Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Many Voyages of Tomás Charles

Recently while searching through ancestry's database I noticed there was an update on the "San Juan, Puerto Rico, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1901-1954" and even though I didn't have many different ancestors that traveled to the US and elsewhere I decided to search for my Charles/Gustave ancestors who indeed traveled a bit. My first and main search was for Tómas Charles Lotin [sic] who had lived and worked for a bit in La Romana, Dominican Republic as a carpenter. I knew that Tomás had left Guánica on the 29th of October 1916 and returned to Puerto Rico on the 31st of May 1918. Yet were those the only times Tomás came and left Puerto Rico. I decided to dig a little further. I searched for Tomás Charles in the database and was surprised with the number of hits! See below how many voyages were found for a Tomás/Thomas Charles.

Voyages of Tomás Charles [Ancestry]

The first six voyages seemed for sure to match the Tomás Charles I had and the latter half of the list interested me. Here are the some of the voyages Tomás my 3rd great-uncle took in chronological order and some information that the manifest lists revealed to me. Get ready to journey the Caribbean!

Tómas Charles- Passport Photo [Ancestry]

The first voyage I find is on a ship called the SS Falcon which traveled from La Romana, Dominican Republic the 7th of March 1917 and arriving in the port of Guánica, Puerto Rico on the 8th of March 1917. He is listed as Tomás Charles, Male, Married, born in Vieques, PR on the 29th of December 1873. All of the information matches what I have almost to a "T" except he was born on the 28th of December 1869, his birthday creeping up and making him younger will come to play a little later. The boat was inspected by Immigration Officer Frank L. Dayton and listed that only three men of "Porto Rican Citizenship" were on board. 

Tomás Charles- SS Falcon [Ancestry]

A few months later Tomás can be seen traveling from La Romana and this time arriving at the port of Ponce, Puerto Rico on the 29th of September 1917. All of the information provided for Tomás reminded the same. This time however 30 passengers in total were listed on the manifest.

Tomás Charles- SS Marina [Ancestry]

It seems that Tomás took about four more voyages between the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico in the years 1918, 1920, and two voyages in 1921. Interestingly, during this voyage in 1918 to Ponce he is listed with a wife and child. The wife is named Valentina Malave[s] and their son Hipolito, finally some more information is provided about this mysterious Valentina! It seems she might have been Tomás' first wife and was listed in his passport record. On the manifest record she is listed as being from Peñuelas, Puerto Rico and born on the 20th of January 1876. According to Tomás' second marriage to Ramona Cortes his first marriage ended with no children, I'm still very confused as to who Valentina was and what role she played.

Valentina Malaves and Hipolito Charles- Passport Photo [Ancestry]

Tomás, Valentina & Hipolito- SS Marina [Ancestry]

On his next voyage on the SS Cricket he is listed as traveling alone from the Dominican Republic to Guánica in 1920. 4 other passengers and Tomás himself were listed on the manifest list. Similarly, in 1921 Tomás travels alone from La Romana, DR to Guánica, PR. While abroad the SS Romanita and the passengers listed how they proved their citizenship: some with birth certificates, others with witnesses and affidavits, but Tomás is listed "Known to the Inspector". I imagine he knew the inspector from all the travels between La Romana and Guánica.

Tomás Charles- SS Romanita [Ancestry]

One of the last voyages in which Tomás took included his second wife Ramona Cortes, his mother-in-law Magdalena Cruz and their three sons: Inés, Hipolito, and Juan. They took the SS Falcon from La Romana on the 21st of July 1921 and arrived in the port of Guánica on the 22nd of July, 1921. 

Tomás, Ramona, Magdalena, Inés, Hipolito, & Juan- SS Falcon [Ancestry]

What interested me the most about searching the database was that another Tomás/Thomas Charles appeared as well. This Thomas was slightly younger (born circa early 1880s) and was traveling between Puerto Rico and Saint Thomas. What's interesting is that I have yet to find another Thomas/Tomás Charles living in Puerto Rico. I do know that my Tomás Charles eventually moved up to San Juan and lived there throughout the 1930, 1935, and 1940 census records. I do know that there were other Charles families living in Puerto Rico, and their countries of origin varied as well. But could this Thomas Charles be the same man as my Tomás Charles? Their identity as a black male around 5'8" and living in San Juan definitely give me an inkling that it could be the same man. The year of his birth is slightly off, but seriously, Puerto Rican records are riddled with errors and why not make yourself a bit younger anyways if no one really cared? The only thing is that this Thomas Charles was married to a woman named Angelina and had a few children with her. Could it be wife #3?

I have heard stories that my Charles family had distant relatives or originated in Saint Thomas. Documents point to Gustave Jean-Charles having lived in Guadeloupe, but what if he originally was from Saint Thomas or his parents were? I don't know if this is the same man or what, I'd have to find more records to officially tie the two together or not. There are definitely some overlapping information going on and it's just going to take sifting through records and information to see if they could be the same man. Time to put on my detective hat once again!


  1. I just assumed people didn't have the opportunity to travel as much back then. It's cool to see that some did. I love the photo of Valentina, she's beautiful. Did you those passport photos on

    1. Hey Diana, I imagined the same that many people didn't really travel so it's nice seeing some family had the opportunity to do it. Yes, these photos are from Ancestry's passport collection!