The Proof is in the DNA

Published Monday, October 10th, 2016
by family historian Norma (Garcia) Pettit

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.

We García kids knew that the Hernández kids weren’t really our cousins.  They were first cousins to the Rivera boys since Auntie Rosita was their father’s sister.  We were also first cousins to the Rivera boys because our dad, Oscar, was Uncle Isidro’s brother.  So we shared the Rivera boys as first cousins, but there was no direct connection between the Hernández and García families.rivera-hernandez-reunion Nevertheless, we grew up calling each other cousins, and to this day still do. I was a bridesmaid in cousin Helen’s wedding, and Danny Hernández (far left in this photo) always invites me to the family reunions he holds in his San Jose home.

Recently, the youngest of the Hernández clan, Emy (third from left) sent me a message saying that she found me on page 8 of her Ancestry DNA list! We are actually cousins in the 4th-6th range….distant, but related nonetheless.  I looked through my DNA list and found Emy, also. When I mentioned this to Danny, he said, “I always had a feeling.  That’s why I just refer to you as my cousin.”

Now the trick will be to find out exactly how we are related.  I suspect that it may be through the Maldonado line, which is in both of our family trees.  My paternal grandfather was Florencio Rivera Maldonado (of Guayanilla), and my mother was Ana López Maldonado (of Adjuntas), so I have the surname on both sides of my family.  Carmelo and Rosita’s maternal grandmother was María Ramona Maldonado (of Utuado).

Sounds like I have my next research project!