Sunday, September 8, 2013

Losing a Loved One

A little over a month ago, I received a call from my mom who told me that my great grandfather had passed away. That quickly I had lost the oldest family member from my line, my maternal great grandfather Narciso Meléndez. I was fortunate to have met my great grandfather and visit him in Puerto Rico while I was on vacation many times throughout my life. His lines were some of the more difficult ones to crack and to this day I continue to work on them. Yet, my great grandfather's passing brought along many interesting and new things as well. A picture of his father was found while looking through the home along with other old family pictures; I was also able to visit his grave where his wife my great grandmother is buried and I was able to find out the date when they were married.

My great grandfather was born in Coto, Manatí, Puerto Rico on the 29th of October 1922. I remember while I was growing up my grandmother always said her father never really knew his birthday was but they always celebrated towards the end of October. I was fortunate to find his birth record and confirm that he was actually born on the 29th of October which makes sense since it is the day of Saint Narcissus.

Manatí, Puerto Rico

Even though being born in Manatí, my great grandfather headed to San Juan to find work. It was there that he met my great grandmother, Epifania Dávila Orozco who was originally from Yabucoa. He ended up moving to Yabucoa with her for a while and my grandmother was born there. They then moved back to San Juan together and would stay there for the rest of their lives. My great grandfather mainly worked in construction but I remember that my grandmother told me that he used to work in the restaurant "Casa de España" in San Juan. My great grandfather would bring home things that were hard to find in stores for the family to have to eat. I imagine there was some economic hardship being that he probably worked here sometime in the late 1940s-1950s.

Restaurante Casa de España

Finding my great grandfather in the Census records was a bit difficult at first. I couldn't find a "Narciso Meléndez" living in Manatí. So I decided to ask my grandmother for the names of his siblings to see if any of them would appear. My great grandfather had a brother named Anacleto Meléndez Sánchez and it was by typing in his name that I found the family in the 1930 Census. Turns out that my great grandfather was recorded as "Carmelo Meléndez Sánchez", a nickname which my family knows he used for all of his life. Interestingly, only in the 1935 Census does my great grandfather use the name "Narciso".

Meléndez Sánchez Family in Manatí, PR- 1930

My great great grandparents were José Meléndez Moran and Anicasia Sánchez Arvelo, as you can see per the 1930 Census. I didn't know much about them since I never got to ask my great grandfather about them. All I know about them is information I've attained through records. I know that they married in Manatí in 1908 but they came from different towns- José from Vega Baja and Anicasia probably from Utuado. Which in itself is complex because Anicasia's dad was from Quebradillas and her mother from San Sebastián. José was one of MANY children, he had about roughly 14 other siblings (12 of which I have documented through birth/death certificates, the other two appear in census records)! He also worked most- if not all of his life- as a farmer/laborer on a farm. It's also interesting to note that on his WWII Registration Card he was marked as 62" of height, which makes him roughly 5'2".

There are many unanswered questions about my great grandfather's ancestors. On one side of the family there is a mess of last names which we used both officially/non-officially on records while on his maternal side no church records were microfilmed by the LDS church so any records I want to find on his mother's side of the family I probably have to write to the church or visit with permission to search through the books; sometimes this is difficult because they are a) don't grant permission to anyone or b) the books I want to use are no longer available to the public.

However, I was fortunate to take a DNA sample of my great grandfather which will hold and show so much information as time continues. For example, recently a cousin born in Zimbabwe came up!

4th-Distant Zimbabwean Cousin!
I hope to continue learning about my great grandfather's ancestors and their respective stories!

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