How 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.
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.
As I was reviewing my genealogical records, I realized something profound. Although I was not reared with my family of birth, I still followed my birth mother’s family tradition by feeling compelled to have children before I was twenty-years-old. As I figured the ages of my ancestors when they had their first child, I recognized that in the Herrera line, my daughter Ana-Maria, who had her first child at seventeen-years-old, is the eighth generation to be a teenage parent.
This generational pattern can be followed in these ancestors and progeny.
Name (Birth year) – Age at first child
Gertrude Palomares Leal (1831) – 16 (possibly married)
Guadalupe Leal Herrera (1864) – 17 (married)
Lorenzo Herrera (1881) – 19 (married)
Gertrude Herrera Morales (1903) – 19 (unmarried)
Lorraine D’Anna Herrera (1923) – 16 (unmarried)
Elizabeth Gertrude Herrera Arroyo (1939) – 19 (unmarried)
James (Teódolo Herrera-Arroyo) Glica (1959) – 16 (unmarried)
Ana-Maria Glica (1976) – 17 (unmarried)
Mary Elizabeth Whitney (1993) – Hopefully, over 20
Having been put up for adoption at birth, I must wonder why my call to parenthood was so incredibly strong so early in my life; and, let there be no mistake, I specifically wanted to be a parent. I always believed that it was because I was longing for a genetic link because I was missing that through my adoption.
Now, however, I don’t know. Perhaps there is an instinctual need to have children early in life based on my direct genetic lineage. Could our desire to have babies be stronger than in some other families? I simply don’t know. In my particular Herrera line, we don’t even feel the need to be married when we have our first child.
When I was in kindergarten, Mom was called into Mrs. Dawson’s room for a meeting apart from the parent-teacher conference. Mrs. Dawson indicated that she was concerned about my preoccupation with playing “Daddy” in the schoolroom’s “house” area. I regularly pretended I was everyone’s father. Mrs. Dawson gently referred to it as “distracting.” Could this have been the precursor to finally having five children, some of whom were not born to me?
There are thousands of variations in the human genome that select for specific characteristics, including maturation, development, and personality. Are these genetic details in our blood in a way that could be tested and identified categorically?
As I look at my granddaughter, I pray daily that she breaks the pattern of our family. I long for her to fight that cellular urge to move us all another generation up the ladder. I have only four years to wait. I hope she waits until she’s married and over twenty. My suspicion is that she will.
Wish us all luck.
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.
Two of the women were lost in our family. One in 1937 and one in 2006. As one can assume, it’s not as though either of these women were wandering the forest aimlessly, looking for their way back home. It is a more metaphorical “lost,” but with very real consequences.
When Grandmother Gertrude was born in 1903, she was the eldest daughter and second child of her parents, Lorenzo and Beatrice. Gertrude’s parents would have at least seven more children. The eldest son, Manuel, had already arrived in 1901. The children were all born in New Almaden, California, south of San Jose, the location of quicksilver mines established during the Gold Rush of the 1840’s and ’50’s. Our family worked hard in the mines for many years before moving to San Jose in the 1910’s.
In 1922, Gertrude’s sister, Frances, had married a man named, John. John was a charming Italian man that played the banjo and loved jazz music. John was also a scoundrel. The story went that he had seduced Gertrude while he was still married to Frances. It turned out that Frances and Gertrude ended up pregnant at the same time by the same man.
As one can imagine, the scandal that was precipitated was enormous. Frances gave birth to her daughter, Georgette, in March 1923. Gertrude gave birth to a daughter, Lorraine, in May of that same year and gave her baby another surname that would make people believe that this child belonged to someone else besides Gertrude’s brother-in-law. The family, however, was perfectly aware of this fact; everyone, that is, except Lorraine. She would not discover this truth until two years before she died.
Gertrude would later marry a man named, Donato. She and Donato would eventually move to Los Angeles and have another child, Luis.
At the age of 34, having scandalized the family and moving hundreds of miles away in an attempt to quell the shame, Gertrude developed pneumonia. She died that year since this was a time before antibiotics. Lorraine was thirteen years old and Luis was only ten. She was buried in a cemetery where only Donato knew the location since no one from Gertrude’s family had gone to the funeral.
Lorraine was shipped back to San Jose to live with a family as a maid, of sorts. Luis stayed with his father in Los Angeles. Luis died in prison. Donato lived a very long time before dying, also in Los Angeles.
No one in San Jose knew where Gertrude was buried or when. All we knew was that she was likely born in 1903 in New Almaden. No picture. No paper records. No stories, other than the birth of Lorraine. Her brothers and sisters did say, however, that she was a lovely woman with a sweet disposition.
Sixty years later, Gertrude’s grandson and Lorraine’s son, Ralph, Jr., moved to Idaho. while there, he met a lovely woman and together they had a daughter, Lorien. This was Ralph’s fourth child. The sad truth is that Ralph had relinquished his paternity to his eldest child, a daughter named Malinda, and had been an absent or neglectful father to his next two children, two sons, Kelly and Scott. Malinda was born in 1964. The two boys in 1969 and 1971, respectively. Now, it was 1990 and Ralph found himself, again, a father to a little girl, Lorien. As was his way, he stayed awhile, then decided to return to California. In 2004, Ralph, Jr. died. Again, no one in San Jose knew how to reach her except one of her brothers who had only briefly been in contact with her.
Another member of our family was lost to time and distance. There is a certain truth to the fact that our family does two things well: one, we stay in San Jose; two, if we leave, we most always return. Those who do not do either, and that number is extremely small in comparison to the size of our enormous family, tend to get lost in the same way. It’s sad, really.
This month, much of that changed, at least for Gertrude and Lorien.
A couple of months ago, I finally located Gertrude’s gravesite; however, the woman at the cemetery gave me a birth year of 1906. I knew that couldn’t be correct because there was another sibling born during that time. I asked for someone to take a photo of the grave for me since I was hundreds of miles away in Sacramento. For two months, all I received on my request was dead silence.
In the interim, though, I received a note from a nineteen-year-old young woman stating that she was my cousin, Lorien. The truth was, I had never had any contact with her before and because of his drug addiction, I rarely spoke with Uncle Ralph.
Lorien and I exchanged pictures and stories and she has looked at our family tree on Ancestry.com, through which she found me in the first place. We have had a joyful reunion and I am helping her get in contact with the rest of her siblings and many cousins. The eldest daughter, Malinda, is probably gone forever, I’m afraid. Her mother took her back East and she has since changed her name, I believe, and probably gotten married. She only contacted our grandparents once before they died and we never heard from her again.
Lorien is back, though, and that is a grand thing, indeed.
Shortly after hearing from Lorien, I received a note in my e-mail stating that my request for a photo of Gertrude’s grave had been accepted and completed. There was a photo waiting for me there.
La voluntád de Diós está cumplida pero vivirás en el corazón de tu esposo e hijos”
(The will of God is fulfilled, but you will live on in the hearts of your husband and children.)
This gravestone photo, along with the photographic portrait that my cousin, Joe, sent me, makes our family history complete. This actually was her grave since the birth year was correct. Gertrude had finally found her way back home.
The e-mail and on-going communication with my cousin, Lorien, makes our family future brighter and more unified.
Is there anything more important that keeping a family together? If the family does splinter in some way, mustn’t we take the responsibility to rebuild it at some point?
I think this is what we’re doing. Finally.
A Composite Life
By James C. Glica-Hernandez
May 31, 2009
Pieces of lives vie / Budding from one plant / To view the new sky / Each at altered slant.
Every florid bloom / A different shape / Yet all stemming from / One seed held agape.
Each bud, skewered view / Each stem, strong, alive /Each leaf, light renew / Each bush, longs to thrive.
Buds now deadly spent / From its weary limbs, / Dried and cruelly rent / Color finally dims.
Memories linger / As new buds grow. / Changing hues finger / New petals to show.
I have begun writing a book entitled, Interwoven. This book is a memoir about an adoptee, me, who found his birth family as part of his genealogical research. For medical and emotional reasons, it was imparative that I locate my family of birth. It ultimately saved my life.
This week, I met my youngest brother, and got to know my other two brothers and father better during my visit to St. Charles, Missouri.
Since my visit, I’ve realized that my book is changing. Certainly, my life is changing from this dynamic and thrilling encounter.
I am finding a new level of joy and wholeness in this process that I never imagined possible. I am looking forward to seeing what grows from the seeds that were planted this week.
I suspect this is going to be a truly remarkable book. Perhaps not to anyone else, but certainly to me.
My message is clear. Each person with whom we come in contact has an impact on us. Our self-perception, our self-love, our self-criticism all grow exponentially based on our encounters.
No matter how we are impacted, though, I am finding an elevated level of gratitude rising out of the mist of my learning. Gratitude to my family and friends and my gratitude toward God for providing this phenomenal opportunity.
The first time I ever asked my mother about her family, I wrote it down in the form of a crude genealogical tree. I wanted to know about how I was related to the Gutiérrez cousins I knew in the Santa Clara Valley, and the Chávez cousins about whom I knew nothing in Chihuahua, Mexico.
That single, lined page of binder paper I retrieved from the desk I used in high school represents the genuine beginning of my search that now, nearly thirty years later, has led me to my birth family, as well as a knowledge about all four corners of my familial population, including the Herrera, Arroyo, Chávez and Glica lineages.
I am so joyful at having this knowledge and grateful to everyone who provided links in this chain of information.
Below is a photographic memorial to that single page of paper in 1981 from which all of this began.
To writers, especially new ones, it will come as no surprise to hear that taking on the task of writing a novel length work is daunting, at best. When one is writing a memoir, it is all the more challenging because one must balance their research, as personal as it is, with the emotional ramifacations of delving into the deepest recesses of one’s heart.
I would love to blithely say, “It’s just a book, so why worry?” It would be a perfect way of distancing myself from the material; however, I know better.
As a music director, when I’m training singers for their roles, I always tell them that if the veracity of their words and phrasing are not there, the audience will know. They always know.
It’s the same way with writing. If there is any subterfuge, insincerity or gimmicks, the reader will know. That holds especially true for one’s family when the subject is their history, as well as one’s own.
So, here I am, excited at the prospect of leaving a written legacy for my family about being an adoptee who finds his birth family and, thereafter, begins his genealogical journey toward understanding his complete life more fully, while recognizing how his journey is impacting others around him, as well. Yet, the intimacy is very intense and can, at times, stop me in my tracks.
As my mother often told me, I must continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep trudging down my path, no matter what.
That, my friends, is exactly what I intend to do.
Today, I found my great-grandmother. It wasn’t that she was lost, exactly; it was simply that we didn’t know where she was buried. No one in our entire family has known where she is for the last seventy years. All we knew was that she had lived in Los Angeles. LA is a pretty big place and finding one grave there is a daunting task, to say the least.
From the time I learned her name, Gertrude, I had wondered about her. I had seen pictures of all ten of her brothers and sisters, but not one of her. I had even known some of my great-aunts and -uncles. They were also my grandfather’s siblings.
Last year, a cousin sent me a photo without a name. I asked him who it was. He said it was Gertrude. I was stunned. The woman looks exactly like me.
Everyone said that she died very young of pneumonia. She had moved to Los Angeles after the birth of my grandmother with her husband, the man she married after my grandmother was born. He was not Gam’s father.
Again, it’s complicated.
As soon as I saw her face… my face… I knew I had to find her. I imagined how tragic it would be if my family didn’t know where I was buried. I imagined that if I was conscious of the fact that no one was looking for me, how sad I would be to be forgotten. I realize that this doesn’t sound reasonable, but I simply didn’t want my great-grandmother to lie in the ground alone while the rest of her deceased family members were visited by their descendants.
I discovered where she was living in the 1930’s through voter records of the time. I saw a 1930 U.S. Census with the names of her family, Gertrude, Donato, Julia and Louis. There they were. I was one step closer.
Still, she wasn’t home. I didn’t have a birth date. I didn’t have a death date. All I had was an address and a name. I knew, too, that she had died of pneumonia.
From the addresses, finally, I realized I could just call the cemeteries in the area and give them the information I knew. I called two before reaching the third cemetery. The woman with whom I spoke never did give her name. As I got off the phone, I smiled sadly that her name, not unlike my great-grandmother’s, might be lost to my memory for all eternity; yet, she is the one who gave me Gertrude’s death date and plot number. I will be forever grateful to this nameless woman.
Gertrude died at the age of thirty-four. They were very poor and lived in a house so small that its number was 977 1/2. My grandmother, Lorraine Julia, was only 13 when Gertrude died. What must that have done to her heart?
Today, however, is a good day, my friends. Through the generosity of time and love and effort on the part of my entire family and some total strangers, we have found my great-grandmother and although she rests hundreds of miles away, I now know where to find her. She is not forgotten to the ages. Her name and dates will be included in our extensive family tree.
The best part of this is that I got to call Gertrude’s last surviving brother, Gene, who just had his 102nd birthday last week to give him the good news. I think he was happy to know.
This moment has affirmed for me that all the work that my family does on genealogy is worth it. A centenarian now knows where his sister rests in peace. That has to count for something.
I haven’t been this happy in a very, very long time. It all feels very personal. Intimate, one might say.