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.