Reflections on Our Family History

Published Tuesday, April 13th, 2021
by family historian Norma (Garcia) Pettit

Learning about our family history has been something that has intrigued me all my life. I remember as a young child asking my parents, Oscar and Anita Garcia, what it was like when they were children growing up in Puerto Rico. They would share their memories with me and, recently, I discovered an old composition book with my name written on the front where I had taken notes from their stories. I would like to share with you some excerpts from that notebook.

My father’s maternal grandparents were Máximo “Maximiliano” Cruz and Engracia García. Maximiliano was of medium height, about 5’5″, heavyset, white, and had straight hair. They had five children: Nicolasa, Jesús, Emiliano, Alcisclo, and Ana. Nicolasa was white, had dark hair, was of average height, and was slender. Emiliano had reddish-blond hair. Alcisclo was taller, slender, and looked Spanish.

After Engracia died, my father’s grandfather married Genara and they had six children: Agripino, Jesús (yes, another one), Angelito, Carmela, Gilberto and Ambrosio. Ambrosio was the youngest and he was the first one to die of all of his siblings. Carmela had two children who died as adults, long before she did. (Cousin Annie Meléndez, who hosted the 2009 family reunion in Peñuelas is one of her granddaughters. The Feliciano cousins from Chicago are Carmela’s grandchildren through her daughter.)


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Tracking Down a Census Record in Adjuntas

Published Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

My mother was born in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, but moved to Ponce with her family when she was seven or eight years old. I regret so much that I never got to visit Adjuntas with Mom during the years that we were both living in Puerto Rico and she was still healthy.  I have so many questions!

In my genealogical research, I discovered that my mother’s maternal grandmother, Luisa Torres Torres, was living in barrio Juan González. In the 1910 census, Luisa was living with her family in Sendero Palmieri (see left margin of census record below). I asked around on a Facebook genealogy page that I belong to, to see if anyone could tell me where that path was located. (more…)

The Mameyes Landslide

Published Friday, October 2nd, 2020

In my last article, which was about the Ponce Aqueduct and our family members that lived in that area, I related how my mother’s family had moved to the nearby barrio of Mameyes. My father’s brother, Sinforiano (known to all as “Guar”, short for guareto, meaning twin, since he and Auntie Helen were twins), also moved to Mameyes with his wife, Elena Sevilla. That little house was the first home of René Rivera Sevilla. When little René was about two years old, Guar paid $50 for a plot of land next to the aqueduct and built the house in which his eight children were raised. There were actually nine children, but Reinaldo died in 1949 at the age of three. The little house was remodeled and added on to over the years, and eventually became the home of Guar’s second to the youngest son, Heriberto “Papo” Rivera, his wife Ada Pacheco Arroyo, and their children. (more…)

The Ponce Aqueduct

Published Saturday, July 18th, 2020

Designed by Timoteo Luberza and funded in part by Valentín Tricoche, the Ponce aqueduct, formally known as Acueducto Alfonso XII, was the first modern water distribution system built in Puerto Rico.  Construction began in 1776, and when it was finalized in 1880 at a then cost of $220,000 (equivalent to 5.28 million in 2019 dollars) the aqueduct was 2-1/2 miles long and rose 50 feet at its highest point. The gravity-based water supply system was in operation for 48 years, until 1928, at which time it was retired, with the advent of more advanced water supply systems. (more…)

Family Love Stories

Published Monday, February 10th, 2020

Cousin Carol Medina Wright found a handwritten story written by her father, José Lino Medina, telling of his early life and how he met Carol’s mother, Angélica Rivera.

I was born August 15, 1924, in Barrio Boquerón, west of the city of Juana Díaz. After a big hurricane named San Felipe back in 1927, we moved to Ponce.  I attended Federico Dejetau School where I played the trombone in the school band.  In 1939, we moved back to Juana Díaz.  In 1940, I lost my father. Then, in 1942, I lost my mother, becoming an orphan.  My sister Divina and my Aunt Casilda and Uncle Julio offered me shelter and guidance.  In July 1943, I was called to service in the U.S. Army.  After I came back from World War II, I was assigned to Rodriguez Army Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (more…)

My Dad in the 1940 Census, Aguirre, Puerto Rico

Published Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Dad’s name is different in every census record. In the 1910 census he appears as Oscar Rivera Santana, age 9, Where that surname of Santana came from, I don’t know. Listed as living in the household were his father, Florencio, step-mother, Otilia, and siblings Adela,10, Sinforiano (“Guar”), 7, Neri, 2, and Isidro, 8 months. María, Elena, and Anita were living elsewhere. In the 1930 census, he appears as Oscar Rivera Cruz, 19, which is correct, although his parents weren’t married yet at the time of his birth, so he was officially registered as Oscar Cruz (with only his mother’s surname). This time, Elena and Anita are in the home, Adela and María are living elsewhere, and Angélica, 17 months old, has joined the family. (more…)

Finally Found! Proof of the Maldonado Connection

Published Friday, June 14th, 2019

In my October 2016 blog article, “The Proof is in the DNA,” and my subsequent December 2016 article, “The Maldonado Connection”, I talked about how the Hernández “cousins” from San Jose, California – the children of Auntie Rosita’s brother, Carmelo, and therefore first cousins to Carlos, Edward, Roberto and Orlando Rivera – showed up on my Ancestry DNA matches as 4th-6th cousins. I said that I suspected that our connection was through the Maldonado line, since the Hernández family and the Rivera families both have that surname in their trees. (more…)