Saturday, May 31, 2014

52 Ancestors – #22 Damià Magraner Morell (1846-1910)

Today I want to focus on an ancestor who could potentially be or not be my 3rd great grandfather. The reason I decided to add him to the 52 Ancestors series is because I would like to work out the kinks of this theory. Whether it was possible for him to be the father of my 2nd great grandfather José Avilés Magraner and his brother Lorenzo, or if I'm just pulling straws here trying to make strange connections. Here is what I know about Damià Magraner, his connection to the town of Lares where my family lived, and how he could potentially be my 3rd great grandfather.

Damià is the Catalan spelling for the name Damián giving us some hints as to his origins. From records in Puerto Rico, we can tell that Damià was originally from Sóller, Mallorca - an island of Spain, on its eastern coast. Mallorca is considered one of the Balearic Islands also known as Islas Baleares in Spanish and Illes Balears in Catalan.

Spain & Balearic Islands [Wikipedia]
Mallorca, Balearic Islands [Wikipedia]

Backtracking a bit, there was always a tale in my family about a Spaniard arriving to Puerto Rico during the time of war. He settled in the town of Lares, specifically the barrio of Río Prieto. There he would meet my 3rd great grandmother a "native Taíno woman". He would father my 2nd great grandfather but never officially recognizing him, therefore he would take on his mother's surname of Avilés. José would later attach the name Magraner as his second surname.

After hearing this story, I wanted to search the Magraner family in Lares and try and find José's father. Since José and Lorenzo were born out of wedlock, there was no way to know for sure if the story was correct or not. Even now, the name of Magraner could have been simply a false attachment of who he thought was his father.

While visiting the AGPR (Archivo General de Puerto Rico), I decided to look for records of Lares. There I found a census record from 1897 -- I specifically wanted to find my Avilés family there and also see what Magraner man could potentially be the father of José and Lorenzo. Even though José and Lorenzo had two other sisters and a brother, they were the only two who took on the surname Magraner and mentioned in the census records that their father was from Spain. Their sister María Isabel who was born in between José and Lorenzo also could have been a Magraner daughter but she passed away at the age of 4. Potentially another daughter born named Ysabel about 1899 could have been a Magraner daughter but that time frame is iffy for a few reasons.

I was able to find a Damián Magraner Morey (Morell) living in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico in 1897 as an owner of land and a home. There were a few other Spaniards listed living with Damián who probably immigrated to work the lands of Puerto Rico and find new opportunities. My 2nd great grandfather and his siblings were born in the years 1891, 1892, 1894, and 1899. Their other brother was born in 1904 and passed away the same year. Damià was said to have immigrated to Puerto Rico circa 1863, meaning that he was living in Lares, Puerto Rico for about 28 years before José was born. I'm not sure however if he migrated back and forth between that time.

Damià Magraner Morey [sic] – 1897 Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico

Damià however wasn't the only Magraner to live on the island and also not the only one from his family. So far I have been able to trace three others brothers arriving to Puerto Rico from Mallorca: Nicolás, Cristóbal, and Gabriel. Two of the three (Nicolás and Cristóbal) also appear to be living in Río Prieto on early census records. If my records are correct, Gabriel Magraner Morell passed away on the 5th of May 1871 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Interestingly, when you search for Damián Magraner Morell you can find a few things on him online. For example, a search on Google Book for Damián Magraner gives you a few hits of landing owning in Lares, Puerto Rico. In a book titled "Congressional Serial Set", there is a mention of Damian Magraner owning land in partnership with Nicolas Magraner, Cristobal Magraner, María Magraner; all from Spanish nationality living in Spain and their property is located in Lares. 

Congressional Serial Set [Google Books]

This book is interesting because it was published in 1918. It seems that the Magraner brothers moved back to Spain during the time of the Spanish American War, which is a bit different from what the story in my family says. Recently while I was speaking to my great-aunt about the Magraner connection she mentioned that her grandfather's father, the unknown Magraner, was said to have been married at the time he had his relationship with my 3rd great grandmother -- who was said to have been a Taíno woman, but likely she was mixed and just had prominent Taíno features. In the 1897 Census record, it does mention that Damian was married. He never appears in any of the census records past the 1897 record I found and we know that Puerto Rico was handed over to the United States in 1898, which means he probably migrated back to Sóller sometime in between 1897-1900 (I say 1900 because I don't have the exact date he migrated back). However, another search for Damian Magraner gives me a result to a Catalan written article about elections during the "second stage of restoration". From my understanding, it seems that Damian was voted as the president of a local party.

Damià Magraner Morell (president) – 1901 [Google]

My guess is that Damià had a strong connection for his homeland of Spain and Mallorca, ultimately pulling him back when the territory of Puerto Rico was handed over in 1898 to the USA. However, it seems that by 1917 he and his siblings were still owning land in Río Prieto. The plantation was named "Hacienda de Café Margarita de Magraner". I had never heard of this place until I began searching for the Magraner family. What interest me, however, is how José and Lorenzo acquired land in 1925. Could parts of the hacienda been broken up and José and Lorenzo received some land? José had 10 cuerdas and Lorenzo 8 cuerdas which they both began using in 1925 and it seems that they had many coffee trees. I don't know however how they really acquired the lands, whether just through hard work or through a will which included them as heirs to plots of land. I don't know when Damià died so I can't be sure of anything.

Why do I believe that Damià is the father of José and Lorenzo? A couple of things match up for me that make it a bit more than coincidence that Damià could be the father. Not only do both José and Lorenzo claim to have a Spanish father, Damià does appear to be living in Río Prieto in 1897. Interestingly, José and Lorenzo both give the name "Damián" to one of their sons. Damián Avilés Vargas was born in 1920 but unfortunately passed away a day later, and Damián Avilés López was born about 1939. Damián definitely isn't too common of a name on the island back in the days and I have rarely come across the name while searching records. Could they have given their sons the name "Damián" in honor of their own father? 

Damián Avilés Vargas – Defunción 1920 [FamilySearch]

Damián Avilés López – 1940 Census [Ancestry]

Unfortunately, I have no records to directly tie Damià and José together. There is always the possibility that another Magraner man fathered my 2nd great grandfather or even that he just took the name on for whatever reason (though this doesn't happen too often from my understanding). I would love to visit Sóller, Mallorca and find out more about Damián and his time in Sóller after returning. Maybe he left behind other descendants in Mallorca that still live there now? Hopefully some time in the near future I'll be able to test a male descendant of the Avilés men from my family to find out more about their Y-DNA, and potentially find a connection a Spanish family/man surnamed Magraner. This however would take a lot of time, research, and of course money. Hopefully, one day I will be able to solve this mystery once and for well -- whether my 3rd great grandfather really was a Spanish man from Mallorca who traveled to Lares, who owned land, and who would eventually migrate back to Mallorca to serve his home country during its time of need. Or if not a Magraner descendant, then a descendant from what man?!

Fun Fact: "Magraner" means pomegranate tree in Catalan!

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