The Maldonado Connection

Published Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Researching family trees is a crazy business.  You start out working on one branch of the tree and get easily sidetracked by a different branch. But it is fun, fascinating, and at times, frustrating. I have been trying, since the last blog entry, to find the connection between the Hernández and García families.  As I wrote last time, Emy Hernández found me on page eight of her Ancestry DNA list.  I checked through my list and found her as well. I suspect that we connect through the Maldonado line, since we have that surname in common in our trees.  I actually have Maldonado on both my father’s lineage and my mother’s, and they do connect way back—something that my parents never even suspected.

The Maldonado roots in Puerto Rico can be traced back to the 16th century.  In an article in the Puerto Rican Genealogical Society’s magazine, Hereditas (vol. 8, num. 2, 2007), author Otoo Sievens Irizarry writes that the Maldonados of the 16th century were considered to be of upper class and distinction.The Maldonado name was well established in the areas of Arecibo, Utuado, and Adjuntas, and soon spread out into the regions of  Ponce, Peñuelas and Guayanilla.  There are documented marriages between cousins in the Maldonado family, examples of endogamy (the practice of marrying within a certain ethic group, class or social group) that kept the Maldonado landholdings within the family.

I have written much about Florencio Rivera Maldonado, my paternal grandfather.  He was born in Guayanilla, and was the son of Manuel Alejo Rivera Maldonado and María Dominga Maldonado Rivera. As you probably know, the first surname is the paternal one and the second surname is the maternal one.  The inversion of Manuel and María Dominga’s surnames is due to the fact that they were cousins; he was the son of Cipriana Maldonado and she was the daughter of Felipe Maldonado.  Cipriana and Felipe were siblings, two of the sixteen children of Antonio Maldonado Caraballo and Juana Santiago Rivera.

Antonio Maldonado Caraballo was born in Utuado in 1763, a mountain town that his grandfather, Lope Maldonado de León, helped found.  Lope was also one of Utuado’s first mayors.  Several of his sixteen children, including Remigio, Cipriana, and Felipe, ended up settling in Guayanilla.  In an 1840 record of landowners of Guayanilla, Remigio Maldonado is documented as owning 260 acres of land, and on July 28, 1848, he acquired another 400 acre estate. (Irizarry, 2007)  Remigio Maldonado served as Commissioner of Barrio Pasto, but he had the impediment of not knowing how to write or sign his name.  So, in the file for his son, Manuel de Jesús, to marry his cousins, Rita de la Cruz Maldonado, the priest from Peñuelas had to sign the paternal consent because Remigio didn’t know how.  When cousins married, they had to receive a special dispensation from the Catholic church.

Others of the sixteen children of Antonio Maldonado Caraballo settled in Adjuntas (my mother’s home town), Peñuelas (my father’s home town), or remained in Utuado.  Amalia Sierra (or Serra, as the name appears in some documents), Emy’s paternal grandmother, was born in Utuado.  She was the daughter of María Ramona Maldonado Torres.  I am attempting to trace this line back to see how it connects with my Maldonado lines.

Stay tuned for progress reports!


The Latest Newsletter
The y la Familia newsletter is no longer being published.

To view our archive of newsletters (past issues), click here.

The Proof is in the DNA

Published Monday, October 10th, 2016

My uncle, Isidro Rivera Pacheco, was married to Rosita Hernández Serra, who came from a very large family in Utuado, Puerto Rico.  Rosita’s next younger brother, Carmelo (married to Carmen Sánchez, also of Utuado) raised his family of eight children in San Jose, California.  Isidro and Rosita raised their four boys in the town of Belmont, about 25 miles north of San Jose, while my family lived another 25 or so miles farther north, in San Francisco.  Despite the fact that my mother didn’t drive and my father, a Merchant Marine, was gone for extended periods of time, our family got together with the Hernández family on a regular basis. (more…)

To Be Or Not To Be……a Rivera

Published Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

The question came up at the 2016 Rivera family reunion, held in Stinson Beach, California, on June 26th:  If my father was a son of Florencio Rivera, and his brothers all had the last name Rivera, why was his last name García?

This is the way my own father explained it to me many years ago…

Back in the olden days in Puerto Rico, when a baby was born, someone had to go to town to register the baby.  But the recently delivered mother was usually unable to go into town herself, especially if she already had other children to care for.  The baby’s father often could not do it himself, either, if he couldn’t stop his work to make the trip.  Thus, if they heard that a neighbor was going into town, they would say, “Hey, my wife just had another baby…while you are in town, can you register the child for us?”  And the agreeable neighbor would go register the child, and when asked what the baby’s name was, often would give the wrong last name.  No one would even notice the mistake until years later when for some reason or other, a birth certificate had to be produced. (more…)

Our Mystery Man: Florencio Rivera – Part V

Published Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Life with Otilia Pacheco Arroyo

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far about my grandfather, Florencio, in the previous four segments.

Part I: He was the son of Manuel Alejo Rivera and María Dominga Maldonado. He had six siblings, although at least three of them died while Florencio was still a boy. His mother died when he was only ten years old, but Florencio was 27 and already married to his first wife, Felícita, when his father died.

Part II: Florencio Rivera and Felícita Madera Medina were married on March 10, 1897 when she was 17 and he was 24. Their first son, Nicolás, died on Nov. 19, 1900. Their second son, Andrés, was born on Nov. 20, 1899. Felícita died on March 20, 1901 at the young age of 23, and the fate of Andrés is unknown but it is presumed that he died as a child. (more…)

Our Mystery Man: Florencio Rivera – Part IV

Published Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Life with Ana Cruz García

By his 30th birthday, my grandfather, Florencio Rivera, had endured the deaths of up to eight people that were close to him, including a young wife and a toddler son. In the last blog, I revealed that his second wife, my grandmother, Ana Cruz García, had a baby girl named Matilde, born on January 27, 1907. Presumably, Florencio was the father, but since they were not married, Matilde’s death record only says that Matilde was Ana’s illegitimate child. Sadly, the baby died on September 23, 1908, just two months after the birth of her baby sister, Adela. Florencio and Ana’s surviving children were as follows: Adela (1908-1976), Óscar (1910-1995), María (1912-2009), Sinforiano (1913-1986), Elena (1913-1999), and Anita (1916-1998). (more…)

Our Mystery Man: Florencio Rivera – Part III

Published Friday, February 12th, 2016

Our Mystery Man Part I established Florencio’s parentage and speculated on the reason he had told his children that he had been orphaned as a child. Part II exposed all of the suffering that Florencio experienced before his 30th birthday: the deaths of up to eight people that were close to him, including a young wife and a toddler son. We ended with the question of whether all this tragedy had hardened Florencio’s heart or had created in him a strength that helped him endure the other hardships that came his way later on in life. The answers may never be fully known, and speculation varies depending on who remembers what about Florencio. (more…)

Our Mystery Man: Florencio Rivera – Part II

Published Saturday, December 5th, 2015

In the last article, I explained how I solved the mystery of who Florencio’s parents were, and questioned the possible reasons why my grandfather portrayed himself to his children as having been an orphaned child raised by an aunt and uncle. His mother, María Dominga Maldonado Rivera, did die when Florencio was only ten years old, but his father, Manuel Alejo Rivera Maldonado, died on Dec. 7, 1899.  Florencio was 27 years old by then, married to Felícita Madera Medina, and himself already a father.  I suggested that perhaps Florencio meant that he was left huérfano de madre (motherless) at a young age.  Although unable to prove anything at this point, I can only conjecture that after his wife’s death, Florencio’s father had his hands full with several children and his farm, so he sent Florencio to live with an aunt and uncle. (more…)