The Maldonado Connection

Published Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
by family historian Norma (Garcia) Pettit

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!