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.
The Viera Family from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico Originates from the Canary Islands, Spain
While researching my Puerto Rican family history for the past three years, I have been able to trace a few ancestors back about 250 years. However, some family lines have limited records available which causes me to run into genealogical brick walls. Every now and then, I get to break through a barrier to find some insightful history.
I have been eagerly awaiting the time when I could identify a record of an immigrant ancestor who traveled to Puerto Rico from Spain. I wondered which family line would be the first to point me to Europe. Finally, I have an answer: the Viera Family from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
When Spain acquired Boriken, the territory known today as Puerto Rico, many families from the Canary Islands migrated to help populate the Caribbean land. The Spanish monarchy felt that Canarians would adapt to island life better than other immigrants from the mainland of Spain. I have learned that the Viera Family lineage originally came from Lanzarote, Las Palmas, the third most populous Canary Island, after Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
Records show that in the early 1800s, Jose Mariano Viera, his wife Manuela Valiente y Martinez, and their five children including Lazaro Viera Valiente migrated from the Canary Island of Lanzarote to Gurabo, Puerto Rico. The Viera Valiente children acclimated to their new home, later married local residents, and started families of their own. Eventually, over the years the Viera Family from Gurabo moved to Rio Piedras. In addition to Rio Piedras and Gurabo, Viera Family ancestors lived in Trujillo Alto, Juncos, and Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Another Viera Family ancestor named Justo de Leon Martinez also migrated from the Canary Islands to Gurabo, Puerto Rico sometime in the mid-1800s. Justo was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canarias, Spain sometime around 1840 and died in Gurabo, Puerto Rico on February 20, 1900.
Further research shows that the Viera name is prominent in the Canary Islands. José Antonio Viera y Clavijo, who was born in 1731 in Tenerife, was a Spanish historian known for his extensive work on the history of the Canary Islands. There is also a comtemporary DJ named Diego Viera who was born in 1986 in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I have no evidence that links these Vieras to my family line, but they are both worth noting because anything is possible.
Help Find Families in Puerto Rico
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.
Leonardo Vélez, Born Circa 1806 in San German, Puerto Rico, is Most Likely My 4th Great-Grandfather
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.
Tomás Gómez – My Third 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.
The Viera-Carmona Family of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
I was fortunate enough to have two fathers: one who gave me life and the Vélez Family name, and 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 Ciriaco Heraclio Viera who was born sometime around 1872. Ciriaco 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 north-central regions of the Iberian Peninsula. Carmona as a place name has an uncertain meaning and is of pre-Roman origin. There are many indicators that perhaps it was of Jewish descent emanating from Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal.