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]