Friday, April 18, 2014

52 Ancestors – #16 Cayetano Mercado Cajigas (1855-1905)

When looking through records for my family in Puerto Rico, I have been fortunate that many of my ancestors have lived either in the same town or a neighboring town for many years if not generations. Some of the migrations across the island in my family happened early when many of the towns were being created such as from Toa Alta to Corozal or from Coamo to Salinas. However, there are a few ancestors who seemed too antsy to stay put in one single town. There are many external reasons from wanting to move to a new town: new opportunities for work and land, droughts/bad weather, and of course running away from the past in order to start a new life. One of my 3rd great grandfathers on my paternal side of the family was born in one town, married in another, and died in another. So tracking him down wasn't the easiest of jobs - this is my 3rd great grandfather Cayetano Mercado Cajigas.

Cayetano Mercado Cajigas- Moving Around Puerto Rico

Cayetano Mercado Cajigas is my 3rd great grandfather via Felix Vélez Mercado (Cayetano was Felix's grandfather) yet they would never have the chance to meet since Cayetano passed away in late 1905 while Felix was born in early 1905. When I first discovered Cayetano I had no idea where he was born, I had seen the possibility of Utuado, Adjuntas, Lares, and San Sebastián. It wasn't until I discovered by coincidence his marriage in Adjuntas to Cristina Cruz Pérez that I learned his place of birth. Cayetano and Cristina married in Adjuntas in 1876 and on their marriage record it mentioned that Cayetano's town of origin was "Pepino" while Cristina was from Lares, Puerto Rico. There is currently no town named Pepino in Puerto Rico but doing some research allowed me to know where the name "Pepino" came from. The name "Pepino" refers to the old town name of San Sebastián on the western side of Puerto Rico. The town founded in 1752 with the help of Captain Cristóbal González de la Cruz was recognized as "Las Vegas del Pepino" due to nearby farms. In 1865 the town was still known as "San Sebastián de Las Vegas del Pepino" (Pepino being the Spanish word for cucumber). The town would later shorten its name to San Sebastián yet the residents of this town are still to this day known as Pepinianos. 

Cayetano and Cristina seemed to have about 5 daughters in total (currently this is the number of children I have) and their order of birth are as follows: María Juliana, Enriqueta, María del Carmen, Domitila, and Eduarda. I descend from Domitila, mother of Felix Vélez Mercado. The first three girls were definitely born in Adjuntas because I was able to find their baptismal records there but it seems that Domitila (of course it would be her, my ancestor!) to have been born in either Adjuntas or Utuado. I have searched Adjuntas around the time of her birth and have found nothing, so it is very possible that she was the first daughter to be born in Utuado. I'm not sure how Cayetano and Cristina ended up in Adjuntas, whether through a family move or through their own free will. Cayetano would have been in his early 20s if he had decided to move to Adjuntas which is very possible. I would have to find death records of their parents and see if they passed away in Adjuntas or in their native towns. 

Cayetano's birth is placed around 1855-1860 in San Sebastián to his parents Francisco Mercado Tirado and his mother María Isabel/Margarita Cajigas Ramos. His death certificate in Salto Abajo, Utuado helped to provided second surnames to his parents which is a very important detail when conducting genealogical research in Puerto Rico. His mother's last name is very interesting, I had never really run into it before and it doesn't seem to be very common in Puerto Rico (at least on the eastern side of the island). It seems the surname can also be found as Cajiga and Caxigas, which to me looks like a Basque name- when certain Spanish surnames have an 'x' or sound very strange I always think of Basque names. Even though this theory might not always correct, I always associate it with the Basque country. So I decided to see if I could find a website that would create a frequency map with the surname in Spain. 

I found a website called Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Institute of Statistics) which allows you to enter surnames and names and search for either the frequency of the name in the province of residence and/or the province of birth. I searched for "Cajigas" and its frequency in the province of birth to see where my Cajigas could have potentially originated in Spain. It seems that my theory was right for the surname "Cajigas". See below where the highest frequency is in Spain for the surname which was found in Bizkaia (Viscaya), a province of the Basque country in northern Spain. This is the first time I used a frequency map for Spain and I think I'll try and use it more often to find out more about the surnames in my family. 

Cajigas frequency in Spain [INEbase]

Cayetano was listed as being blanco in his death certificate so who knows if his background was purely Spanish or had recent immigrants to the island (of course there is the possibility that he was just white but very mixed - as I am). So far only one other daughter of Cayetano has mothered any children and that was María Juliana who had about six children with Simplicio Bermudez Villanueva, I haven't found any recent descendants of María Juliana who might have some more information about our shared Mercado Cruz family.

Cayetano did however have two brothers, one named José and another named Juan Santos, both oddly passed away in 1900- José in Manatí and Juan Santos in their native town of San Sebastián. So it is very possible to find common Mercado Cajigas descendants through those lines, only time will tell!


  1. Do you have an exact link where you can place the surname into the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Estadística site?

    1. Hello, here is the link for the website:

      I'll attach it to the post as well, didn't realize I didn't do that! Thanks!

  2. My last name is Cajigas and my family is from San Sebastián

  3. My last name is Cajigas and my family is from Squads. Our Cajigas was darker skinned.

  4. My last name is Cajigas and my family is from Squads. Our Cajigas was darker skinned.