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. 


  1. So sad about how your grandfather passed.

  2. It's possible you and I may be related. I'm looking for info regarding my ancestors from Morovis, last name Santos.

  3. It's possible you and I may be related. I'm looking for info regarding my ancestors from Morovis, last name Santos.