Puerto RiKin is a blog that will concentrate on Puerto Rican genealogy. The aim is to showcase the ancestry of various Puerto Rican families beginning with my own heritage. I plan to blog about the Velez-Padilla Family of San German, the Gomez-Ruiz Family of Mayaguez, and the Viera-Carmona Family of Rio Piedras. My Puerto Rican kindred will be the focus of this Boricua blog, but I foresee highlighting branches of other family trees in the near future.
I love the feeling of finding new family records. It helps grow my family tree, but it also helps those that are researching the same ancestry, my close and distant relatives. More recently, I have started to match non-related Puerto Rican families on the free genealogy website Family Search. Though these new records will not help grow my family tree, I know someone out there in the future will appreciate my work in helping find their kin in Puerto Rico.
A research tool developed by the Record Linking Lab at Brigham Young University aims to help connect the records of Puerto Rican families listed in the US Census from 1910 through 1940. It is a great project and a good way to become a part of connecting the history of all Boricua families. View the informative video below and help build The Family Tree of Puerto Rico.
Based on my genealogical research and until proven otherwise, Leonardo Vélez, born sometime around 1806, is my fourth great-grandfather on my biological father’s side of the family. I use the phrase “most likely” in the heading of this post because there is a slight chance I may be incorrect. If you disagree with my ancestral hypothesis after reading this entry, please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or contact me directly. I am open to further discussion of the probability offline.
My goal was to find the earliest known ancestor with my paternal surname Vélez. The Velezes come from San German, Puerto Rico and Velez is a common last name on the island and a significant one in San Germán. Spanish Captain Rodrigo Ortíz Vélez is credited with its founding in 1570. My Velez clan is from el barrio de Cotuí in San Germán but before Cotuí they were located in Sabana Eneas, an adjacent neighborhood. Almost all of the family records documented thus far tie them to the southwest section of San Germán.
I began this project by analyzing the known facts and then I found connections that eventually led me to the working theory that Leonardo Velez is my kin. When you run out of the official paper trail of family links in genealogy, you hit a “brick wall” where no other concrete data is available. One can then combine leading clues to come up with the most likely scenario.
Ancieto Velez, my second great-grandfather, was born sometime around 1857 in Sabana Eneas. His 1912 death record lists his parents’ as Jose and Maria Vélez. I did not find any additional vital records presently available that show exactly which Jose and Maria Velez were Ancieto’s parents and we all know how ubiquitous the names Jose and Maria are in general.
My mission was to focus on the Sabana Eneas area and look for any Jose and Maria Velez who had children together between 1850 and 1860 since most couples at the time had more than one child. I found only one Jose and Maria Velez that had a family during this time and in that specific location: Jose Fulgencio Velez and Maria Concepcion Velez. Records on Family Search show they were the parents of Jose Velez y Velez, born around 1842, Antonio Velez y Velez born around 1850, and Telesforo Velez y Velez born around 1854. It is estimated that Jose and Maria Velez would have been born sometime around 1824.
As per this heritage assessment I am confident that my 2nd great-grandfather, Aniceto Vélez, is part of this family, hence my family. The 1916 death record of Telesforo Velez mentions his grandfather, my fourth great-grandfather, as Leon Velez. Vital records show there was only one Leonardo Vélez that lived in Sabana Eneas in the early 1800s and he was probably born circa 1806.
An additional hunch helps stitch my theory up quite nicely. In the first Puerto Rican census conducted by the U.S. in 1910, Aniceto Velez is listed as living as a boarder in the home of a younger Jose Irizarry Montalvo. In the 1985 death record of Rosa Maria Velez Lugo, the daughter of Antonio Velez and Telesforo’s niece, her spouse is listed as Jose Mario Irizarry. Could these Jose Irizarries be the same person? I think it’s a great possibility.
Until an actual birth record for Aniceto Vélez is found providing more detail on his parent’s identity, or any other evidence is presented to prove the contrary, Jose and Maria Velez listed as Aniceto’s parents on his 1912 death record will be considered the same Jose Fulgencio and Maria Concepcion Vélez listed on the 1916 death record of Telesforo Vélez.
Over the past two years I have become a dedicated genealogist and plan on continuing my quest to learn as much as possible about the Vélez surname in general and my family tree in particular. Genealogy is a lifelong endeavor and things known today can be validated and expanded upon once more information becomes digitally available. For now, my presupposition is that Aniceto Vélez is the son of Jose Fulgencio Vélez and the grandson of Leonardo Vélez, my 4th great-grandfather.
Puerto Ricans who were born and raised in Puerto Rico carry the surnames of both of their parents, which is common in most Spanish speaking nations. If I were born in Puerto Rico, I would also endow my mother’s maiden name of Gómez which would follow my father’s name of Vélez. My mother’s side of the family originates from Mayaguez, the eight-largest municipality in Puerto Rico. I was curious to know who was the oldest ancestor with the name Gómez I could find through genealogical research, hence the title of this blog post.
The Gómez Family gets its name from my maternal grandfather, Jose Soler Gómez, who was born Jose Gómez in 1921. His parents were from a small neighborhood, or barrio called Quemado in Mayaguez. My grandfather’s mother was named Juana Gómez Cuebas and she was born sometime around 1890 and died after 1960. These years are estimates because no birth or death record was found for her. In addition to my grandfather, my great-grandmother had four other children.
My great-grandmother’s parents were Inocencio Jose Gómez González and Maria Catalina Cuebas. He was mainly known as Inocencio (sometimes incorrectly spelt Inosensio) Gómez and she was mostly known as Catalina Cuebas (sometimes spelt Cuevas). The couple had a total of six children and the kinsfolk eventually moved to el barrio de Rio Cana Abajo and later to Salud, Mayaguez.
Until last week, Inocencio Gómez was the oldest ancestor I could find in Mayaguez with the last name Gómez. Fortunately, I just found his 1905 death record which provided me with the names of his parents, my great-great-great-grandparents. Inocencio was born sometime around 1860 to Monserrate González and Tomás Gómez. Using the estimated year of birth for my great-great-grandfather Inocencio, my third great-grandfather Tomás would have been born somewhere around 1842. By 1887, he was listed as deceased in a grandchild’s birth record.
I now have the name of my great-great-great-grandfather on mother’s side of the family and I am humbled to share the info. Vital records in Puerto Rico, from my experience thus far, get harder to find when you get to the early 1800s. I may or may not find any older ancestors, but for now, Tomás Gómez gets the title of the oldest known ancestor with the Gómez surname.
I was fortunate enough to have two fathers: one who gave me life and the Vélez Family name, the other raised me like I was one of his own until I was 19 years old. My “step-father,” Angel Luis Viera Carmona, was known to me as “Papi” and was the prominent father figure in my life until his untimely death in 1986. To honor the father that raised me since I was 6 months old, several years ago I incorporated all my family lines in my unofficially Puerto Rican name, Felipe Luis Vélez Viera Gómez.
The Viera surname originates in Portugal and was first found in the Minho province, North-Western Portugal, where Rui Vieira was a nobleman in the times of kings D. Afonso II and D. Sancho II of Portugal (circa 1220). The place-name is derived from the Portuguese word “vieira, ” which means ” escallop” or “shell.”
The Viera Carmona Family hails from el barrio de Hato Rey in the district of Rio Piedras in San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to my preliminary research, the Viera Family line descends from Heraclio Viera who was born sometime around 1872. Heraclio had a son in 1905 named Felix Viera Rivera who in 1928 fathered a son, my step-grandfather, named Angel Luis Viera Santiago. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any vital records for the Viera Family line prior to 1877, but I am relatively new to genealogy and hope that one day I can update this post with more info.
The Carmona surname belongs to my Viera grandmother, Sara Viera Carmona, who was born in Rio Piedras in 1924. Gratefully, I was able to trace the Carmona Family line back to my grandmother’s great-great-grandfather, Laureano Carmona, who was born sometime around 1826. In 1844, Laureano had a son named Nicolas Carmona Rivera who later in 1874 sired a son named Pablo Carmona Santa. Pablo then had a daughter around 1898 named Cristina Carmona Canales, Sara’s mother and my great-grandmother on my Viera Family side.
The name Carmona is Spanish and was first found in the Valley of Cabuérniga in Santander, in the northern central regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Carmona as a place-name has uncertain meaning and is of pre-Roman origin. There are many indicators that perhaps it was of Jewish descent emanating in Jewish communities of Spain and Portugal.
My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Ruiz and her family came from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. As of the date of this post, I have been able to trace the Ruiz Family line back to about 1822. My grandmother, Carmen Maria Ruiz y Santiago de Gomez, who gave birth to 17 children and was known most of her life as Carmen Gomez, was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico in 1931. Prior to researching her family line, all I knew was that they were from Mayaguez, but I have since learned that my ancestors also lived for some time in Las Marias, a bordering municipality east of Mayaguez.
Ruiz is the 21st most popular Hispanic surname in the world and its origin is Spanish and Portuguese. Its roots can be traced back to the Visigoths, the Germanic tribe who ruled Spain between the mid-5th and early 8th centuries. The name means son of Rui or Ruy, which is short for Rodrigo, and it most likely derives from the Old German personal name Hrodric, a compound of “hrod,” meaning renown, and “ric,” which means power.
My great-grandfather was Tomás Ruiz Perez, who based on his death record and the 1930 US Census, was born around 1903 in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Tomás, who had five children, unfortunately, died in Mayaguez just a year after my grandmother Carmen was born, which is why we never heard her talk much about her father. Her grandfather, my 2nd great-grandfather, Manuel Ruiz Malavé, was also born in Las Marias around 1882, had nine children, and died in Mayaguez in 1917. The initial family relocation from Mayaguez to Las Marias occurred during the life of my 3rd great-grandfather, Bernardo Ruiz, who was the father to 11 children (all of which were born in Las Marias.) Bernardo was born in Mayaguez around 1840 and by 1870 he had moved to Las Marias where he died in 1900.
The furthest back I could verify an ancestor with the Ruiz Family name is 1822 which was about the time my 4th great-grandfather, José Pedro Ruis, was born in Mayaguez. The reason for the variant spelling of his name could be that is was listed phonetically, or the name could have Portuguese ancestry. Of all the vital records found for Bernardo Ruiz, his death record lists his last name as Ruis but more than 15 other family birth, death, and marriage records have him listed as Ruiz. There is a possibility that Ruis was simply misspelt. It’s also possible that the Ruis Family from Mayaguez just eventually became the Ruiz Family of Mayaguez.
Though my mother’s side of the family is Gomez, it is very important for all of us to know that we are also part of the Ruiz Family legacy that started out in Mayaguez, stretched out to Las Marias, and later returned to Mayaguez.
The Lugo Family name begins in my ancestry with my great-grandmother on my Vélez father’s side of the family. Her name was Juana Maria Cancel y Lugo de Vélez and she was born in 1891 and died in 1950. Juana Maria was married to my great-grandfather, Antonio Vélez y Mercado. The Vélez side of my family goes way back in Barrio Cotuí, San German, Puerto Rico with the Lugo line currently tracing its verifiable history back to about 1775.
Until recently, the last Lugo on my family tree was my great-great grandmother, Maria de las Nieves Lugo y Rodriguez de Cancel, who was born around 1864 and died in 1927. While conducting family research on FamilySearch.org, I was amazed to find information on my second great-grandmother’s parents. This incredible find led me to four more generations of Lugos all based in San German, Puerto Rico.
Lugo is a very popular name in Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. According to the Dictionary of American Family Names by Oxford University Press, the Lugo name is based on the city of Lugo in Galicia, Spain. Lugo was a Roman settlement under the name of Lucus Augusti, ‘grove or wood of Augustus’, but that may have been no more than an adaptation of an earlier name derived from that of the Celtic god Lugos. The surname “Lugo,” originally “Lucus” comes from the Latin “Lucius” which means light.
My 6th great-grandfather is Bartolomé Lugo y Rivera who was born around 1775-1780. He had a daughter named Maria Petrona Lugo y Montalvo, my 5th great-grandmother who was born around 1798. Maria then had a son named Manuel Encarnacion Lugo y Lugo, my 4th great-grandfather who was born around 1816. Manuel then had a son name Ramon Agapito Lugo y Morales, my 3rd great-grandfather who was born about 1845. Ramon, who was known most of his life as Agapito, is my great-great grandma Maria Nieves Lugo’s father.
Family Search has other suggested Lugo Family members predating 1775, however most of the info online is solely from member family trees and unverifiable by actual records. For my research, I made certain that the names listed above were mentioned in the birth and death records of my Lugo Family members of San German.
As of today, 1775 is as far back as I have gotten on any family line I have been researching. It’s incredible to me that I can trace my family in Cotuí, San German, Puerto Rico to around the founding of the United States of America. I’m having a wonderful time studying genealogy, shedding light on my ancestors, and sharing them with my family and the rest of the world.
When it comes to choosing a genealogy website to search your family history, no site comes close to FamilySearch when you consider the total monthly cost associated with membership. While you can pay up to $25 per month for some genealogy search sites, FamilySearch is in a league of its own with the unbeatable monthly membership fee of $0.00.
I have free accounts on the top genealogy sites and paid the monthly membership charge for two months on a premiere site, but after comparing the paid site with FamilySearch, it just made more sense for me to start my family tree education on a free site. Since I have already made the decision that genealogy will be a lifelong hobby of mine, why should I pay $300 a year for the ability to search for millions of records when I can do the same for no cost on FamilySearch?
Sure I admit there is a small learning curve on FamilySearch and the paid sites might make the act of searching a bit easier, but for the cost involved I think it’s worth mastering FamilySearch and investing the money saved on other things, since genealogy in general is not an inexpensive hobby.
My strong recommendation for anyone getting started in searching their family history is to create an account on FamilySearch and check out online tutorials on how to use the site to it full capacity. Have fun!