Saturday, July 28, 2012

The 1940 Census

In case you didn't already know, the 1940 census was recently released for public viewing. On a side note, census records are not released as public record for some 70 years after they are enumerated to protect the privacy of living individuals. (Though some individuals, obviously, may still be living at the time a census is released.)

Now although the 1940 record became available in April, it wasn't actually indexed at that time making it very time consuming to search. I've been biding my time waiting for the New Mexico index to be completed and I'm happy to say that today I received an email from saying that "it's soup". Well, that's not really what they said, but if you're as old as I am you'll know what that means.

I expect to dive in headfirst very soon.  YIPPEE!!!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Plot Thickens - Manuel's First Marriage

Today, I'm going to share what I would describe as "Quite a Find" a church record of the marriage of Manuel Banegas to Casilda Espalin. What?! Yup, you read that right and you can view the record online here.

"Mexico, Marriages, 1570-1950," Manuel Benegas, 1843

Groom's Name:     Manuel Benegas
Groom's Birth Date:    
Groom's Birthplace:    
Groom's Age:    
Bride's Name:     Casilda Espalin
Bride's Birth Date:    
Bride's Birthplace:    
Bride's Age:    
Marriage Date:     18 Feb 1843
Marriage Place:     Nuestra Senora De Guadalupe,Juarez,Chihuahua,Mexico

Unfortunately, no information was listed for their parents, nor were their ages listed. However, you'll notice that the marriage date is just about a year before the christening of their son, Jose Ysabel on 13 JUL 1844. I still plan to order the microfilms of the original records to see what else I might be able to learn.

Manuel is said to be one of the original colonists of the Dona Ana Bend Colony, and in doing research on the colony I have found that the first group of settlers established the colony in January, 1843. This raises some interesting questions. First, it makes me think that while Manuel was definitely an early settler of the area, he probably wasn't in that initial group of 33 colonists. (Since he was being married in Chihuahua a month after the first group left.)

As a side note, reading about the colony's history is quite fascinating. By April of 1843, only 14 members of the original 33 were still in Dona Ana. Life in the colony was difficult and dangerous. In fact, the site New Mexico History says "in an effort to avoid the complete failure of the colony, the remaining grantees requested the Governor of Chihuahua to station a small detachment of soldiers on the grant and furnish each colonist with arms and ammunition in order to protect themselves from the savages." (Read more at New Mexico History.)

This makes me wonder how a newly married man moves with his bride to such a place? Those were definitely much different times. This also comes from New Mexico History:

"Living conditions at the Doña Ana Bend Colony during its first year were extremely primitive. On one of his occasional visits to the settlement, General Mauricio Ugarte was met by only four of the colonists. When he inquired as to the whereabouts of the others, he was advised that they were hiding because they were completely without wearing apparel. Ugarte promptly outfitted the entire colony with military uniforms and gave them a horse and a mule, which for some time were the only domestic animals at the settlement. Living quarters consisted of a number of small adobe huts and brush jacals. The digging of the irrigation canals and clearing of the land was slow and tedious since all work had to be done with crude wooden spades and plows. Progress was further slowed as a result of necessarily having to use one‑half of the entire town’s population as sentinels to protect the workers from surprise attacks from the Indians."

When did Manuel and his young family move to the colony?

Since Ysabel was christened in the summer of 1844 in Chihuahua, it seems logical that the family had not yet moved to the area. I suppose it is possible that they could have been a part of the colony and had traveled back for his baptism, but that doesn't seem likely since it is a six hour trip for us modern folk by car and money and resources back then weren't what they are now.

What if Manuel went on ahead of the family to join the struggling colony? Casilda would have become pregnant in the fall of 1843, so possibly he left shortly after that. What if Casilda died in childbirth and he had to return home for his son. Or, if he hadn't gone on ahead and was there in Chihuahua when she died, he became a widower with an infant son. Would he forge on to join the colony with a baby in tow?

As of now, the timing of Manuel (and his family) joining the colony is still unsure.

What became of Casilda?

Did she die in Chihuahua during or shortly after childbirth? No record has been found yet. Did she travel to Dona Ana and die there or along the way? No record has been found there either. Keep in mind that there wasn't a church in Dona Ana in the mid 1840's. The colony was occupied with building the Acequia Madre and defending themselves from the Mescaleros. The first church, Our Lady of the Purification was probably built around 1865 (though the settlers may have begun using a temporary structure on the designated site as early as 1844). In any case, as far as I have been able to determine there are no church records that date back to the mid 1840s. When and how Casilda died is still a mystery.

As you can see, there are still lots and LOTS of unanswered questions, and pieces of the puzzle to be discovered. but hopefully persistence will pay off again as it has with these two new discoveries (Ysabel's birth record and Manuel & Casilda's marriage record).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ysabel, Part 2: What if…

One of the things I really regret about letting a decade pass without doing any significant family research is that I’ve really forgotten some of the fine details that had lodged themselves into my brain. Today, in July 2012, I pretty much have to look up each name and be reminded of which branch the person descends through, who their parents and children are, etc.

With that passing of time I also can’t really remember why I had got it into my head that Manuel Banegas might actually be the biological father of Ysabel. In my last post I tried to explain why I resisted the idea of adoption, however I didn’t really delve much into my theory that Manuel was in fact the biological father of Ysabel. I can’t remember when that idea popped into my head or why. Back in the early 2000’s I was doing a lot of research at the local family history library and viewing microfilms weekly. Had I seen something, or deduced something that led me to this supposition? Had a relative said something along the way that led me to develop my theory? Or was it just as I mentioned in the last blog post, wishful thinking?

In any case, it was a thought that used to tease me … “What if Manuel really was Ysabel’s father?  What if he had never married Ysabel’s mother but somehow ended up taking and raising the child? (The mother may have died or left him or who-knows-what.) What if his new bride, Ynes had a hard time accepting that he had been with another woman before her (whether they had been married or not?) and therefore Ysabel was always treated differently than the natural sons?

There’s an odd but common occurence that is known to hinder family research and that is the skeletons in the closet. They often are hidden because of some embarrassment or shame and they are really, really difficult to root out. I’ve run into them on more than one occasion in researching my hubby’s family roots (he even has a relative who is buried under a false name due to the shame attached to her death by suicide).

What if that is what happened with regard to Manuel and Ysabel?

And why I’m still haranguing away at this here and now? Well, only because of this: last night while doing some more online research I tried some new searches using the clues I mentioned in my last blog post. Just when it seemed like I really wasn't getting anywhere and was about to throw in the towel, I found a baptismal record that I found very intriguing. Keep in mind that these are indexed from original records and I haven’t seen the original document yet, however the names and dates are lining up (view the record online here):

"Mexico, Baptisms, 1560-1950," Jose Ysabel Banegas Espalino, 1844

Name: Jose Ysabel Banegas Espalino
Gender:           Male
Baptism/Christening Date:      13 Jul 1844
Birth Date:     
Death Date:    
Name Note:    
Father's Name:            Manuel Banegas
Father's Birthplace:    
Father's Age:  
Mother's Name:           Casilda Espalino
Mother's Birthplace:

This little discovery has me reeling. Is this proof that Manuel actually was Ysabel’s biological father? What do you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ysabel Espalin Banegas

For me, the unpuzzling of some family history is a bit like untangling jewelry – necklaces in particular. Both are valued and require delicate attention. Achieving success in each  case takes a measure of patience and dedication and the end goal usually can’t be reached until smaller successes are achieved.

One of the “puzzles” for me in tracing my Banegas roots is learning about Ysabel Banegas. Family oral tradition states that he was adopted, which even in modern times would present some difficulties in tracing his past. Ysabel was born in about 1842 when recordkeeping for adoptions was probably unheard of and at a time when New Mexico wasn’t yet a state, and in fact not even a US territory (it was part of Mexico which had become independent of Spain in 1821). If such records did exist, I sure don't have a clue on how to find them (at least not right now).

When I had first begun to be interested in genealogy in my teens, I went straight to my parents and grandparents to find out what they knew about their predecessors. I knew one set of grandparents personally –my dad’s maternal (Banegas) grandparents. My great-grandfather Febronio (Grandpa Nono) died when I was very young but I have vague memories of him and of course photographs. 

My dad shared what he could about Grandpa Nono’s parents.  He told me his (Febronio’s) father was named Abel. He also told me that Febronio was adopted and while Dad wasn’t sure of it, he thought his real surname was possibly Lucero. Over time, I found that Abel was actually Ysabel (I’ve never heard him called Abel except during that first interview with Dad). I’ve also found that Febronio was not adopted, so I’m thinking there may just have been some confusion about who was adopted. Especially since the information about Ysabel being adopted has come up time and again. (And the name Lucero hasn’t come up again in talking to any other family members, but I’ve tucked away in my memory banks for now, just in case.)

I have to confess here that I was a bit reluctant to accept Ysabel’s adoption as a fact. It wasn’t that I wanted to doubt the story. But I do know that oral history is a bit like the parlour game “telephone”. Information that is passed verbally is subject to (possibly even prone to) innocent errors or unintentional alteration along the way. Besides that, there is the little complication of no source documentation to completely substantiate the adoption. An adoption (any adoption) can be a bit of a brick wall when it comes to researching past generations, so maybe I was being wishful and thinking how much easier the search would be if there were a biological connection between Ysabel and his father (Manuel Banegas).

However, the story of Ysabel’s adoption is attested to by several family members. One exciting and somewhat detailed account comes from Estevan B. Banegas (Manuel>Estevan T>Estevan B)  in his essay “Citizen Soldiers from SanIsidro, New Mexico, Banegas Family Story”:

“As a young boy, Isabel had been captured by Indians and later traded to Don Manuel.  Don Manuel had saved several boys and one girl in a similar manner.  The two sons and adapted sons had worked side by side with Don Manuel to dig new irrigation canals, plant shade trees along community roads and cultivate the family farm.”

Ysabel’s neice Ella Banegas (Manuel>Estevan T) also recounts in "Our Heritage, Our People, Selections of the Mesilla Valley" a verbal history collected by Ella Banegas Curry and Shan Nichols (Library of Contress Catalog Card Number 74-18037):

"The land for the [San Ysidro] Church was donated by Estevan Banegas.  Estevan Banegas' father, Manuel had come from Mexico.  It is believed that along his way, he took in a boy he reared as his own.  The young boy's name is Ysabel.”

In a 1970s interview with Ysabel’s daughter Carolina Banegas (Manuel>Ysabel), she stated that Ysabel was an adopted son to Manuel. Ysabel’s daughter and neice would both have firsthand knowledge of Ysabel’s life and are early enough in the “telephone” chain to have the facts straight.

Other details about Ysabel have been revealed over time. Originally I placed his death at around 1925, however in the Fall/Winter 2000 edition of the NFB newsletter, Irene Salais Needham (Manuel>EstevanT>Angelita) wrote a piece called “Mi Tio Ysabel” and in it she recalled that Ysabel had died around 1936. Just before the newsletter went to print, M. Steve Banegas (Manuel>Ysabel>Febronio>Willie) emailed me a page from an old journal kept by his father Willie that listed Ysabel’s death date precisely: 24 Feb 1935 8:25pm.

Last week while I was doing one of my late night internet research sessions, I happened on a death entry for Ysabel. You can check it out here at Not only did it confirm Willie’s journal, it added some new clues. First and foremost it gave a name for Ysabel’s mother: Cirilda Espalin. (I had seen the name Esaplin before on the Social Security application of Pedro Banegas, one of Ysabel’s sons. He lists his father’s name as Isabel Espalin Banegas.)

There is no way of course to know if the information is accurate since death certificate facts are considered “secondary source” info. (They aren’t related by the affected party –rather by his/her descendants who may or may not have the facts straight.) But it is still something new to go on.

Oh, and another thing… the death record lists him as Jose Ysabel Banegas. That’s new to me. Another helpful clue, perhaps?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Download Back Issues of Nuestra Familia Banegas Newsletters

When I set up this blog a few years ago, one of my early posts was about the family newsletter "Nuestra Familia Banegas", published from 2000 to 2002. I mentioned then that I have a limited supply of back issues in case anyone needs a copy (and I still do in case anyone is interested).

However, to make them even more easy to get I've uploaded pdf versions of the all four issues:

Spring/Summer 2000
Fall/Winter 2000
Spring/Summer 2001
Winter 2002

Step One: Genealogy Software

Computers don't live forever, unfortunately. So sometime back when my desktop computer bit the dust, I made the transition to a laptop computer. I like the portability but since it hasn't got a lot of memory or space, I've been slow to add programs to it. One that didn't get re-installed until very recently was my Family Tree Maker program. (After all, why would I install something I wasn't really using?)

After visiting with some of my Banegas cousins in May and getting re-bit by the genealogy bug, I came home and decided it was time. Instead of re-loading the software in my library which was a very old version, I opted to buy the newest Family Tree Maker. On the down side, it means I'm having to re-learn how to use it. But on the plus side, I'm sure it has been improved (at least I like to think so) and (hopefully) will do even more.

It came with a 14-day trial membership to so I put in as much research time as I could during those two weeks, trying to find all I could. One new discovery, was finding my gr-grandfather Febronio in Albuquerque for the 1900 census. At the time of the enumeration he was at the Albuquerque Indian School. This explained the meaning of the initials "AIS" on a sports jersey he is wearing in the earliest photo we have of him. My grand aunt Susie had shared the photo with me, though she wasn't sure where the school was. I had wondered if it was American Indian School, though that didn't seem like it could be right. Anyway, mystery solved!

Febronio L. Banegas is in back row, 2nd from left

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's a Big Job (but someone ought to do it!)

As family trees go, ours is pretty big!
Here I am again after an inexcusably lengthy absence. Believe me when I say that it isn't due to any lack of desire to work on the family history that caused me to disappear off the blogosphere. Rather, there is the matter of personal limitations and just not having the time or ability to give it the attention I would like. A little explanation is in order, I think.

A little background about how this all came  to be.
I started a serious research of both my own family history* and that of my hubby back to the late 1990's. About 1997 to be precise. I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter when I got my first copy of Family Tree Maker (a gift from my in-laws). The genealogy bug bit me hard. I spent as much time as I could  researching often into the wee hours of the morning thanks to the easy accessibility of data on the internet.
*I had also dabbled in the family history in the mid-1970s when I was a teenager.

We bought a new house just a year later before my daughter was even walking. The stress of fixing up the old place to sell and then making the actual move was probably greater than I would have admitted at the time. However, I had my family history research as an outlet and in retrospect I know that there was a definite lack of balance in my life at that time.

At some point after our move, I really started to hone in on the BANEGAS genealogy, neglecting the other lines to a great degree. And neglecting just about everything else too! Around this time I made contact with Estevan B. Banegas who had done a tremendous amount of research on the family as well and we were able to combine our family trees.

Following a 1999 Banegas Reunion in California, I undertook the publication of a family newsletter. It was intended as a one-time thing, but it was so well-received that I decided to keep it going. Let me just say that that undertaking was a Very Big Job. There was the coming up with the content, laying it all out and having it professionally printed. Keeping the mailing list updated. Responding to the many lovely letters, emails and phone calls that resulted. Trying to make ends meet (because even though we received many donations to help offset the cost, it was always a labor of love and the funds received never met the funds expended). Not complaining here. I had lots of offers of help, always much appreciated. And I loved every minute of it.

Unfortunately, in about 2001 after a series of family and personal circumstances that were out of my control I had to put my research and the newsletter on a hiatus. In the ten years since then it has always been in the back of my mind. There has been a measure of guilt and feeling as thought I've let a lot of really great people down. However, I balance that with the knowledge that I had to take care of my household and do the responsible thing.

About five years ago I thought I was ready to start again and got this blog going. Apparently, I was not ready. But here I sit older and wiser (I hope). So, now my plan is to do what I can do. Seems reasonable.

Let's see if I am ready now...