Thursday, November 20, 2014

52 Ancestors – #45 José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda (1837-1894)

Today I'm going to focus on my 3rd great grandfather from my paternal side of the family. This will bring me into my November posts and only 7 posts away from finishing the 52 Ancestors Challenge!

José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda was born on 6th of November 1837 in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico according to his baptismal record which occurred on the 19th of November 1837. José Severo was the legitimate son of José María Vélez Pérez and his wife Bernardina Sepúlveda Román (who I've mentioned in this challenge!). His godparents were Valerio Pérez and Jacinta González, I'm not if Valerio was an uncle to José María via his mother but it could be possible.

I'm not sure how long José Severo would live in Adjuntas but it seems that the family spent time between both Adjuntas and Utuado, located in the central part of Puerto Rico. This family did some moving around seeing as José María was from San Sebastián, Bernardina from Mayagüez, both passed away in Adjuntas but José Severo himself would pass away in Utuado. All of these towns though are fairly close to one another so traveling around wouldn't be as bad as saying going from Mayagüez to Fajardo.

José Severo would marry sometime around the early 1860s to his wife Ana Ríos González, she was said to have been born in Lares but her own parents were born in San Sebastián (so possibly she was born in San Sebastián herself). Together they would have an astonishing number of children: 17!! This is the number I have been able to trace through records, but who knows if there are a few missing. It seems that José Severo and Ana both came from pretty big families themselves so probably for them it wasn't out of the ordinary. It seems that José Severo was one of 10 children and Ana one of 12, those are pretty big numbers!

José Severo like most of my other ancestors was most likely a farmer, but I was surprised to see that he could sign his name! José Severo was born in the early 1800s and I imagine the importance of education wasn't forced onto children, especially when they themselves grew up to be farmers. José Severo's death certificate in 1894 doesn't mention his profession but I would imagine it was that of an agricultural farmer. None the less, here is his signature:

Signature- José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda [FamilySearch]

It does make me wonder however about the kind of wealth his family had, seeing as his mother had slaves in 1872. This probably means that they owned some land and got enough profits off of it to own slaves and have their children educated. Could this be wealth that they inherited from old Spanish immigrant ancestors? Did they work their way up and earn money through hard work and dedication to farming? I'm actually not too sure. The Sepúlveda side of the family does have a line long of ancestors living in Puerto Rico tracing back to the early 1500s and some of the wealth could have come from that side of the family. Only digging further into more records could expose more information on this matter. José Severo died four short years before Puerto Rico became an American territory, but I do wonder about his political standing during the time. His wife on the other hand did live during the Spanish-American war and but died one year short of seeing Puerto Ricans become recognized American citizenships. It's always interesting to look at genealogy through a historical lens seeing as it does add to the story of the ancestor and your family in general. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Travel Tuesday – El Puerto de Santa María, Spain

I know today is no longer Tuesday but I wanted to write this post and heck why not still post it even though it's Wednesday! But I wanted to talk about my trip to Andalusia in the south of the Spain and the wonderful opportunity I got to visit a town in which I have ancestors from. This town is called El Puerto de Santa María!

Friday I traveled to Cádiz, all the down in the southern part of Andalucía, a town of importance during the Spanish's hold of their overseas territories and the import and export of goods to those colonies. 30 minutes a bit north by fast train is a town called "El Puerto de Santa María", a town in which my 9th great grandfather was born in!

Now some of you might ask, "How do heck do you know who your great grandfather is?!". Luckily with my searching and the help of other genealogists I have been able to trace my line to Miguel de Miranda, my 9th great grandfather who would move to Puerto Rico, marry, and live there. Miguel de Miranda would marry in San Juan, Puerto Rico on the 7th of January 1668 to Andrea Rodríguez and there it would mention his town of origin. Knowing that there was a concrete place in Spain I could visit, I knew that at some point I had to go!

Marriage certificate - San Juan, Puerto Rico [FamilySearch]

I arrived through the train station to El Puerto de Santa María and was actually very giddy to get off the train and start exploring the streets and places of the town my family had lived in about 365+ years ago, which is absolutely mind boggling. I had jotted down some places I wanted to visit beforehand while in Cádiz the day before and wanted to visit as much as I could in the hours that I was there.

RENFE Station [Personal Photo]

I was fortunate enough that on a Saturday a lot was still open that I could go in and see. I stopped by the tourist office to pick up a map and then right across the plaza was a castle that I visited quickly. Being the only person there for the tour between 10:30-11:30 (in English), the security guard let me in for free and I was able to wander around alone since the tour guide wasn't around and was busy elsewhere. It was actually pretty cool and at the same time pretty creepy to walk around since there was literally no one else there except the guard who checked up on me twice and then left me alone wander around for the rest of my time there. 

Castillo de San Marcos [Personal Photo]

Inside Castillo de San Marcos [Personal Photo]

After, I headed over to La Iglesia Mayor Prioral which was pretty much the highlight of my trip to El Puerto de Santa María. I knew that the church was in use during the time that my ancestors lived there and so I wanted to go inside and see what the church was like. I have visited various different churches will traveling Spain but entering Iglesia Mayor Prioral was a completely different experience for me. I knew that this church had some sort of connection to me and I knew that visiting it would sort of reconnect me to Miguel de Miranda. I walked around, taking the church in as much as possible, prayed a bit thanking God for the opportunity to retrace my roots back to this church, and then headed over to the little office to see if I could buy something in order to remember my visit. Unfortunately, there weren't any rosaries that I could purchase but I did get a little cross that I hope but on a string/chain and wear.

Iglesia Mayor Prioral [Personal Photo]

I started chatting with the older man who was helping me and I asked about the use of the church. He told me that it was built in the XV century and has been in use since then, with some reconstruction in the XVII century after an earthquake (if I'm remembering correctly). I told him I was very interested in the church because I had an ancestor that migrated to Puerto Rico from this town and had lived here in the mid-late XVII century. He told me that if I knew some dates and names that I could potentially find some information in the church's parochial archives. I was super excited and ready to rattle off names, dates, and anything else to get me closer to new information. Unfortunately, the man who is in charge of the records wasn't there on Saturdays which was a bummer. Luckily, I asked for a phone number and name I could reach telling him that I was only in town for a day. He was very kind to provide the information and told me that they should be able to pull something up with the information I have. I'm very excited with the prospect of new information and hope to call soon to get some more information on Miguel de Miranda and hopefully of his parents, Miguel Martín and Isabel Rodríguez, as well. 

Inside - Iglesia Mayor Prioral [Personal Photo]

After visiting the church I headed to the Plaza de Toros and got to walk around the area where the Matadores go up against the bulls in the main ring. It was interesting standing there on the sand (vs sitting on the stands), where the bulls unfortunately are killed, as three young boys were practicing joyfully for their future career. I grabbed some lunch at a little Italian restaurant and saw some others places around El Puerto de Santa María. Luckily for me, the weather was amazing that Saturday and the sky was beautiful blue. Walking around the town and seeing palm trees made me feel like I was in the Caribbean, and I can see why so many southern Spaniards probably settled easily into islands such as Puerto Rico. 

Walking around El Puerto de Santa María [Personal Photo]

Hopefully I'll be able to find some more information once I call the church and do hope that Miguel de Miranda was baptized there and that his parents married there. Maybe they'll even be able to extend my tree further with the information they can provide? I might need to return in the spring if they aren't able to do over the phone requests of searching for information, but we shall see! Nonetheless, I had a great time walking around the town, seeing old sites, thinking about my ancestors, and their lives here in El Puerto de Santa María. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

52 Ancestors – #44 Alejandro Rivera González (1883-1958)

So I'm not gonna lie -- this is kind of a cheat post! Before the 52 Ancestor challenge was created I had gone about doing my own little series back in 2012 (has time flown by that fast already?), in which I would focus on ancestors' stories via the records I had of them. I started with Alejandro Rivera González and probably added a few more before I officially decided to go and join the 52 Ancestors Challenge bandwagon. So if you want to read some more about Alejandro's life click here  to see what I already knew about him through the records I had. I'll give a quick overview just in case the other post is too long or not worth reading (don't worry, no judging is happening here!). I want to add more to his story which I'll be doing here by closing any ends of the story which I previously didn't have information for and might have now!

Summary: Alejandro Rivera González was born in Toa Alta in 1883 to his parents Manuel de Jesús Rivera Díaz and Laureana González Mojica. Alejandro would marry three times throughout his life, his last wife being my great grandmother Mercedes Ortiz Marrero. In total, Alejandro would father 16 children in total from his three marriages. He was also a short little fellow of 5'4" :) who could read and write and owned land in Toa Alta before moving to the barrio La Perla in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

New Details: 

His first wife's death: With the release of the Puerto Rican Civil Registry on I have been able to track down certain death certificates extremely quickly or with much more ease than through FamilySearch. Fortunately, I was able to find Brigida Hernández Vélez - Alejandro's first wife's death certificate. Brigida passed away in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on the 28th of June 1913 to gastroenteritis. This would mean that Alejandro would lose his wife on the 28th of june and his last son Pedro from Brigida on the 16th of July 1913. I imagine this must have been extremely hard on Alejandro, losing his last born child from his first marriage and wife only a month apart.

Alejandro's death: Like the record above, I was FINALLY able to find Alejandro's death certificate by playing around with the settings of the ancestry Puerto Rican Civil Registry search. I was able to find out that Alejandro Rivera González passed away on the 5th of June 1958 in Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico. For whatever reason, he was incorrectly written down as "Alejandro Rivera Marrero" even though his mother is correctly listed as "Laureana González". I imagine this was a mistake caused in confusion with the surname of my great grandmother and his wife "Mercedes Marrero". It says he worked in "obras públicas" which I really don't know what that means; he worked in that "field" up until 1951. Interestingly, the person who registered the death of my great grandfather was my own grandfather Felipe Rivera Ortiz who was probably still living with the family when his father passed away. His cause of death is registered as "senility", as well as fallo cardiaco "a heart attack", and derrame cerebral "a stroke". He was buried one day later on the 6th of June 1958 and thanks to my cousin I now know exactly where he is buried. I was very happy to have found his death certificate since it puts a close on his life and what happened to him and when/where he died. It's also interesting to put into perspective that my grandfather lost his dad at 22 which must have been hard on him, his dad was much older than a "typical" dad was in those days in Puerto Rico but still I imagine they had a close connection.

I would love to meet descendants of the siblings of Alejandro and maybe compare photos (if any are available) of them to see how they each inherited genes from their ancestors and how they similar/different. It's so interesting to see that my great grandfather was a pretty short man when I myself measure 6'0". Hopefully one day I'll be able to learn more stories about his family, his parents and maybe even what life was like for them back in Toa Alta and maybe find out what brought him to San Juan after living in Toa Alta for so many years. 

52 Ancestors – #43 Blasina Pérez Vásquez (1850-1945)

Playing my favorite game once again -- the catch up game! Since I've been traveling around Spain most of the weekends (which I truly enjoy), I haven't been able to dedicate as much time to these final few posts. And since my finals are coming up, what better way to procrastinate than to write blog post?! Today I'll be focusing on my 3rd great grandmother Blasina Pérez Vásquez.

Flag of Corozal, PR [Google]
Blasina was most likely born in the town of Corozal, Puerto Rico around 1850. Corozal as most of you know by now is a town very close to Toa Alta which shares historical ties with it. Blasina was the daughter of Alejandro Pérez Lozada and Martina Vásquez Fuentes, interestingly Alejandro was born in Corozal in 1812 and Martina in Toa Alta in 1813. Alejandro is one of the few ancestors who I have been able to document (thanks to a cousin!) being actually born in Corozal. A lot of my ancestors that were born in Corozal were born in the 1830s-1850s+ which means that those records aren't accessible online (just yet!).

Corozal, Puerto Rico [Google]

According to the 1910 Census, Blasina and her husband Buenaventura Ortiz Rivera would have been married around the year 1869 and most likely in Corozal seeing as they lived in their entire lives there until their respective deaths. They lived specifically in the barrio of Palos Blancos which is definitely on my list of places I want to visit in Puerto Rico (and boy is that list long!). So far I have been able to document 10 children in total for Buenaventura and Blasina, potentially there are a few more hiding around in the records but so far these are the ones I have documented. Their son, Martin Ortiz Pérez was my 2nd great grandfather.

Seeing that Blasina was born around 1850 and she lived until 1945, we can for sure say that Blasina had a long life (yay longevity genes!). From what he have, she technically passed away somewhere mid 90s but also possibly her late 80s if her birth year was guesstimated wrongly (which is very possible!). From the census records we can learn a bit more about Blasina's life. For example, we know that in 1910 she was listed as 'mulatto' and married for 41 years having given birth to 11 children all who were still alive in 1910 (so it seems I'm missing one child on my list!). She along with Buenaventura were unable to read or write but it seems that Buenaventura owned the farm he worked on which is pretty cool to see; and it says he worked for himself! Similarly in 1920 we see that Blasina is still illiterate and listed as 'mulatto', I don't expect Blasina to suddenly pick up the ability to read and write but it's important to look because you never know!

By the 1930 census, Blasina would have been widowed for 5 years since Buenaventura died in 1925. I'm not sure how inheritance of property works in Puerto Rico but it seems that she was able to claim the land and was listed as the owner of the farm and that she herself worked the land! Amazingly and awesomely, because I don't know how often you see it, my 3rd great grandmother appears in the 1935 Agricultural Schedule with the land she owned! Interestingly, her race is listed as "white" in this record and that the land she owned has been in use since 1915, which there might be a discrepancy seeing has how the land they had was being used since at least 1910. It also states she had 3 cuerdas (a little over 3 acres) the worth of $150, which I imagine back in 1935 was a good amount of land/worth to own! The form unfortunately is a bit blurry so I can't make out all the details on the page too clearly, but it seems that she grew corn on the land amongst other things.

5. Color o raza: "M" for mulatto [FamilySearch]

Interestingly in the 1940, just 5 years before her passing, Blasina was still in possession of the land. Here her race is changed to "col", which in 1940 was used for negro y mixto (black and mixed), which to me means her color was dark enough to be considered non-white by the census taker. Yet interestingly when it came to owning land she was listed as "blanca" (white). Blasina and Buenaventura's race has always been an interesting topic for me. Blasina in her death record is listed as 'm' for mulatto but in Buenaventura's we see a reference to Indio which I have talked about before. I imagine they both had a mestizo/mixed complexion which gave them the identity of indio, mulato, mixto depending on the record and year.

I wonder what happened to the land they owned in Palos Blancos, Corozal, Puerto Rico. Usually when a piece of land is owned and the owner dies, the plot gets divided into the children and they decide whether to keep the plot or sell it. With many children/descendants moving into San Juan, usually the property was sold and with that money they could invest in a home/place to live in San Juan. Between 11 children (and/or their descendants) I imagine they didn't get too much but I also can't be too sure what happened. Many some decided to live on the land and then later moved on? Or one sibling decided to care for the land him or herself? It would be awesome to find the land they lived on (at least the general area) or potentially even records that might point to more information of how they acquired the land, who bought it/passed it on, etc.

I have been in contact with one or two other descendants of Buenaventura and Blasina and it seems that their descendants also moved out of Palos Blancos and into other areas. With the industrialization of the island after the United States acquired the land, more jobs could be found in bigger cities and many families decided to give up their previous lives of agriculture and farming. Nonetheless, it would be nice to visit Palos Blancos and Corozal in general and see if I can find some remnants of their land, the plot, or even some cousins who could lead the way! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

52 Ancestors – #42 Bernarda Marrero

I can't believe that there are only 10 ancestors left to complete this challenge! I've said it many times before, but I've had a great time searching and researching for these ancestors in my tree and through the records. I've been getting behind again with traveling around Spain but I'm going to try and catch up now that it's finally November and December will shortly be here around the corner!! Today's post will be about my 6th great grandmother Bernarda Marrero.

Bernarda would have been born sometime in the mid-late 1700s based on her children's birth years. She was from the beloved town of Toa Alta and probably lived there for most of her life. I'm not sure if she and her husband Antonio de los Santos Rivera would move to Corozal and pass away there but many of their children would move and live there themselves. I do know that Bernarda would live passed the year 1818, however. Between Antonio and Bernarda, I have been able to trace nine children in total so far. She is one of my ancestresses from my maternal side of the family, who surprisingly has roots in Toa Alta which my father's side of the family has lived in for many, many years.

The Marrero also appears a few times in my paternal side of the family, so who knows if Bernarda has some ties to those families being that they lived in the same town in the 1700s, I can't imagine Toa Alta having a ton of inhabitants that weren't related or connected somehow seeing as how Puerto Rico is pretty connected even now a days.

Seeing as Bernarda was born in a time that I don't have records for, she doesn't appear on any census records. Neither do I have a baptism, marriage, or death record. I do have most of her children's baptism records and I can probably try and piece together some more family members through the names of the godparents. Hopefully I can find more records from Toa Alta dating further back in the early 18th century to try and piece together some of the lines I have from that town.