When in doubt, switch sides

That’s my new motto for doing family history research. If I don’t succeed on one side, I’ll just hop over to my other parent’s line and see what’s up.

For now, I’m still stuck on my paternal great-grandfather Braulio, not knowing which family he really came from. Researching different possible mothers until the dots connect somewhere.

So while Braulio is on “spring break,” I’ve decided to switch gears to my mom’s musician grandfather, Froilán, who supposedly was shot while playing in a night club.

Shot – or not?
On looking more closely – well, at first blush anyway – it appears he may have survived that gunshot. He shows up in the 1920 Census a state away, in New Mexico – married, but with no spouse or family (both of which he actually had – in Texas).

Did he get run out of town? Was he on the lam for some reason?

If he did survive, he fared better than his marriage did, because that didn’t survive at all.

1920 census screen capture - Froilan Garcia family

1920 Census showing my great-grandfather, Froilan (28), my great-grandmother, Reyes (25) and my grandfather, Jesus (Jesse – 7 years old). After this record, this family seems to fall apart fast.

Lend me some sugar — I am your neighbor!
So, what happened to his wife (my great-grandmother)? Turns out in 1912 she remarried someone who, according to the 1910 Census, had lived just a few doors down.

And the neighbor, Jose Maria Salinas  - who also becomes my great-grandma's husband in 1912.

And the neighbor, Jose Maria Salinas (the “brother in this record) – who eventually married my great-grandma in 1912. He’s single and 30. Whattya think – spells trouble? By the way, no record so far of a shooting. Waaah, waah, waaah…

Sounds like a love triangle to me, if the lore is also true that my great-grandmother married either the shooter or his relative.

All I know is that, my grandpa was orphaned very young because, just six years later, his mother Reyes died from typhoid fever.

Funny, I have so much documentation for this side of my family, I thought their recent history was pretty cut-and-dry. But what happened to my grandfather’s natural father is a fairly big mystery at the moment.

Note to self: Don’t expect closure from following an alternate trail just because you couldn’t get closure from another. Much like an unfinished quilt, these loose ends could paint an incomplete picture for some time to come.

Sigh.

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How [Irish] [Mexican] [Fill In Ethnicity] are you?

DNA helix under spotlight against red background

Photo by Svilen Milev at sxc.hu

I *could* have signed up for a DNA Kit from Ancestry.com at their $99 rate , but I really didn’t want to spend that much. It’s just that, the more I feel like I’m not from a Cabello bloodline, the more I wonder, Where the hell did we come from?

So when I saw a discounted rate on the kit in honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I told my hubs: “Hey, let’s find out how Irish I am!”

To which he responded: “Why don’t you just wait till Cinco de Mayo and find out how Mexican you are?”

Touché.

Waiting: How long is long enough?

If there’s one thing I’m learning from researching my family’s history, it’s that waiting for the right thing is worth it.

Looking for my great-grandfather Braulio isn’t the only thing I’m waiting for in my life, but it is symbolic of other things that have been on hold for awhile. Patience isn’t one of my stronger suits, so this lesson is as invaluable as it is counterintuitive to me.

I have decided I need to trust, somewhat blindly but mostly with faith, that the wait will be worth it. And with my luck, that’s when Braulio will show up.

Stuck – for now

stuck

Photo by halocyn

Check?

I’m in a near headlock over my great-grandfather. While we’ve known for 20+ years that he might have come to our family from another, it wasn’t until recently that I started to get warmer on which family that might be.

Until my lead went dead-cold.

Well, not 100% cold. Just a bit sideways on some important stuff. The info I found meant that my great-grandpa necessarily:

  • Was 12-15 years younger than all records found to date show;
  • (Ok, probably) Lied about his age to marry a 17-year-old (if my now-cold lead was right, he’d have been 35 on his wedding day, even though his marriage record says he was 20);
  • Somehow was transported from Mexico’s interior (almost from Mexico City) to the northeast state of Coahuila, near Texas, within 8 days of his birth.

Then, last night, I realized that, if his death certificate is correct, he also would have been 104 years old when he died (1950). Most people weren’t living that long back then.

So I started over today on the search of his birth/christening records. Lo and behold, I found this:

I think I've found my great-grandfather Braulio - or have I?

UPDATE Dec 2015: This is the name of a female. Braulia gets ruled out. //  This christening record looks like a closer match of my great-grandfather. At left is the name of the baby being baptized; names circled at right are the parents. But are they my relatives? I have not a clue. Nada. Source: Mexico, Coahuila, Catholic Church Records 1627-1978; FamilySearch.org

It matches, almost to the day, nearly every birthdate reference I have seen for my great-grandfather to-date. Without the proper documentation, I’d been unable to validate it.

The only thing is, this Braulio was born to another family entirely. I haven’t delved further, but so far it doesn’t appear to be extended family. Maybe I’ll learn otherwise soon.

All I can say is, this puzzle piece fits better than the last. I think that’s good…right?

So maybe it’s “check” for the moment, but I’m too stubborn and persistent to ever let it get to “check-mate.”

Happy 97th, Desi Arnaz!

hb-desi-arnaz

I loved growing up with this man on my television. Little did I know how much his musical influence would become a fixture in my life. All the happier for it.

You can do better

I’m really happy there is finally some representation of ethnic families with sitcoms like ABC’s “Blackish” and “Cristela.” Most weeks Blackish makes me laugh until I cry. Culturally, though, I relate most to Cristela.

While I don’t find Cristela’s mom’s character entirely believable as a first-generation American, I can appreciate the lessons she teaches.

Tonight’s episode especially hit home with me.

natalia

ABC’s Cristela’s mom Natalia (Terri Hoyos) defends a difficult parenting decision. (Source: Cristela FB page)

In this episode, Cristela’s mom, Natalia, reveals she had not entered Cristela, now a 20- or 30-something legal intern, into the gifted and talented program when she was a little girl because “people like us” didn’t belong in “fancy programs” like that. Basically, they would have been aiming too high, beyond their social status.

Cristela’s character eventually comes to appreciate her mother’s decision, made out of the desire to protect her. Natalia was, after all, a single mom doing the best she could for her young family.

This struggle triggered something in me I totally didn’t expect – a belated appreciation for my mom’s determination to ensure my best possible future.

It actually set off my tear ducts.

[Cue high school memory scene.]

One time, in high school, I came home with less-than-perfect grades – mostly As, with a couple of A- and a B+. I was so excited to show my mom! She would be so proud.

“You can do better.” That was her response.

What??? I can do what??? You mean, that wasn’t good enough?

I carried this disbelief, the shock and the sense that I’d disappointed my mom for – well, let’s just say it went on far too long.

What I didn’t realize then that I realize now – and, truly, especially after watching Cristela tonight – was that my mom was pushing me to aim higher.

Nothing at all wrong with protecting one’s kids from ridicule and humiliation. My mom, however, was willing to take that risk – taking me with her – of not being accepted for being different (which, by this age, I was pretty good at).

As someone who had to leave school at 12 to work and support her family, she knew working harder would grow both my character and my capacity. She knew I could do better.

My mom has never done anything less than teach me to be strong, have faith and, in the face of difficulty, get back up and dust myself off.

As we approach in a few weeks what would have been my parents’ 60th anniversary, I can’t help but be grateful for her strength and endurance since losing my dad nearly 30 years ago.

She remains my best girlfriend and biggest cheerleader. Even today, the way she lives her life is a reminder that we can always do better. So I will.

A new book, a new secret decoder pen

Today felt more like Christmas than Valentine’s Day.

finding-your-mexican-ancestorsMy mailman brought me a reference book I’d ordered to help with my family history research. Great timing, since Finding Your Mexican Ancestors is like my secret decoder pen for unlocking key records about when my grandfather and grandmother came to the U.S.

Along with increasingly available online resources, this book (and anything by Ryskamp) offers so much context, I’ll now have a better idea of why, how and where I’ll find records to fill in some of our gaps.

I can’t help but be more amazed every time I turn around to learn how genealogy has evolved technologically since I last worked on my family’s history. But sometimes analog is still the best way to go to find answers to lingering questions.

In any case, it makes for a great Christmas Valentine’s Day present.

On the blessings of tomatillos

Little green, stony fruit with a soft underbelly…but only after a little fire.

I can’t put my finger on it, but tomatillos have always scared the heck out of me in the culinary sense. Last summer, we got a garden full of them, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Imagine that – a Mexican who didn’t know what do with tomatillos. Embarrassing but true.

That was before spending a week with my mom. She makes cooking good food look so easy.

For that visit, I took about a dozen tomatillos with me so she could use them to make enchiladas, salsa or whatever.

With only a couple of days left in my visit, while we ate dinner one evening, she left them on a griddle to soften and brown. I kept one eye on my dinner plate while watching them suspiciously with the other.

I mean, how the heck could something that came out of the ground nearly as hard as a rock produce that beautiful, tangy flavor I loved so much?

And then they came off the grill. Hot, kind of smoky and now translucent and soft – definitely transformed.

“Dump those in here, mija.” In they went to the blender — those and a few little red tomatoes.

Ok, we’d already eaten dinner, so no one was hungry enough to taste this stuff, right? Wrong. I could taste salsa verde any time of day or night and never be too full to perform the taste test.

So I did. OHMYGAWD.

Basically, nature and garlic salt had performed a miracle. And it’s just like French cooking – the simplest ingredients make the most delicious food, or at least they make most food delicious.

roasting tomatillos on a skillet

Miracles happen to these little green suckers when they’re placed under intense heat.

Lesson learned
But those stinking tomatillos taught me a lesson I don’t think I really was ready for: That I’d been so hardened lately in my heart from recent hurts and failures, that nothing short of a hot fire could soften me. Nothing short of a season of deep personal challenge had the ability to show me what really is, let alone what could be.

I was so far gone – kind of wasted, really, emotionally and spiritually speaking.

I’ve been taught since I was little to cast my cares on God, because he cares for me. The last few months, I honestly lost sight of that. To the point, at times, of not believing it anymore.

But a few things – I’ll call them gifts – that have been instruments in winning me over: my husband, my mom and brothers and extended family. And tomatillos.

No kidding. Who knew a little green fruit with a soft, squishy underbelly could point me to my True North?

Grandmas & girl power

Wasn’t planning on writing about this today but I do want to be intentional about sharing the “big things” I learn through researching my family’s history. I mean, if we don’t learn about our future by remembering our past, then why spend all this time looking at dead people?

One thing that has jumped out in the last few days is the suffrage and increased liberation of women during the period of time I’ve been researching – late 19th to early 20th centuries.

From my paternal grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, her ability to capitalize on new technology to create a business and her marriage choice (as well as my maternal grandmother’s), I’m learning that both of my grandmas took the opportunity to express important life choices under great pressure.

It turns out both of them had been committed to men for marriage before they actually married my grandfathers. Same story, different family: both ended up marrying for love – and eloping.

Love this one: One of my grandmas was given the choice between a piano – you know, something big to win over her heart – if she chose not to marry my grandfather, an illiterate ranch hand (whose father had been shot while playing music in a nightclub) for whom she had immense compassion and, eventually, love.

Last I heard, my grandfather wasn’t made up of a big, wooden box and 88 black and white keys.

Dots

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 9.33.48 PM

From the game Two Dots, Level 42, where I continue to suck.

Ever played Two Dots? I’ve never seen two dots that could mess me up so good.

So here I am, at Level 42 (pun definitely intended), where I plan to hang out awhile. Mostly because I can’t connect enough dots to get any farther. I think this is where my usual ability to think and plan ahead comes to a grinding halt.

For years, that’s just how I have felt about connecting my family’s “dots,” too. Until this weekend. 

For 20+ years – all I knew was that my great-grandfather’s birth family wasn’t his birth family at all.

In the last week, I’ve found the dots he connected to originally and then those he connected to later, leaving me to investigate when and why he changed families. I have theories, of course. But I’d rather have dots – the connected kind.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of talking with my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. She set me straight on who said what and the origins of my blog’s name.

She also put me in a better position to locate records about their father – not that far back in our ancestry, of course. But between that and my other recent findings, I can actually start connecting dots that have sat unattached for far too long. Much better than Level 42.