Thursday, February 27, 2014

52 Ancestors – #9 Ramona Rivera Rivera (1887-19??)

When I began to start my genealogy, I remember asking my maternal grandmother for every and any name she knew of the family. Luckily, she was also pretty well informed about some of maternal grandfather's maternal ancestors. On this post I want to focus on my 2nd great grandmother Ramona Rivera Rivera, or as my grandfather called her "las tres R's" (eRRes) – "the three Rs".

Ramona Rivera Rivera [Personal Family Photo]

Ramona Rivera Rivera was born in the barrio of Vaga in Morovis, Puerto Rico – a municipality located in the central region of the island. Morovis, was originally connected to the town of Manatí and later separated in the year 1815. Before that, the town was part of the lands of the Taíno Cacique Orocobix. Ramona was born on the 17th of August of 1887 and had an older sister named Gregoria who was around 10-12 years her elder. Despite being born in Morovis, Ramona's parents were from a different town according to records. Her father Francisco Rivera Rodríguez was from Barranquitas as well as his wife Estebania Rivera Rodríguez (so far there is no relationship between the two, seems that their double surname is just a coincidence).

Morovis' Flag [Wikipedia]

Ramona lost her father around the age of 13 and was raised by her mother until 1919 when she passed away from senility. In the 1910 census, Ramona and her mother Estebania appear living with Gregoria who already had eight children with Agustin Rosado Olmeda. In 1920, my 2nd great grandmother was married and living with her three children (Miguel, Isabel, and Lorenzo) and her mother-in-law María Santos Chéverez in a rented home still in Vaga, Morovis while José was employed as a worker on a coffee farm. Oddly enough, Ramona is written down as "Ramona Rivera Rodríguez" and also my great grandfather remembers her as "Ramona Rivera Rodríguez". Yes, her parents were both Rivera Rodríguez but she in turn was Rivera Rivera; just a simple confusion?

José Miranda Santos, 1920 Census [Ancestry]
Ramona Rivera "Rodríguez", 1920 Census [Ancestry]

Notice how they seem to be living in a shared home with another family, this is the first time I have seen my family sharing a home with others who (from what I know so far), are not related to them either biologically or through marriage. My 2nd great grandmother lived in Vaga, Morovis from 1887 through about 1937, but for whatever reason she gave birth to her twins (my great grandmother and her brother) in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Judging by the map below, Vaga is not a bordering town of Vega Baja, so why would Ramona give birth in that town? The information on the birth certificate is a bit funky, it mentions that the person that came to register the birth of the twins (Ernesta and Ernesto) was "José Miranda Cheveré" the "mother" which has some mixed up information. The rest of the siblings were born themselves in Vaga, Morovis. A weird little mystery here!

Barrios of Morovis, Puerto Rico [Google]

Many if not all of Ramona's children lived past childhood, but in 1938 the family would go through a tragic event. Sometime between 1935 and 1938 the family moved from Vaga, Morovis to the town of Damián Arriba, Orocovis, Puerto Rico. Damián Arriba and Vaga and neighboring towns straddling the Morovis/Orocovis border, so getting there was much easier to explain in this case. It seems that the family moved to Damián Arriba in April of 1937 according to a record I found in Barros, Orocovis. On October 11th, 1938 José Miranda Santos passed away. At first I thought nothing of it, but when I looked at the cause of death it sent a shiver running down my spine. 

My 2nd great grandfather José Miranda Santos committed suicide by hanging himself with a rope. It broke my heart to read that at the age of about 52, he felt this was the only way out. I don't know the situation behind this tragic death, he last appeared on the 1935 Census and it gives us some clues to his life but not his death. José was still employed at the time and seems to have received a raise since he was now an "administrator" on a coffee farm. He was living in a home with two rooms and even had the luxury of a latrine. 

Barrios of Orocovis, Puerto Rico [Wikipedia]

José left my 2nd great grandmother with 8 children, two of which were less than 8 years old. My great grandmother, Erestina Miranda Rivera, would have been 15 at the time of her father's death, how did she feel about all of this? I couldn't believe that all of these years of hearing the names Ramona Rivera and José Miranda, no one had told me that José had killed himself. When I rushed to my mom with what I thought was "new information", she just shrugged her shoulders and told me that she knew about her great grandfather's death. But how come I, the family genealogist, wasn't told!?!

How was Ramona's life afterwords? My grandmother got the chance to meet Ramona and remembers her living in Cataño in a wooden house with a sink that was outside her window enclosed by a wall with nails she could hang things up on. She said that Ramona had blue eyes and always wore white embroidered shirts with a handkerchief over her head. She had white hair and usually wore it up in a bun. She also remembers her being tall, missing a few teeth, sold tapetes (rugs?) and had a "witch nose". My grandmother says she was buried in Río Piedras but I have yet to find a death certificate for her since I am unaware of the range of years for her death.  

Interestingly with 23andme I have been able to find out that Ramona Rivera Rivera's maternal haplogroup would have been A2, since Ramona is my grandfather's direct maternal ancestor. I have only one photo of Ramona and in it she has some indigenous looking features to her face. Ramona's ancestress could have been a Taíno/Arawak woman living in the central region of the island under Cacique Orocobix's command and leadership. Hopefully one day I will be able to find her death certificate and maybe even a tomb! I imagine Ramona was a very strong woman to continue raising her children despite the death of her husband – and in her I find strength. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

52 Ancestors – #8 Bernardina Sepúlveda Román (1803-1893)

I've noticed that I haven't focused too much on my ancestresses that are scattered through out my tree, so I'm going to try and make more attempts to properly include them in this 52 Ancestors series. Especially seeing as they too are a part of my ancestry!

My 4th great grandmother Bernardina Sepúlveda Román was born in Mayagüez around 1803 to her parents, Remigio Sepúlveda Montalvo and María de la Cruz Román Irizarry. Bernardina's family had been in Mayagüez for close to 200 years through her paternal line for three generations going back to her great grandfather Juan Lorenzo Sepúlveda who was born about 1685. Parts of Bernardina's family have been traced to families and towns in Spain thanks to the work of various genealogists who have come before me. Despite being born in Mayagüez, Bernardina would marry and eventually pass away in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. Adjuntas was founded around 1815 and it is possible that Bernardina and her husband were one of the first families to inhabit and help found the town.

We know that in 1829, Bernardina and her husband José María Vélez Pérez were getting married at the church of San Joaquín – they married on the 7th of October.

Parroquia San Joaquín de Adjuntas [Wikipedia]

Bernardina's husband José María was from San Sebastián, Puerto Rico; another town found in the eastern part of Puerto Rico. They could have very likely met in Adjuntas seeing as both of José María's parents died in Adjuntas despite being born in San Sebastián themselves as well. Here is the distance between Mayagüez and Adjuntas, they might have taken a less modern route to get to Adjuntas.

Distance from Mayagüez to Adjuntas [Google Maps]

So far I have that Bernardina's marriage produced 10 children all born in Adjuntas and living in the area of Guaynabo Dulce (which will serve as an important tidbit). Eight of the ten children were daughters and interestingly I descend from one of the two sons; my third great grandfather was named José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda and he was born in 1837 in Adjuntas. I wonder a lot about the social status of these families. Seeing as how Bernardina's family has been on the island of Puerto Rico since the early 1600s I wonder if she was of a higher social caste which was mainly white and well off.

Ward 4- Guaynabo Dulce, Adjuntas, Puerto Rico [Wikipedia]


Bernardina lived well into her eighties and outlived her husband by three years. Her son and my 3rd great grandfather came forth to declare her death. What interests me most about her life isn't about what happened towards the end of it but what happened while she was in her 70s. In 1872, Bernardina Sepúlveda appears as owning 4 slaves on the Registro Central de Esclavos – a year later slavery would be abolished on the island. I was completely shocked by this when I found this out! I couldn't believe that my 4th great grandfather had slaves!! The fact that the slaves were registered in the same barrio where Bernardina lived sealed the deal for me that they were the same women. 

Listed on the registry are four slaves of various ages: The first is Lorenzo (4yrs 2mos.), then Juan (22 ys.), María Tomasa (26 yrs.) and lastly Felipa. (40 yrs.) Felipa is the oldest of the slaves and actually Lorenzo and Juan are listed as two of her children (they seem to be fathered by two different men). Felipa is listed as being 6 feet tall and as a "mulata amarilla", could be she be mixed with Taíno? Only María Tomasa is listed as "negra" while Lorenzo and his brother Juan are listed as "mulato claro". 

Lorenzo, esclavo de Bernardina Sepúlveda [Ancestry]

Juan, esclavo de Bernardina Sepúlveda [Ancestry]

Ma Tomasa, esclavo de Bernardina Sepúlveda [Ancestry]

Felipa, esclavo de Bernardina Sepúlveda [Ancestry]

What would have been their duties? Lorenzo being the youngest and listed as "growing" had no job listed but the rest were listed as "laborers", could they all have worked on land my family owned? Which I imagine wouldn't have been a big plot of land since they had only a few number of slaves? Maybe they had more and little by little gave them their freedom? Some of Bernardina's children were around the same age as María Tomasa, Juan and Felipa; were the children of Bernardina on good terms with the slaves or were they hostile and demanding of them? I wonder a lot about the moral fiber of my family and what type of people they were. Did it ever bother Bernardina that she owned slaves, did her husband agree with it? So far Bernardina is the only ancestor of mine with documented slaves that I have so far, but I imagine there are more out there in my family.

Documents can only teach us so much about our ancestors and their lives. If only we had some diaries or journals to see their thoughts about the times they lived in. We must also read about the history of that period and look at it through a nonjudgmental lens of what the people at the time thought was considered "normal". I'm not justifying slavery and never will, but many fell victims to the institutionalized belief of the system it created and knew no better (luckily there were those who fought the system!). I can neither defend nor justify Bernardina but I can only educate myself about my family's past and learn about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of it. Ultimately, that is genealogy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

52 Ancestors – #7 Benito Orozco (1843-1923)

My third great grandfather Benito Orozco also lived his life in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico (like my 2nd great grandfather), though his marriage record points to him being born in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico – a town just to the north of Yabucoa.

Las Piedras, Puerto Rico [Wikipedia]

Benito's year of birth is unknown to me, currently I have him listed as being born circa 1843 and it could have been a little after or a little before. What's interesting about Benito as you might have noticed is that he has only one surname listed which is typically uncommon in Puerto Rico. Benito Orozco (sometimes written as Orosco) was born as a native (rather than legitimate) son to Estebanía Orozco who was born around the early 1800s, late 1700s. Benito lived to appear in the 1910 and 1920 census which gave me some insight to his life.

By 1910, Benito had been married 34 years to his wife Dolores de Santiago Burgos, a native of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. He and his wife were listed as "Mu" for Mulatto and he was working as a farmer on a farm which he owned, he was unable to read or write. He was living with five of his eight children (all still alive in 1910) and my 2nd great grandfather Pedro Dávila Ruiz was living in the same household seeing as he was recently married to his wife Francisca. There is a 15 year old girl named Sista Santiago listed as a "criada" living with the family – I wonder if she has some relation to Dolores' paternal side of the family? Criada could have meant that she was a housemaid or also that she was being raised by Benito and Dolores.

Benito Orosco, 1910 Census [Ancestry]

Interestingly in 1920, not much had changed about Benito's status. He still works on the land he owns in Calabazas, still is unable to read or write and doesn't speak English. He is listed as living with his wife, two children, a daughter-in-law, a boarder and a grandson (who was actually my great-uncle). But one very important thing did change, his surname. Benito had taken on the name "Santana" instead of Orozco. Oddly enough, other family members as well did the same thing. My grandmother told me that her mother used Orozco but some of her sisters used Santana and her cousins and would argue that Santana was the actual name and not Orozco. In reality the surname sort of came out of nowhere, since Benito was born well before the 1910 census and his mother was already deceased by then, we have no record currently pointing to the origin of the surname. 

Benito Santana, 1920 Census [Ancestry]

My theory however is that Benito's father was surnamed "Santana". As was the case with my 2nd great grandfather José Avilés Magraner, José was born only with the surname "Avilés" and later added "Magraner" to the end of his surname for his father. Benito, on the other hand, abandoned Orozco for Santana on the 1920 Census. Three short years later, Benito would pass away on the 18th of April 1923 of old age. His son, Pedro Orozco Santiago, appears to declare his death and lists his father as Benito Orozco, and his grandmother as Estebania Orozco. Similarly, the family continues to go back and forth on the use of Santana and Orozco throughout the following census records and birth/marriage/death records.

Benito had eight children in total with Dolores Santiago and I descend from his only daughter Francisca Orozco. Therefore, I would be unable to take a DNA sample of any of Francisca's children since none will carry the Y-DNA of Benito. However, luckily since there were seven other sons the odds of finding a male descendant of Benito are more increased. I have tried tracing each line and finding male descendants, their Y-DNA will allow to see if our family matches with any Santana surnamed men on the island, hopefully from the same area of Las Piedras/Yabucoa. 

I have been able to map out Benito's male grandchildren, which so far there is a grand total of 22 male descendants of Benito. Many of them in the 1930, 1935 and 140 hadn't produced another generation besides two grandchildren, Ernesto Orozco Álvarez who had his son Luis Orozco de León (however he appears as Luis Santana de León) and Juan Orozco Morales who had Primitivo Orozco Ruiz (also appears as Primitivo Santana Ruiz). As you can see the surname Santana had caught momentum and was being used throughout various lines and generations. Hopefully I'll be able to find a male descendant willing to test and help my search! 

Santana/Orozco Male Descendant Pedigree

I'll list out all the children just in case someone searches for one of them online it will appear! I'll list them both with Santana and Orozco since there is a possibility some might have stayed with Orozco while others switched over to Santana. 

Grandsons of Benito Santana/Orozco (Total: 22):
  • Ernesto Orozco Alvarez/ Ernesto Santana Alvarez
    • Luis Orozco de Leon/ Luis Santana de Leon
  • Enudio? Santana Alvarez/ Enudio Santana Alvarez
  • Eladio Orozco Morales/ Eladio Santana Morales
  • Juan Orozco de Jesus/ Juan Santana de Jesus
  • Alfonso Orozco de Jesus/ Alfonso Santana de Jesus
  • Enrique Orozco de Jesus/ Enrique Santana de Jesus
  • Juan Orozco Morales/ Juan Santana Morales
    • Primitivo Orozco Ruiz/ Primitivo Santana Ruiz
  • Teofilo Orozco Morales/ Teofilo Santana Morales
  • Epifanio Orozco Morales/ Epifanio Santana Morales
  • Felix Orozco Morales/ Felix Santana Morales
  • Primitivo Orozco Morales/ Primitivo Santana Morales
  • Vasilio Orozco Gómez/ Vasilio Santana Gómez
  • Pedro Orozco Ruiz/ Pedro Santana Ruiz
  • Marciano Orozco Ruiz/ Marciano Santana Ruiz
  • Patricio Orozco Ruiz/ Patricio Santana Ruiz
  • Bienvenido Orozco Pinto/ Bienvenido Santana Pinto
  • Gil Orozco Pinto/ Gil Santana Pinto
  • Hipolito Orozco Pinto/ Hipolito Santana Pinto
  • Agapito Orozco Pinto/ Agapito Santana Pinto
  • Braulio Orozco Delgado/ Braulio Santana Delgado
  • Raimundo Orozco Delgado/ Raimundo Santana Delgado
  • Roman Orozco Delgado/ Roman Santana Delgado

Friday, February 7, 2014

52 Ancestors – #6 José Avilés Magraner (1891-1990?)

My 2nd great grandfather, José Avilés Magraner, has been to me the quintessential Puerto Rican ancestor. Growing up I had always heard José Avilés was tall, white and had blue eyes. Stories were passed down to me about him that turned out to be typical myths heard in stories passed throughout the generations in Puerto Rico (but with him there might be some truths to it). The same way Americans in the United States have stories about European settlers marrying native "Indians", we too in Puerto Rico have similar stories.


José Avilés Magraner [Personal Family Photo]
In Puerto Rico, many Puerto Ricans are told that so-and-so in their family was from Spain and the story of how they came to Puerto Rico, fell in love with a Taíno woman and stayed on the island and had many children. I have heard and seen this story commonly told not only between my own family members but from other Puerto Ricans that I have met. Of course, it is not their fault that they believe these stories. They have been told these stories sometimes from childhood, and who wants to imagine that their mother/father/grandmother is telling them false stories? But these stories are beginning to irk me because they are wrongly telling Puerto Ricans to believe that their ancestors are only from Spain (I too believed these stories growing up and ate them up thinking they were true). Through research I have learned that Puerto Rico is much more than just a place filled with "Spanish" ancestors.

I was told José Avilés came to Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War where he settled in Lares and met a Taíno woman, fell in love with her and had my great grandmother. This was one of the main stories that propelled me into genealogy, wanting to know the truth and wanting to find out more. Knowing that José Avilés lived in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico where I still have distant cousins I turned to the census records to find him.

The first census record I found was the 1930 census that listed my 2nd great grandfather with his daughter, my great grandmother Rosalia and her brother Pedro. After some initial confusion I found out that his wife at the time Ramona López was actually his second wife and not my 2nd great grandmother, Dionisia González Padilla, who died from Influenza in 1918.

1930 Census- Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico [Ancestry]

I also noticed that my José Avilés had a weird named attached "Magraner". In Puerto Rico, usually the first surname belongs to the father while the second surname to the mother. Therefore, Avilés would technically be his father's and Magraner his mother's. When I asked my great-aunt about her grandfather and brought up the name "Magraner", she told me that the family was actually supposed to be "Magraner Avilés" and that Magraner was the surname of the father. She also told me that his father was from Spain and had come to Puerto Rico during the time of war. So the story was an intergenerational hodgepodge of information. I just needed to find out what was right and what was wrong.

Finding out about the Civil Registry of Puerto Rico in 2010 I was able to search the Lares records for José's birth record. Would it mention his father with the surname Magraner? Now I could strike out one part of the tale, that José was originally from Spain. I was able to find José Avilés' birth record in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico, where he was born on the 8th of May 1891 and was reported to be born out of wedlock to a woman named María Inocencia Avilés a native of Lares. Nowhere in the record did it mention she was Taíno (and for good reasons because by the 1800s the Taíno population had been integrated pretty well in Puerto Rican society). No father was listed for José and the according to the record the witnesses were Salvador Ferrer and Clemente Millán. 

What's interesting is that by the 1910 Census I can not find a Magraner male to be the potential father of my 2nd great grandfather. Interestingly, the 1920 Census listed my recently widowed 2nd great grandfather living with his brother Lorenzo Avilés and both listed their father's place of birth lists "Spain". Could they have known their father and known of his identity? 

1920 Census- Río Prieto Lares, Puerto Rico [Ancestry]

With research that I did a couple of summers ago in the AGPR in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so far I have lowered the search down to a man named Damián Magraner Morell originally from Sóller, Mallorca. He appears to be living in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico at the time of José's birth but then seems to have moved back to Sóller during the time of the Spanish-American war. Could the story in my family have changed, instead of coming to Puerto Rico he left it? Interestingly, in a recent conversation with my great-aunt she mentioned that José's father was a married man at the time of his birth. Damián does appear to be married, my guess to a woman back in Spain, in the record I found of him. Both Damián and Lorenzo in their WWI Registration Cards mention working with a "Ramón Magraner" yet there is no man found either in the 1910 or 1920 census records with that name at all. 

No one apparently knows the name of José's father, but maybe it's buried in someone's memory waiting to be dug up. My 2nd great grandfather and his brother Lorenzo both named a son "Damián", could it simply be a coincidence? I have learned that many-a-times, coincidences do happen in genealogy but sometimes things are done conscientiously by our ancestors. 

I have no real way of telling if Damián is Jose's father, or maybe a brother of his seeing as he was one of four brothers to venture off to Puerto Rico. Hopefully I'll be able to test a Y-DNA male descendant and it will tie and trace back to the Magraner family from Sóller. Or maybe more records from Lares will give me some new clues. Much it still to be learned about my 2nd great grandfather. 

José Avilés Magraner [Personal Family Photo]