Friday, February 8, 2013

The Ending to a Search?

Sometime late last month, I decided to fully explore the possibility of Juliana Balbina Lotten's death in Ponce, Puerto Rico. I had checked before but to no avail, nothing came up. I checked for the surnames Charles, Gustavo, Pedro, Pérez, Lotin, Sotin, and pretty much every other possibility that I knew was out there. I knew that Juliana died some time between June 1895 and June 1897 according to other documents I had. In most, if not all of the documents I had from that time period, it was that stated that Juliana was alive, widowed, but that she was living in Ponce. Yet I never knew why Juliana would move away to Ponce- Juliana's children lived in Salinas, Guánica/Yauco and only one daughter lived in Ponce around the time she would have. The daughter was Areopajita (spelled that way according to documents) and she would pass away in Ponce on the 11th of June 1900 of Tuberculosis Pulmonar. Pedro Rosado Sierra reported her death and despite it saying he was the 'neighbor', Pedro was actually Areopajita's husband (not wed through the church though) and they had one son named José Laureno Rosado Gustavo who lived with his maternal uncle after the death of his mother.

Searching in Ponce through the indexes I couldn't quiet figure out why Juliana did not appear. I checked the towns of: Yauco, Guánica, Ponce, Santa Isabel, Salinas, Guayama, Fajardo, Vieques, and Guayanilla, San Juan- Pretty much any town and neighboring town possible where either she lived or could have lived. Yet for some reason- absolutely nothing! It wasn't until that I decided to check in Ponce between 1895-1897 under "J" for a 'Juliana'. I imagined that if she died and someone were to report her death who didn't know her well, they might have not known her last name or had changed it around even more than from what it originally was. Lo and behold, in Ponce in May of 1897, there would occur the death of a Julia Juliana! I figured this was highly possible for it to be her.

I decided to transcribe the entire document to pull out any and all details to make the claim that this was Julienne Malvina Lautin, the woman born into slavery in Rivière Salée, Martinique and who would later move to Puerto Rico as a free woman with Jean Charles Gustave to become known in documents as Juliana Balbina Lotten. Here is the information in Spanish with bolded important/interesting information which I'll translate over:

"En la cuidad de Ponce, a las tres y media de la tarde del veinte y ocho de Mayo de mil ochocientos noventa y siete antes Don Carlos Lopez de Toro, Juez municipal y Don Enrique Colon y Ferrer secretario interno compareció Juan Santos Ocasio, natural de Peñuelas, soltero, empleado y domiciliado en la calle del Coto de esta cuidad, manifestando que Julia Juliana sin otro apellido de treinta y ocho años de edad (Ygles) digo, Ynglesa [sic] y asilada en el Hospital de dementes de esta cuidad falleció ayer a las seis de la tarde a consecuencia de diarrea ygnorando las demas circunstancias personales y demas datos preciso para justificar su personalidad y de ello daba cuenta como encargado de dicho. En vista de esta manifestación y de la certificación facultativa presentada el Señor Juez dispuso se extendiese esta acta y que la finada se entierre en el cementerio de esta cuidad. Fueron testigos Victor Sanchez y Santiago, natural de Ponce, soltero, empleado y domiciliado en la calle del Mendez Vigo de esta cuidad y Serafin Perez Garcia natural de Muesa, Provincia de Salamanca, casado, empleado y domiciliado en la calle del Coto de esta cuidad…"

  • She died on the 27th of May 1897.
  • Juan Santos Ocasio appeared to announce her death. He was employed (which will be important in a minute).
  • She was named Julia Juliana, with no other surname (remember in Puerto Rico both the paternal and maternal surnames are carried). 
  • She was 38 years old and known as "the Englishwoman". 
  • She was 'asilada' (an asylee or had asylum status in the hospital of the insane). 
  • Victor Sanchez Santiago was a witness, also employed. 
  • Serafin Perez Garcia was also a witness, also employed. 

There a few interesting things about this. For starters- she was in a hospital for the insane!! She was known as Julia Juliana the "Englishwoman". And all three people to appear where employed, my guess in the hospital. I've yet to find this so called "Hospital de dementes" in Ponce so it might not exist now but existed in the late 1900s. Also, she was known as the "Englishwoman". Could it be possible that while in the hospital she would have bouts of speaking French or Creole and the employees just thought: "Oh, she must be speaking English again". There are documents which misstate where she was from, so they could have also easily thought she was from the English Caribbean rather than the French Caribbean and political correctness isn't always top priority when nicknames are being dealt out. 

I'm not 100% sure this is my Juliana but for the time being I will believe she is! Everything seems to fall into place- the year (1897), the place (Ponce), and this nickname (La Inglesa). The only thing that doesn't match is the age which states she is 38 at the time of her death placing her being born around 1859. Of course, the man who reported her death most likely underestimated her age and could have rounded down. I remember seeing a death certificate for an ex-slave woman in Puerto Rico with the age of 125. Of course, it could be possible that she was around 100 but 125 is probably overestimated. My Juliana was born in 1844, so 1844 and 1859 aren't really too far apart considering that it was most likely estimated. 

Unless I find an English background woman born around the 1860s who lived in Ponce, Puerto Rico and was named Julia Juliana, I will hold this record as the death certificate for Julienne Malvina Lautin.