Thursday, August 4, 2016

Whisperings of the Past

So while researching through Puerto Rican records I came across something very interesting that I had never seen before and decided to post about it! While researching in the "Registro Central de Esclavos" of 1872 I came across a slave born in Africa who mentions her African parents' names! I'm not sure how often this happens but from the different experiences I've had searching in Puerto Rico, Martinique, and Guadeloupe this is the first time I have seen it. I imagine this has happened to others and I would love to see those stories! So today I'll talk about a woman named Julia Tirado and the whisperings of her African past.

By coincidence I ran into this woman's record and I can't remember how I came across her, I imagine I was searching for all "Julia" slaves in the registry and was surprised when I came across her record. Julia appears as the slave of a "Guillermo F. Tirado" and she is listed as a single laborer of 53 years of age. There are other things about her such as a description about her height, color, hair, eyes, nose, and mouth as well as where she was documented. Here is the record below!

Julia, slave of Guillermo Tirado [Ancestry]

Julia's physical descriptions [Ancestry]

If you notice, Julia was a slave living in barrio Indios, in the town of Guayanilla, a native of Africa, and the daughter of Osaré and Dango having one daughter named Cecilia also known as Celia. When I saw this I did a double take. Was an African slave just registered with the name of her African parents?!?!

Julia Tirado, African slave [Ancestry]

Now this shocked me for many reasons, one mainly being that we had some sort of connection to her past "across the pond". Though we don't know where Julia was from, probably somewhere in the range of Western Africa, we do know her parents' names… which to me was huge! This also surprised me because I had figured that the registry was made of slaves in which the slave masters had noted to the census takers… but could the slaves have had a say in who they were the sons/daughters of? Many slaves probably didn't remember the names of their parents because they were taken away at such a small age but Julia probably made the voyage over as a grown woman or at least a teenager and therefore knew very well the name of her parents. What could this information tell us?

First let's try to explore more about Julia's life in Puerto Rico! Julia was said to be 53 in 1872 meaning she was born about 1819 according to the registry. The registry states that thanks to the "Ley Moret approved on the 4th of June 1870, certain categories of slaves were freed such as the ones over the age of 60 or children of slaves born after the 17th of September 1868" (Ancestry). Therefore, Julia was already very close to receiving freedom but the following year in 1873 all slaves were freed in Puerto Rico. 

Since I don't have access to census records from Guayanilla in that time we can only use this registry and the civil registry to try and learn more about Julia. She would later pass away in the same town in the barrio of Magas on the 2nd of June 1887 from a fever, she was recorded to be from Africa and 90 years old. Interestingly here no parents are listed for her, I imagine after time the names were forgotten and not repeated. It seems that Julia was a laborer all her life while in Puerto Rico making a living tilling the land. We do also know that in 1872, Julia claims having a daughter named Cecilia and I was able to find a Cecilia, slave to the same man Guillermo Tirado, and the daughter of Eliceo and Julia. This Cecilia was 24 years old meaning she would have been born about 1848. 

Cecilia Tirado, Slave - 1872 [Ancestry]

If this Cecilia is the same girl, then we have another generation, a son named Ramón. I haven't been able to find a Ramón, slave of Guillermo Tirado but seeing as how he was possibly born after 1868 then he might fit under the Ley Moret and therefore was born with freedom. I was able to find a Cecilia dying in Magas, Guayanilla on the 8th of April 1821 at the age of 75, however no parents or grandparents are listed. Seeing though that this would place this Cecilia born about 1846 and being listed as "black (negra)" we can assume that they are one and the same. A 1910 census search shows a Cecilia Tirado, black, living as a boarder with a Yordán Dávila family in Guayanilla, she lists born parents as having being born in Africa. She lists having had 4 children though none were alive at the time of the 1910 census. 

Cecilia Tirado - 1910 Census [Ancestry]

I was interested if I could find out more about the names "Osaré" and "Dango", could we find any association to a tribe or country? There is one website that I found in my research called African-Origins which uses information from other sources to give life to liberated Africans and others. Could I find any mentions of others with similar names? 

African-Origins Website

I searched "Dango" to see what I could find, so I searched the name as well as "female" to see what results I would get. I surprised to see I did get various results! 

Dango results [African Origins]

Interestingly enough the first four hits show that those Dango women aged 21, 17, 9, and 20 respectively were on all separate voyages but all had one thing in common: all disembarked from Sierra Leone and in their geographical profile says that they belong to the language group "Kuranko". The Kuranko people are known to be an ethnic group from Sierra Leone and Guinea. I'm not sure if this could be a potentially point to Julia's origin but it's interesting to be able to make this hypothesis with the information available. 

Kuranko - Sierra Leone [Ancestry]

Now the father's name I'm not too sure, I want to say the name is Osaré but sometimes I think it might be Ocaré or Ocan, but based on what I can tell I'm leaning towards the former and not the latter options. Those results were a bit more varied than "Dango", I got various spellings of the name and I'm not sure that in Puerto Rico the name was spelled correctly since it was written with Spanish conventions, so I tried both Osare and Osaray. 

Osaré/Osaray results [African Origins]

The first result (Ocaray) gave me Igbo origins, while Osará gave me no language group connection. Other results such as Okaray and Ocaree point to Igbo origins as well. So I'm left with not really knowing where Julia's origins could be from, since the Igbo are mainly found in Nigeria which isn't a bordering country to Sierra Leone or Guinea. Though I can not point to a certain African origin, just even having the opportunity to be able to do this for someone is thrilling none the less. When many of us search our slave ancestors were are trapped in the New World with no names or evidence that might point us to any African origins. However having names of African parents gives us a different view into slave genealogy and research, I would say! 

As I was writing this post, I discovered two other slaves who also knew the name of their parents, both interestingly enough in Guayanilla and one even another slave of Guillermo Tirado which makes me wonder! Interestingly enough these two slaves were also in the 50s as well! What makes think about the relation these slaves had with their masters as well. So much to think about! 

Serafina, slave of Guillermo Tirado - 1872 [Ancestry]

Ramón, slave of Pedro Villoch - 1872 [Ancestry]

Combining traditional genealogy research and DNA research would definitely yield some interesting results when it comes to research slaves' past! 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! Hopefully this helps someone searching for their slave Puerto Rican ancestors.

    By the way I don't remember if I ever thanked you for helping me with my Pabellon slave record that you found. On the record it was spelled as Pavellon, which is why I never discovered it. Some how you caught it. It's been such a blessing to have those. It's opened up many more doors but also created so many more answered questions. But still, thank you a billion for helping me discover that.