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!