Monday, July 18, 2016

A Puerto Rican Look at: Sephardic Jews

For most hispanic genealogist, at one point during our research, the question: Do I have Sephardic Jewish ancestors? has come up! Not only across Spanish speaking countries in the Caribbean, Southern and Central America can Sephardic Jews be found but even on islands such as Jamaica, Curaçao, and as far as the old territories of the Ottoman Empire. Along with slave ancestors, these can be hard ancestors to find and each respectively have their difficulties. While slaves were not considered people and therefore many times do not appear by names on most records, Sephardic Jews who hid from the inquisition changed names, sometimes very frequently, and tried to evade shifting eyes from the "old Christians" in order to not cause too much alarm.

So I want to talk about the prospects of having Jewish ancestors and somethings to take into consideration while doing your research. I am in no way an expert when it comes to judaism, Sephardic Jewish migration, or anything of the likes. If not, I'm learning along the way as well!

Jewish presence in Spain [Google]

Quick Historical Background

To write a historical background on the Sephardic Jews and their diaspora could take forever! And I say this because many people dedicate their lives to studying the Sephardic Jews, their customs, language, travel routes, and ways of life. So here's a quick background for those who might not know much about these kinds of Jews. So to start off: yes, there are various types of Jews! The main two are Ashkenazi (which are most of the Jewish people you might know with origins in Eastern European countries such as Germany, Poland, Ukraine all the way to Russia) and then there are the Sephardic Jews (which I'll explain in just a moment). There are also the Mizrahi Jews which can be found in Middle Eastern countries.

The Sephardic Jews are said to have lived in Spain since the second temple's destruction in Israel. Their name derives from "ספרד" (Sepharad), the name given to Spain in Hebrew and therefore they are known are Sephardic Jews in English, sometimes also called "Sefarditas" or sefardíes in Spanish. In 1492, with a royal edict given by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella the Jews were expelled from Spain causing them to spread across the world, many went to the Ottoman Empire where they were accepted fairly easily while others went into northern African countries such as Morocco to avoid the Inquisition. Those that quickly fled into Portugal needed to once again uproot and leave their new country once Portugal expelled the Jews as well. There were those that went to the new world as well, some right after the edict and as late as the 1600s since the Inquisition lasted longer than what most people expect. Let as also not forget that the Moors/Arabs were also expelled from Spain, I think a lot of people forget that part of history when he talk about the year 1492.

Of course, there were those who stayed and became nuevos cristianos or "New Christians" who were seen differently from those who were Old Christians before the royal edict. There were different treatments to those who recently converted, and not in a good way. Those in Mallorca for example where called "Chuetas/Xuetas" and were made fun of until not so long ago. Many of the Jews who converted are also known as "B'nei anusim" for their forced conversion to Christianity. Another name given to the Sephardic Jews are crypto Jews because many under the guise of Christians, still practiced many Jewish customs at home amongst close family members. So much so, that now a days Christians don't even know they have Jewish traditions within their family due to these dark times.

There is much, much, and I mean much, more to cover! There are many books to read and personal stories of those who have gone back in time to find their Jewish roots through genealogy and studying family customs. I have recently just read Genie Milgrom's My 15 grandmothers and Doreen Carvajal's The Forgetting River which I recommend to any interested in learning more about Sephardic Jews and their journey to countries such as Cuba and Costa Rica. Even though they don't focus so much on the actual genealogy research conducted, it's interesting to see the much more personal side of research.

Sephardic Jewish Migration [Google]

Some things to consider

As you research your genealogy, there have been a few tips and tricks that other Sephardic Jewish genealogists have said you should keep an eye out for. For example, taking into consideration the years your ancestors have traveled to your countries. I have ancestors who came to Puerto Rico at the turn of the 15th century. Some would have seen the edict declared and the expulsion of Jews from Spain, and I ask myself were these ancestors part of that wave to leave? Like I mentioned, some if not most will be hard to trace and you need to keep in mind possible name changes and evasion on their part.

Another thing to keep in mind are traditions and customs dealing with things such as food, burial, marriage, etc. Some say that the Sephardic Jews are known to intermarry within their community in order to preserve their Jewish traditions. There are many families on the western side of the island of Puerto Rico who are well known for intermarrying and I wonder if they go back to Jewish origins. There are many little things that can be clues to a Sephardic Jewish past! 

Something to take into consideration also is your DNA haplogroups and connections to others. For example, my grandfather has the Y-DNA haplogroup J1e which is commonly associated with Jews (but also with Muslims/Arabs). Since it originates and concretes in the Near East, it can be from either one of these groups. This leads me to believe that one of my original Correa ancestors was from Spain and was either a Muslim or a Jew who later came to the new world. 

J1e World Map [23andme]

J1 Haplogroup Description [23andme]

This also leads me to next consideration -- names! 

Now this one is tough! Many people believe that having a surname that ends in "-ez" in a guaranteed ticket to claiming Jewish origins. The reason behind is that "-ez" surnames mean 'son of' which was a common naming tradition amongst Jews which can be seen with the modern use of 'Ben'. Therefore surnames such as Pérez, Hernández, Fernández, and González to name a few are considered to be surnames of Jews. Now, this is and isn't possible for some people. Yes, Jews did take on surnames with "-ez" endings but not all did. Some are known to have taken surnames of cities such as Toledo/ Toledano, Zamora, etc. and that some took natural places names such as Ríos, Flores, etc. Again, we can't just say "Yes! They were Jews" without researching and looking into their history. 

Even first names can be a hint to a Jewish past, but again -- research, research, research! For example, I just came across an aunt's branch in my tree with "typical Jewish names" for their children. This is the first time on my tree that I have seen children have names that overwhelming point to Jewish origins. The four children's names are : Luz María, Ismael, Abraham, and Benjamin the last three being names that can be found within the Jewish naming tradition. But again, who knows? Maybe this couple enjoyed reading the Old Testament and was influenced by writers with such names. In my family there is a person with a name of Lebanese origin, does it mean we are Lebanese? No, just that child received that name to honor a Lebanese writer. Therefore, it's hard to tell! Nothing is just black and white in genealogy and when it comes to Sephardic Jews it can definitely be hard to tell.

Familia Carrero-Medina [Personal Photo]


For me personally, it has been a work in progress. There are a few branches that I think can potentially identity to have Sephardic Jewish ancestry but I haven't jumped to a definite "yes" just yet! For example, with my J1e haplogroup I have to explore more into the paper trail to see how far this branch was in Puerto Rico before originating somewhere else. This line has been in Puerto Rico since at least the mid-1700s but I would need to search more into the church records to see if they were from Spain and if so from where. 

I still have a lot of reading to do to make sure I am aware of these origins without falsely associating names or traditions to Sephardic Jews. There is a lot of "junk research" on the internet as well, so trying to sleuth through that and not get caught up in the wrong information can be hard. There are websites that will tell you to check if your surname is there to be Jewish, but again... thread lightly! 

In Puerto Rico, many people already by the 1800s were being documented by the church and I have never seen synagogue records or any other type of church/temple, etc. records for Puerto Rico. And of course, the 1800s is 400 years far removed from the times of the expulsion so proving a certain Sephardic Jewish pedigree can be hard but not necessarily impossible. It takes patience, a bit of luck, and a lot of knowledge on how to use the records and what to look for to actually find those ancestors.  

To those searching -- best of luck and hopefully we'll find our ancestors soon! 

Medieval Jewish Manuscript [Google]

Friday, July 15, 2016

How DNA Uncovered a Family Secret

It's taken a while to sit and write this, originally I learned about this back in May but since then I have left it on the "back burner" of genealogy to process the information. I mostly wanted to write this post because I think it speaks volumes to the power of genealogy, but especially to genetic genealogy and how it not only can be helpful to you but also to others. This post is about how I figured out that one of parents had a (previously) unknown half-sibling through In order to provide privacy to my living family members, I won't be using any actual names.

23andme homepage [23andme]

I guess you could say this story began like any other day for me. I was home visiting my parents and it was a typical lazy Sunday. I decided to log onto my 23andme account just to see if there was anything new going on on the site. Recently, I've been logging on less and less to the site and I am not sure why. Maybe because I am focusing more on other things than genetic genealogy and/or the buzz for me has died down, but I occasionally go on to see what new relatives I might have gotten or any news such as possible sales.

Except logging in this time was very different than the last times I have done it over the last past 6 years. As I logged into my account on the right top hand corner it said, "We've found a genetic relative! Add your 1st cousin" and my originally thought was, "Hmm, how weird!'. I'm pretty sure I know all my first cousins and so having this pop up was weird, but yet again Puerto Rican genetics work different than most others because of DNA that has been recycled… but not this recycled right?! So I decided to check my other accounts. Having various accounts for my family members allows me to easily see where and how a person matches me with other family members. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten good enough to do triangulation and cross-checking since like I mentioned there are high odds that this person will match me on my mom's side and my dad's side if they're a full Puerto Rico. Sometimes, even half Puerto Ricans match both of my parents which makes it tough to find one branch of our tree or an ancestor we match through.

So I logged onto both of my parents' account seeing who would receive this match, and then I came across this message that dropped my jaw:

23andme Genetic Message Relative Message [Personal Photo]

All of my years of genealogy had not prepared me for this! Initially I denied it, and not because I did not want one of my parents to have a half-sibling but like I mentioned I knew that genes had a weird way of arranging and working themselves. But I had read enough forum messages and personal stories on 23andme about adoptions and family secrets revealed that I knew that something had to be up. I immediately jumped over to the relative finder to see how this could be! Right up on the list, appearing second (right after me, son) was this half-brother. Though there wasn't much information I knew that with the Y-DNA and MtDNA I would know what side of the family this match was from. I noticed that they shared the same MtDNA and not Y-DNA with one of my parents and so I knew it had to be from their mother. But wait, how was that possible? I knew both of my grandmothers and I knew them fairly well… or did I?

Having this conversation with my parents was difficult, how could I tell them this without shattering their world? But fortunately, genealogy had prepared for me for this in a sense. I had always been the one asking random questions and wondering about our origins that no genealogical conversation was too random for me. Luckily, the conversation went well… surprised at first, questioning, but then understanding. We were able to deduce when and where and between what time frame this sibling would have been born. There were no hard feelings on our end and we knew that life made people make tough decisions sometimes. Some phone calls were made to Puerto Rico to see if anyone had heard anything, even a potential murmur of this, but it seems that mum was the word in our family.

I initially decided to give this person some time for them to reach out to me but then doubt started to sink in. What if they never search their relative finder? What if they just log on once and then never again? What if they don't know how to manage the site and don't see their matches?! So I decided to reach out to this sibling the next day and explain what the results were showing me. Luckily by the end of the day I had a response! The person knew they were adopted but did not know much about their story so we exchanged some messages back and forth and discussed my family origins, sending them some pictures along the way. I am not sure how this person must have felt but knowing there was someone out there directly related to me in such a close way but not knowing them was hard in a sense for me. Maybe it's because I'm the family genealogist and I spend so much time crafting and editing my tree, that every ancestor and their story in a way speaks to me. Hopefully I'll get a chance to chat more with this person and hopefully have them meet our family.

It's funny how one day a simple message can change your life, we know only so much through paper trails and genetic genealogy is truly opening up a new way to see family history and genealogy. There are a lot of skeptics out there about genealogy, I was even told once that was a scam because it was just built to find connections to anyone out there… which obviously is not true and I'm fairly sure this person had no understanding of census records. But here genetic genealogy floored me with something I did not expect to find in my recent family. Yet again, there are many family skeletons in all of our closets, it's just being opening to dusty out those closets and being open to what's inside! You never know what you'll find! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Puerto Rican Look at: Colorized Pedigrees!

I've been seeing these style of pedigrees online for a while now and decided I should give it a go! Thanks to Zalewski Family Genealogy blog  I was able to use the template and create my very own pedigree. Because my family has been on the island of Puerto Rico for over 200+ years, I didn't think it would have made sense to create a chart with just the same color over and over again to represent Puerto Rico. With this template I was able to include up to my 3rd great grandparents, which are 32 different ancestors! I was able to include their surnames on the side as well, giving you an idea where my family surnames originate from on the island. It was interesting seeing how diverse my family tree is in terms of locations. If you notice, it was only recently that my family came to the capital of San Juan with 3/4 of my grandparents being born there, though all of them spent their formative years growing up and living there. If you take a further look, my family has been present on the island for those 200+ years in almost all my branches, there is only one ancestor that made the cut for being from another place and that's my 3rd great grandfather from Mallorca, Spain.

I definitely had a lot of fun doing this pedigree and there are so many other styles you could do as well! Though morbid, I'm thinking of creating a pedigree with family deaths to see if there are any recurring patterns and to have an idea of what is potentially passed down in my family. You could also even create a pedigree with signatures of your ancestors! Though I would love to create one, unfortunately most of my ancestors didn't know how to write since they were all farmers and barely attended school past what we know as elementary/middle school.

Colorized Pedigree [Personal Photo]

I'm not sure how common it is to move so much to different cities but if you notice my mother's side of the family, they were notorious for making moves across the island. My father's side on the other hand seems to stick more to certain towns. For example, we have been in the towns of Corozal, Lares, and Toa Alta for many many years on my dad's side of the family. To give you an idea, here's a list of all my family locations which include 20 different locations on the island, those being: 
  • Adjuntas, Puerto Rico
  • Barranquitas, Puerto Rico
  • Corozal, Puerto Rico
  • Jayuya, Puerto Rico
  • Lares, Puerto Rico
  • Maunabo, Puerto Rico
  • Manatí, Puerto Rico
  • Morovis, Puerto Rico
  • Patillas, Puerto Rico
  • Quebradillas, Puerto Rico
  • Salinas, Puerto Rico
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • San Sebastián, Puerto Rico
  • Toa Alta, Puerto Rico
  • Utuado, Puerto Rico
  • Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
  • Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
  • Yauco, Puerto Rico
  • Mallorca, Spain
I recommend any genealogist who enjoys working with their tree to give this a go. It was super easy to create and could make a very cool poster for a wall! You could even include names and dates to give it more importance as well! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chinese in Puerto Rico [A Study of Lucas Yon]

It's come to the point again where I begin to search up other people on the island of Puerto Rico, partially because I'm bored and partially to learn new genealogy tricks. Today I want to focus on the immigration of the Chinese to Puerto Rico and specifically look at a man named "Lucas Yon" who made his way to Puerto Rico.

China/中国 [Google Images]

As you can probably tell, China is a ways way from Puerto Rico. China has a VERY rich and diverse culture, language, food, and anything else you can basically think of. Many people clump "China" into one big mass but in reality the country is not only big in size but also differences. For example, many in China speak Mandarin or what is also known as "普通话" (Pu3tong1hua4*) which is the Standard Chinese used amongst many people to communicate. *The numbers next to each word represent tones in the words, an important aspect of the Chinese language* However, there are many other languages and dialects, for example: in New York we hear a lot of Cantonese from Southern Chinese immigrants but also dialects from TaiShan (台山), FuZhou (福州), and many others. As you can see, Chinese uses a character system, one of the oldest and still functioning writing systems in the world. Another misconception is that Chinese is a "pictographic" language, meaning that it was built off images. Though it may be true for some of the basic initial characters such as 日(ri4 - sun), 月 (yue4 - moon),馬 (ma3 - horse) ,上 (shang4 - above),and 下 (xia4 - below) many other characters developed very differently and have no associating to a "picture". It is a complex language, yet a beautiful and proud one. Also, a cool fact is no matter what language or dialect you speak of Chinese, you are able to read and use (most) of the characters. So while a northern Beijing Mandarin speaker will say and read "你好" (ni3hao3), a southern Cantonese speaker will say and read "你好" (nei5hou2).

Many Chinese immigrants can be found in diverse parts of the world, they can be found in parts of Eastern Africa, Caribbean islands such as Jamaica, and in parts of South America like Guyana. They are known for being hard workers who traverse the world looking for new opportunities to better their lives and the lives of their kin. The same is true for those that came to Puerto Rico! You can see Chinese descendants on the island working diverse jobs and mixing their culture with the Puerto Rican one (try some Chinese food in Puerto Rico, their way of making rice is out of this world!). There's even a WikiPage on Chinese Immigration to the island and things such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 could have been one of the driving forces to bring the Chinese to Puerto Rico and other islands.

一个中国人在 波多黎各里 (A Chinese Man in Puerto Rico)

One Chinese man I came across in multiple records was named "Lucas Yon", and the first record he can be found is the 1910 Census.

Lucas Yon - 1910 Census [Ancestry]

Interestingly enough Lucas seems to have integrated himself fairly quickly seeing as how by 1910 he was married with a Puerto Rico women and having already 11 children with her! Lucas Yon had married Alejandra Rodríguez Nieves, a native of Puerto Rico around 1887 and produced many children: Pablo, Esperanza, Aleja, Lucia, Angela, Diomedes, Lucas, Rafael, José (living with their parents in 1910). Lucas is said to have arrived on the island in 1880 therefore missing the window of the Cedula de Gracias which brought many foreigners to the island. By 1920 Lucas had moved on to a second relationship with a woman named María Ortiz and they are "CC" which means they aren't married through the church. They have four children by the 1920 Census: María, Josefina, Salvador, and Estel. As you can see, Lucas Yon had many children!

So who was Lucas Yon? What could we find out about him? 

Lucas was a businessman, specifically working in the tobacco industry on the island. He lived most of his life in Cayey and probably ran his business from there as well. In a search for Lucas' origins I decided to check in his children's birth records to see what I could find. I looked for the children of his first marriage since they were products of an official marriage and therefore Lucas Yon would appear on the records. 

Many of the records surprisingly mention Lucas' parents, it states that Lucas was from Canton, China and was the son of "Yon Yin" and "Can Bú", all of the records I have found are consistent in the Chinese names. And how awesome to find their Chinese names and not Spanish/English names! 

So it seems that Lucas was from the "Canton" region of China. The Canton Province is also known as in Chinese as "Guangdong" or "广东". Guangdong is also known as "Kwangtung" which I have seen in other records such as passenger manifests. Now the thing is that Lucas could have been from Guangdong or even Guangzhou (广州), since both have been known as "Canton" in some point in time and none of the records make a distinction, understandably. Below you can see where Guangdong is located in China in relation to other provinces.

Guangdong (广东) [Google Images]

It seems that there were many immigrants from this area of China that have traveled around the world, my own cousins have ancestors from this region of China in their family tree. As I mentioned earlier, each region of China speaks a different dialect/language and not just "Mandarin". So here you can find people that speak for example Cantonese (广东话) and Hakka (客家话) as their first tongue. Most likely Lucas Yon spoke one of these but could have also had a working knowledge of Mandarin.

It is interesting to have Lucas' parents names and I'll analyze that with the knowledge I have of Chinese. We can see that Lucas mentions his parents as "Yon Yin" and "Can Bú" and you might be asking yourself, "Why was Lucas' father's first name 'yon' when that was their surname?". In China, it is tradition to carry your surname first, therefore someone like Yao Ming (姚明) isn't named Yao and surnamed Ming, if not the opposite! His surname 姚 (yao2) is carried first while 明 (ming2 - bright) comes second. In this case Yon Yin would mean that "Yin" was his father's first name and Yon was carried first in the Chinese tradition. This could also mean that "Can" was his mother's surname and "Bu" was his mother's given name from what he know about Chinese names.

Yet "Yon" and "Can" make me wonder what their characters would be. "Yon" to me seems like a warped version of "Yong" also spelled Yeong, or Young in romanized Latin. A quick search into Chinese surnames pulls up the surname "Yang" (惕) and as you can see there are various ways to pronounce or write the character with Latin letters. We don't know if Lucas' surname could be this in Chinese but it's definitely a possibility. In the variants list you can see "Yong" listed for Hakka, which as you know is found in Guangdong. It is possible that the "G" was dropped by Puerto Ricans, and a possible linguistic reason is that we Puerto Ricans take our final "N"s and add a "ng" sound to it, so while other Spanish speakers may say "pan" ours sounds slightly more like "pang". Therefore when they heard "yong" they interpreted "yon". Just a theory of course!

Yang ( [Wikipedia]

Now his mother's surname isn't as easy to crack I would say! In regular Mandarin romanized spelling, the "C" is used to mark a "TS" sound. So a word like (菜) meaning "dish" would be romanized to "cai4" though its actual pronunciation would be "tsai". I doubt they knew this in Puerto Rico at the time and so we can deduce that his mother's surname was pronounced "Kan" rather than "Tsan". Which now presents to us a problem, is the surname similar to "yon" having potentially dropped a "g" therefore leaving us with "kang" or is it still "kan". Both surnames can be found in Chinese, and looking at this table below we can see again a Hokkien and even Cantonese influence on the surnames.

Chinese Surnames [Wikipedia]

So the surname "Jiang" in Mandarin can be "Kan" in Hakka or even "Kan/Gan" in Cantonese. Or could the surname be "Kang"? There is also the possibility that his mother's surname was "Bu" as well which a quick search shows me the surname (武) pronounced "wu3" in Mandarin but "Bú" in the Min Nan dialect. 
Jiang (江)[Wikipedia]

It's hard to tell which surname it could be since we aren't sure how well in Puerto Rico they were sticking to the spellings. As we can see in my own case a surname such as "Lautin" in French was warped into various spellings such as "Lotten", "Loten", "Lotin", etc. all missing the subtle "lau" spelling in French. We can't be sure for any of their character uses in Chinese until we have stronger evidence. Lucas was already signing his name in Spanish so there is no way to know his characters based off his signature and nowhere are we given his Chinese name either. It is possible that he traveled over to Puerto Rico under his Chinese name but I have yet to find a manifest list that could be him.

Lucas Yon - signature [Ancestry]

As you can see tracing people out of Puerto Rico from non-Spanish backgrounds can be messy sometimes! Even with English surnames such as "Murphy" we see a change to "Morfi" on the island, so imagine a Chinese name based on a completely different script!

By 1930 we know that María Ortiz Acosta is widowed of Lucas Yon, yet I haven't been able to find his death record! Hopefully on there we would get more information into possibly his town of origin in China, though I do doubt it since his children might not have known. It has been interesting exploring this man's life and possible origins in China and hopefully this maybe some new information to a Lucas Yon descendant!

[UPDATE] After using his grandchildren's records to see when Lucas died I was able to bring it down to 1924-1928 in Cayey, after searching those years I was able to find his death record!

He was recorded as "Lucas Yon Bu", seventy years old, a native of Canton, China, divorced living on Calle José de Diego in Cayey, Puerto Rico. His cause of death is listed as "fiebre tifoidea" or Typhoid fever and he passed on the 3rd of June 1925. It mentions his parents as "Yon Yin" and "Can Bu", also natives of Canton, China and deceased by 1925.

As you can see it is possible that his mother was either "Can" (Kan" or "Bu", since his father is still listed as "Yon Yin" I would wager that "Can" is the surname but with Puerto Rican records you never know! At least we have his death record now, if only his grandparents were listed -- that would have been a treasure! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Searching el "Registro de la Propiedad"

While in Puerto Rico during my spring break, one of the main things I wanted to do was go to a Registo de la Propiedad. I had heard a lot about them and how they could provide certain information that census records and church records didn't. So I knew that this was a place I wanted to visit since according to census records various ancestors in my family had owned land. I mainly wanted to see if I could find land records for my Avilés family in Lares (equally searching for the Magraner side as well) and Benito Orozco and the land he owned in Yabucoa according to the census.

I'll go over my process of getting to the Registros and what I was able to find out about my family along the way!

Getting Started

First, I began by looking up all the information and jotting it down for the necessary ancestor. In particular I was searching for José Avilés and Benito Orozco, both illegitimate children so that was something to keep in mind. I jotted down what barrios they lived in, their birth and death records, and the list of their children. I did this because I wanted to make sure I had everything necessary readily available for when I went to do searching. Since I'm fairly young, I wanted them to see that I was serious about my searching as well.

I chose these two ancestors for a reason: since José Avilés and Benito Orozco are illegitimate children, I wanted to learn more about them. How did they acquire their land? Was it through their parent or through handwork? Would it mention a father's name or something new that I previously not known? With José Avilés I'm fairly certain his father is Damián Magraner as I had mentioned in other posts and thoroughly searched finding pretty good evidence. Benito on the other hand had no father mentioned on any of his records, we know that Benito used the surname "Santana" later in life, but we aren't sure who his father was.

Preliminary Checks

Before heading out I checked where exactly these records would be held. Since Puerto Rico has many municipalities, each are clumped together into bigger regions. This isn't only true for Registro de la Propiedad records but it's also true for church records as well. Lares for example falls under the "Utuado" Registro while Yabucoa falls under the "Humacao" Registro. If you don't know where each town may fall, like how I didn't, check out this link to the Departamento de Justicia or here to see where you would need to go.

After that I made sure to call each place beforehand, not only to make sure they would let me go and look for records but to see that they were actually open. Since my first week in Puerto Rico was during Semana Santa (Holy Week) I knew that some places would be closed and would have to go the second week. So make sure to check and call before heading over. My first call was to the Humacao register and the lady there was very nice explaining what I needed to do. She asked if I knew the numbers for the plots of each land (número de finca), and since I didn't she said I would have to search for my ancestor through the actual tomes of indexes. I didn't have a problem with that since I had done it a million times already for the church and civil registry books, and so I was ready for what was in store. She told me that even though the actual books are in their offices, the Registro de la Propiedad has moved online and so with the numbers I could search the online database for my ancestors. Calling Utuado was easy since I already had known what I needed and what I needed to do. Do not get deterred from going and searching!! From my understanding the records are available to be searched by the public, all you need to do is go in and search!

Also, before heading out make sure to map out where the place is. A lot of places in Puerto Rico don't necessarily match the GPS or can't be found. So even though the Registro wasn't showing up I would look at the nearby landmarks to see how to find them. That way when I was close enough because I had noticed the supermarket, gas station, etc. that I had seen on Google Maps, I would ask someone where I could find the register. In both cases I was just one turn and one street away from the location and people were nice enough to point me the right way. So don't feel nervous about getting lost either if you've done your work beforehand!


This was the bulk of my time at the registers, I was searching the gigantic books for mentions of my ancestors and trying to see if I could find some sort of mention of land being sold or bought by Benito Orozco, I searched under "O" and "S" for Orozco and Santana respectively in Humacao. In Humacao, I had found some cousins who had bought and sold land, cousins of Benito's children and grandchildren but I was unable to find a mention of Benito himself. I decided to ask the lady how this could be possible, I knew that my ancestor owned land but why wasn't he showing up? She responded that though many people owned land, some of it was bought, sold, and passed on to children without the registry being informed (before I think it was actually required). So even though Benito could have owned land, he could have left it to his children without leaving anything written with the Registro. This made sense, seeing as how I couldn't find my other ancestor Pedro Dávila Ruiz who also owned land in the south of Puerto Rico. It is also possible that I could have missed his name in the registry books but I have pretty good eyes when it comes to searching names, so I don't think I missed him. Though a bit bummed I was still looking forward to the registro in Utuado!

Registo de la Propiedad [Personal Photo]
Sección de Humacao [Personal Photo]

Next in Utuado I checked for José Avilés and any mention of Damián Magraner, though Damián owned land during the time of Spain's rule, I wanted to see if maybe there was a mention of him. When I arrived to the registro in Utuado I was told that I was welcome to search the indexes but that the internet was down and therefore I wouldn't be able to use the computers until they had the restored internet service. I thought this was a bit of an ironic situation seeing as how their walls are LINED with all the books that I would potentially need to check, all of the information online was readily available in person. But seeing as how all the documents were digitalized, they wanted people searching online and not in person -- bummer! So I got to work searching the books, in both cases I was luckily to have my grandmother with me who would initially scan over some books with me searching for names. Searching the indexes my heart jumped as I came across the name José Avilés Magraner -- my 2nd great grandfather! I jotted down the número de finca and all the information next to his name. I continued to search all the books just in case anything else came up, I was able to find two mentions of my 2nd great grandfather. Towards the end of my search I was bummed that the internet hadn't come back on but as I closed the last book, I heard the only other man there say "¡Llegó el Internet!" The internet was back! I was elated that I would actually get to search for José and his plot of land!

In Utuado! [Personal Photo]
Registro de la Propiedad - Sección Utuado [Personal Photo]

Some results

With the number at hand I got the lady to help me log on to their website (known as "Karibe") and I searched under Utuado to see if I could find José Avilés. Lo and behold the number took me to his record of land. Quick side note: The website is technically able to be used from home once you register yourself but I have yet gotten it to work, if someone has gotten in, let me know!

I was able to learn that my ancestor José Avilés Magraner purchased the land from a José Rodríguez Santiago married to Matilde Torres Vélez, both from Lares which means that José didn't receive land from his father but bought it himself. It doesn't seem that José Rodríguez and Matilde were neighbors with my ancestors and who knows if they knew this family somehow before purchasing their land. It seems that José bought that land for 760 dollars in 1924. Interestingly enough, the amount of land and when he purchased it coincides with the 1935 Agricultural Census! Also, José is mentioned as "Avilés Magraner" again on this record, helping further demonstrate that his father was indeed a Magraner.

I was also able to find the record for my ancestor leaving the land to his children! I somehow can't dig it up on my computer at the moment but the record mentions all of his children from his different marriages, where they were at the moment this was being written up, and how much land he gave each of them. My great grandmother had inherited land and when it was turn for my grandmother to get a piece she decided to sell her share since she wasn't interested in living in Lares and using that land. Though we don't currently own land ourselves there, many of our Avilés cousins still live and work the lands in Río Prieto, Lares. I was fortunately enough to visit the town of Lares but not the barrio of Río Prieto -- definitely next time around!


I'll make this brief! If you're interesting in searching for land records, make sure you have all the necessary information readily available, you call ahead of time to see if they are open, be ready to search index books for your ancestor(s), and have patience along the way. Even though I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, I was happy to find a mention of my ancestor nonetheless! Hopefully you'll be able to find something too! Happy searching!