Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Series I, Part I: An Ancestor's Story Through Records

So with college graduation and a break between my summer job I've decided to start a short series that I'll add to sporadically and will depend on how much I have to post on here. I've titled it "Series I" because I don't know how many I'll actually end up doing- hopefully I'll do more than one! This first series is titled An Ancestor's Story Through Records which is pretty much exactly what the title says- telling the stories of an ancestor through the records I have available for them (I'll try to choose ancestors that have multiple documents to give a full picture). The object of this series is to bring to life an ancestor I've never met and hopefully give them a voice. Every time I will pick an ancestor, whether a direct ancestor or one from a collateral line, and tell their story, about their families, their profession and anything else I can figure out from documents. For this first part I decided to pick my paternal great grandfather, Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez. I didn't know much about this line probably before two years ago, so to have all this information on him now is truly remarkable. Also, unknowingly-- at least by me, my uncle was his namesake. So let the story begin!

Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez was born in the barrio of Quebrada Arenas in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. His baptismal record states that he was born on the 9th of December of 1883, and later baptized on the 1st of June in 1884. It states that he is the legitimate son of Jesus Rivera and Laureana Gonzalez, his paternal grandparents were Pedro Rivera and Eusebia Diaz and his maternal grandparents were Valentin Gonzalez and Feliciana Mojica (This last name has also appeared as Muxica and Moxica on other records). His godparents were Ramon Mojica and Agustina Hernandez. As we can see, we learned who Alejandro's parents were as well as his grandparents on both sides of the family. Alejandro was one of 11 children to his parents (These are from the ones I've found so far) and he was the fourth born.

Alejandro's Baptismal Record from San Fernando Rey in Toa Alta
Alejandro has his first marriage on the 19th of June 1906 at the age of 22 to Brigida Hernandez Velez, daughter of Jesus Hernandez Bauta & Maria Florentina Velez. In this first marriage, Alejandro would have three children. During the 1910 Census, Alejandro is still living in Quebrada Areas in Toa Alta with his wife Brigida and their first son Demetrio Rivera Hernandez. They've been married for about four years now and Brigida would be days away from delivering their second child, Monica Rivera Hernandez. He works on his own farm as SC "Su Cuenta" meaning on his own account. He and his wife are both able to read and write (which I say is rare seeing as most of my ancestors were unable to read or write at this time). Alejandro and Brigida would have their last child, Pedro Rivera Hernandez three years later and he would sadly die two months later as a cause of rickets. I imagine that Brigida herself passed away some where between 1913-1916 (when his second marriage occurs)-- I haven't tracked down her death certificate yet.

Alejandro and his family in 1910 (Toa Alta, PR)
Alejandro marries his second wife, Petrona Ortiz Nieves on the 5th of May 1916. She was the daughter of Elias Ortiz Feliciano and Paula Nieves. They married in Toa Alta which makes me wonder how he met Petrona who was originally from Corozal. Both towns are close to one another but I wonder the story behind their encounter. Interestingly enough, Alejandro appears in his WWI Draft Registration Card living in Corozal and that he was depending on Francisco Rodriguez who is his sister's (Valentina Rivera Gonzalez) husband, Valentina also appears on the WWI Draft Card as the closest family member. This makes me wonder where Petrona was at the time, was their marriage in shambles? The draft card dated October 26, 1918 gives us more information on Alejandro himself. It tells us that his race was "white", his height: Medium, his build: Full, his eye color: Brown and his hair color: Brown. As well as his signature!!

My great grandfather's signature on the WWI Registration Card
Alejandro and Petrona would have two children, Amelia Rivera Ortiz and Maria Julia Rivera Ortiz. Petrona later had another children, Manuel but I don't know who the father is- in 1930 he appears like Amelia and Julia as "Rivera Ortiz" but I wonder if that was just done as a mistake/ to make the census process go faster. Alejandro and Petrona would be divorced by the 17th of February 1922 by the Tribunal District and he would be remarried for the third time with my great grandmother Mercedes Ortiz Marrero on the 31st March 1922. Interestingly, his sister Valentina Rivera Gonzalez was living in Corozal next door to Mercedes and her family in 1920 so I wonder if that's how he met her, which is very likely. I neither found Alejandro nor Petrona on the 1920 Census so I'm not sure where they were, whether in Toa Alta or Corozal.

1920 Census with Valentina's and Mercedes' family as neighbors
Mercedes would be his last wife and the starter of our family line. Unfortunately the records I have don't tell me why Alejandro and Petrona divorced but I imagine the Tribunal District should have that on record and could be something I could find while in Puerto Rico. So by 1930 Alejandro and Mercedes were living in San Juan, specifically in La Perla with six children-- two from his previous relationship with Petrona (Demetrio and Monica) and the other four from his marriage with Mercedes (Antuliano, Maria, Manuela, and Francisca Rivera Ortiz). In this census it still says he is able to read/write but his wife Mercedes isn't. I can't make out what his profession was but I can see that he is working with his son Demetrio in Plaza Mercado.

Alejandro and family living in San Juan, PR in 1930
I've been lucky to find Alejandro and his family in the 1940 Census and mainly because they were still living in the same area. Alejandro appears still with Mercedes and his children Antuliano, Iris Maria, Manuela, Francisca and my grandfather Felipe Rivera Ortiz! They would have one more daughter, Antonia Rivera Ortiz, born on 1942.

Alejandro and his family in the 1940 Census
The last bit of information I have of Alejandro comes from the WWII Draft Registration Cards. It shows that he works in La Princesa St. in San Juan, Puerto Rico and that Alberto Gomez will always know his address (I'm guessing this is a neighbor of his). Again I have his signature and some more physical information which shows: his race as "white", his height: 5'4'', his eye color: Brown, his weight: 140lbs, his hair color: Brown, and his complexion: Light Brown. The reason why I put white in quotations is because race in Puerto Rico wasn't so easily split into categories, I would say.

Alejandro's Signature on the WWII Draft Registration 
This year, two miraculously things happened to me: the first was finding my cousin Mercedes (the namesake of my great grandmother/ her grandmother) who led me to number two: being able to find our family tomb. I wrote about it before in an earlier post. She also gave me a picture of my grandfather which I won't put on here just for the fact that I went through so much to get it that I don't want it floating all around the internet and I want it to be treasured. But I will post the picture I took myself of the family tomb. Only one final piece of this story is missing which is his death date and under what causes he died. He was pretty old when he must have passed away somewhere around his mid 70s I'll guess. 

I would how Alejandro would have felt seeing Puerto Rico as a Spanish territory and then living through the Spanish American War and becoming a US citizen and the status of commonwealth. I learned a lot about him, that he was pretty short (5'4'') and was able to read and write. That he married three times and moved from the rural town of Toa Alta as a farmer to heart of the city in San Juan and worked. That he had brown eyes and brown hair and looped his "R" in Rivera similarly like how I do. You can learn a lot about a person you never met through the documents that recorded their stories. And hopefully there is still more to learn about my great grandfather, Alejandro Rivera Gonzalez!

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