Monday, September 10, 2012

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

The second person I decided to focus on was someone that doesn't have too many documents per se but I'm interested in her life and so I decided to include her here since it is an ancestor I discovered through documents. 

I decided to focus on my 4th great grandmother, Bernardina Sepúlveda Roman, who was born around the beginning of the 19th century in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. She was the daughter of Remigio Sepúlveda and Maria de la Cruz Roman both also from Mayagüez. At one point in her life, probably around her 20s, Bernardina moved to Adjuntas, Puerto Rico where her children would be born. She lived the rest of her in Adjuntas until her death on the 10th of March 1893. Bernardina had married Jose Maria Velez Perez from San Sebastian, Puerto Rico who passed away three years before she did. Their marriage produced a good number of children: Maria Eugenia (1830), Margarita (1834), Ines (1836), Maria de la O. (1836),  Jose Severo (1837), 
Isidora (1840), Maria Remigia (1841), Maria Leonor (1843), and Maria Monserrate (1845) Vélez Sepúlveda*. Jose Severo was my 3rd great grandfather. 

*Thanks a member on one of the genealogical groups I'm in, she was able to help provide baptismal dates for my 3rd great grandfather and his siblings from the church's records of Adjuntas. 

The most interesting part of Bernardina's life I found by accident and was a shock because I wasn't expecting to run into it. In the latter part of Bernardina's life, she was a slave-owner. There's no way to defend it or deny it or do anything I guess except take it in. Around this time it was common practice to have slaves for domestic or labor purposes. I don't agree with slavery and hate what kind of system and treatment of humans it created but sadly nothing can be done except to educate ourselves of this dark past. 

I found Bernardina as a slave-owner while I was searching the Registro Civil de Esclavos, 1872; a registry for slaves taken a year before the abolition of slavery. I've considered that it might be someone else but it matches all of things I have of her to the "T". The same first name which I haven't seen too often as well as being in the same town, Guaynabo Dulce in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico where all her children were baptized were signs that me that this was my 4th great grandmother. 

At the time of the registry she had only 4 slaves that belonged to her. It's also interesting that she was the one who was noted as the owner rather than her husband who was still alive at the time. Maybe since the number of slaves was small see oversee them while he did something else like tend to overseeing the farm. Just as I did with the Antonetti slaves I'm going to list the names of them here except I'll add the physical descriptions attached to them. 

LORENZO: Natural from Puerto Rico, registered in the barrio of Guaynabo Dulce. Son of Ramon and Felipa. Age: 4 years 2 months. Stature: Growing. Color: Light mulatto. Hair: Black. Eyes: Black.  Nose: Flat. Mouth: Big. 

JUAN: Natural from Puerto Rico, registered in the barrio of Guaynabo Dulce. Son of Geronimo and Felipa. Job: Laborer. Age: 22 years. Stature: Regular. Color: Light mulatto. Hair: Apasado (?). Eyes: Brown (Pardo).  Nose: Regular. Mouth: N/A. 

MARIA TOMASA: Natural from Puerto Rico, registered in the barrio of Guaynabo Dulce. Son of Pedro Jose and Teresa. Job: Laborer. Age: 26 years. Stature: 5 feet 8 inches. Color: Black. Hair: Pasa (?). Eyes: Black.  Nose: Flat. Mouth: Big. 

FELIPA: Natural from Puerto Rico, registered in the barrio of Guaynabo Dulce. Son of Martin and Petrona. Children: 3- Manuel Jesus, Juan and Lorenzo. Age: 40 years. Stature: 6 feet. Color: Yellow mulatto (Mulato Amarillo). Hair: Black Apasado (?). Eyes: Black.  Nose: Short. Mouth: Small. 

As we can see, Bernardina owns Felipa along with two of her children. I wonder if the others named mentioned such as Ramon, Geronimo, Pedro Jose, Teresa, Martin and Petrona were all once slaves of Bernardina before they passed away. I wonder what kind of lives they lead. With only three laborers I can only imagine they didn't have such a big plot of land. Did they live in the same house? How were they treated? Were Juan and Maria Tomasa allowed to interact or play with Bernardina's children who were similar in age as them? Interesting that Felipa is noted as a yellow mulatto, was she part Taíno? Did Puerto Ricans use yellow to describe natives? How were things after slavery was abolished? Did they use the last name Sepúlveda and stay in contact with Bernardina and her family? Was Bernardina and her husband prominent member of Adjuntas' society?

There's obviously a lot of unanswered questions that I can not begin to unravel. Maybe they left behind a will that could lead me to more clues about their lives. Hopefully a trip to Puerto Rico will teach me more about my ancestors and the kind of lives they lived. 

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