, along with other reasons which I'll discuss shortly. I've search the Puerto Rico Records of Foreign Residents, 1815-1845 and no Masantini or variation of the name appears (I've searched Mazzantini/Mazantini as well). So either the person came in after 1845 or before 1815. Equally, the name has yet to appear anywhere else; even in the 3,003 records I searched not once did a Masantini appear. So I decided to do some research into the last name. I tried searching Masantini along with Puerto Rico and again nothing appeared. I remembered that during one of the "Who Do Think You Are" episodes I believe during the first season they used an Italian surname database to figure out where in Italy there name would be from. Giving it a shot, I decided to search in the database for anyone with the last name Masantini in Italy. To my surprise it appeared! A very small amount of Masantini were found in the Tuscany area of Italy, specifically in the Firenze area. Here are some screenshots of the name appearing in Italy.

Masantini as the red dot (1-5) in Tuscany

The area highlighted where the name appears
Masantini appearing in the Toscana (Tuscan) region, specifically in Firenze
Not wanting to jump the gun and assume that I have Tuscany ancestry running through me, I'll wait until I have further proof to help me identify whether or not I am related to a Masantini family coming from Firenze (also known as Florence in English). Interestingly the name also doesn't appear in America according to this database. There's another reason why I became so interested and it deals with my grandfather's genes.


With many 3rd party tools, you can easily use the genetic information you have gotten to find out more. I tested my grandfather with 23andme and posted about results earlier in April. While using things such as and getting the BGA analysis I've been noticing some interesting things which I don't know if they are pure coincidences or more pieces to this mystery. In the possible populations mentioned in the BGA analysis were Tuscan along with Italian as well as Spain, when I asked if it was safe to assume there was Tuscan in my grandfather's ancestry he mentioned that it was unlikely to be significant. But could it mean that because my grandfather potentially has some Italian that it appeared none the less though not significantly? Equally in one of the cross sections of European populations, he appears smacked in the middle of the Tuscan & Italian populations. Again I could be overestimating it but no one I've tested in my family from both sides fits so neatly or even as near Tuscan/Italian like he does.

Carlos appears within the Tuscan population
Equally his red dot in the map for Europe appears right over the Tuscan part as well instead of near what I would expect, Spain.

Red Europe dot over Tuscany
Lastly, in the Gedmatch MDLP World-22 Oracle it's interesting to note that in the mixed mode population sharing after Puerto Rican the next possible one is Italian_North and equally as interesting Swiss (which I think could be possibility from German influence on his paternal side- another mystery I'm trying to solve).

Italian_North appearing right after Puerto Rican
I could be overestimating this and connecting false coincidental dots to one another just because I keep seeing the words "Italian" and "Tuscan" appearing left and right; or I could be onto something. So for now I'll settle with the former and consider myself crazy :) There are of course many questions to be asked. Could it be possible that this 'potential' Italian ancestry produce these Italian and Tuscan hits on the genetic side? No one else that I've tested in my family (besides occasionally my mother, of course) gets near to Italy or Tuscany, so why just him? Are the Spanish and Italians genetically different enough for these results to be more than just coincidences? 

Hopefully one day I'll have a solid answer as to why he appears so close to the Italian/Tuscan population and whether or not the "Masantini" family has anything to do with it. So until then I'll hope, dream, imagine and think about all the possible outcomes to this mystery! (And if anyone has an answer or could help; they'll be awesome!)

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