Thursday, November 23, 2017

More Pieces... More of a Puzzle!

Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet my half-uncle (linked post!) who we discovered through 23andme. He and his family were visiting New York City and decided to stop by for the day to hang out with us. It was amazing getting to spend the day with new family and my uncle was able to meet two more of his siblings - meaning that he's meet 4 of his 8 siblings so far. One has passed so there are only 7 he can meet in total. With discovering our uncle and talks of the situation my grandmother was in, my family did some digging and came across a few letters she received back in the 1950s. I'm not sure how this person might be tied into our family and who this man may be, but hoping that this blog will bring me luck into finding out more about my grandmother's past!

Unearthing New Clues

Our family started digging around for old possessions of my grandmother and came across a few letters dating back to 1958. The reason these letters might be of importance to our new uncle's life is because these letters were written two years before his birth. These letters occur between my older uncle and my new uncle's birth, meaning it could potentially be one of their fathers. We're not sure of course without DNA evidence but for now it's only a theory.

Once I received the letters via text, I immediately realized something - this man was probably not Puerto Rican! And it wasn't the name that gave it away since I hadn't seen it at that point, but his spelling. I realized that his words in Spanish had mixtures of Portuguese and made common errors found amongst Portuguese speakers when translating into Spanish. So I was immediately intrigued as to who he was and what connection he had with my grandmother. I've transcribed the letters below and have placed them in chronological order for them to make the most sense. I haven't changed any spellings from the letters themselves. We also aren't sure how many are missing and where her written letters are as well, I imagine gone or in the possession on the other end! These letters will make 60 years next year!

Querida Carmen...

Letter #1: 

September 23, 1958 - New Bedford, Massachusetts 

Mi querida Carmen, 

Desejo de esta carta t'encuentre gozando salude junto a tu familia assim mismo como yo boy siempre bueno gracias a Dios. Bien Carmita estoy mucho alegre de recebir tu preciosa carta, que yo estoy loco tambien para encuentre contigo, talbies [tal vez] no seguinte semana boy tomar uno passeio para New York, quiere encontrar contigo para ablar contigo porque yo no puede explicar todas cosas por carta. Yo no boy olvidarte nunca porque yo amo te mucho Carmen. Bien recebi mi corazon cheio de amor e un beso com much recuerdo mi amorita. Ati encuentre querida. Tu Joao J. Graca

Letter #2:

September 30, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Mi mas querida Carmen, 

Desejo esta carta te encuentre gozando salude siempre junto a tu familias, que yo boy simpre bin gracia a Dios. Bien yo recebi tu carta que yo fico mucho alegre. Amosita por hora estoy em Philadelphia para embarcar, que yo estoy mas pierto [cerca] New York e mas pierto de tu, bien por caso que yo no embacar até esta fim de semana yo boy para New York. Carmen mi amor yo no puede esperar até cuando puede encontrar contigo quiere te mucho Amosi[ta]... missing words

Letter #3: 

October 7, 1958 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Querida Amosita Carmen, 

Com todo mi coraçon que estoy escrebite esta dos palabras [liemia?] para saber de ... Carmen que quire a Dios tencuentre de salude junto a tu nino e mas familias todas. Yo boy siempre bin graça a Dios. Yo recebi tu carta que yo fico siempre alegre porque yo no quiere que ti me olvidar. Bien mi Carmita ainda por tiempo estoy por ca esperando por trabajo por hora vive em un Hotel esperando para un barco, cuando yo boy para o [barco?]...   missing words

Letter 4: 

No date (probably 1958) - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Desejo que tu esta de mejor tu disse no carta passado que tu estaba enferma. Desejo que tu guta de America dice-me no outro carta se te guta de New York. Se yo ves Mario yo lo dise o que selodise. Bien Amosita te puede mi escribir para esta adress ma no estoy sierto se boy estar aqui, ate cuando boy em barco. Yo boy mandar te mi adress de certeza, bien esta adress 

Joao J. Graca
822 N. Broad St. 
N.M.V. Hall
Philadelphia, PA 

Bien recebi un abraso mucho pertado e um beso de tudo mi coraçon. Siempre para tu y siempre com amor. Joao J. Graca 

Hints and Theories

There are a few things that I can easily learn from these letters received by my grandmother:

  • By September 1958 my grandmother was somehow in New York. Not sure with who and under what conditions, but she apparently was here exchanging letters with Joao. From what I've heard she had an uncle who lived in New York around that time so she might have been with him! Joao was aware also of my grandmother's child who was born that same year, from stories I've heard I know my great grandmother did a lot to help out my grandmother with raising her first two children since she was young, so odds are he was in Puerto Rico with my great grandmother and not in New York with my grandmother. 
  • Joao and my grandmother seemed to have had a summer loving, quick fling kind and he was heads over heels for my grandmother... not sure if my grandmother felt the same way since these letters are only one side of the story. The question then becomes, how did they meet? In New York or Puerto Rico? There was also a lot to be discussed between the two since Joao mentions meeting in person and talking rather than over letters. Did they ever get to meet afterwards? 
  • Joao was probably stationed with the Marines in Philadelphia seeing as how he mentions "waiting for work on a boat". I'm not sure if New Bedford, Massachusetts is another stationed city or just a hometown? There's an actual address in Philadelphia to a "N.M.V. Hall" on 822 N. Broad Street. Doing some searches on Google and in some newspapers I couldn't find a mention of a N.M.V. but this little building seems to have hosted a music hall at one point. 

822 N. Broad a few years back [Google]

Circa 1910s, Philadelphia Conservatory of Music [Newspaper]

  • Joao was probably of Portuguese descendant. Based on the name and of the spellings of words in his Spanish such as coraçon > corazón, passado > pasado, graça > gracia, etc. His name Joao J. Graca should be spelled João J. Graça based off what I know of Portuguese. Based off of this information, I can think of three main places his family was from: Brazil, Portugal, or Cape Verde. I have heard of a big Lusophone population in Massachusetts, but now the question becomes, which is the right group? 
  • Who was Mario? My grandmother sent her greetings to someone named "Mario"? Was he a friend of Joao's? A brother or cousin? Where did my grandmother meet him? She must have known enough of him to send her regards in a letter. 
These new letters leave me probably with more questions than answers. Could Joao be alive today? Does he or his family remember Carmen and or have her letters as well from 1958? Could Joao be tied to my family via a son like my half-uncle? There is a lot to theorize and think about and so far the internet hasn't been too much of help. I've tried looking for "Joao J. Graca" both with the Portuguese and American spelling but I haven't come across much. Not knowing an age or place of origin means any and all Joaos can be an option. There are a few that seem promising, like one born in 1938 - just two years before my grandmother, but nothing is certain. 

Here's to hoping that someday more clues will begin to unravel to paint a clearer picture of my grandmother's life before I knew her as abuela

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Family Reunion… 57 years in the making!

I have been pretty quiet here lately since I have been away traveling around Europe (will post about that later) and especially now that I have started work, but I want to blog about something amazing that happened recently! Two weekends ago my dad got a chance to meet his half brother who was given up for adoption. So here's the story leading up to how this amazing reunion came to be… a family reunion 57 years in the making!


In May of 2016, I logged onto 23andme expecting nothing out of the ordinary on my accounts, but shortly realized that my father had a new member on his relative list… a half-brother. At first this was not too shocking since I grew up with a few half-uncles and half-aunts, but when I checked their haplogroups and realized that it was a maternal match and not a paternal match… I, and ultimately my family, was completely surprised. I knew my dad was 1 of 9 siblings and I grew up knowing about each of those siblings, but little did we know that my dad was actually 1 of 10! (the number is either 9 or 10 and I'll get into this debate in a bit which ties directly into this story).

Half-Brother Discovered [Personal Photo]

As you can see, directly after me the highest match my father has is his half-brother at 28.8% DNA shared across 58 segments. And a glance at their X-chromosome shows that they inherited a completely identical X from their mother through which they are related. Also, once I saw they both share the maternal haplogroup L2a1… I quickly knew that this match was through his mother as well.

Completely Identical X-Chromosome [Personal Photo]

When I broke the news to my dad he was a bit shocked. He knew of a half sister from his father's side and grew up with all of his maternal half-siblings… or so he thought. Our first reaction was to reach out to various family members. We called my grandfather, great-aunt, and a few uncles/aunts to see if anyone had any idea of an adoption in our family - specifically in regards to my grandmother. But to everyone's surprise, no one had known that my grandmother had had another child who would end up adopted. Because of the American name, I figured that this sibling was probably born in the USA and left for adoption there. We started to chronologically go through my grandmother's life listing major events and other children's birth years and I remembered hearing from my great-aunt that my grandmother had spent part of the 1950-1960s living in Florida working for a doctor as live-in help there. Could this half-uncle of mine be from Florida himself?

Sharing Maternal Haplogroups [Personal Photo]

I debated whether I should reach out first or give him some time to process this information and wait for his message. But then doubt set in, what if he never logs in again? What if he's not sure how to find/use relative finder? So I bit the bullet and sent him a message. The next day... I had a response! 

Getting to know Charles

As I had suspected, my new half-uncle had been born in 1960 and raised in Florida, which fits the narrative of my grandmother's time there. Though both parties were initially shocked, we chatted back and forth a bit sharing information and pictures of his mother, grandparents, and new half-siblings. We added each other on Facebook and knew we would try to remain in contact. As time passed, my family and I kept trying to dig in more into this unusual and unspoken adoption. 

The reason I say unusual is become Charles was neither the first born nor the last born of the bunch, Charles would be child 3 of 10 and my grandmother would go on to raise all of the children (we thought) she had given birth to. As our family kept thinking and coming up with new ideas, a story I had heard various times through my genealogy searches crept back into my head. 

My dad always told a story that my grandmother had lost a child right after childbirth. This child, a boy, was born alive and my grandmother held him on her chest. The nurses took him off to be cleaned up and that was the last my grandmother saw of him… he apparently had been declared dead shortly after. Hearing this story, I always figured that my dad was 1 of 9 (8 who made it to adulthood, and one who had died in infancy). I had searched for the records of the Civil Registry of Puerto Rico searching for a children born in the 1960-1970s to a Carmen María Vélez Avilés in San Juan, Puerto Rico but nothing was found. And then I began to wonder… could this "deceased child" be the same child who was given up for adoption? What's interesting is that after meeting Charles, he told us that he had been adopted shortly after his birth and that his mother who raised him was told that his bio-mom (my grandmother) had died giving birth to Charles. So as you can see... there is a lot of mystery surrounding this event in my grandmother's life. 

As my trip in Europe came to close, my mother wrote to me and told me that they were on vacation in Florida and my father wanted to meet his half-brother. I messaged back and forth between my parents and Charles and set on a date - Sunday at 2pm! I was excited and a bit jealous that I wasn't there myself to meet this new family member, but happy nonetheless that my family was reuniting with a piece we had no idea was missing. 

A family reunites 

The day of the meeting, my mom and I were in constant contact. Tu padre está nervioso… your dad's nervous she wrote. They were 30 minutes away and both my dad and his brother had texted each other that morning both excited and nervous of what was to come. A little past 2pm I got a FaceTime call from my mother… and on the other end was my newly acquired family members: a new uncle, aunt, and cousins! We chatted a bit and I was happy to see everything was going well - a genealogist's dream come true! 

Really it's thanks to 23andme that my father was able to meet his half brother, and thanks to my parents for testing which helped me with my genealogical journey. Though we had tested years ago (I initially testing around 2009-2010), you never know what your results will show and who they can help out as well throughout time! I am definitely happy that I was able to reunite my father to his brother via DNA!

Here are some pictures of their meeting. I am happy to say my parents got another chance to meet up with my uncle and his family before they left Florida. We are excited to see where our relationship goes next, whether meeting again in New York or hopefully having a chance to head to Puerto Rico for Charles to meet his other siblings and see places connected to his maternal heritage.

PS - Though our families were able to meet, there is still a lot to question about my grandmother's life. We have no idea what conditions or situation my grandmother was under to give up a child for adoption (whether on purpose or forcefully). However, we do know that my grandmother was a young single mother and only had her own mother at home and two siblings, seeing as how her father had died early on in her life. We aren't sure who Charles' father is and we are hoping that with DNA we will be able to find out about more his paternal side of the family and piece together more about this story. We can neither condemn nor forgive those of the past for the decisions they have had to make, especially when we are not in their shoes. Nonetheless, we are happy that though initially separated our families have been able to reunite through the power of DNA!

Brothers José and Charles reunited! [Personal Photo]

My parents and aunt meet their brother and his family [Personal Photo]

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Those Places Thursday – Salinas, Puerto Rico

Finally a prompt I can use on the actual day! This post is similar to Tuesday's prompt so I want to focus on a specific town I visited back in March 2015. One of the main towns I wanted to visit while I was in Puerto Rico was Salinas in the southern region of Puerto Rico. I mainly wanted to visit Salinas because my great grandfather Manuel Correa Rivera was from this town – who was a very hard line to crack! This was also the town my 4th great grandparents Jean Charles Gustave and Julienne Malvina Lautin settled in after reaching Puerto Rico through Vieques and traveling down the eastern coast. So I knew this town meant a lot to my family history and I wanted to set foot here.

My first stop in Salinas was the church which was located downtown. I stopped by to see the church where many of my ancestors had married and were baptized. While there, I started talking randomly to some people who were there setting up for an outside mass. The man had keys to the church so let me in to see this inside which was nice of him. He gave me a quick little tour giving me some information about the church and the parts that were recently renovated. I appreciated the fact that he took the time to give me this little tour though he had something else to do – Puerto Rican hospitality at its best!

Iglesia de Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]

Inside the church [Personal Photo]

Cuna del Mojo Isleño - Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]
My next stop was heading towards Playita or Playa, the area of Salinas I knew my family had last lived in. I knew distant family had owned a restaurant there named "Ladi's Place", so I headed there with the help of GPS to see if family still lived nearby. We parked the car and headed towards the water to get a view. It was amazing to see how close to the shore things were in this area of Salinas. Literally the ocean was the backyard to many families here!

As I stopped to take pictures we were approached by a woman selling lottery tickets. My grandmother decided to buy one and this is where my genealogical trip took a turn for the best! 

The ocean and mangroves [Personal Photo]

As my grandmother bought the ticket I worked up the courage to ask her if she knew of any "Correa" families living in the area. She stated that she herself was a Correa (from Río Jueyes… which is another area my family is from though she didn't want to engage me on her family history) and she pointed across the street and said that the man there was a Correa himself. I was excited because he was probably a cousin as well! We knocked on his door and he came out to speak to us – turns out he WAS a cousin! I think I scared him though when I started rattling off names and relations to his family and mine. He said that if I wanted to learn more, there was a cousin who would know more information about the family and that she was another cousin who lived down the street and was 100 years old. 

100, I thought?! I asked him for her name and was surprised when he said the name, as I already had her on my family tree with the help of census records! We walked over and knocked and luckily she was there! We were let in and we chatted about our family's connections, she showed us pictures, and talked about our family's origin in Salinas. Apparently our family had been one of the first families to arrive in Playa, Salinas, Puerto Rico and helped to settled the area. They had come from Coamo before that which was nice to hear because it is true on paper trail as well! She told me stories of how her father was referred to as "Monsieur" because of his mother's Martinican & Guadelupean mix; her father and my 2nd great grandfather were brothers! 

Salinas, Puerto Rico [Personal Photo]

I was amazed to have met this family and yet kicking myself in the butt for not having a DNA kit with me at the time to see if she was willing to test!! Pro-Tip: Have at least one DNA kit with you as you travel just in case you meet distant family members willing to test! I'm hoping she's still alive and that I can write to them and send a letter over explaining my interest in getting her tested! I imagine her African percentages are higher than most Puerto Ricans seeing as how she is a descendant of slaves on various lines and fairly recently as well. Fingers-crossed she's alive and able/willing to do it! 

My family in Salinas were mainly fishermen and sugarcane workers while they lived there. This statue below is dedicated to those fishermen in Salinas who day-in and day-out worked in the waters to provide for their families. I'm glad I was able to take a picture of his statue while there. Here's to returning to Puerto Rico soon and returning to Salinas!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Travel Tuesday - Lares, Puerto Rico

Late again on this Travel Tuesday and pretty late seeing as how I took this trip last March but I wanted to highlight my quick trip to Lares, Puerto Rico.

Last year in March 2016, for Spring Break, I took a trip to Puerto Rico where I spent time with my grandmother both searching records across the island and visiting various towns where my ancestors had lived. Though my maternal grandmother's family is not from this town she was more than happy to join me on this journey. The drive to Lares was a little over 1 1/2 hours which isn't too bad though most on the island might feel differently since travel is so subjective especially on such a small island.

Drive from San Juan to Lares, Puerto Rico [Google Maps]

Growing up I had heard a lot about Lares, it was the town of my grandmother's mother Rosalia Avilés González who I had the luck of meeting very young in Lares, though I didn't remember much about the trip except her face and taking pictures with her. This is also the town of José Avilés Magraner, one of my ancestors whose story started this genealogy journey. He was the ancestor who was said to be the product of a Spanish man and an indigenous woman, and 13 years on this journey has brought me to understand that his father was actually a Spanish man though his mother was most definitely a mix of typical Puerto Rican genes and not just a Taíno woman as family lore told. 

So needless to say, I was very excited about visiting Lares. 

My Journey to Lares

My Great Grandmother - Rosa Avilés [Personal Photo]

My journey to Lares started not from San Juan but actually in Utuado, since I was there searching for land records for Lares, I actually had to go to Utuado where the records where physically held. Luckily, I was able to find information about Jose's land in Lares and who it went to once he died. I spent most of the day in Utuado searching and then headed over to Lares for a quick stint and sadly didn't have enough time to go to Río Prieto where my distant family lives. Since it was late we didn't want to get caught climbing the various mountainous roads and hills in the dark especially since I wasn't an experienced driver on the roads of Puerto Rico. Most of the things on my trip were easy to find with the help of GPS, though I was told Río Prieto was a whole another beast to handle.

Center Plaza of Lares [Personal Photo]

Most of our time was spent downtown in Lares' center since we didn't want to venture too far off. We walked around the plaza named after El Grito de Lares also known as the Lares Revolt or Uprising which began in September of 1868. In the plaza you can see Lares' main catholic church, the one many of my ancestors were probably baptized and married at. 

Parroquia San José [Personal Photo]

Lares' flag is very synonymous with the Grito de Lares and is very proudly displayed in many parts of the town. We ended up going to one of the heladerías near the main square since the main heladería that was popular for selling interesting flavors was shut down. We got some ice-cream and then walked around the little shops checking out souvenirs. I ended up buying a Lares flag and after chatting with the cashier, we found out that the lady who worked in the shop with her sister actually lived very close to where my grandmother lived in San Juan. 

Bandera de Lares [Puerto Rico]

Steep streets of Lares [Personal Photo]

After that we got in the car and headed back towards San Juan since we didn't want to be out too late and we had already spent most of the day sitting in an office checking old records. It was nice seeing the main part of Lares and my goal next time is to make it up to Río Prieto. We still have family members who live there and own land and they hold various events throughout the year, some around the Christmas/Three Kings' Day celebrations which I would love to be able to attend and actually get to meet many of them. 

It's definitely a town that our family goes back to constantly throughout the year and I'm always a bit jealous when I see my cousins or aunts/uncles head that way but here's to hopefully that I'll be able to join them sooner rather than later. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Puerto Rican Look at: Genetic Communities

Now that I'm on summer vacation I hope I can get some more posts out -- especially since I'll be traveling and doing some research as well! I want to dedicate this post to the Genetic Communities aspect of AncestryDNA that was recently released.

This new feature of AncestryDNA is currently listed as "beta" meaning there are some kinks that will probably still be worked out. Though for me it does give me a generally accurate genetic community, I've noticed that it's not available to all - for example: a co-workers Panamanian husband does not currently have a genetic community listed for him.

Currently, I am listed as a part of 1 genetic community - let's take a look at what that means!

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities [Personal Photo]

What are Genetic Communities?
AncestryDNA describes Genetic Communities as the following: 

Genetic Communities [AncestryDNA]

When you click on your genetic community it takes you to your Genetic Ancestry page and now on the left corner towards the bottom you can see your genetic community. I was expecting my community to be something along the lines of Caribbean/Hispanic/Latino/etc. but it actually gets most in-depth than that. 

"Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico"

It was able to group with "Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico". 

"Puerto Ricans in Northwest Puerto Rico" Community [Personal Photo]

Genetic Community Grouping [Personal Photo]

I'm kind of torn with this grouping for various reasons. Something that's really cool about this grouping is that it gives you an overall history of the genetic community, and if you were raised outside that community it's a cool way of getting an overview of where your ancestors are from. For me, having done genealogy now for 13 years I can safely say that most of my family is spread ALL over the island and not just the west. Both of my parent's sides come from various towns across the islands, for example: my Rivera side has lived in in Toa Alta (more towards the East) for over 300 years and my maternal Correa side has traveled from San Juan to Coamo and finally to Salinas over the same time period. However, other sides do come from Lares, Adjuntas, Utuado (central), and some from San Sebastián, Mayagüez, Quebradillas (more western towns). However, shouldn't I belong to both West and East Genetic Communities? 

You are able to see all the other genetic communities they currently have listed in AncestryDNA. If you head into the South & Central American cluster you can find a Caribbean cluster that list three regions: 1) "African Caribbean", 2) "Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans", and 3) "Puerto Ricans". 

All Genetic Communities [Personal Photo]

Caribbean Regions [Personal Photo]

As you can see under "Puerto Ricans" there are 3 Genetic Communities, though when I click on it I'm led straight to my community rather than the various others. I'm not sure if there are other actual regions to Puerto Rico, especially since it's such a small island. I can't see my DNA cousins' Genetic communities so I can't investigate from there as well. 

Final Thoughts

Nonetheless, it's super interesting to see how AncestryDNA is developing this new area of DNA/Genetic genealogy. I'm guessing that this feature will continue to grow from the better and will ultimately be able to point more granular regions (maybe harder for places like Puerto Rico vs. countries like Spain, though). I wonder if my parents or other family members would have different regions show up. For example, I have Martinican and Guadeloupean ancestry… will that pop up for other cousins? 

Excited to see where this will take us genealogists in the future! 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Puerto Rico Catholic Church Records - Uploaded!

So the day has finally come where FamilySearch has uploaded more of the church records for Puerto Rico!! I am super excited because this means that I can now search these records from home instead of having to order the microfilm, go into the city, and reserve a computer to see the records. Though it isn't that bad, it's still very time consuming and sometimes it's super difficult to get into the city and go at the times they are open. So how do I find these records, you ask?

If you enter into the typical "Catholic Church Records" you'll notice that the number is still at 191, 547 images which is the number it has always been but there is another way to find the record. I imagine one day these new files will be uploaded or attached to this tab but for now you will have to go another way.

FamilySearch Catalogs section [FamilySearch]

In order to find these records you have to enter the "Catalog" tab on the FamilySearch website. From there, you will find on the left hand corner the "place" tab. If you enter a town for example like "Yabucoa" you will notice there will be two mentions. One is "Puerto Rico, Yabucoa" and the other is "Puerto Rico, Yabucoa, Yabucoa". The former is the link to the Puerto Rican Civil Registry while the latter is the link to the Puerto Rican Catholic Church records. When you click on the second one you will be taken to another page. Notice that not all churches will appear for all towns in Puerto Rico, there are some towns that refused to be microfilmed which fell under the decision of the Archdiocese of that section. So towns like San Sebastián, Mayagüez, Añasco, Quebradillas, etc. will not appear here because the LDS church was not allowed to microfilm their church records.

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico Catholic Church records [FamilySearch]

Once you have clicked on the Catholic Church tab you will be taken to the different records available for that church and town. Notice here that there are various records for Yabucoa such as nacimientos (births), matrimonios (marriages), and defunciones (deaths). On the right hand side you will see a column called "format" and various camera icons. The camera means that the records are available for searching online. Once you click on the camera you will be taken to the regular search pages of FamilySearch, for example below you will see what pops up: 

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico Catholic Church records [FamilySearch]

Many of the churches around this time do not have indexes for the records and the conditions really vary as well as other variables like handwriting, page/name visibility, etc. Some churches are much easier to peruse while others will take some time figuring out. For example, Yauco's records are very clear to read for the most part, but other churches have damaged pages which makes reading a huge issue. 

This part of the search will be the longest since you will have to search most pages one by one for the ancestor you are looking for. It is good to have year estimates for the ancestor you have in mind or even "windows" of time for hen that person was born, married, or died. So far I have been able to find a few marriage records for ancestors in Maunabo as well as some baptism records in Yauco for other ancestors. These records have taken these branches back to the 1700s on my family tree which is pretty awesome! 

Good luck to all of those interested in searching! 
Happy Hunting [Google]

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Puerto Rican Look at: DNA Circles

DNA Circles [Ancestry]

Fairly recently (in the genealogical world), has been working on a DNA matching portion of their website called "DNA Circles". I've been waiting to write a post about DNA Circles until I got my first match, and very recently this occurred (this post has been sitting in "drafts" for a while now haha). Here is the definition of how DNA circles works below straight from Ancestry:

DNA Circles Description [Ancestry]

Initially I wasn't in any DNA Circle and that is mainly due to the fact that my tree had been set to private and couldn't be connected to anyone. I am very, very hesitant about setting my full tree to public because of people creating false connections and just taking entire branches off your tree and transplanting it onto theirs, so I decided to create a simpler public tree for DNA circles.

DNA Circles is supposed to find connections to other members who have tested and create a place where you can connect with these matches, see how you match them, and hopefully extend your family trees. AncestryDNA has been hard to manage as a Puerto Rican for various reasons, the main one being that it constantly creates false connections to people and I do not necessarily understand why. Under my "hints" tab, I rarely match anyone correctly. For example, one hint says I have a cousin matching my 3rd great grandmother Antonia González Padilla but it's connected to their ancestor who's last names were "Nieves González". I'm guessing the system is confused by the use of two last names and doesn't know how to properly connect cousins.

So my one circle is to "Estebania Rivera Rodríguez" but as you can see the connection is labeled as weak and there were 831 - now 952 - connections listed.

DNA Circles - Estebania Rivera Rodríguez [Personal Photo]

Entering my DNA circle, more information is given about what this Beta program does:

DNA Circles - Estebania Rivera Rodríguez [Personal Photo]

Within the circle, you can see a relationship lists of those who are believed to be attached to Estebania Rivera Rodríguez. The "strongest" match listed has a public tree but when you check out how we are connect, it doesn't really add up.

DNA Circle Match [Personal Photo]

Notice how my tree goes up from my 2nd great grandmother Ramona Rivera Rivera to my 3rd great grandmother Estebania Rivera Rodríguez and on the other tree it ends with an unknown González. It is very likely that I share with this cousin DNA but I'm not quite sure that it's through Estebania especially when you compare it down the line and the other descendants.

Ironically I DO match with others through paper trail and have figured out where they match me through my family tree but no DNA circles have populated for them. Some of their trees have been set to private while it also might not have enough "connections" for the DNA circle to be created.

Nonetheless, I am excited for the day that I can get a DNA circle and have it match correctly to my DNA cousin and use it for further my genealogical research. Until then, I patiently wait and continue to try and match and confirm through paper trail. :) 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Guadeloupeans in Puerto Rico

After having found out that my 4th great-grandfather from Guadeloupe, I was interested in seeing who else came to Puerto Rico from that island. Maybe there were other people from the same town or (smaller) island as my 4th great grandfather. I was also interested in seeing how surnames changed once they came to Puerto Rico and seeing if there was a way to track the immigrants via records and ship manifests. I was able to track a good number of people in Puerto Rico and I imagine there are many more who can be traced with some more leg work. So here I want to talk about some Guadeloupeans in Puerto Rico and just open up that conversation especially for those interested in finding out how to establish connections with their ancestors back to Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe [Google]

Many of the people I traced back to Guadeloupe was easily down back of ship manifests showing their town or city of origin on their native Guadeloupe. Without that the search can be quiet difficult, like how it was finding my 4th great-grandfather and this can be for various reasons. Guadeloupe is quiet a big island, similarly set up to Puerto Rico, in the sense that there are various towns and even other smaller islands that make up part of the whole of "Guadeloupe". Taking that into consideration and the fact that many surnames were changed, it can take quiet a while to trace someone to their original town.

To start the search, I began creating Excel sheet with the names, dates, and any information available in the Puerto Rican records. With that information I could see where I could head my search. Some death or marriage records of the Guadeloupeans provided information and even birth records of children, though mainly their ship manifests recorded their origins. Guadeloupeans and even Martinicans who appear in Puerto Rico mostly before 1910 are sometimes hard to trace because those ship manifests from that time for Puerto Rico aren't online. 

It's interesting seeing how many people from the island married others who immigrated from Guadeloupe and even though who came from Martinique, which is the same case with my 4th great-grandparents. So far I found one woman marrying a Spaniard in Puerto Rico, her name was Emilia Duteil and I will focus on how I found out more information about her. 

Emilia Duteil first appears on the 1910 Census living in Vieques, Puerto Rico, widowed and says that 6 children were born but 0 are alive at the time of the census. It says her birthplace is Guadeloupe while her parents are listed as "France", and says that Emilia immigrated in 1870. Interestingly enough the it says she is white which I haven't seen too many of since many are mixed, mulatto, or black. Emilia was living in the 1910 census with two "criadas" one being a servant and the other a cook, Leocadia was listed as mulatto while Ana Colberg who was also from Guadeloupe was listed as "N" for negra. 

1910 Census [Ancestry]

Emilia would die in Santurce, living in Miramar on the 29th of April 1918. Here was listed as Emilia Duteil Rosseaux, widowed of Juan Lujan and the daughter of Juan A. Duteil and Adela Rousseaux. The person who came forward to report her death was Salvador Giuliani, listed as sobrino or nephew of the deceased.

Emilia Duteil Rousseaux - Death [Ancestry]

It seems that Emilia wasn't the only one from her family to make it to Puerto Rico. There is a Rose Alsina Duteil Rousseaux who passed away in Vieques, Puerto Rico in 1909 also the daughter of Juan Duteil and Adela, most likely her sister. Both are said to be from Point-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe where I will need to search for a birth record -- which I haven't found yet. This can be because the years listed as their birth years are incorrect and so I have to expand my search to other years. Also, their town of origin can be listed incorrectly and isn't where they were born if not where they last lived before coming to Puerto Rico.

But this is for the most part the process - using documents to trace backwards their origin. Sometimes some cases are easier than others. Coming from a white béké family can help make the search easier while those were mulatto or black might come from families that were previously slaves and so the search can be harder depending on when they were released and how far into Guadeloupe their time as slaves goes. Also those who didn't know how to spell their name ended up received warped Spanish-ifed names which makes the surname harder. I noticed that more Martinicans received small name changes while though from Guadeloupe necessarily didn't.  In the meantime I'll keep collecting information about those who came from Martinique and Guadeloupe to Puerto Rico and trying to piece together the information. 

If you need help searching or have any of these surnames in your family, give me a shout and I don't mind sharing the information I have! These are the surnames I have for Guadeloupe, I'll probably create another post but dealing with those that came from Martinique. 

Guadeloupe: Ballet, Baptiste, Benjamin, Cognet, Duteil, Harris, Guiougou, Lastor, Manceau, Saint-Paul

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Puerto Rican Look at: 23andMe's Ancestry Timeline

So it's been a while since I've posted and it's already 2017! As the new school year kicked off I saw myself being less and less able to write on the blog, despite having some new blog ideas! So finally I'm back and hopefully I'll continue to post throughout the year evenly and not in chunks. The reason I want to post today is because there is a new feature on 23andme and I'm excited to see how this feature can help discover or clarify more about my past. The feature is called "Ancestry Timeline" and I want to take a look at how this feature works through the lens of a Puerto Rican -- myself and my family! As a reminder, how is what my genetic breakdown looks like:

23andme results [personal photo]

I'm not sure exactly when the Ancestry Timeline feature was released but one of my genetic cousins posted her results on Facebook and so I had to go in and check mine! Here's what it looks like for me:

Ancestry Timeline [personal photo]

There you can see a couple of things you can see. First you can see colored bars which represent various different populations used to test against your DNA. Next on the top you can see various numbers and years, these represent approximately when that ancestor would have been alive in your family tree. There are, however, a few things to take into consideration, of course. Reading their white paper I was able to see a few things I should look out for as I consider these results. 

Translating Generations [23andme]

Not everyone's family follows the same trend of generation years, though the average is 30 and it is usually held that way just to estimate generations it can vary in your family. For example, I have fairly young parents and grandparents but before that it varies. My oldest great-grandparent was born in 1884 while my youngest great-grandparent was born in 1923 - a whole 39 years between them! Just remember that as you look at your own timeline. 

Violations of the "one genealogical ancestor" assumption [23andme]

In my case, I am sure that there are multiple ancestors that carry for example African genes, so I wouldn't be able to know exactly where and when this ancestor would have been alive in my timeline. Besides an 100% ancestor, who would be one of my 4th great grandparents, it is hard to know which of the segments combined or didn't to give me my 15.7% African DNA. 

Nonetheless, the results are very interesting and I think there is some truth to the timeline. Also, it would be interesting to compare my results to my parents' as well. It's interesting that my "Iberian" bar shows up between 1900-1840 while my parents and other tested family members have it at about 1860-1800. Initially I thought it was representing my 3rd great grandfather who lived around 1846-1910 and was from Mallorca, but shouldn't it appear for my father and great-aunt in the same spot since we share that common bar so recently? Equally interesting is my West African bar which appears between 1840-1750 and it states that "you most likely had a third great-grandparent, four great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, or sixth great-grandparent who was 100% West African". This does coincide with my 4th great-grandmother who was born in 1844 and was the daughter of two slaves in Martinique. But it's also important to notice that there are more ancestors in my tree somewhere that contribute to that West African bar. Bars like "Chinese" and "South Asian" represent only <0.1% of my DNA and I'm guessing that's just noise so I'm surprised that such a small percentage would show up here. 

It'll be interesting to see how other people can use this to find out certain information about themselves. For us new world people, it's interesting to see where time wise they place these bars and I would like to see how accurate or close to accurate they are for others. For me, I've seen some coincidences and based on what I know about my family they seem to correlate with the information. Excited to see where this heads!