Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 Years and 10 Genotypes Later!

As the year 2015 comes to a close, I've decided to do some reflecting on the genetic side of my research! It's kind of crazy to think that it has already been 5 years since I first got my DNA tested with 23andme and currently I am up to 10 genotyped family members!

23andme home page [23andme]

Getting my DNA tested back in 2010 was an amazing and wonderful decision. I remember getting my DNA tested because I wanted to learn more about my family (duh--- right?) but I had VERY little information on my family at that time. I had heard about 23andme on TV and was interested in this test for a project I was interested in going into at the time. Since I had to start my family tree from scratch, I only knew the name of 6 of my 8 great-grandparents, and that was about it! At this point I was 20 years old and still naïve with certain things about genealogy since I had only known about the census records. Testing with 23andme opened many doors, I was introduced to various cousins and especially one (dunno if she reads my blog) who took the time to speak to me about the Puerto Rican Civil Registry, and other records, and how I could further my lines with their use. Since then I have searched other records online, in microfilm, and even in Puerto Rico allowing me to reach the 1600s in some lines and I have also discovered that I have ancestors from Martinique and Guadeloupe! Of course I was able to learn about myself genetically, but finding out about this community was really a refreshing breath of air; I had only known myself and co-worker who were interested in genealogy since no one in my family could be bothered, really.

After I tested myself, I decided I wanted to get other members of my family tested for various reasons (Y-DNA, mtDNA, disease inheritance, etc.) and so I decided to test various members of my family during sales, 9 besides myself including: my mother, father, maternal uncle, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal great-grandfather, maternal cousin, paternal great-aunt, paternal great-aunt. Sadly my great-grandfather and a paternal great-aunt have passed since they have tested and I am eternally grateful for their contribution to our genealogy.

Testing these members of my family allowed me to see how I have inherited certain DNA from both sides, for example: my mother contributes ~11% of African DNA to me while my dad only gives me ~5% and European-wise I get about ~35% from my paternal side while my maternal side gives me about ~28%, which isn't too different. My native DNA is pretty similar from both sides also as well my Middle Eastern/North African. I have also been able to learn more about the Y-DNA and mtDNA my ancestors carry, so far I've gotten European, African, and Asian haplogroups with African and Asian being only maternal haplogroups. With my grandfather, his J1e could be Jewish/Arab (there is still a debate as to what group it can specifically be attributed to) which is interesting since his last name Correa is popularly known as a Sephardic surname. On the other hand, my great-grandfather has a haplogroup which is commonly found amongst the Irish which was interesting to learn about as well. Also, I have tested another cousin through ftDNA who is a male descendant of my 4th great-grandfather Jean Charles Chaleau and I'm hoping to learn more about his mixed ancestry from Guadeloupe.

Parental Split View [23andme personal photo]

One thing that has been extremely difficult for me though is using my DNA to find and match cousins. Since Puerto Rican genes have been recycled throughout the years with endogamy and it being such a small island, sometimes it is difficult to see which side of my family a cousin comes from. A lot of the time, the genetic cousins match both my sides and those that I can bring down to a certain side - it's still difficult to pinpoint which of our ancestors match. Things like limited researched genealogies and limited documents on the island make it hard to find cousins through the site for many Puerto Ricans, not just myself. To this day I haven't been able to confirm through paper trail and genetics a cousin who I haven't previously known about on 23andme. Maybe I'm doing something wrong especially since I have so many family members tested, but so far no luck! A lot of it also is two-sided, I can't figure out our connection just with your parents' names or by telling me all of your ancestors are from Spain, but luckily there are cousins who we have been able to pinpoint a specific town and/or certain surnames but we're just missing the actual connection between us two.

I'm definitely grateful for what I have learned throughout these 5 years and 10 genotypes of my family. I have seen my family tree through a different light and especially how diverse my family is on the inside. I'm proud to know approximately how much I carry of each of my ancestors' European, African, or Native DNA and how that has contributed to who I am today. Hopefully DNA analysis gets much sharper and helps to pinpoint better certain aspects of DNA, for example finding African tribes/regions my African ancestors belonged to (AncestryDNA has gotten into this a bit). Equally, I hope to test some more cousins and learn some more about other lines in my family and help to prove/disprove certain theories I've been building with paper trail. 

Finally, testing with other companies and comparing my DNA has been interesting as well. I'm hoping that more cousins test and build their trees so that we can connect and see how we connect through our DNA. There are some cousins who I have confirmed through paper trail and would love for them to test! So don't be afraid... test primos!!

How has genetic DNA changed your perspective on genealogy? Feel free to share! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Languages They Spoke…

This is just a quick post looking at genealogy through another aspect --- linguistic heritage.

When I learn about ancestors, I always try to learn different aspects of their lives, and for me that includes even the languages they speak. Luckily, most of my ancestors spoke Spanish (in some form or another) and is the language I was raised in by my parents. However, there are other ancestors who spoke different languages that came into my family. Those languages so far are Catalan and French (creole as well).


Even though Catalan is very similar to Spanish, it is for sure another language. This language can be found in the eastern parts of Spain near France and on the balearic islands. Now a days, the language is blossoming again with Catalan pride where the language is used in everyday life, school, and government.

Catalan speaking areas of Europe [Wikipedia]

Recently, I found out that Duolingo in Spanish has a course for Catalan, which I had no idea since I usually take the courses for learning a foreign language from English. It has been cool to learn Catalan and see the similarities with Spanish and/or French. I'm not sure how good I'll get with it through Duolingo but I want to have some working knowledge of Catalan. It was most likely the language (or one of the languages) Damián Magraner spoke in Sóller, Mallorca and I would love to be able to converse and/or read in it. Hopefully if and when I return to Mallorca I'll have a good handle of Catalan and use it while I'm there!

Duolingo Catalan course tree 

French (Creole)

With my ancestors coming from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, I knew that I would like to relearn French and get much better at it. My goal is to one day head to both of the islands and use my French to get around. Chat with some people about life on the islands and who knows --- maybe even find some long lost cousins! But these islands also speak their own version of French, which are both creoles. From what I have seen it's hard to understand any of the creoles without some kind of base with how their grammar works; even though they are rooted in French they vary enough that not anyone could easily understand some of their words (think Jamaican Patois and English).

Similarly on Duolingo you can learn French which has been fun to relearn a lot of what I forgot from high school. Also, on Amazon I was able to find two books about Martinican and Guadeloupean Creole so hopefully I can learn a thing or two about speaking those languages. 

Guides to Créole Martiniquais & Guadeloupéen [Amazon]

Why learn a language?

Even though you might not have any plans on becoming fluent in the language, just learning some of the simple phrases can do a lot for you. It's never a bad idea to try and learn a foreign language especially if you have plans to travel there. Also, seeing as how your ancestor spoke this language it could bring you that much closer to understanding their life and even struggles in a new country. They say when you learn a new language you develop a new personality, so even though your 2nd great grandmother was known as stern and quiet in English, she might have been comedic and quick witted in her native tongue. Also, if you do decide to advance a lot in the language, it can help you read and study records in the original language. By taking French in high school and college, I was fortunate to be able to read records from the French islands and not have to hire a translator, allowing me to delve right into the documents myself and with the help of Google Translator I was able to fill in the gaps of words I didn't know. Having that knowledge provided, for me at least, some comfort knowing that I could at any moment read the documents and analyze them at my own pace. 

Languages play such important roles in our day-to-day lives, so why not take a look at what some of your ancestors spoke when they were around! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

First Puerto Rican MLB player - Hiram Bithorn

Hispanic heritage month came and went faster than I could blink an eye! I wanted to write a post and as you can see never got the chance; but while doing some research I came across someone I had not previously heard about from Puerto Rico and decided to find out some more information about his background after not seeing much about his origin, despite having a surname like "Bithorn". So I decided to do some digging on Puerto Rico's first MLB Player- Hiram Bithorn Sosa.

Hiram Bithorn Sosa [Google Images]

Initially when I saw his name I thought, "Wait… this guy is Puerto Rican? And his name is Hiram Bithorn..? And I don't know anything about him??" As you can see I was just all around surprised. During my time in high school and most of college I looked up and researched a lot about Puerto Rico -- its history, its politics, its linguistics… anything I could get my hands on. But for some reason, I never came across Hiram. I was especially surprised since he was the first Puerto Rican baseball player to play Major League Baseball. I decided to see what I could find out about Hiram Bithorn Sosa. 

Wikipedia told me that Hiram was born in 1916 in San Juan and so I knew where to search for his birth certificate. I was mainly interested in finding out where this "Bithorn" surname came from since I had never seen it in my searches and isn't a common surname. Hiram was born as "Hiram Gabriel Bithorn Sosa", on the 18th of March 1916 in Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Hiram was the son of Waldemar Bithorn and María Sosa, both from San Juan. His paternal grandparents were listed as Fernando Bithorn Andersen and Tomasa Huicy both deceased by 1916. And through his maternal line, Roque Sosa Reyes from Trujillo Alto and Santos Castillo, deceased. 

Hiram Gabriel Bithorn Sosa, 1916 [Ancestry]

Paternal Family 

Looking at his paternal grandfather's second surname Andersen we can guess sometime type of Danish origin or even Swedish if the person incorrectly wrote "Andersson". Huicy on the other hand I had no lead as to where that surname was from. The more I dug into his paternal family, the more information I found. It turns out that Fernando Bithorn Andersen was a native of St. Croix, at that point a Danish  island, son of a Danish man from Copenhagen and his mother a native of St. Croix. I was even able to find a 1846 census record from St. Croix listing his father, Carl Bithorn (originally from Copenhagen), his mother Elisa (née Andersen) along with his siblings Anna and Eugene. Notice that his name was originally Ferdinand and when moving to Puerto Rico he became "Fernando". We see this a lot with immigrants that come from non-Spanish countries who suddenly become "Juan" instead of John and "María" instead of Mary. 

St. Croix, 1846 Census [Ancestry]

So far I've been able to find one record for a potential baptism for Carl Bithorn in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1805. My guess is that it is the same man since it matches the information we have. 

Carl Bithorn - Danish Baptism, 1805 [Ancestry]

Hiram's paternal grandmother Tomasa Huicy has a different ancestry all together. Tomasa Huicy Marín died on the 24th of January 1889 and was the daughter of Bernardo Huicy and Catalina Marín Molinari. Her father was from Vizcaya, Spain while her mother was a native of Puerto Rico. Her grandparents though, Santiago Marín and Tomasa Molinari, where said to be from Corcega and the Dominican Republic respectively. I tried looking up more information about Bernardo Huicy (potential maternal surname "Ordorgoiti" but I can across nothing about his actual origin in Vizcaya. He was however important in Arecibo with different roles such as a member of the Board of Trustees as well as mayor in the early 1900s. 

Maternal Family

On Hiram's maternal side we see that his grandfather Roque Sosa Reyes was the son of Domingo Sosa Suarez and María Andrea Reyes Betancourt, both from the Canary Islands. María Andrea Reyes Betancourt specifically from the island of Lanzarote. Hiram's grandmother, Santos Castillo Pastrana has been the only ancestor hard to track. We know that she was from Trujillo Alto and passed away before 1906. Her parents were Fernando Castillo and María Pastrana but no idea if they were from Puerto Rico or somewhere else. 

It is interesting to notice that Hiram's family is fairly "recently" Puerto Rican seeing as how 3 out of his 4 grandparents had at least one parent born outside of Puerto Rico. From most of my searches, Puerto Ricans have deep roots on the island through at least one line or one side of the family, so it was interesting researching Hiram and finding his family easily traces out of Puerto Rico to various places such as Spain (Vizcaya and the Canary Islands), Italy, the Dominican Republic, and especially to Denmark. 

This link about Hiram's life gives a very interesting look into his career, life, and even some of what he faced due to his race. It's interesting how during those times, and even now a days, people quickly want to classify someone to a certain box in regards to race. With a name such as Hiram Bithorn, one might not expect a Puerto Rican to walk into the room, but that's the beautiful thing about our small island-- that there is such diversity amongst its inhabitants. 

Bithorn unfortunately passed away on the 29th of December, 1951 at the age of 35 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, México after being shot by a police officer. It was very interesting learning about Hiram his ancestry, and the life he lived as the first Puerto Rican MLB player.  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cultural Exchange: An Irish & a Canadian in Puerto Rico [Part 2]

We were able to learn a lot about Martha Elizabeth Derby but what about Stuart Burns? Who was he and what can we learn more about him?

We do know that Stuart and Martha E. left Puerto Rico together in the year 1911 and arrived to New York on the 23rd of March, 1911 by finding their names on a ship manifest on Ancestry.

Mr. & Mrs. Stuart Jost Burns - Manifest, 1911 [Ancestry]

Was the island life too difficult for them (ex: humidity, hurricanes, and economic difficulties)? Or was this just a shotgun wedding on a tropical island and they later returned to the mainland?

Heading up to Canada

Looking for Stuart, I was able to come across a son of "W Fletcher Burns and Henrietta" in St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. This son's name was Norman Fletcher Burns who was born the 2nd of June 1895. Interestingly enough, we were able to learn that W Fletcher Burns was a dentist by profession. He is also listed in a book I found in Google with a Thesis on "Salivary Calculus".

William Fletcher Burns - Nova Scotia Dentist [Google]

With this information we were able to find a 1901 Canadian Census that lists William F. Burns, a dentist, with his wife Henrietta and their four children, one of them listed as "Stewart" born the 31st of January 1878, which I'm very certain is the same man who marries in Puerto Rico in 1909 to Martha Elizabeth Derby. Now we can dig in deeper into the Burns family!

We learn that Henrietta's maiden name was Jost through her death record explaining Stuart's middle name in his marriage record in Puerto Rico. Henrietta passed away the 4th of March 1936, widowed in Ontario, Canada the daughter of James Jost and Ann Burke, both from Canada. With that we find Henrietta Jost living in 1871 with her parents and siblings in Nova Scotia, listed as Methodists.

Jost Family - 1871 Canada Census [Ancestry]

Also in the 1871 Canadian Census we are able to find Fletcher living with his parents Stewart Burns and Susan, both parents seem to be Irish and we see that Fletcher at 22 was already working as a dentist.

William Fletcher Burns later marries on the 24th of October 1876 in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Henrietta Mary Jost and he later dies on the 5th of October 1922 in the same town.

Burns Family - 1871 Census [Ancestry]

I'm not sure however when Stuart/Stewart passed away, we know that it would have to be before 1930 and after 1911 but I have not been able to find a death record. My main question is: Why come to Puerto Rico? What was there for them? Why not venture up to Nova Scotia where Stewart's family was from or stay in Philadelphia where Martha's family lived? It also seems that Stewart and Martha Elizabeth had no children from their marriage since Martha in 1930 is living just with her sister and no children.

Martha Elizabeth would pass away the 17th of July 1950 in Philadelphia, PA. It states the same birthday like the same we saw in Ireland (6th of April 1870), her parents (Thomas Derby and Mary Elizabeth) and that she was widowed at the time of her death. Her sister Rebecca Derby reported the death.

It's very interesting how Stewart Burns and Martha Elizabeth Derby ended up in Puerto Rico for just one census and makes me wonder what made them jump on a boat and head to this little island in the Caribbean far away from Philadelphia and Nova Scotia. There is always much to learn and this is case the question still lingers, why brought these two to the Caribbean -- a question I can definitely ask about some of my own ancestors. 

Cultural Exchange: An Irish & a Canadian in Puerto Rico [Part 1]

It's interesting to see who has lived on the island of Puerto Rico and their lives there. Not everyone that moved to the island stayed, some would hop over to another Caribbean islands, while others (especially in more recent years) would decide to move to the United States to find new opportunities. In an attempt to learn more about the people who have lived in Puerto Rico, either my family or not, whenever I find foreigners I am always interested about their life and how they happened perchance to find Puerto Rico. This post will be about a couple who lived in Puerto Rico in 1910 named Stuart J. Burns and his Martha E. Derby.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - 1910 Census  [Ancestry]

This couple as you can see has origins in Nova Scotia/Canada and Ireland. Searching for their marriage record gave me a bit more information on them. Stuart and Martha Elizabeth were married in San Juan, PR on the 17th of June 1909, Stuart (born about 1878) was the son of W. Fletcher Burns and Henrietta Barus? while Martha Elizabeth Derby (born about 1872) was the daughter Thomas Derby and María (Mary) Elizabeth, and we know that Martha E. had resided in Philadelphia according to this marriage record. With that information we were able to learn about more about Martha Elizabeth and her life before arriving to Puerto Rico.

Irish in Philly

According to records, it seems that Martha Elizabeth was born in Ireland and immigrated with her parents and siblings to the USA where they would settle into Philadelphia, PA. On Ancestry, I was able to find the baptism record for a "Martha Derby" born on the 6th of April 1870 (within the range we had of 1872) in Cookstown, Tyrone, Ireland to parents Thomas Derby and Mary Elizabeth Lytle (same parents' names). 

Irish Baptism - Mary Derby, 1870 [Ancestry]

Cookstown is located in what is today Northern Ireland in County Tyrone as shown in the image below. The town is across the lake "Lough Naugh" and Belfast. Even though Martha Elizabeth was born in Cookstown, according to Thomas' marriage record in 1867, they had been living in Magherafelt, a town not too far from Cookstown and probably the town of origin for Thomas Derby and Mary Elizabeth Lytle. 

Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland [Google Images]

Knowing this information we were able to find an immigration record for the family from Londonderry, Northern Ireland to New York and we can see that Martha is listed her parents with Thomas, Mary E. and other siblings. The family would have immigrated in 1893, when Martha Elizabeth Derby was 23 years old to the United States.
UK Passenger Record - Derby Family [Ancestry]

The next record we would find is the 1900 Census record, which shows us that Mary Elizabeth would already be widowed with 8 children, meaning that Thomas died somewhere between their voyage and this first census the family appeared on. A death record appears for Thomas Derby showing the same address where Mary Elizabeth Lytle had been living with the children (2226 N 12th St) in Philadelphia. I imagine it was difficult for Mary E. to have lost her husband and so early in their lives in America, plus living with eight children could be a burden (luckily the youngest one Frederick was only 13 years old). It states that Thomas Derby died on the 5th of November 1897 at about the age of 59 years old (born about 1838), meaning that Thomas died only 5 short years after arriving in the USA. Thomas is buried in the North Cedar Hills Cemetery in Philly.

In the 1910 Census Mary Elizabeth Lytle is living with only five of her children, as we know Martha E. would be living in Puerto Rico with her husband Stuart Burns, and later in 1920 with just two children. Mary Elizabeth Lytle would later pass away on the 18th of October 1923 in Philadelphia listed as a housewife and the daughter of James Lytle and Martha Mullen, both of Ireland. Interestingly enough, her death also appears in the "England & Wales, National Probate Calendar", meaning she probably left some sort of will. 

Mary Elizabeth 'Lytle' Derby - Probate Calendar [Ancestry]

The next time we see Martha Elizabeth is in the 1930 Census record listed in Philadelphia with her sister Rebecca Derby and Martha E. is listed as widowed. What happened with Stuart Burns and their marriage? Why did they end up leaving Puerto Rico? Or did she leave alone?… [To Be Continued] 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another Mystery Solved?

As you can tell by now I've been away for a while but I'm happy to say I have finally completed my last semester and I officially have my Master's degree! But enough about that, more importantly I am here to update something I have been searching for a LONG time now and I think I have finally come to the end of that search. I've had many searches and brickwalls throughout my genealogical years and some have been tough, for example like searching for my ancestors in Martinique and Guadeloupe. This mystery though has been with me since the beginning of my searches in 2004 and even from before when I was being told tales of my ancestors; but today (hopefully finally) I have written proof on the father of my ancestor José Avilés Magraner.

For those who have been reading for my blog (many thanks and I hope you are enjoying my posts!) you know by know the mystery that surrounds José Avilés' father. And for those of you who don't a quick recap: José was said to be the son of a Spaniard who lived in Río Prieto, Lares and that his said surname was "Magraner". After searching for some years through various records, I was able to bring it down the potential father to Damián Magraner or one of his brothers who owned land in Río Prieto, Lares. I deduced that Damián had to be the father for multiple reasons: 1) My 2nd great grandfather and his brother Lorenzo both carried the surname Magraner after their mothers, 2) There were tales in the family about the relationship between a Spaniard and a Puerto Rican woman that produced José, 3) My ancestor worked Damián's land, therefore there was some sort of connection there already in place, and finally, probably the most important 4) Both José and Lorenzo named a son "Damián".

Now the problem lied in proving this relationship. In NO document that I have does Damián appear as the father of the children. This I ended up deducing had to deal with the fact that Damián was a married man back in Sóller, Mallorca to an Antonia Morell Pons and that a man of his status could not recognize bastard children. I was pretty convinced that Damián was the father and even traveled to Sóller, Mallorca while I was abroad to learn more about Damián, his family, and his life on the islands (both Puerto Rico and Mallorca). But I left with no real clue, still with just coincidences and theories in my head. But recently I discovered a single document that could finally piece it all together!

Recently I learned about the "U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007". At first glance I thought it was just the SSDI but when I typed in the search engine family names, I was getting information that the latter didn't have. For example, the Applications and Claims Index sometimes provides names of parents which the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) does not do. So I wondered, could these new documents shed light on my Avilés Magraner ancestors? At first, I started searching just for José Avilés Magraner with both surnames and just one, but I couldn't find anything. I actually have been having a lot of trouble finding his SSDI and death date since no one in my family is too sure when it was. My next best thing was Lorenzo Avilés Magraner who I did have a death record and date for, so I decided to give it a shot. My first results gave me a Lorenzo Avilés from Lares, Puerto Rico and I figured it definitely had to be my 2nd great grand-uncle.

Search for Lorenzo Avilés Magraner [Ancestry]

Even though it didn't mention a Magraner surname, I figured I should just click on it and see what the results would yield. There were the odds that nothing would come back besides his name and his birth and death date, so I crossed my fingers. Keep in mind that I've been constantly faced with a blank spot in the section of "father's name" so I really didn't expect anything new. Except this was the FIRST time that I was thoroughly surprised and completely elated. This time there WAS a father's name! And it mentions exactly who I thought it was: Damián Magraner!

Granted there is always room for error, and that goes without saying for everyone, not just me when dealing with names and genealogy. But I'm happy to FINALLY see a name for a father and that it was the one who I have been betting my money on this whole time. I've ordered Lorenzo's Social Security Application (form SS-5) and I'm hoping that there it does mention Damian Magraner as his father. I really am glad that I now have a record which mentions Damian as the father! I guess I can officially say I have a third great grandfather from Spain and that the tales that were told had some truth to them! 

I would still love to find an Avilés descendant and test their Y-DNA to hopefully one day find a Magraner descendant and see if they match up, this would truly be the only way to once and for all close shut this mystery. Until then, I'll wait for Lorenzo's social security application and be happy with how far I have gotten.

Take a look at those documents, you never know if they can answer some questions for you as well! Just remember the years are from 1936-2007! Happy hunting! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

How a RAOK Broke my Guadeloupean Brick-Wall


A few months back while I was still in Madrid studying abroad, I received a message from another 23andme member wondering if I needed any help searching for my ancestors in Martinique. As you might already know, offering your help to others is known as a RAOK or Random Act Of Kindness, and in the genealogical community, you can surely find it pretty easily with people sharing their knowledge either with documents, countries, or languages in order for others to find their ancestors. Luckily, I had figured out the mystery of my Martinican ancestors with the help of David but I was stuck on the Guadeloupean side. Where was Gustave Jean Charles from? We know he had been married in Basse-Terre previously to a Françoise Jackson but with no marriage certificate or town of origin for Gustave we were stuck. We knew Françoise was from Marie-Galante but there was no marriage certificate for them there, or basically in any other town… my search was so thorough that I pretty much searched all of the towns nearby Basse-Terre and other parts of the island, such as Point-à-Pitre. However, no luck. So I told this member about Gustave and all the information I had on him, such as his occupation, estimated birth year, his mother's potential name of María Luisa, and his marriage to Françoise Jackson. We exchanged some messages about Gustave Jean Charles, and to be honest, I wasn't very hopeful. I knew that my search had been ongoing now for a couple of years and since I had searched most of the island, I had a feeling that he might actually be from Saint Thomas or another Caribbean island. When I received the response starting with "I found him" my heart dropped, could this really be Gustave Jean Charles?!?

An island of an island 

Pompierre, Terre-de-Haut, Les Saintes

The message continued with, "he is not from Basse-Terre but from Terre-de-Bas (Les Saintes)". My initial reaction was "HUH?!" Terre-de-Bas? Where's that? I've searched all of Guadeloupe and I haven't seen that town! But of course, I had stupidly ruled out a tiny island belonging to Guadeloupe, just below the area of Basse-Terre, and of course, it would be MY ancestor to have lived there!! The chain of islands, known as Les Îles des Saintes, include the islands of Terre-de-Bas and Terre-de-Haut (part of 9 islands in total). The island's population is rather small and because of its rather 'different' influx of immigrants, the islands diversity isn't completely the same as mainland Guadeloupe, "the archipelago of Les Saintes is mostly populated by the descendants of colonists from Brittany and Normandy, and inhabitants of Poitou, Saintonge, and Anjou who are mostly from the first French families that lived on Saint Christopher and Nevis when it was a French colony. The population has the peculiarity of being primarily of European origin and speaks a variety of popular American French, with some terms of Old French" [Wikipedia]. This would explain why Gustave Jean Charles' descendants carry a European Y-DNA haplogroup! 

Guadeloupe [Google]

The messages then began to flood my inbox with new documents, information, dates, and names. I was completely flabbergasted, could it be possible that my search for Gustave Jean Charles was really coming to an end?! After so much time wondering, contemplating, and trying to figure out where or who Gustave Jean Charles, were the walls finally starting to come down! 

A New Name in the Mix

When I glanced over the marriage record I was sent from 1843 in Terre-de-Bas, my first reaction was "OH OH! this isn't the same man". The marriage record was for a Gustave Chaleau and a Françoise Jackson, but I don't know a Chaleau! As I started reading the record I started to realize that this in fact was my ancestor and I'll explain why in a bit. The record stated that "the sir Gustave Chaleau, 21 years old [born about 1822], a sailor, born and domiciled in Terre-de-Bas, of age, the legitimate child of Chaleau Jean Charles and Marie Lucie, both landowners and domiciled on this island; and the miss Françoise Jackson, 20 years old [born about 1823], a seamstress, born on the island of Marie-Galante and living in this community, the natural daughter of Clarice Jackson, a laundress, domiciled at Point-à-Pitre, both appeared for marriage". 

For starters a lot of the information matched up, such as Françoise being from Marie-Galante and Gustave's birth year, his profession dealing with boats/sea, and especially that his mother was named Marie Lucie (which in Puerto Rico was translated to María Luisa). What's also important here to notice is that Gustave's father was named Chaleau Jean Charles, therefore we know that the Jean Charles name is there somewhere and as we know, the names did jump around in Puerto Rico so for it to happen in Guadeloupe wouldn't be so surprising. Also, luckily there was signature for Gustave which was similar to his Puerto Rican signature: 

Here on the right you can see his Puerto Rican signatures, if you focus on the first way he wrote Gustave you find some similarities to his signature in Guadeloupe. His signatures are a bit sloppy but this is probably due to the fact that he was in his 60s when signing as a witness in Puerto Rico. Here on the Terre-de-Bas signature we can see that Gustave signed with this new name of Chaleau, which has never appeared in any Puerto Rican records. The mystery of this new surname though can easily be solved with the help of another document -- the freedom record of my 5th great grandfather, Chaleau Jean Charles. 

A Free Man

My 5th great-grandfather Chaleau Jean Charles was manumitted from slavery on the 26th of August in the year 1842. Though it doesn't state who was his master, it does state that Jean Baptiste Caille came forward along with Paul Désiré Petit during his manumission. David has told me that it is possible for one of them to be an owner or even friends, though the record does not state an relation between the men. It states that Chaleau Jean Charles at the time of his freedom was 56 years old and a carpenter (which makes sense since various of his descendants would also take up this job!). It also states that he was a native of Terre-de-Bas, meaning that he was born there and not brought over as a slave like on my Martinican side of the family. However we don't know who Jean Charles' parents were and where they were born.   

Nº 8 Chaleau Jean Charles - Manumission, 1842 [ANOM]
Nº 8 Chaleau Jean Charles - Manumission, 1842 [ANOM]

So we see that Chaleau and Jean Charles were probably his names and out of there comes the confusion of using either "Chaleau" or "Jean Charles", and in some records they use Jean Charles as the surname rather than Chaleau. Most likely he was known as "Jean Charles" most of his life and then the Chaleau was added later on as a surname, however Gustave stuck with Jean Charles when he immigrated to Puerto Rico and even his other son goes back and forth between both Chaleau and Jean Charles on records. 

With his new found freedom, Chaleau Jean Charles was able to marry the next year and married on the 4th of September 1843 my 5th great grandmother Marie Lucie; two months later his son Gustave would marry Françoise Jackson. Chaleau Jean Charles' marriage record states that he and Marie Lucie were both from Terre-de-Bas and he 56 and she 55 years old. Their record also states that before this said marriage, together they had three children who apparently were: "inscrits sur les régistres de l'état civil de cette dite commune, de leurs actes d'affranchissements, en dite la premier janvier mil huit cent trente trois" meaning that the children were registered in the records for manumission on the 1st of January in 1833, records which I have yet to find! These three children include Charles (aged 23), Adelaïde (aged 28), and Gustave (aged 19) all living on said island. It's nice to see that Chaleau Jean Charles and Marie Lucie were able to marry! And even though Chaleau Jean Charles wasn't able to sign his own name on his marriage record, it's interesting to note that his son - my 4th great-grandfather  Gustave - at only about 19-20 years old was able to sign his own name, which makes me wonder about their education and childhood upbringing as slaves. 


At this point, I'm fairly certain this is the same man, just like with the records in Martinique, there are far too many coincidences for me just to brush it off. Because things like the name, year of birth, and especially the mother's name matches, I'm fairly confident that these two men are one and the same. I can't believe that that my search for Gustave Jean Charles is over, especially with all the confusion in the records and the craziness that was name order in Puerto Rico. Goes to show that with constant searching and some help a lot can be achieved. My next goal is to try and find out more information about Jean Charles and Marie Lucie, for example we know that Jean Charles was manumitted in 1842, but Marie Lucie seems to be manumitted in the year 1832 along with her children. I wonder why so much earlier then he was. Were they from two different plantations or owners? I don't know much more about the family and I would like to hopefully one day find where they were from before Terre-de-Bas. 

I'm excited to finally have names of towns in Guadeloupe and Martinique, and I can't wait to hopefully one day visit these two places. I can't wait to add more pieces to this puzzle, or rather make this picture a bit clearly in regards to their life on these French islands and the history that comes along with them to Puerto Rico. So happy that I can add more to my own story of my ancestors especially to a branch of my family that was so closed off to me genealogically for many years. 

Remember to keep searching, asking questions, revisiting documents and never give up! Sometimes it takes stepping away from a puzzle in order for you to gain a new outlook on how to potentially solve it. For any Puerto Ricans that might have ancestors from Guadeloupe and/or Martinique, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions on how to get started on finding those ancestors. Also, I have written about it on my blog what feels like extensively, so feel free to poke around and read other posts for some tips and tricks. 

Can't wait to see this view one day! :D

Grande-Anse, Terre-de-Bas, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe [Google]

Sunday, June 14, 2015

¡Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que Tú Lo Sepas!

Puerto Rican Day Parade 2015 [New York Daily News]

Today was the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, a heavily attended event by both Puerto Ricans and non-Puerto Ricans from all over! This day, as many Puerto Ricans know, is a great time to decorate your house, car, and yourself with Puerto Rican flags and other paraphernalia to represent 'la isla del encanto'. One of my favorite sayings that you can hear on this day is: "¡Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que Tú Lo Sepas!", which roughly translates to, I'm Boricua (Puerto Rican), just so you know!". 

What I found interesting was that this year the parade was dedicated not to a town but to Pedro Albizu Campos, a man who isn't really known to the everyday Puerto Rican but in historical and political circles is known fairly well. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Albizu Campos' death which was earlier this year on the 21st of April. Pedro Albizu Campos is known for his fight for independence for the island of Puerto Rico as the president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. There is a lot of history that goes with learning about Puerto Rico's past, especially during the times of rallying for independence.

One of the most shocking things that I learned was about Law 53 of 1948, which was better known as the Gag Law or Ley de la Mordaza. This law was established with the purpose of suppressing any independence movement in Puerto Rico. Therefore, "The act made it a crime to own or display a Puerto Rican flag, to sing a patriotic tune, to speak or write of independence, or meet with anyone, or hold any assembly, in favor of Puerto Rican independence" [Wikipedia].

Kind of makes you wonder if this is why Puerto Ricans are so fiercely proud of their flag, culture, and ways, passed down for grandparents and great-grandparents who weren't allowed to proudly display a flag, or even sing a tune that could remind someone of independence. This law is one of the many things that happened on the island that a good number of Puerto Ricans do not know about. I'm not sure if it is taught on the island but I know that many mainland Puerto Ricans have never heard of the law or even about Pedro Albizu Campos.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade is a great time to learn more about the island, get in touch with your roots, dance some Salsa, and eat some good pernil, but also a great time to learn some more history of the island as well! Do not forget those who came before you and their struggles to get us to where we are! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

52 Ancestors – #52 María Inocencia Avilés (1876-1903)

Finally, ancestor #52! Took me a while to get here and I didn't finish how I had wanted to on time but I'm glad to be on this post none the less! This post seems like a full circle for me since the tale of this ancestress is what sparked and fueled my interest at the age of 14 when I began all of these genealogical searches. Therefore, this post will be dedicated to my 3rd great-grandmother, María Inocencia Avilés.

María Inocencia Avilés (from now on just Inocencia Avilés), was from the town of Lares, Puerto Rico where a branch of my paternal family resided for about 3-4 generations. Inocencia was born about 1876 probably in Río Prieto where her children would be born, and equally like her children, Inocencia was the product of a unwedded parents. So, we only know Inocencia's mother name which was María Avilés Hernández, native to the town of Añasco, Puerto Rico. Inocencia in our family lore was a pure Taíno women who had the son of a Spanish man who was visiting the island during the time of war. The story, which I'm still trying to pick apart and separate truth from fiction, could have some truths to it after all. From my research, José Avilés' father could be Damián Magraner Morell, a Spanish man who my ancestors worked for in the 1900s in Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico. Only DNA can confirm this connection to the Magraner family and the tale of Inocencia being Taíno. So far we know that Inocencia had to be some type of mix, seeing as how her death record she was reported as 'blanca'. Of course, records are never always correct but DNA can definitely help point us in the right direction.

Recorded children for Inocencia currently stand at 5 children: José, María Isabel, Lorenzo, Isabel, and Juan; the first four possibly children of Damián while we have no idea who Juan's father was and Juan died as an infant, only 3 months old.

Unfortunately, I don't know too much about Inocencia's life since she died at a fairly young age, at about the age of 27, due to Anemia. If Inocencia's age is correct in her records, that would mean that she was about 14-15 years old when she had her first child, my 2nd great grandfather, José Avilés. Which is kind of crazy since she was a young, unwedded girl so I imagine there was stigma attached to her fairly quickly for what occurred. And if Damián really is the father to José then it paints a different picture for me of who he was as a man.

None the less, I would like to learn more about Inocencia, her life in the mountain town of Lares, her interaction with the Magraner family and what it might have been like for her during the Spanish-American War. She would have been fairly young when Spain gave over the island to the USA and it would be interesting to see what a young person at the time would have thought about this change.

I'm happy to have done the 52 Ancestors Challenge since it gave me a chance to revisit certain ancestors I hadn't looked into in a while, and learn more about who they might have been as people during their respective time periods. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

52 Ancestors – #51 Juana Burgos Vásquez (1839-1899)

So FINALLY getting around to finishing up the last two posts of the 52 Ancestry Challenge -- better late than never right!? This post will be about my 4th great grandmother, Juana Burgos Vásquez.

Juana Burgos Vásquez was from the town of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico in the southern part of Puerto Rico.  My family has been in this town for a good number of years and only recently in about the 1950s migrated out and into the San Juan area to look for better opportunities. However, there are still distant cousins that live down in Yabucoa and still own some of the land our ancestors worked on back in the 1800s, which is pretty awesome!

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico [Google]

Juana Burgos, according to the death certificate I found, died on the 14th of April of 1899 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. She was a bit of a hard ancestress to track down because records only listed her as "Juana Burgos" and never mentioned a second surname which is important in Puerto Rico especially when there are people with such common names. What I ended up doing was going through the index death records for the town and searched for all the Juana Burgos mentioned on the index and one by one searched them up to see if they could match my 4th great grandmother. Some were too old, some not married, and some too young, but finally I found one in 1899 that could match my 4th great grandmother's years and martial status.

By the year 1899, Juana Burgos would have been 11 years widowed from her husband, Manuel de Santiago. Since it seems that Juana and Manuel only had one daughter, my 3rd great grandmother Dolores, Juan Ortiz Lebrón (probably a neighbor) appeared to announce her death. He was aware of her parents, Eusebio Burgos and Monserrate Vásquez but probably not of Dolores, who already in 1899 was off taking care of her 8 children with her husband Benito Orozco. It is always possible that this death certificate isn't the correct one for my Juana Burgos but with the information I have and knowing that Juana lived in Yabucoa, the odds are high that this is my 4th great grandmother.

There is no mention of race in her death certificate, but through my MtDNA we know that Juana was a carrier of the C1b4 who she passed to Francisca Orozco Santiago (2nd great grandmother), and eventually to my grandmother, mother, and me. I'm guessing based off the future descriptions of her children and grandchildren, that Juana, like them, was of a mixed race background.

Some documents state that Juana's parents were from Las Piedras, which is a town just north of Yabucoa. Even though my ancestors lived in Calabazas (a town bordering Maunabo), you can see that Las Piedras isn't too far off for them to have traveled from. They could have easily made their way down through Jácanas or Tejas and Limones until they reached Calabazas, and stayed for whatever reason.

Yabucoa's Barrios [Google]

I'm hoping to one day head down to Yabucoa, see the town of Calabazas, and hopefully meet some of my cousins who still live there! 

Where in the World is Luis (San Diego)?!

So finally after being abroad for 8 months, I'm finally home in New York! Even though I've been home for about two weeks now, I think I'm finally hitting my "Okay, you're settled and you have time for things now" phase. I've ignored this blog for a bit which I never like to do in the first place, but hopefully now I'll be able to catch up on some posts that I've wanted to write but didn't get the chance to with all my work and traveling during the spring semester. This summer I'll be pretty busy as well finishing up my Master's program but hopefully I'll be able to add some posts here and there and keep the blog active again! For those who might be interested, here's a map of all the places I was fortunate enough to visit while I was living abroad in Spain, these are 8 months worth of cites and towns I visited during vacations and weekends. I definitely had a great time living abroad in Europe but I'm happy to be home with friends and family!

Travel Map of 2014-2015

Here's to more posts about my genealogical adventures both on paper and in person! :)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Travel Tuesday – Sóller, Mallorca

This post will be about my visit to the island of Mallorca, specifically about the town of Sóller, where the Magraner family originally came from before arriving to Río Prieto, Lares, Puerto Rico. I came to Sóller to learn more about Damián Magraner Morell and his life before and after Puerto Rico. I believe that Damián is possibly my 3rd great grandfather on my paternal side of the family.

I headed to Sóller from Palma on the touristic train hoping to catch some views of the island as I headed to the northern town of Sóller. Every time I visit a town where my ancestors lived there's a weird feeling of euphoria. Not only because I am visiting a new place, but because of this deeper connection with the town. Knowing that an ancestor lived their lives in a certain town, gives new meaning and appreciation to being able to travel there. One of my first views as I stepped off the train and towards the main square was the church of Sant Bartomeu, where Damián would have been baptized circa 1846.

Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu [Personal Photo]

While in Sóller I was able to learn more about Damián's life; he served as mayor for two years in the mid-1880s and was able to learn that he passed away in 1910. I was fortunate to see the "padrones" showing him and his family in Sóller. Since two of his sons traveled to Puerto Rico in 1911, they listed their mother's address in Sóller allowing me to easily find them listed by their address. Also, since the address still exists I was able to visit the street and the houses they would have lived in. I was told the addresses could have moved up or down one house since 1910, but generally they were in that same vicinity. Here is a picture below of the house(s) which were listed in Damián's death certificate where they would have been living since about 1880. I asked in the supermarket across the street if there was a Magraner family here in these houses but I was told the houses were currently being rented out.

Calle Sant Jaume [Personal Photo]

I also headed to the cemetery in search of Damián's tomb since the archives don't have him listed, most of their records start after his death and so there is no evidence of where exactly he would be buried though he is buried there. I walked around the cemetery looking for any Damiáns or Magraner tombs and I couldn't find many that really that tied into my family. I was, however, lucky to find the tomb of a Nicólas Magraner Morell, most likely the brother of Damián. Unfortunately, it doesn't list who else from his family is buried in the plot but it was nice to see at least one person's tomb. Here are pictures of the view as I walked up towards the cemetery (absolutely amazing!) and a picture of the tomb itself. 

View near the cemetery [Personal Photo]

Tomb of Nicólas Magraner Morell [Personal Photo]


Even though I learned a lot more about Damián, his family, and his life in Sóller I am still unsure of his connection and whether or not he is my third great grandfather. Damián spent some time coming back and forth between Puerto Rico and Sóller and so knowing whether or not he was officially in Puerto Rico to be José's and Lorenzo's father is a bit difficult. He was listed as living in Puerto Rico around 1887, but there is no proof (that I know of) that he was there in the years of 1891 and 1894. We do know that Damián would eventually return to Sóller, helping the town during the time of the Spanish-American War. In Palma, I tried to retrieve Damián's last testament/will to see if there was any mention of land being given to a José Avilés, but unfortunately I would have to prove my connection to Damián via a paper trail in order to see his will. Which, as we know, would be impossible since I am basing this on family lore, information from census records, and coincidences (which don't sound like too much to rely on really!)

Recently, while looking at the 1910 and 1920 census records and José Avilés' WWI Registration Card I was able to finally figure out who the "Ramón Magraner" on his WWI card was! It seems that there was a mistake on various WWI cards for a "Ramón/Raimundo Rullán Pons", who was the administrator of a coffee farm. Ramón Rullán Pons was living with Damián in the late 1880s and it is highly likely that he was working on the Hacienda Margarita de Magraner, which belonged to the Magraner Morell siblings -- Damián being one of them. So we know that José and Lorenzo did work on Damián's lands before owning their own; which helps to establish a connection between both families. 

While I was in Sóller, I began to think a bit more of Damián and the probabilities of him being my 3rd great-grandfather. It seems that Damián held some sort of status in Sóller: he helped build the Banc de Sóller, was mayor for 2 years, and probably held other positions before his death. If Damián truly was the father of José and Lorenzo, I think there were little odds back then for him to recognize his illegitimate children. Imagine a man of status and married, accepting these two children as his own -- there would have been much stir in Lares, Puerto Rico and Sóller, Mallorca about his relationship with a Puerto Rican woman and would have probably been scandalous. As we know, many of our ancestors did things that either were unearthed then or are being unearthed now by us genealogists. If I were able to establish a firm connection to Damián I really don't know how the Magraner family would react to this. Did the family know about it? Could the descendants already be informed about potential Puerto Rican cousins? Hopefully I'll be able to answer these questions one day and the million others surrounding my ancestors! 

I hope to return to Sóller one day and do more research. I would love to visit during the summer and stay a month to learn and research more about the Magraner family. Hopefully I'll able able to find some descendants of Damián and see my theory proven or disproven, and I'm really hoping for the former! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

52 Ancestors – #50 Manuel de Jesús Rivera Díaz (1855-1932)

Post #50! Almost at the end of the 52 Ancestor Challenge! This post will be about my 2nd great grandfather from the town of Toa Alta, where all my ancestors seem to be from haha. 

Manuel de Jesús was born in Toa Alta on the 1st of January in 1855 and baptized on the 3rd of March of the same year. Manuel appears in the pardo books of the town, which I have talked about before as one of the race identifiers of people on Puerto Rico which sometimes was synonymous with mestizo. Manuel was the son of Pedro Rivera Román and Eusebia Díaz Pacheco. Manuel's godparents were Juan Martin Pérez and Rosa Gutierrez who I'm not sure if they're related by blood or just good friends/neighbors of the parents. 

Manuel de Jesús later would marry Laureana González Mójica in 1855 in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. For most of life in records Manuel de Jesús would just appear as "Jesús" rather than Manuel de Jesús and it's not too uncommon to go by one's middle name especially when your first name is pretty common. Jesús was one of about 7 (documented) children and he himself would have 11 children with Laureana. 

Interestingly in 1910, we see Manuel de Jesús living on a farm he owned and lives on with his wife and children yet he is unable to read or write. To me this tells me that Jesús could have inherited the land he worked on from his parents or was a really hard worker and able to buy his own land. He would live on this land most of his life up until about 1930. He would later move to San Juan where his son was living and he would die there in 1932, living in the barrio of La Perla. 

I do wonder what Manuel de Jesús would have looked like, being listed as pardo yet a carrier of an European Y-DNA haplogroup. I would imagine that he would have darker features to categorize him under pardo. I have only one picture of his son late in his life and his son Alejandro does look mestizo-ish in the photo. It would be interesting to compare other pictures if any exist of the other children. As we know, within one single generation and within siblings the characteristics and phenotypes of each child can vary. 

I haven't been able to find any new Rivera cousins yet, but I am hopefully that one day I'll be able to find some Toa Alta cousins that connect with me on my Rivera side of the family! 

52 Ancestors – #49 Ana Morán Nazario (1870-1944)

Ana Morán Nazario, according to records is said to have been born in the town of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico around the year 1870. She would however spend most of her life in Manatí, where she would eventually pass away. 

Ana Morán Nazario married Agustin Calderón Meléndez around the year 1886, I haven't been able to find their marriage record and I'm not too surprised with this set of ancestors. Their surnames are constantly changing! Agustin was an illegitimate child so he therefore passed on the name Meléndez to his children and grandchildren. Ana on the other hand appears with the maternal surname "Rosario" or "Nazario" depending on the year and who is reporting the information. Ana and Agustin would have a big family -- about 16 children so far counted! This family so far has been a big tangled web that I'm still trying to take apart, since names are repeated across generations and the information for the family isn't consistent as well. It has truly been a dizzying experience to try and figure out exactly who is who! 

Ana in the 1910, 1930, 1935 and 1940 census appears as living in Manatí, Puerto Rico in the barrio of Coto with her husband Agustin. Ana would live there until her death in 1944 from a cardiac arrest. Ana was listed as white in most of the census records while her husband Agustin appears as mulatto. 

Ana's ancestors and her mix of surnames is one mystery I'm definitely still trying to crack! 

52 Ancestors – #48 Nicodemus Vélez Ríos (1878-1934)

I unfortunately never got to finish the 52 ancestors series before the end of 2014, with traveling around Europe and getting back into the swing of things here in Spain I haven't really been able to write new blog posts. But hopefully I'll be able to finish up the 52 Ancestors Challenge and write new posts I have been waiting to write for a bit now. Today I want to focus on Nicodemus, my 2nd great grandfather.

Nicodemus Vélez Ríos at first was a hard ancestor to track, in most records he appeared as "Nicodemo" and I only knew he was "Vélez" but no maternal surname. With some more researching and digging around I was able to learn more about his life. Nicodemus was born in the barrio of Guayabo Dulce in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. His parents were José Severo Vélez Sepúlveda and Ana Ríos González. Both sides of Nicodemus' family seem to come mainly from the towns of Mayagüez and San Sebastián. Luckily, some of his lines have been traced back to the early 1600s and to Spain by previous genealogists.

In 1906, Nicodemus would marry his wife Domitila Mercado Cruz, and at the time of their wedding Nicodemus would have been 28 years old while Domitila would have been only 15 years old. I'm not too sure why there was such an age gap between them, maybe Domitila's parents wanted to marry their daughter off into a well-to-do family (which from my research seems to be the story behind Nicodemus' family) or potentially Nicodemus fell in love and asked for her hand in marriage. I would need to read up more on Puerto Rican marriage and family ties throughout the island's history to better grasp their situation. Nicodemus and Domitila would have a TON of children, so far I have been able to count up to about 19 children in total… which is a humongous family!

By 1910, Nicodemus was married with Domitila and living in a rented home working as a majordomo on a coffee farm; he was unable to read or write. The family spent a lot of time moving back and forth from Utuado and Adjuntas seeing as how in 1910 they were living in Utuado but in 1918 he was working for Alfredo Palmieri in Adjuntas, in the 1920 census he would still be listed with his family in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. Throughout his life, Nicodemus mainly worked on coffee farms and never owned land of his own.

Nicodemus would pass away in the barrio of Juan González in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico in the year 1934. I had a really hard time finding his death certificate since I didn't know if he had died in Adjuntas or Utuado but finally I was able to track it down in Adjuntas. His cause of death was listed as "nefritis crónica" which is an inflammation of the kidneys and can be caused by toxins and infections. He and his wife died fairly young -- Nicodemus aged 55 and Domitila at the age of 48.

I didn't really grow up knowing too much about the Vélez family and most of the information I have learned is through genealogical searching, for example that Bernardina Sepúlveda (Nicodemus' grandmother) had owned slaves. I would like to learn more about this family and how things economically seemed to have changed for them within two generations. So far the Vélez family has been traced back to the mid-1700s in San Sebastián. I would love to learn about the paternal haplogroup of the Vélez family and see if I can trace them further back in Puerto Rico.

With 18 siblings for my great grandfather, I can only imagine that I have a ton of Vélez cousins spread around Puerto Rico and most likely the USA -- hopefully I can find some of them!