Tag Archives: Genealogy

Cousins


Love of FamilyWhen I was a little boy, aunts and uncles would stop by McCloud or Dunsmuir to visit with their families.  Other times, we would go to visit our relatives.  In those days, I knew all my relatives.  Every one of them.  Today, it’s a little different. I’m in a place where I’m finding new hometowns, places where our family members were born, reared, lived, and died.

As I began my genealogical investigation, I learned new names and eventually new faces when I happened across old photos.  In this age of Ancestry, com, Facebook, and the Internet in general, I am now in a position to uncover faces of my family from social media walls, detailed pixels, and delightful stories posted online.

The blessing is that after 28 years of never meeting anyone other than my children who have my facial characteristics and other genetic similarities, I get to see many, many people who populate my generational level of the tree as well as  those in a five or six generation radius. I also get to expand my knowledge of my adopted family through this process as well. I have to say, it’s so much fun and brings me the highest level of  joy!  Sometimes, I chat with my cousins as though we grew up together, and then I have to remember, “Oh, wait! I’ve never met this person!”

In my familial dream, I would be able to invite all my cousins from every branch of my family to a giant picnic so that they could all meet one another and we could take a panoramic photo of all of us!  I know it is unlikely, but in my brain and in my heart, our “family picnic” happens all the time.

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to get to know my cousins through they triumphs, their tragedies, their humor, and their passions.  It’s only on a screen for many of us, but it’s more than I ever imagined. This process truly is a dream come true for me!

Names of Our Past


When I started my genealogical journey 40 years ago, little did I realize how intimately this process would affect me.  It has brought people from all over the country together.  I’m learning so much about our family.  I thought it would be interesting for my clans to see some of the names of our people.  Because of the huge number of names, I used those that were of my direct lineage as a starting point.  The names in bold are the major family groups.  The italicized names represent the two subgroups of that particular family.  The date, e.g. “(1900),” represents the earliest year in that particular family line.  Generally, the names at the top of each list is closest to the contemporary period.  The names farthest away are of those many decades or centuries before.   Enjoy!

Family Name List

Glica Wiech

Glica  (1860)

Głod (Jajau)

Wiech (1746)

Kania

Bonarski

Bartowska

Bogdan

Czaja

Kusmider

Janiga

Kapera

Kowalska

Chávez Gutierrez

Chávez (1132)

Acosta

Rodriguez

Baca

Marquez

Orozco

Almeida

Villaseñor

de la Rosa

Gonzalez

Villalba

Olvera

Garfias

Sanchez

Bohorquez

Duran

Gomez

Rico

Ortiz

Pacheco

Cordova

Arrellano

Villalobos

Gutierrez (1760)

Pavia

Dominguez

Ximenez

Solis

Anchonda

Guisotena

Arziniega

Benegas

Medina

Estrella

Cuenca

Arroyo Gutierrez

Arroyo (1759)

Castro

Escobedo

Velazquez

Garcia

Villacaña

Gutierrez (1800)

Velasco

Cardona

Hernandez

Alemán

Bedoya/Bedolla

Volanos

Damasa

Caldera

Macias

Lopez

Nava

Paz

Arce

Ortega

Vertiveros

Herrera D’Anna

Herrera (1824)

Martinez

Leal

Palomares

Lopez

Montijo

Garcia

Osuna

D’Anna (1777)

Berlingerio

Cannamela

Giangrosso

Scibetta

Barbera

Campanella

New Faces, Old History


ImageHow is it that people born between 1900 and 1940, and tied to us in a direct genealogical lineage can be so very new?  That is the art and science of genealogy, I suppose.  Names and dates, paperwork and photos.  Sometimes, question marks are the most specific items we have about someone.  For many years, that is who my great-grandfather, John D’Anna was to me.  Now, in 2013, I am just beginning to discover who he is.  Because of the generosity of the family who grew knowing him, I am able to see him moving in silent films from the 1950s.  I am able to hear more historical information; the real stuff about a real person from living, breathing relatives.  It is a powerful experience to say the least.  

Until 1997, I didn’t know anything else about John D’Anna other than that he was my great-aunt’s first husband, and the father of my grandmother’s favorite first cousin.  After that, I discovered that John was also my grandmother’s father, which made Georgette my grandmother’s sister.  It was good news for both of them. For Gam, this was brand new information.  For Georgette, it was a lifelong secret about which she could finally discuss.  For me, it raised many new questions.  

John’s face has always been illusive to me.  Always at an angle, or in Black & White.  He always was looking down, or very old.  Now, John’s face is becoming more familiar and younger.  He reminds me more of my cousin, Kelly in some ways.  I realize, too, that more than any other branch of my family, my skin color is identical to my great-grandfather’s tone.  

I try so hard to integrate this information in all its abundance and importance, but I now this is a slow process.  

My DNA and Its Surprises


Here are my raw results from the Ancestry.com DNA test I took recently:

Eastern European            35%

Native North American   24%

Native South American   10%

Southern European           7%

British                              6%

Uncertain                        18%

To my family, some of this may come as a huge surprise.   I know it did to me.  Various stories are rampant in our family about our heritage.  These results add both clarity and questions to our process.

The verbal histories and documents for my birth father’s family are very clear.  From my third great-grandparents, each responsible for 3.13% of my genes, generations of my paternal grandfather’s family are from Michoacan, Mexico.  Many more generations of my paternal grandmother’s family are from Aguascalientes, Mexico.  These individuals date back nine generations from me, some into the mid-1700s, which would account for one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) from each of my ancestors at the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent level. We know the towns and villages.  We know the names.  We know the dates.

In my birth mother’s family, though, we have always learned that we are not Mexican.  We are Native American.  Period.  End of story, if my grandfather’s stories are accurate.  The challenge is that the groups with which we should identify ourselves are not so clear since each of my maternal grandfather’s siblings told a slightly different story.  Apache, Yaqui, Blackfoot, Ohlone, and so on.  Having not been reared in this family, being adopted at birth, I had to learn all of these stories after most of my ancestors were gone, and be able to decipher them the best way I knew how.  Eventually, though, I came to a dead end with no document-supported, objective answers that affirmed any of the stories without question with regard to our Native American history.

Several years after discovering even what questions to ask, I heard from a cousin of mine, Catherine, who has been a vital part of our journey to discover our family history, that a researcher in Santa Barbara was asking for DNA samples for people believed to be, in anthropology-speak, Costanoan indigenous people, or those whose ancestry came from the West Coast of California.  We didn’t know whether we were from this macro group or not, but we had found our people in the San Jose, California region for more than 150 years.  We do not have information about where some of them were born.  With this information, I offered our direct-line genealogy and a DNA sample.  That was several years ago and still I have not heard anything.  All I know is that my DNA currently resides in Germany with researchers who are trying to make sense of my gene pool.

Let me continue this discussion by giving some perspective to percentages in every person’s family lines.  The following table shows what percentage and fraction of my genetic material each person in that generation must claim:

Parents                                     50%               1/2

Grandparents                           25%               1/4

Great-grandparents                 12.5%            1/8

Great-great-grandparents         6.25%          1/16

If more than one of my progenitors shared an ethnic history, and in our case, some even shared family history,  then the overall percentages of ethnicity would be skewered, which they are.

Late last year, I heard that Ancestry.com, an organization to which I’ve belonged since 2004, began sending out notices that a DNA test would be offered.  This wasn’t one of the “Y” chromosome tests for one’s paternity information, or a mitochondrial DNA test for matrilineal information.  No, this was an autosomal DNA test where they evaluate a person’s entire genome at more than 700,000 sites, or markers, in the individual’s full 23 chromosomes.   This was the whole picture taken from all of my genetic material.  I couldn’t pass it up.  I added my name to the waiting list.  Several weeks ago, my name came up.

I paid my fees, and within a few days, my test arrived.  I spit in the vial and sent it out that next day.  That was about three week ago.  Yesterday, my test results came back in.  Several things happened when I received that notice: I had some information confirmed, received some new information, and realized that my DNA may be in Germany a long, long time.

The confirmation I received is that my genetic history is about 1/3 indigenous to the Western Hemisphere; 24% from Central and North America, and 10% from South America.  The data did not specify from which side of my family these numbers came.  Although I was not aware that any part of my family originated in South America, it does not surprise me that some part came from there because my father’s family lived so far south in Mexico.

The most startling bit of information I received was that more than 1/3 of my genetic material originated from Eastern Europe, which includes countries from as far south as Greece to as far north as Estonia.  One fact that made me smile is that my ethnicity is likely similar in part to my adoptive father’s, whose Polish heritage I have always claimed as my own, if only culturally.

As a strange aside, this information inspired me to to remember my late friend, Miriam, who often said to me, “I just know you are part Gypsy!”  Contrary to what some who know me well may believe, she was not referring to the alluring musical theater character of the same name.  She was referring to the Romani people.  She had no reason to believe that I was part Gypsy; however, more regularly than I’ve seen with most others I know, she often made amazing leaps of intuitive gymnastics.  Could there be a grain of truth in what she believed about me?  She said this on numerous occasions, most often just before she died. The circumstantial evidence is there.  The Romani people speak a language that many anthropologists and linguists believe originated on the Indian subcontinent.  When people look at me, including individuals from that region,they most often ask me if I am East Indian.  Not Mexican.  Not Italian.  Not North African. Not Middle Eastern.  Indian.   Could others see in my face what our family has had no knowledge?  Could my genetic history confirm their observations by the fact that 35% of my ethnic pool originates in Eastern Europe, the same place the Romani people have lived since no earlier than the 11th Century?  Of course, this is simply a fantastical hypothesis; or is it?

The part that is most confusing to me is that I have no idea from whom such a large proportion of my Eastern European genetic heritage could have stemmed. The only segment of my family that originated from anywhere remotely near there is the Sicilian branch of my family.  As far as I know, not one person can be traced to Eastern Europe, let alone more than one-third of my ethnic heritage.

The most expected part of my genetic information is the 7% identified as having come from Southern European parentage.  With families in Mexico often having Spanish ancestry, and a Sicilian Italian ancestor, this made sense.  The one question that arose is that with one grandfather who I believed to be full Italian, this number should have been at least 12.5%.

One small surprise was the 6% defined as genes that originated from the British Isles.  That means that one of my great-great grandparents was likely English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh.  The only problem is that I believe that I have information on all 16 great-great grandparents.  Is this an indication of a secret that no one knew before?

The most difficult challenge that I had with the results of this test is a category called, “Uncertain.”  This classification is for genes that have markers that generally indicate they derived from a certain area, but they do not meet the “extremely high standards” that Ancestry.com claims it has.  Until they can be verified, these markers shall remain in this quizzical category.  Could this be where the specific markers for small bands of Native Americas exist that at this point cannot be authoritatively assured?  Could these be African or Asian aboriginal people that have so few people tested that there is no way to verify the data?  Which of my ancestors are represented by this number?

The number itself is problematic.  When I checked others’ levels of “Uncertain,” I saw numbers as low as 6% to as high as 16%.  Why did I not see anyone with my level of “Uncertain,” which was 18%?   This is nearly 1/5 of my genes, representing more than one great-grandparent’s genetic history.

As with any research project, often the researcher is left with more questions than answers.  Such is the case with my DNA results.  In this case, though, this is all so very personal.  The good news is that I now know that fully 1/3 of my heritage developed from the Native American people stretching from North America to South America.  On the other side of my family coin, I now have to figure out from where we originated because our information is clearly nowhere near complete.

Stay tuned for more information as we delve farther into our genetic past.

Time Travel to 1940


Floyd Glica circa 1940

Tonight, for the first time, I wandered through the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com to find my dad and mom among the many names and addresses listed in North Tonawanda, NY, and Santa Clara, CA, respectively.  There they were, 19 and 17 years old.

I felt a great sadness wash over me as I realized that the day my grandparents answered the interviewers’ questions, no one knew what was ahead.  As I read their names, I knew what came next for each one on the list.  Before the next census, my father would enter the military, beginning his career as a pharmacist.  My mother would only have two more years with her mother before Nana died of cancer.  Their lives would change dramatically.

There was a little part of me that wanted to whisper, “Listen to your parents, Mom and Dad.  Learn from them as much as you can.  Love them as though tomorrow wouldn’t come.”  That is, of course, impossible.  They had to learn from their lives the same way we all do.  There is nothing I can do to help them see what they would miss.  Even with my own children and grandchildren, there is so little I can do to forewarn them about the little things… perhaps even the big things… they will miss if they don’t pay close attention.

Teresa Chavez circa 1940

Each time I go to the well of familial information, I come out with another layer of ignorance washed away.  I am changed.  Today is no different.  I look back, as I try to do less these days, and lament those lost moments; moments I don’t even know were lost.  My heart is heavy as I remember them.  99% of my direct lineage are gone now.  I see names dating back into the 1800s, 1700s, 1600s, and beyond.  Names who never imagined me.  Faces I will never see. Yet, they are my people.  All of them.  They contributed to my life in ways they could not imagine as they went through their days.  They could not have possibly known me; yet, I am blessed to see them, at least a little part of them, in my genealogical journey.  So, for that, I am deeply and eternally grateful.

January 1, 2011


As we approach the new year of 2011, I can’t help but remember my father’s observation as a pharmacist in the 1980s.  He said, “We’ve had more changes in the last 50 years in medicine than in all the years prior.”  Of course, the changes that transpired in those immediately previous 50 years emerged from the foundation of work by generations of scientists.  After all, the first concocted antibiotic wasn’t developed until sulfanilamide and penicillin in the early part of the 20th century.   As I contemplate the last 100 years, inspired by the recent loss of my great-uncle Gene at 103, I took a gander at what he had seen in his lifetime.

In the last 10 decades, we’ve seen the Nobel Prize for physics go to Madame Marie Curie (France) for the discovery of the elements, radium and polonium in 1911.  50 years later, in 1961,  this same prize was awarded to Robert Hofstadtler (United States) for his determination of the shape and size of atomic nuclei.  A mere 10 years ago, in 2001, the award went to Wolfgang Ketterle (Germany), Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman (United States), for discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate [1].  Imagine!  A new state of matter, theorized by Albert Einstein, but not proved until this group did so.  This year, we will see new weights established for the periodic table.  We have seen the extinction of animals and diseases and the rise of others.

As we enter 2011, diving into the year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar, 4708 in the Chinese calendar, 1432 in the Islamic calendar, or the Mayan long count of 12.19.18.0.0, our lives have been changed dramatically by many events.  We have seen wars and conflicts in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, to name a few.   The Berlin Wall has been built and destroyed.  Cultural revolutions have fulmugated around the world.  We have witnessed the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of an African-American president of the United States.  

We have seen unfathomable growth and challenges in the last century including the change in perception between the First World War when little was thought about homosexuals at all to the current day when homosexuals will be allowed to openly serve in the military.   We have moved from a time when a Black person couldn’t marry a White person to today when gays are marrying in some states in the U.S.  The economy has seen boons and busts throughout the century including the Great Depression in the 1930s.  Here are some other interesting tidbits:

Year     Fed. Spending [2]   Fed. Debt [2]  Postage [3]  UI Rate [4]

                   (In billions)             (In billions)

1911          $           .69               $           0.o          $ .02              6.7%

1961                  97.72                        292.6             .04               5.5%

2001            1,864.00                   5,807.o              .34               4.8%

2011            3,833.90                    1,266.7              .46               9.6%

I suppose with all this reminiscing about our past, the next logical step would be to imagine what will be in our future.  I’d rather not.  Not because I think things will be worse, but because it won’t serve any purpose.  The real question is, where are we now? 

On a personal level, I have lost my entire adopted family of origin, but I have found my family of birth.  I have encountered family members from seven generations born between 1881 and 2003.  I’ve changed careers from working in a pharmacy in the 1970s to being a music educator  today.  I’ve had the pleasure to see my husband, children, and grandchildren all working toward growing their successes.  I have returned to school to complete my education.  If my family is a microcosm of America, which it may be, then one can extrapolate that although things have been tough, we have our eyes on making things better.  We are stepping back to get a good view of where we are, and taking steps to improve our situation. 

January 1, 2011, is, I suspect, a preparatory time toward a major shift in our lives.  We, as a family and as a country, are readying ourselves for a giant leap forward.  What shape that will take, I don’t know.  We are talking about our spirits.  We are valuing our children in a more vibrant way.  We are demanding a better education for them.  We are begging for art and beauty.  We are striving for unity.  These are all good things that I believe will make us stronger, wiser, and more solid as a national and world community. 

I welcome the coming new year with everything it has to bring.  Gratitude permeates every fiber of my being as I look forward to the forthcoming 365 days.   So, in that gratitude, I say in anticipation of the coming celebration, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!

_____________________________

References

 [1] Infoplease.com (2010) List of Nobel Prize winners for Physics.  Retrieved from  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0105785.html

 [2] USGovernmentSpending.com (2010) [Data] Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year2011_0.html

[3] U.S. Postal Service (2010) News Release:  New Rates Retrieved from  http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_064.htm

[4] Forcasts.org (2010) Unemployment figures (Data) Retrieved from http://www.forecasts.org/unemploy.htm

(2010) “Happy New Year 2011” [Photograph] Retrieved from http://win7dl.com

(2010) “Human Arrow” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://ypg-prioryroad.com

(2010) “Marie Curie” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://reich-chemistry.wikispaces.com

By Any Other Name…


Oddly, I’ve been thinking recently that having someone else’s name is a strange thing to do.  I write, “Oddly,” because I’ve had no fewer than six monikers in my life time.  From earliest to most recent:

Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera (The name my mother would have bestowed upon me had she not given me up for adoption.  Both names were after my paternal and maternal grandfathers.)

Herrera (The name on my very first birth certificate.  This was Mom’s surname.)

Hal (The name given to me by Children’s Home Society before I got adopted.  Look at my face to the right.  Do I honestly look like a Hal to you?)

James Stanley Glica (My adoptive name, after my uncle who introduced my parents and my paternal grandfather.)

James Stanley Chávez-Glica (The name I chose to honor my mother and father.)

James Stanley Chávez Glica-Hernandez (My married name.)

Sometimes, I like to string them all together with my title and degree, just for effect:

Reverend James Stanley Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera Chávez Glica-Hernandez, D.Div.

Come on, say that five times fast.  I dare you.

Anyhoo, after all these name changes, I’m starting to think that my name, which at its core has remained James Stanley Glica since 1959, was enough all along.  I love my mother and the name Chávez for a million reasons, but Glica was the name she chose to use, as well.  My children are all Glica.  I didn’t take my ex-wife’s name when we got married.  I have to admit that it’s because I might have become James Daw-Glica.  Uh, no, thank you.  Go ahead.  Re-syllablize it yourself. 

Did you have fun?  

We could talk all about the sociological reasons why wives originally took their husband’s names.  Yes, class, ownership is one reason.  We could talk about the standardization of second class citizenship afforded women until relatively recently, even on a letter:

“Mrs. Herbert Smith”

Either this woman’s parents need a solid chastising, or this poor woman has lost her name.   Thankfully, I, of course, would not be Mr. David Hernandez.  That would be silly because my husband is Mr. David Hernandez.  I’m Mr. James Glica-Hernandez.  Yet, I digress.

Am I any less married if I were to use only Glica?  No.  Plenty of people are overwhelmed by their wedded bliss while still maintaining their names of birth or adoption.   Look at my husband.  It’s my guess that he thinks Glica is a strange name and not one he wants to carry around the rest of his life.  Hernandez is simple.  Sure it has three syllables, but everyone can spell it, knows where it’s from, and almost always knows someone else by that same name.   I only know this because on some of my identifying information, I use, James C. Hernandez.

“Ooooooooohhh!,”  the young, ebullient fellow behind the counter squeals, “I actually know two different James Hernandezes…ez…ezzzzzzzzzzz…  [Author’s note: you must visualize here a young fellow with a face that I once heard comedian, Dov Davidov, describe as having smelled freshly-baked cookies]. Do you know either of them?”

For goodness sake.   And, this coming from a boy named, Myke Johnson?  (Do you see how that’s different? Kewl, huh?)  Ugh!

 What I’ve realized, though, is that these various incarnations of my name are like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs back into my gingerbread house of memory.  As someone whose had two small strokes already and probably will have another one eventually, any tools that amplify my memory are good tools, indeed. 

“Was that pre-Chavez or post-Chavez?  When did we meet them, before- or after-Hernandez?”  It’s worked a few times, quite honestly.   The only thing is I’ve been a Chavez longer than I haven’t and I’ve wanted to be a Hernandez since nearly the time I first met my husband a dozen years ago.   So, the muddiness continues. 

After it’s all said and done, I guess I’m still Little Jimmy Glica from McCloud and Dunsmuir, California,  no matter whose grandfather I’ve become in the last 50 years.  I like it that way.  I’m proud of my entire name of birth, adoption, and marriage, and the paths I’ve taken to receive these beautiful names; however, like at the core of my name, the core of my spirit remains the same: a happy, loving little boy who loves to see people smile, sing, and dance. 

Some things, as it’s said, never change after all.
________________________

Alpha Inventions Ranking

Our Indian Question


Ohlone Indian Ceremonial Dance at Mission San Jose - 1806.

Over the last several years, my cousin, Catherine, and I have been searching for the details of our ancestry in the Herrera line.  It’s been a fascinating journey that has taken us back to the early 1850’s from San Francisco to New Almaden.  Not unlike many who are searching in that region, our line stops dead in its tracks before 1850.

One has to question why?  Our family lines have been identified in all the places where the American Indian group, the Ohlone, has been centered.  Some of our family have been able to identify other Indian groups in their lineage, apart from our common heritage. 

All indications are that we, at some level, have come from an Indian wellspring.  The problem is that we can’t prove it.  There simply is no paper.  In the missing documents is an acrid irony.  As a people who listened to the wind and the earth for our answers, we have become anglicized enough to believe that we need that documentation.  The contradiction of our resonant, internal knowing and our contemporary need for empirical proof are in an horrific battle as we continue our search.

To see the faces of our ancestors, though, one would not question our Indian heritage.  Our ruddy brown skin, our short, thick features.  Our beautiful black hair.  Our ancient eyes.  It’s there in our genes.  I have to wonder, if when we receive our genetic information from the researcher in Santa Barbara who is doing my DNA test, whether we will be genetically linked to the Ohlone, and if so, if we can match paperwork to our heritage.

So many Indians were killed during that time.  Others chose not to participate in the mission system.  If we are such a family, we may never have the answers.  The question could be, forever more, left hanging over our collective heads. 

As an amateur genealogist, will that be enough for me?  Of course not.  I want to close the circle.  I want to know the names.  I was to see the faces, if it’s at all possible. 

Some documents have suggested that part of our family came from Sonora, Mexico.  Perhaps part of our family did; however, if so, then why can we not find our church records like so many others can do.  Not one branch of our family is identifiable in those records thus far.  Every time we make a new discovery, it always lands in the Santa Clara Valley.  What should we get from that message?

I suppose that is our Indian question to which the answers may only ever be known by our ancestors.

Being Welcomed Home… Again


Maria Arroyo

Thirty years ago, I had never met my parents of birth.  I didn’t know their names and I had no idea what their faces looked like. 

The day I took the plunge and found my birth family in San Jose, California, in addition to meeting a huge number of family members on both my birth father’s and birth mother’s side, I got to meet my Grandmother Maria Secundina Gutierrez de Arroyo. 

Grandma Arroyo, which is what I called her because I didn’t know others called her Mami, had to have my relationship to the family explained to her that day in November 1988.  When she finally understood that I was her youngest son’s child, a fact she had not known for the entire twenty-nine years of my life, she looked at me with her amazing blue eyes.  They were the color of seafoam blue-green at that moment.  I wasn’t sure she would ever stop staring at me.  I wasn’t sure I ever wanted her to break our connection.   I had waited a lifetime to see features that actually looked like mine.

Finally, she must have seen something in my face, or eyes, or heard something in my voice that told her that I truly was her grandson, and she quietly wrapped me in her arms and whispered, “Welcome home.” 

That’s all she said that day.  To this day, it is enough for me.

Grandma Arroyo died nearly twenty years ago.  After visiting her wherever she was living at the time, I still miss her terribly.  I miss her smile and her stories that she would tell me in Spanish, since I was one of the few grandchildren who understood her native language.  I miss her calling me Robert, my father’s name, every time she saw me. 

Ancestry.com

Today, twenty-two years later, I opened my Herrera-Arroyo Family Tree on Ancestry.com.  What I discovered there was as much a shock to me as my grandmother must have received the day I met her.   Most of the children of my father’s brothers and sisters had been input into my tree.  There are many, many, many cousins on Dad’s side. 

One of my cousins, with whom I’ve recently become aquainted on Facebook, must have input that information, because I certainly didn’t, and no one told me they were doing so.  I am so thrilled, I cannot find the words to express by deep gratitude to this anonymous person who shares genetic history with me. 

I know that this information is for all of us to share.  I know I was not the sole reason he or she took the time to add to our tree, but, our connection was strong enough to inspire him or her to do this very loving act.

It genuinely feels like I am hearing Grandma Arroyo say, “Welcome home,” one more time.

Fourth Cousins


In the first week of October this year, I will be meeting for the first time with my fourth cousin, Toni.  We have been in touch for the last year or so.  We met through our common interest in our genealogy.  Although Toni now lives in Colorado and I live in California, she is originally from California, too, so she is coming to visit her relatives; those that are more closely related to her than I am . 

Rafaela Herrera Lopez (1887 - 1913)

Rafaela Herrera Lopez (1887 - 1913)

It’s incredible to think that this woman, whom I have never met, carries some of the same genetic material that I do.  Her children swim in the same familial pool as mine do.  I love that.  For a man who spent 28 years without anyone other than his children toward whom he could look for that connection, it’s nearly magical to think that Toni now exists in my consciousness and, soon, in my presence. 

I am very excited because Toni represents the most distant relative with whom I’ve come in contact since my family research began.  For those who are not familiar with the relationship connections, her great-great grandmother, Rafaela Herrera Lopez is my great-great-grandfather, Lorenzo Herrera Leal’s sister. 

Lorenzo Herrera Leal (1881 - 1964)

Lorenzo Herrera Leal (1881 - 1964)

It’s strange how those who are more distantly related to me are, in some ways,  more fascinating to me than those more closely connected.  I think it appeals to my sense of enormity for our family that our mutual great-great-great grandparents, Lorenzo, Sr., and Guadalupe, have reached 150 years across time to touch both Toni and me in this way.

Although we have yet to be able to prove it, we believe there is Native American blood in our common line.  As such, it leads me to feel more strongly that our ancestors are truly playing a role in our reunion. 

Toni is giving me such a great gift by visiting, even for a brief time.  I hope I can return the favor in my gratitude.