The family ties – they just got stronger

cabello-grocery-store

It may not look like much now, but back in the 1940s and ’50s, this was one in a series of my grandfather’s grocery store locations in Corpus Christi, Texas. My very thoughtful uncle took us on a family history tour of my old hometown — by far, one of my favorite parts of our trip. This little tour deserves a post all its own.

I’ve been trying to figure out this post since before I went out of town a couple of weeks ago. My conclusion: There’s so much to cover, it might just have to be more than one post.

What started out as a long-weekend trip to the Texas coast for a genealogy conference ended up being a full-blown week of a family trip, complete with my mom and my husband and filled with visits with family old and new.

I couldn’t have asked for more (except for a few more visits with family and a couple of good friends).

My biggest takeaway: Don’t let too much time go between visits with family.

Ahp, ahp, ahp, ahp, ahp! I know what you’re thinking.

Who cares if they don’t come to you? Who cares if you do all the traveling? Go to them. It’s my broken record, but we’ve get one shot at family, so we need to make it count.

I’ve had this inner struggle so many times, even holding mini-grudges because no one wants to come see us in beautiful Colorado (whaaa?!).  It’s not really that – it’s that people are comfortable where they are and have a hard time breaking out of their routines.

In the end, though, I know I’ll regret not seeing my family when the opportunity was there to enjoy them. So basically, suck it up, Nydia. That was my lesson. Because in the end…nothing else matters.

So. About the conference.

Not exactly a Zombies convention (whew!)

It was fun to be with people of kindred spirit at the Spanish American Genealogy Association’s (SAGA) 37th Annual Texas State Hispanic Genealogical and Historical Conference (that’s a mouthful, no?).

I mean, we were all there because we were interested in our dead people. Not in a Zombie-fest kind of way, but with a real desire to honor our ancestors by learning more about them and their lives – and how we connect to them.

Many shared the interests of looking deeper into their family trees, learning about everything from:

  • the context of their ancestors’ lives through the study of history,
  • the evolution of the Spanish language in the Americas, to
  • Jewish heritage among Latinos (it’s true – I’m one of them),
  • land grant research techniques and, the big one:
  • DNA (even though there was only one DNA session – surely to grow next year).
img_1467

Pardon the big ol’ chairs photo-bombing as earrings. Wanted to show off this hand-stitched masterpiece of a blouse.

I also bought this beautiful Oaxacan blouse from a pair of really talented and inspiring women, both retired educators and administrators, who showed the audience creative ways to pass along our culture and heritage to future generations. This was one of their imports.

Belonging gives us a sense of family

It was important for me to come away with a stronger sense of belonging to a group with shared interests, so I joined Las Villas del Norte, a genealogy group with ties to northeastern Mexico and South Texas, the originating areas of my recent ancestors. Coupled with my membership in the Facebook groups Mexican Genealogy and We Are Cousins, it’s easy to say these groups feel like family. No – familia.

I also may (re)join Los Bexareños Genealogical and Historical Society after, what, a 25-year membership lapse? Based out of San Antonio, their study of the families of Coahuila, Mexico gave my research the boost it needed early on, and their research into northeastern Mexico is quite extensive.

Remember print and books and stuff?

One thing I heard at the conference is that much genealogical info can be still be found only in books and other print volumes. It may be more time-consuming in terms of research, but it could be crucial to breaking down brick walls. Duly noted.

One very cool thing I learned, in a first-time meeting: Boy, can strong family features jump lines! My mom and I met a not-too-distant cousin from her side of the family – and this very kind gentlemen looked so much like one of my brothers, it nearly floored me. Now we’re connected with a part of the family we’d never known before.

We met several other “new” relatives, too. I’ll talk more about them in another post.

It was a far more productive trip than I’d imagined – a real gift. I hope writing about it will help me sort it all out.

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Have/have-not, all rolled up into one

glass-half-full

I worked a job once that I hated but that I was really good at. Ever had a job like that? It’s a very weird feeling to go to work each morning and feel it will instantly bore you, and then get a compliment for it.

In this particular job, I had developed a plan my boss really loved. So much so that he told me, “Hey, you’re really good at this stuff.” I’m sure I smirked my best smirk. Not strategic, but hey, I was in my 20s and my “filter” was far from developed. Might still be.

After I gave him that look, he pensively and disappointedly said, “You know, I honestly can’t tell if your glass is half-empty or half-full.”

Our meeting was over, and I shuffled out to my office, silently bawling my eyes out. He’d called my bluff.

Maybe it’s turning 50 (aren’t you going to welcome me to AARP?) or maybe it’s having gone through some humbling experiences in the last few years, but I really think I spent much of my earlier years dwelling on what I didn’t have, rather than on what I did have.

Today, I don’t have the fast-paced career or the bigger paycheck or the jam-packed inbox (I don’t mind this one at all), and I’m not in the middle of all the action like I used to be. Well, not at work, anyway.

But you know what I am in the middle of? I’m in the middle of my own life for a change. I have a sense of calm and peace and availability for relationships that I didn’t have when I was in the rat race. I have time for my family, especially in a pinch. I just took a trip with my mom and husband that would have seemed logistically near impossible before. Heck, before, I’d never have dreamed of taking a vacation at all.

I just wish I’d spent more time in my earlier years valuing what I had, rather than what I didn’t have. I feel like the trip we just took opened my eyes to that, giving me a new perspective on how precious life and relationships are.

I’m figuring out how I’ll recap this treasure hunt of a trip we just took, but I can give you a hint about what I’ll be writing about soon: Let’s just say I’m finally getting to know Braulio.

So close and yet so far

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 5.31.44 PMI felt like I was at a library of obscure books the other night when I googled “Coahuila, Mexico.” You know, so I can learn more about why, oh, why I can’t find my great-grandfather Braulio or any of his compadres.

But wow – the books I came up with, most of which are out of print or so rare you couldn’t possibly find them in any library or bookstore, are a treasure trove of (presumable) context and insight.

I’ve learned recently to search for obscure book topics or titles in Google Play, but who knew I’d come across stuff like this?

So I’m kind of overwhelmed now by what could either be a treasure trove (glass half-full) or a bunch more needles in my haystack (glass half-empty). The mind is getting weary and I might just be sucking my positive juice dry.

Now, if I could just find a book that can tell me what the heck happened to Saltillo parish records from the mid-19th century – a fire, flood, some disaster? – I might have more of a lead of what was going on in those days and whether it’s my great-grandfather who’s “missing” or just his records.

For now, a little spittle on a test strip for DNA-by-mail is going to have to do.

The next chapter … faster?

I know I won’t be the first to be hung up, possibly for years, on researching an ancestor.

But the optimist in me wants to believe my case will be different – that I’ll get a break of some kind and be able to forge ahead.

I’m not sure whether last night was “that” break, but the vetting and sorting process for getting to the bottom of my great-grandfather Braulio‘s history just got a whole lot easier.

Braulio-AncestryAs a beginner genealogist, I’ve gotten so much out of Family Search, although it’s easy to lose a lot of time due to the need to search manually from so much data.

Until recent weeks, I hadn’t really taken Ancestry.com seriously – mostly because, of all the data available on my family members, very little of it could be validated through actual documentation. Regardless how much I found, it seemed I’d always have to return to Family Search for validation or more research.

So I lost confidence in Ancestry’s validity – even though, I have to admit, the DNA test was becoming more tempting.

And then last night, I caught something on the Ancestry site that prompted me – finally – to download the mobile app, which I’d resisted because I thought it was only for photos.

I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.

Let’s just say that, once installed, this app saved me hours upon hours – possibly days – of compiling peripheral family members around Braulio.

Sigh. For what it’s worth: I now love this (late) man dearly, merely due to how hard I am having to work to “know” him.

Anyway, I basically rebuilt my family tree within the app in just a couple of hours. Nearly everyone for whom I have records in past generations is now loaded into my Ancestry family tree.

Then tonight, I caved and bought the DNA kit (20% off through 4/27 this time around). Its results, I hope, will keep me busy for awhile by helping me discover within-scope ancestors and, by contrast, those who might not be in my lines.

As my friend Estelle likes to say, the beat goes on … And the mirror ball – my head – keeps spinning right along with it.

How I met Braulio … at Trader Joe’s

Vintage Trader Joe's signI was making a quick grocery trip today to our fairly new Trader Joe’s (finally, we’re a legit mid-size city). About to part ways with my checkout guy, I spotted his name tag: BRAULIO.

Naturally, I asked him about it. I mean, the same name as my great-grandfather – what are the chances?

We chatted about where he’s from, where my great-grandfather Braulio was from, and the origins of their shared name.

I wasn’t smart enough to take a selfie with the college-y looking Braulio (although I might try in the future).

But, I can say I met a Braulio. At Trader Joe’s.

While I’d love to claim I’d found my Braulio, it’s far too early for “mission accomplished.” Maybe it was a sign of some kind. Maybe my breakthrough is coming.

Aaaand we’re back – back to Braulio

Marriage record for Mariano Cavello and Ambrosia Lesa

Ay, ay, ay.

I think I could be doing this for a long time – this one family member.

It’s OK though. In a month of Aha! moments, I’ll take any clarity on my ancestors I can get.

And whoa is me, I’ve been running down the wrong trail for quite sometime. U-turn!

So why didn’t I think of this before? My paternal great-grandfather Braulio Cabello remains a mystery, but there are two big (I think) hints that have stared me in the face for sometime:

  1. His marriage record cites a Mariano Cavello (Cabello) as his father and Ambrosia Lesa his mother.
  2. His death record, however, cites an Anastacio Cabello as his father and, again, Ambrosia Lesa as his mother. Anastacio (Anastasio), more often than not, goes down in the record books as his dad.

Braulio’s birth/christening record is still AWOL, but now I’m motivated to give it another go by (re)starting with what I already “know.” Even if there’s a discrepancy around his father, it’s one I know about.

This critical link, after all, means we might – juuuuust might – tie back to the founders of San Antonio. There’s lots of cool stuff in that. Maybe we also founded Mi Tierra restaurant. A girl can dream.

Right under my nose

For too long I assumed Braulio’s different father names was just a discrepancy. (What?! Silly me.) Aside from seeing the other side of my family (my mom’s side) and the drama that can happen in the name of love, I also know marriage customs then weren’t what they are now.

For example, when a woman was widowed, often she would marry her brother-in-law. Not sure that’s what happened here (other way around), but now I know exactly where to go and what to do next. I am determined to find out.

And I. Can’t. Wait!

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.