Friday, January 31, 2014

52 Ancestors – #5 Manuel Correa Rivera (1920-1993)

Post #5! I'll dedicate this post to a man I knew soooo little about until recently. Literally, growing up I only knew his name and that was about it. Yet now with how much I know about him, I feel a strange connection to this ancestor. I wish I would have meet him, but unfortunately he has passed on and so now I can only carry his stories and listen and learn about the life of my great grandfather, Manuel Correa Rivera.

Manuel Correa Rivera, was actually born as Isidro Correa Rivera in Río Jueyes, Salinas, Puerto Rico. Our family isn't sure why he took on the name Manuel, but that was also his grandfather's name so it could easily have been in his honor or because he looked so much like him. Manuel was the eldest of three children, Manuel was born on the 4th of March 1920, his brother Alejandro on the 17th of March 1923 and his sister Modesta on the 16th of January 1927. Their parents were Julio Correa Gustavo (son of María Paulina Gustavo Lotten) and Julio's wife has gone by the names Amalia Rivera Rodríguez and Amalia Rivera Masantini.

Salinas, Puerto Rico [Google]

Living on the coast and literally by the water meant that being fishermen was probably an accessible business and easy job to get into. My great grandfather never officially worked as a fisherman from what we know but his father Julio certainly did. Odds are Julio's father Manuel Correa was also a fisherman in Salinas. Unfortunately, at the age of nine my great grandfather lost his father Julio to Tuberculosis in 1929. Three years later, Manuel and his siblings would lose their mother to what is known as Pre-eclampsia. Most likely, Amalia was pregnant at the time of her death (In the 1930 Census, she appears living with a Francisco Giraud López who could have been the father of the child). I imagine this was a tough time for Manuel and his siblings, by the age of 13 he had lost both of his parents leaving him, his brother and sister orphaned at a young age.

Luckily, the 1935 Census can tell us where the children were sent to live. Manuel Correa Rivera appears in the 1935 Census living with his aunt Senovia Correa Gustavo and her husband Francisco Alvarado Santiago. Modesta Correa Rivera was also living in this same household. I can't however find Alejandro Correa Rivera anywhere on any of the census records. Could he have passed away as a child? 

By 1940, Manuel is living and working in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the 1930 Census, Manuel had appeared living in San Juan (briefly I guess), with his cousin Celedonio Sécola Correa – son of his paternal aunt Luisa Correa Gustavo. In 1940, Manuel (recorded with his nickname 'Manolo') was living with Luis Sanchez-Vahamonde Oller and his wife Sarah Aparicio on Calle Padre Berrios in San Juan. Luis Sanchez-Vahamonde was working as a lawyer in San Juan and my great grandfather was the family chauffeur. 

Between 1940 and 1944, my great grandfather would meet my great grandmother Ernesta (Ernestina) Miranda Rivera, originally from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Together they had two children, the first my grandfather and the second his little sister who passed away from Meningitis at the age of 5. This picture below was taken sometime between 1944-1950 (my guess probably 1948-49), pictured is my great grandfather in the middle with his two children on his side. When I showed my grandfather is picture, he remembered that they nicknamed his father "Joe Louis" because he looked so much like the boxer. 

Manuel Correa Rivera Center [Personal Family Photo]

For many years I had known so little, there were rumors that he might have been from Ponce or Guayama, until I finally discovered he was from Salinas. We knew that he worked for the AMA (Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses) company in San Juan and apparently had become one of its first drivers when it first started. Recently, this summer I learned more about my great grandfather from my half great-uncles who were his children from a second marriage. Manuel was apparently a very intelligent man who loved to read the newspaper and complete the crosswords in the back, always finishing them completely. He was apparently very musically talented, he was able to play the guitar, the marímbola and even the accordion. The accordion to me was interesting because it makes me think of French people right away, could he have learned to play from his father when he was young?

I was also told that he loved to speak to foreigners in San Juan when he was driving for the taxi company. Manuel apparently was able to speak four languages: Spanish, English, French and another they couldn't remember. I was floored when I heard he spoke French! Did he inherit French as a language from his father and maybe other family members he lived with when he was younger? Could the fourth language my uncles couldn't remember be Créole?

This small fact drew me closer to my great grandfather, especially being the only one in my family greatly interested in languages. I talked before about genetic memory, could Manuel have passed down a love of languages to me? I had always wanted to learn French and travel to France when I was younger, when I completed my goal it just felt right. Was it encoded in my DNA?

I unfortunately don't know what my great grandfather passed away from but I know he passed away on the 7th of May, 1993. I also don't know where he is buried but I imagine it is somewhere in the San Juan/ Hato Rey area. Hopefully I'll be able to visit his grave someday and pay my respects to him. I would have loved to hear his stories of his childhood in Salinas and find out whether or not French was a household language used between family members. Hopefully there are more stories of him and his family somewhere in Salinas, waiting to be found! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

52 Ancestors – #4 Pedro Dávila Ruiz (1884-1963)

I can't believe that this will already be the fourth post in the 52 week series challenge! I have been thoroughly enjoying searching my tree for ancestors which whom's stories I can share. When the digits start doubling up, the going will get tough as I try to figure out who to write about. But until then, I will enjoy sharing the stories of my ancestors that I know fairly well. Number 4 will focus on my 2nd great grandfather, Pedro Dávila Ruiz, on my mom's side of the family.

Pedro Dávila Ruiz was born abt 13 March 1884 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Originally I thought my 2nd great grandfather was born in Maunabo, Puerto Rico where his parents were from. We always believed he was from that town, yet while researching his family I found that his older brother and sister, Juan de la Cruz and Josefa María, were born in 1879 and 1882 respectively in Yabucoa so it is very likely that he himself was born in Yabucoa. Pedro would live in Yabucoa for about the next 60 years until he and his daughter with her family would move to San Juan. Pedro was 1 of 10 children born to Juan Bautista Dávila González and his wife María Higinia Ruiz Ramos.

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico [Google]

Pedro Dávila would end up marry Francisca Orozco Santiago in Maunabo, Puerto Rico on the 27th of December 1909 – this shows to me the strong connection he had to his family's hometown which was just a stone's throw away from where they lived in Yabucoa (Pedro's ancestors were probably some of the first residents of Maunabo when it officially became a town in 1799). My 2nd great grandparents, great grandmother and even my grandmother were all born in Calabazas, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Pedro's family originated across the border of Yabucoa in the area of Matuyas Alto/Bajo of Maunabo. In the maps below you can see how close both towns are, so going to Maunabo for marriage isn't considered out of this world.

Maunabo & Yabucoa, Puerto Rico

Pedro Dávila Ruiz and Francisca Orozco Santiago lived in Calabazas, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico for many years. In 1910, Pedro was living as a son-in-law to Francisca's parents Benito Orozco and Dolores Santiago Burgos. Their marriage had yet to produce any children since they were recently married. Pedro was employed on a farm at the time of the census and it is very possible that he was working for his father-in-law since Benito owned the land he himself worked on. At the time of the census no one in the house was able to read or write and Pedro was the only person in the household listed under "B" for White while the rest of the family was listed as "Mu" for Mulatto.

Oddly enough, I haven't been able to find Pedro and Francisca in the 1920 census with their children. I tried searching Yabucoa and Maunabo, but nothing could be found. I don't know if they just avoided the census taker for that year's census but by that year, 4 of their children would have been born including my great grandmother Epifania Dávila Orozco. Another issue I have is that I can't find any of the children's both records until 1923 when Juan Dávila Orozco was born. By 1930, Pedro, Francisca and their children were living on land they owned and Pedro worked the lands most likely with his son Modesto while Francisca took care of the home and was listed as a "costurera" or seamstress. It's also interesting to see that by the age of 15 my great grandmother was no longer attending school however was able to read and write; she was also listed as "being able to speak English" but that's probably because they had taken it while attending school. 

I was very fortunate to find the 1935 Special Agricultural Census record for Pedro as not many ancestors of mine owned the land they worked on. It's amazing to see the information about the land and the kind of stuff they grew on it. 

Pedro Dávila Ruiz- Agricultural Census 1935

According to the census my 2nd great grandfather began using the land in 1928, this could also be the year he purchased the land. It says that he owned 5 cuerdas of which 2 cuerdas were used for harvesting in 1935. In total, the land had a worth of $175 and it seems he owed nothing on the farm, meaning it was in his complete possession. It also states that 5 whites and 5 of color people were living in 1 home, which I'm guessing is his family. That year they produced 1 cuerda of potatoes and 1 1/4 of tobacco, of the potatoes 20/20 bushels were produced and of the tobacco 600 pounds. They also produced bananas and avocados and owned 2 goats, 3 pigs and 12 hens/chickens. Interestingly, at the end it asks if they had a paved road accessible for a vehicle to which they answered "no". It's awesome to see that my family owned and worked the lands they lived in and to see all the details of what they grew and how much of it.

My grandmother tells me that despite her being born in Yabucoa, the family soon moved up to San Juan. Pedro became a widower when his wife Francisca passed away on the 15th of June 1945 which her death certificate states was of heart failure and rheumatism. Pedro would follow his daughter and my great grandfather to San Juan where we would pass away in 1963. I imagine Pedro sold the land before he moved to San Juan. 

The way my 2nd great grandfather passed away was always a tragic story to me. He was out with one of his grandsons when all of sudden they could hear a screeching sound coming down the street. When Pedro turned around he saw a car dragging a fence along with it as it drove towards them. Pedro then pushed his grandson to the side as the car raced towards them, which would end up saving his grandson's life. Unfortunately, Pedro was killed by the oncoming car which was being driven by a student driver. The death certificate states the he was killed in an accident and suffered from heart failure and trauma to the skull and chest. Despite my 2nd great grandfather's life being taken away he was able to save the life of my great uncle who is fortunately still alive thanks to Pedro. 

My grandmother was fortunate to have lived with her grandfather and would describe him to me as a man with light complexion and with light eyes. There are family stories that he has roots in Spain. He would sit and listen to the radio and my grandmother knew when to return to school based on his radio station where we would listen to novelas back when they were broadcast on the radio. She says that her grandfather could tell you the time based on where the sun was on the ground. 

Pedro and his wife Francisca had six children in total: Modesto (1911-1984) Epifanía (1914-1989), Josefina, Juan (1919-1944), Dominga, Juan (1923-1923) and Eulalia (1926-2000). Modesto, the oldest of the six moved to Detroit with his wife and children while the rest of the the Dávila Ruiz family stayed in Puerto Rico – I wonder what brought Modesto to Michigan? There is always still much to learn!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A New Piece to the Puzzle! The Jean Charles Gustave Mystery Continues...

When fellow French Guadeloupean genealogist David Quénéhervé began his email with "Hi, I think that I've found something in Basse-Terre", I knew that I was going to be delivered some new information pertaining to my ancestors. David has helped me numerous times from finding and using the BNMP, to understanding documents and life in Martinique during the times of slavery. I am definitely thankful for all the help he has provided and have been doing my best of paying it forward to other new and amateur genealogists.

The first thing that struck me was "Wait? Information in Basse-Terre?!  That's in Guadeloupe!". With the whole run around of my 4th great grandparents and their origin, I have pretty much started to recognize and learn many of the towns in Guadeloupe and Martinique (at this rate I've checked every single town in Martinique for my 4th great grandfather, Jean Charles Gustave).

Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe [Google]

It has dawned on me before that I might have always been looking in the wrong place, that maybe Jean Charles Gustave was never actually from Martinique but from Guadeloupe, some records even stated he and Julienne were from Saint Thomas. What was so interesting about the document that David found was the information that it held, its accuracy and a potential small crack on a big genealogical dead-end wall.

Martinique & Guadeloupe on the map [Google]

What David found was a jugement for a Françoise Jackson, who was the wife of a Gustave Jean-Charles! I immediately thought, my 4th great grandfather was previously married?! The record goes on to state that on the 12th of April of 1869 this judgement was taking place, then the next few lines is the usual run-down as genealogist know of who was writing what and his position yaddah-yaddah-yaddah. The next line what was struck David and definitely me as well: … que la nommée Françoise Jackson née à Marie-Galante, en mil huit cent trente trois, épouse du sieur Gustave-Jean-Charles [sic], capitaine au cabotage, demeurant au Vieques, est décédée à la Basse-Terre, où elle résidait dans le courant de l'Epidémie du Choléra. The document goes on to repeat this about another three times for whatever reason, but here is the gist of the information for my English speakers:

that the named Françoise Jackson, born on Marie-Galante, in eighteen thirty three, wife of the sir Gustave Jean Charles, sea captain, residing at Vieques, died at Basse-Terre, where she resided during the time of the Cholera Epidemic. 

Another similar version of the text later in the document [ANOM]

What shocked me the most was that his name was written exactly as I know it Gustave Jean Charles (we are still debating whether or not Gustave was a first name or surname, the record was registered in the index under "Jean-Charles"). Also, it stated that he was currently living in Vieques -- which is EXACTLY where my 4th great grandfather was living at the time!! We chatted back and forth about this, David suggested that Jean Charles was probably marrying at the time and needed to prove that he was single and thus someone came forward in Guadeloupe to register the death of his wife which probably wasn't registered at the time of her original death in 1865 rather than in 1869. Could it be that distraught, Jean Charles left Guadeloupe immediately after his wife's death and never was able to register her death? Also, this Gustave Jean Charles was a sea captain while mine was a carpenter, could they really be the same person I asked? David assured me that carpenters could build ships (duh, how could I not think of that!) and also many people back then took on multiple/different jobs to make ends meet.

When David suggested that maybe Jean Charles was about to remarry I went straight to two records I was fortunate to find in the Vieques baptismal books, my 3rd great grandmother's baptism record and her brother's. She was born in 1867 while he in 1869 and I was sure these records could provide some clues. Foolishly, I had not realized two small clues that would help tie in the record from Guadeloupe to my family in Puerto Rico. I have faith that these two men are the same, the evidence is too overwhelming similar!

Baptism- María Paulina "Charles" [LDS Vieques Records]
When my 3rd great grandmother, María Paulina Gustavo Lotten, was born on the 15th of January in 1865 in Vieques, Puerto Rico she was baptized as a "hija natural reconocida" which means that she was a natural born daughter recognized by her parents, who here are written down as Juliana Lotin and Gustavo Juan Carlos. Notice that the name is in the same order as in Guadeloupe. I also realized that María Paulina was baptized with the surname "Charles", so it is very possible that Jean Charles was the original combined surname and then the Jean part was dropped and Charles stayed. Yet the family used Gustavo for a long time and then later switched to Charles, who started the switch? 


Baptism- Tomas Octavio "Charles" [LDS Vieques Records]
Now, look at this record that took place in 1870 recording Tomás Octavio's birth which occurred on the 28th of December 1869. Here we can see that Tomás was registered as a "hijo legitimo" which means that he was recognized as a legitimate child of Gustavo Juan Charles and Juliana Lotin, again the name is written in the same style we see in Guadeloupe. Every child born after my 3rd great grandmother is referred to in their baptismal and/or birth record as legitimate children of my 4th great grandparents!


The document in Guadeloupe occurred in April of 1869 and Tomás was born in December of the same year, perhaps Julienne wanted to be married before she delivered her second child? If Tomás was born at the 9 month mark, then it is possible that he was conceived in the window of March-April. I never thought to check the "status" of the children as they were born, I figured it was just a mistake on Paulina's record but now it seems that it held some weight to it. I have ordered the Vieques marriage records from that time period and I am anxiously hoping and waiting that a marriage record will appear in 1869 for Jean Charles Gustave and Julienne, and hopefully give some more clues as to Jean Charles Gustave's origin. Will the record mention a previous marriage to Françoise Jackson? I'm very excited to finally add some more meat to the story of Jean Charles Gustave. Hopefully, I'll be able to finally pinpoint a town of origin for him as well as parents and maybe even grandparents. 

Hopefully, one day I'll be able to travel and explore the towns of my ancestors in Martinique and now maybe even in Guadeloupe! Gotta brush up on my français before that! :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tragedy in the Family

When researching my family, I have always seen it important to research other branches of the family. While looking into my Charles/Gustave side of the family I came across a cousin who went through some pretty serious tragedies practically year after year.

My 1st cousin 4x removed, Pedro Juan Gustavo Siman (who's last names later would becomes 'Charles Siman') was born in Guánica, Yauco, Puerto Rico on the 6th of April 1904. His parents were Alberto Fermin Gustavo Lotten and María Siman Rodríguez. His father, Alberto, was my 3rd great grand-uncle and his family's branch extends in to Guánica since he raised his family there. My branch stayed in Salinas, which is a neighboring town and to this day I have Charles cousins in the Guánica area who I one day will hopefully get to meet!

In 1910 and 1920, Pedro lived with his parents and in 1926 Pedro would marry. On the 12th of June 1926, Pedro Juan Gustavo Siman married Petra Claudio López in Guánica. Two years later their first daughter, Luz Celeste Charles Claudio was born on the 6th of January 1928. There was another son, Alberto Luis, shortly born after her who's birth certificate I can't find yet and then I have four more children born after Alberto Luis. This is sadly when the family's luck turns for the worst.

Every child after Luz and Alberto Luis didn't make it past a year.

There was Eddie Nelson born 8th of July 1934 and passed away the 15th of July 1934.
Then a daughter Daisy was born on/about November 1935 and passed away the 10th of January 1936.
After, a son named Benjamin was born in June 1939 and passed away on the 23rd of November 1939.
Lastly (from what I have), there was Pedro Juan Jr. born the 25th of May 1943 and passed away on the 14th of June 1943.

Among the reasons for death are: Acute Enterocolitis, Chronic intestinal indigestion, Chronic gastroenteritis, and one death even was said to be caused by congenital syphilis.

What struck me the most was that despite infantile death rates probably being somewhat high at the time, this family didn't really suffer too much from early deaths. Most of the children continued into their late adulthood lives before they passed. And in this case there were back-to-back cases of child deaths. Three of four death causes seem to be connected to virus/bacteria exposure, were Pedro and his wife Petra living in bad conditions or unknowingly had something in the home that was harboring these viruses?

It was very sad to find these records trying to find and connect my family. Did Pedro and Petra have a strained relationship? They seemed to live out their lives together seeing as I haven't found a record for him remarrying. Was the family supportive of the couple and what they were going through? I imagine that it must be expensive to bury four children in the span of 9 years. Did the family blame it on witchcraft? (Sometimes when things can't be explained, many in the Caribbean turn to the idea of someone placing a curse on the family or giving the "evil eye"). Did Pedro and Petra remain hopeful?

I hope that their branch extends beyond my knowledge and that I might one day learn more about Pedro and his wife Petra! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

52 Ancestors – #3 Mercedes Ortiz Marrero (1903-1984)

I want to focus on an ancestor in this post that I've been learning a lot about recently through stories. This ancestor is my great grandmother Mercedes Ortiz Marrero. I unfortunately never got to meet my great grandmother but hearing stories about her has gotten me as close to knowing her as possible.

My father's grandparents growing up were always shrouded in mystery as I had never met any of them. I always would hear that his grandmother, Mercedes lived in Carolina and died the same day as her daughter who they called "Tía Toña". At that point I knew so little, and it wasn't until a death certificate, a blog post, and a visit to a museum began to open up this side of the family like I wouldn't have imagined. 

Mercedes Ortiz Marrero [Personal Family Photo]
My great grandmother, Mercedes Ortiz Marrero, was born in Corozal, Puerto Rico (most likely in the barrio of Palos Blancos) according to her death certificate on the 15th of November 1903. Oddly enough, I haven't been able to find her proper birth record. I do however know that her parents were Martin Ortiz Pérez and Antonia Marrero Marrero, both natives of Corozal, Puerto Rico themselves. Mercedes came from a big family, 12 siblings so far counted (13 including her), and was the first daughter born out of all of her siblings. 

In 1910 and 1920, Mercedes was living with her parents and siblings together in a home Martin owned. In 1910, Martin and Antonia's already 10 year old marriage had produced six children ranging from Martin Jr. (aged 9) to Fermina (aged 1) – both Martin Ortiz and Antonia Marrero could not read or write and Martin was employed as a laborer on a sugarcane farm while Antonia was a domestic housewife. 

In 1920, Mercedes was still living at home with her parents and now seven children household (some might have passed away but four more were born). None of the children were able to read or write and it seems that none attended school either. All were unemployed except Martin who was still employed as a farmer on an agricultural farm. 

In 1922, Mercedes' life would begin to change. During this year, Mercedes would marry Alejandro Rivera González (my direct Rivera ancestor) on the 31st of March. Alejandro had been previously married two other times – his first wife Brigida Hernández Vélez passed away, while his second marriage to Petrona Ortiz Nieves ended in a divorce by the Tribunal District on the 17th of February 1922 (he married pretty fast between his 2nd and 3rd marriage). Both of his previous marriages produced three children from each wife. 

I don't know the story of how Mercedes and Alejandro met but I can make a pretty darn good guess with the 1920 Census – Alejandro's older sister was next door neighbors to my great grandmother! Alejandro lived in Toa Alta, an adjacent town, and probably met Mercedes while visiting his older sister. Below you can see Valentina Rivera González living with her husband right next door to my great grandmother and her parents:

Love at First [next-door] Sight!

I'm not sure if Mercedes moved in with Alejandro or lived with her parents until they found a home but in the 1930 census, Alejandro and Mercedes are shown living in La Perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They would live here throughout the 1930, 1935 and 1940 Census. Mercedes had eight children (which includes my grandfather, Felipe Rivera Ortiz) bringing the total of children Alejandro had to 14!

Growing up I only knew two stories of my great grandmother – the first was that she had died the same day as her daughter and the second was that she had worked for the mayor of Puerto Rico, Felisa Rincón de Gautier. Who would have thought that these two stories were actually completely true!? Blogging about the mystery of my great grandmother, I was fortunately blessed with the serendipitous meeting of my cousin, a granddaughter of Mercedes. She was able to confirm that my great grandmother had worked for Felisa Rincón de Gautier (The first female mayor in the Americas might I add!) and had passed away after finding out about the death of her own daughter, Antonia Rivera Ortiz, both on the 1st of December 1984. My great grandmother not only worked for the mayor, but they were great friends. She was devastated when she heard about the death of my great grandmother and couldn't believe that she had not only lost a worker but a dear friend. 

Pictured L-to-R:
Ana Rivera, Mercedes Ortiz, Tomasita Maldonado (back row)
Inocencia "Chencha" Maysonet, Felisa Rincón, "Chita" Maysonet, y Julia Cortijo.
Photo circa 1958
[Personal Family Photo]

While visiting the Felisa Rincón de Gautier museum in San Juan, I was able to meet a lady who remembered my great grandmother fairly well and even remembered that she made the best arroz con dulce and harina de maíz desserts, which she made for parties held in the home of Felisa Rincón. When my aunt Toña bought her home in Carolina, her children wanted her to retire and live with Tía Toña which they did until they both passed away.

I have been fortunate to uncover these stories of my great grandmother, giving me a better picture of the woman she was and the life she lived. I have also been blessed with the meeting of my cousin who was able to supply me with stories and pictures, debts I could never repay to her and her family for being the keepers of these important valuable things. I can only continue to pass along the stories I have been given to the future generations and hopefully my own children. This 52 Ancestors Challenge has really gotten me pumped about documenting the stories that go along with my ancestors, I've been so inspired by the other blogs I have been reading!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

52 Ancestors – #2 Jean Charles Gustave (1819-1891)

This second post will be about a challenging ancestor of mine who I have mentioned a lot before but I
want to dedicate a post to him since he has been a troubling ancestor to pinpoint. This post will be about my 4th great grandfather Jean Charles Gustave.

Jean Charles Gustave has been very elusive since the first moment I set eyes on his name in a birth certificate of his grandchild, Julio Correa Gustavo (my 2nd great grandfather). When Jean Charles was registered in Puerto Rico with his wife, he was registered as living in Fajardo, Puerto Rico as a "domestico" from Martinique, married, and 55 years old. They were registered on the 30th of May 1874 as domiciled in Fajardo but were still French subjects. In his registration his name became "Juan Carlos Gustavo" and in subsequent documents his name remained in the Spanish form. Yet every time Jean Charles Gustave signed his name in documents he consistently used the French form of his name.

Jean Charles Gustave's Signature

We also know that by the time he was registered in 1874, he was already living at least 7 years in Puerto Rico because his first child and my 3rd great grandmother, María Paulina Gustavo Lotten, was born in 1867 on the island of Vieques, a municipal of Puerto Rico. Jean Charles and his wife "Juliana Balbina Lotten" who I later came to learn was Julienne Malvina Lautin, a native from Rivière Salée, Martinique had 7 children (to date) that I know of. I've decided to use the surnames "Gustavo Lotten" because it is the most similar to its original form, Gustave Lautin. There have been many variations of both surnames used throughout documents and the family eventually switched over to the surname "Charles". Here are the children in order:

1) María Paulina Gustavo Lotten 1867 – 1948
2) Tomás Octavio Gustavo Lotten 1869 – 1957
3) Valentina Gustavo Lotten 1878? – 1938
4) Areopajita Gustavo Lotten 1879 – 1900
5) Dionisio Gustavo Lotten 1880 – 18??
6) Alberto Fermin Gustavo Lotten 1882 – 1953
7) Martina Isabel Gustavo Lotten 1886 – 1888

Gustave Lautin Family


I have been able to track five out of the seven children from the Gustave Lautin line but I don't know what ever happened to Dionisio and Martina Isabel. Dionisio was born in Fajardo while Martina Isabel was born in Santa Isabel yet they never appear in census records and I have not found death records for them yet.

Something very interesting that I have noticed (and probably literally just right now), is that the family has always stuck by the ocean. For whatever reason, in whatever town they lived in, it was always by the coast. Vieques, Fajardo, Santa Isabel, Salinas, Guánica, Ponce – all coastal towns of Puerto Rico. Jean Charles Gustave was a carpenter by trade, so wouldn't he have found better work in San Juan? The family would later become fishermen with some carpenters here and there but I think it's interesting that they were always near water (most of their children and grandchildren were born in parts of the town called "playa" – in Santa Isabel, Ponce, and Salinas). Could Jean Charles Gustave originated from a coastal town in Martinique?

Despite knowing where Jean Charles Gustave has lived I have yet to find his death certificate. I know that his death had to have taken place between November 1887 – August 1891, with the help of his grandchildren's records. The question is where?! This span of 4 years is a pretty small gap to look for someone yet I have had no luck finding his death record in Salinas, Yauco/Guánica or Ponce (I'll be double checking again shortly!)

Jean Charles Gustave always seemed to me to be of a créole background for various reasons. 1) He didn't appear in the Actes D'individualités in Martinique – This could mean he was born free or freed before 1848. 2) He was able to sign his name in 1885 – which I think is a big feat for a black man in the mid-1800s from a colonial island. 3) His wife was much younger than him which makes me think she married "up" for a better life – either love brought them together or his status did.

After researching the Gustave line for quite a while, I was able to find a cousin who shared a connection with me. Her great grandfather, Alberto Fermin, and my 3rd great grandmother, María Paulina, were brothers and sisters. This 3rd cousin, 2x removed is more connected to the Charles family and thus was able to find a male descendant of Jean Charles Gustave who was willing to take a Y-DNA test to figure out our Martinican male haplogroup.

I was able to get a Y-DNA test through FTDNA from a 2nd cousin, 3x removed, the grandson of Alberto Fermin Gustavo Lotten. I was very excited when the results started coming in this week. I was caught between hoping it was an African haplogroup and a European haplogroup, but my gut feeling was that it would come back European – due to the créole theory. The group came back R-M269 (shorthand) also known as R1b1a2, which turns out to be part of one of the biggest European haplogroups. Hopefully I'll be able to pinpoint a surname through FTDNA which would give me a clue for my male ancestor in Martinique!

Haplogroup R1b Distribution [Wikipedia]

Take a look at this new blog post called "A New Piece to the Puzzle! The Jean Charles Gustave Mystery Continues…" with some new information regarding my 4th great grandfather!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

52 Ancestors – #1 Felix Vélez Mercado (1905-1953)

I guess I'll start this challenge with a man who I know both some about but yet know nothing about. This man is my great grandfather Felix Vélez Mercado. Felix's family photo was what catapulted me into genealogy and it was featured in my first post ever in my blog!

L-R: Felix (standing back), Carmen (kneeling),
José (standing), Rosalia (sitting w/ baby)
[Personal Family Photo]
Felix Vélez Mercado was born on the 17th of November 1905 in Salto Abajo, Utuado, Puerto Rico. Interestingly, when my great grandfather was born, he was listed as an illegitimate child since his parents hadn't yet married. His father, Nicodemus (sometimes written as Nicodemo) Vélez Ríos, was the one who registered his son's birth yet no mother was listed! His father later married in the same town on the 14th of December 1906, just a little over a year after Felix was born, to Domitila Mercado Cruz. I worry about this not being his mother since he was born out of wedlock but being that the parents married soon after his birth and we always knew his last names were "Vélez Mercado", therefore I assume that Domitila is his biological mother. 

The reason why Nicodemus and Domitila probably weren't married during Felix's birth is evident in their marriage record. When Nicodemus Vélez and Domitila Mercado appeared to get married, it stated the Nicodemus Vélez was 32 years of age while Domitila Mercado was only 15 years old!!! In Puerto Rico, since many people weren't literate or properly knew their birth years, ages were either exaggerated a few years or people scratched a few away here and there. Nicodemus during his marriage was actually 26 years old- this I know because I have his baptism record from Adjuntas, Puerto Rico where it states he was born in the year 1878. I have yet to find Domitila's birth record but it's probably somewhere in the 1890s. What's also interesting is that according to the 1910 Census record, Felix had an older sister and younger sister both named "Amelia" yet in the column where it asked how many children has the wife had and how many of them are alive it only states "1" and "1". So something there isn't adding up. Could it be that it only states "1" because that was the number of children born "officially" since their marriage?

"who has 15 years of age"- Domitila's marriage record

Felix appears in the 1910 Census living with his parents and two sisters in a rented home in Arenas, Utuado, Puerto Rico. However, in the 1920, 1930 and 1935 Census Felix has disappeared! My great grand-aunt told me that Felix would travel around selling goods and so this could potentially be the reason why he doesn't appear with his family. In 1940 he resurfaces in San Juan, Puerto Rico living in the Santurce area already living with my great grandmother and one of his children. It seems that his profession of selling is still with him since he is listed as "vendedor de billetes"and as "ambulante" which means he travels.

My family says that Felix Vélez Mercado passed away around 1953 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Which means my grandmother was about 13 years old when her father passed away leaving her mother widowed with three children (there was another child born around the 1940s but passed away in his infancy). Despite Felix coming from a gigantic family I know very little about his family. In totally I have about 17 different children listed for Nicodemus and Domitila, including Felix himself. 

1) Amelia Vélez Mercado 1902-?
2) Ramón Vélez Mercado 1904-?
3) Felix Vélez Mercado 1905-1953
4) Amelia Vélez Mercado 1912- 1942
5) Amelio Vélez Mercado 1911-1936
6) Ana Vélez Mercado 1914-?
7) Juana Vélez Mercado 1918-?
8) Evaristo Vélez Mercado 1919-?
9) José Miguel Vélez Mercado 1922- ?
10) Jesús María Vélez Mercado 1925-?
11) José Vélez Mercado 1926-?
12) Nerco Vélez Mercado 1926?-?
13) Ramón Vélez Mercado 1927-?
14) Jesús Vélez Mercado 1928- ?
15) Monserrate Vélez Mercado 1930-?
16) María Mercedes Vélez Mercado 1931- ?
17) Juan Moises Vélez Mercado ?-?

Seems like the family also spent time moving between Utuado and Adjuntas, the parents' respective towns of origin. So while Felix was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, his sister Ana Vélez Mercado was born in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico in 1914. His daughter (my great-aunt) says that he met my great grandmother while traveling which means he might have met her in her hometown of Lares, Puerto Rico. Hopefully I can learn more about Felix, his life and his siblings. I wonder if there are more pictures of Felix somewhere in my family's possession? 

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge: Accepted!

Every time I log into my ancestry.com account I always check the sidebar for recently added blogs and yesterday I stumbled upon one called "The 52 Ancestors Challenge". I was intrigued so I decided to read the post and find out what exactly it was about.

The 52 Ancestors Challenge Post

I was excited to read that Amy Johnson Crow was challenging the genealogical community to post about 1 ancestor every week creating this 52 Ancestors Challenge. Amy Johnson Crow states "So to challenge myself and others to write at least once a week, I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. The premise: write about one ancestor each week this year. It could be a story, a photograph, a document, a pesky research problem - anything, as long as it involves one ancestor. The next week, write about another ancestor." So I decided to accept this challenge! I think it would be a great way to focus across various different lines each week and it will force me to write at least once each week. That way when the year is over I'll hopefully have 52 different posts about different 52 ancestors! I know I've written probably extensively about certain ancestors through the few years I've been writing but hopefully I won't have to repeat their stories.

52 Ancestors Challenge ACCEPTED!

Hopefully this post will serve as a place to keep all of my links for future reference so I'll try and update this page as I continue to write throughout the year. I'll probably continue to post about other things as well outside of this challenge but I am very excited to get started! Luckily I caught this on early and won't have to play catch up too much! This is also a great way to "Cousin Bait" which I didn't know was a term until I read it in one of Amy's posts. Ultimately these posts will hopefully help us find other cousins out there (which happened to me with one post about two years now!) If you have also accepted the challenge, best of luck!