Monthly Archives: April 2014

The House of David

David Romo Senior and his wife, Anita Escalante de Romo, had 17 children over the course of their marriage. The only child to thrive and have a dynasty of his own was their first son, David Romo Jr.

The Romo family had a small tradition of marrying cousins. I had no idea that Sonora, Mexico was so “Jane Austen” in their customs. This is not limited to the ones we see in these posts either. I’m finding it with many different branches of their family.

That being said, David Jr had a cousin brought up from Mexico to see if they could make a match. The girl who came up was his Tia Juana’s daughter, Carmela. They married in 1910, apparently in Sonora. She came back David’s bride, but escorted by her father.

Carmela Martinez de Romo's travel manifest.

Carmela Martinez de Romo’s travel manifest.

The couple followed their elder Romo and Escalante family members. They all ended up in Orange County by the time the men register for the draft of WWI in 1917.

David Romo Jr and Carmela Martinez de Romo.

David Romo Jr and Carmela Martinez de Romo.

Carmela and David Jr. Photos courtesy of Rose.

Carmela and David Jr. All photos courtesy of their granddaughter, Rosemary.

Carmela had no plan to marry this man who lived so far away from her family in Sonora. However, here she was. These two started their lives and proceded to have their children.

(For reference to my first cousins, David Jr was a first cousin to our grandfather Albert, and David was 22 years his senior.)

David had many jobs. He’d been a barber with his dad and uncle. They had a pool hall in Santa Paula. By the time he was settled with Carmela, he had different jobs. He was a barber in the 1920 US Census. He worked as a mechanic at a creamery in the 1930 US Census.

Their family grew over the years. Here are their children.

Ralph Romo

Ralph Romo – 1911- 1994

Ralph was married twice, having one stepson.

The second child was Elia. She lived only two years. She was such a delightful child that Tia Panchita would name her first daughter after this child. According to Rosemary, the family was so devastated by her death, that David went to the church, laid himself on the floor and prayed for another daughter to bless their home.

Elia Romo's Baptismal Certificate.

Elia Romo’s Baptismal Certificate.

The next child was the answer to that passionate prayer.

Anita Romo. 1920 - 1980

Anita Romo. 1920 – 1980

Anita was just lovely. She married Benito Rubalcaba. They were not married long before he passed away. They had one child. In this picture, Anita had died her hair dark. Her natural hair color was on the blonde side. Apparently she got some grief for being a light-complected Mexican-American. Later, she embraced her blonde, going platinum.

Robert Romo - 1923 - 1980.

Robert Romo – 1923 – 1980.

Robert was next. He worked as an officer for Orange County. He married Charlotte Noriega. They had one daughter and three sons.

Ruben Romo - 1926 - 1982.

Ruben Romo – 1926 – 1982.

Ruben was a Shoeshiner in Santa Ana. While he had no spouse or children, in town he was so popular there was a write up about him in the Orange County Register after his passing.

Carmela and David had another pregnancy in 1927. They had two baby boys, David and Manuel. The babies were born on June 8. Manuel died on August 13, David on August 22. The cause of death was “not thriving.”

I’m sure you can see a theme of the name “David.” A strange thing I had found was all of the boys had the first legal name of David, then their middle name, which was the one they went by.

David Jr really wanted his sons to join him as mechanics in his business. They wanted to do their own things though. He was alone in this venture.

On paper, I had discovered that Carmela divorced David before 1940. When asking Rosemary about this, she explained the situation.

She said it wasn’t so much that Carmela didn’t love David. They were living in the Depression. Many people were unable to pay for the services he provided. They bartered with different things to pay him. When monies did come in, he was extravagant with them. She could not get him to understand her concerns, and she divorced him.

David Romo Jr, late 1930s.

David Romo Jr, late 1930s.

This picture of David was toward the end of his life. Rosemary said that while the doctor put his cause of death as Tuberculosis, which killed many in his family, the real cause of death was a broken heart. He passed away on April 9, 1941.

David should have had a hundreds of nieces and nephews. However, his legacy was to allow his family name to continue. He had healthy children and grandchildren. However, no man has children all by himself.

Carmela went to live with her kids for a while before getting remarried. She lived for a very long time. But that story will need to be something for another day. Carmela’s tale takes more time to tell.


I May Have Failed to Mention Something Big

When I was about a month away my trip to California, I received an email on this blog. It was from a very nice woman who was doing some research and “Googled” the Barbachano family. Lo and behold, my blog came up with Maria Barbachano’s name. It also mentioned the Escalante’s, and this woman’s great-grandmother, Ana.

After whirlwind emails and wonderful phone calls, my sweet new cousin Rosemary did something that no one else in the world could do for me.  She told me their stories. She told me the “why’s” and “how’s” of their lives. And then, she showed me these wonderful people whom I love.

The pictures in this post will be of people you have already read about.  But finally, faces to names!

Ana Escalante de Romo as a young woman.

Ana Escalante de Romo as a young woman.

Rosemary calls her Anita, so I will call her Tia Anita from here on out. This is my great-grandfather Leonardo’s full sister. She was born in 1862, my guess is this picture was from the 1880s.

[Personal shout out here – my mom looks very much like her mom. But people have told her she has the eye shape of the Escalante’s. When I showed my mom the above picture, she said “the eyes!” My son has the same shaped eyes. This was a powerful thing for us to see.]

Anita Romo - early 1900s?

Anita Romo – early 1900s?

Tia Anita started wearing her glasses. It’s amazing how women’s fashions changed.

Anita was married to David Romo, Senior.

David Romo, Sr. (before 1930)

David Romo, Sr. (before 1930)

He still has thick wavy hair. And that moustache!! And since we are here, David Sr had a sister as well. She was named after their mother.

Juana Romo de Martinez, Ures, Sonora.

Juana Romo de Martinez, Ures, Sonora.

Juana is the mother of Carmela Martinez, David Jr’s wife.

[David and Anita were cousins a few times removed. They share a great-grandfather, Juan de D. Bustamante. So I guess this is Anita’s cousin and sister-in-law.]

Tia Anita had 17 pregnancies, but very few children lived into adulthood. Her son, David. Jr, did. (You will see him in another blog entry). She had Manuel, Mercedes and Rudy, the only children that lived a significant amount of time.

Manuel Romo

Manuel Romo

According to Manuel’s Death Certificate, he had a wife that preceded him in death. Rosemary does not know her name, and it is not on that certificate either. His brother, David, had to recover the body from Banning, CA. where he lost his fight with tuberculosis.

Mercedes with her husband, Frank, and son, Frank, Jr.

Mercedes with her husband, Frank, and son, Frank, Jr.

Lovely Mercedes and her movie star handsome husband, Frank Carrillo. Their son was Frank David Carrillo.

Mercedes had a younger brother with whom she took a picture. His name was Rodolfo but he went by Rudy.

Rudy and Mercedes. Ventura County, between 1909-1910.

Rudy and Mercedes. Ventura County, between 1909-1910.

Arent’t they darling?? Now how can I say where and when this was taken? Well, it is because I have a similar picture of my grandfather, Albert, with his brother Ruben.

Alberto and Ruben Escalante. Ventura County.

Alberto and Ruben Escalante. Ventura County.

My grandfather can’t be more than three years old in this picture. Both families still lived in Ventura County in 1910. Also, if you look carefully between the two pictures you will see Alberto and Rudy are sitting on the exact same chair. Coupon day at the photographer? I’ve always thought my grandfather named one of his sons after his cousin Rudy, who would have been a playmate, as they were only about a year difference in age.

Rodolfo "Rudy" Romo.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Romo.

Here is Rudy with his parents, David Sr and Anita.

David Sr, Rudy and Anita.

David Sr, Rudy and Anita.

Rosemary remembers Anita always being in black. Her mourning was probably a permanent state. In fact, they are quite the serious bunch in this picture. But then again, the Depression was going on…..

Rosemary also has pictures of the Barbachano family. She said that Tia Anita was close to her sister’s family. They all met with each other. While the two families differed socio-economically, there was never any prejudice on that score.Just love. Anita died at her sister Maria’s house in San Diego.

The Romos and Escalantes were together for almost 20 years between Ventura and Orange Counties. I asked Rosemary if she had any pictures of my grandfather or his siblings. She couldn’t find any. Rufina took her children to Calexico and a vacuum was created. If Leonardo had lived longer, we might have known our Barbachano cousins too. But that wasn’t our path.

These pictures were of Anita and her children with whom no familial legacy endured. However, there was one person with whom all of the hopes and dreams of the Romo family were realized.

To Be Continued……I love cliff hangers.



Dr. Cuate. Paging, Dr. Cuate.

During our trip to Calexico, we were able to visit with my mom’s first cousin, Leonardo. This Leonardo is Tio Ruben’s son. I had many questions for him. One was to inquire about the cousin, Dr. Leonardo Sepulveda. This doctor was Tia Maria’s son who was supposed to have moved to Mexicali to start his practice.

I have been chatting with Dr. Sepulveda’s cousin from his father’s side. Her name is Sara. She is a delightful woman. She is in her late 80s, but she is full of life. I admire her very much. Her kindess to my familial inquiries has been delightful.

She had mentioned that her mother, Elipidia Villalovos Aguirre, was half-sister to Hipolito. At one time, her mother went to see Dr. Sepulveda, but he was rude and didn’t want to chat with his aunt. That made me sad, so I decided further inquiry was needed.

So sitting in Leonardo’s home in Calexico, I brought up this subject.

“I’ve been told that your cousin Dr. Sepulveda was in Mexicali with a pediatric office. Did you ever see him? Know him?”

Leonardo’s wife looked at me. “Well, of course!”

I stared back at her. “Really? What can you tell me about him?”

“He’s dead.”  She smiled, and I cautiously laughed.

“No, really. Did you see him much?” My mouth had a difficult time speaking these words because it had dropped to the floor.

Apparently, yes. Dr. Sepulveda was a pediatrician in Mexicali. These two took all of their children to see him throughout their childhoods. WHAT???

They called him “Cuate.” I must have looked puzzled. (Again, my deep shame of not knowing Spanish). “You know,” she said “because he was a twin.” I nodded my best confident nod.

According to, Cuate means twin in Mexican and Central American Spanish. Lovely.

She continued that he had been married twice. His first wife, Alicia Vildosola, was quite pretty. He had three daughters by her. Then she died. He remarried his nurse and possibly had two more children with her. With a side glance she mentioned that Dr. Sepulveda was also an “enamorado,”or a “lover.” I think this was a bit of gossip and a bit of truth.

I sat there in silence. All of this information was wonderful. “What’s wrong?” she asked me.

How could I express my shock and dismay and outrage and sadness at that moment? The radius of the Calexico/Mexicali area isn’t very big now. In the 1950s, it had to be smaller. And yet, my mom never met her cousin, Dr. Sepulveda. Or any of his, if they had dropped by to say “hola.” The outrage!

Then I contemplate these days. After my grandfather died, many in the family never got together again for holidays. Familial disputes, moving, simply ‘not enough time’ managed to get in the way of family seeing each other. I am grateful for email and Facebook in that I get to see my cousins again and their children. Here is to hoping we all “friend” those family we’ve lost along the way. Even if they are just in our own backyard.

PS – And while this post sounds so calm, for a week I would outburst “Cuate!” Which sounded more “Kwah-tay!” The whole concept of him being close enough to get to know was SO disturbing. See? I’m wound up all over again!

Paying First and Last Respects

I stole my mom from her house a few weeks ago. I took her with me on a family history research journey into southern California. Bear with me. The next few entries will be about discoveries.

One of the stops on my itinerary was the Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum in San Diego. This is where Leonardo’s half-sister, Maria Ramirez de Barbachano is buried.

As a recap, they shared the same mother, Mariana Bustamante. She is my hero. From the 3 children I have found, she has hundreds of grandchildren who share her DNA. Maria Ramirez was her child from a second marriage to Juan Ramirez. She married Manuel Barbachano.

After working at the San Pedro Customs House for many years, they moved to San Diego. I’ve been wanting to go and connect with this elusive aunt for years.

When I drove into Holy Cross Cemetery, I could see that many had been filling the lawns and newer mausoleums on the grounds. Families were gathered around tombstones, remembering their loved ones. We were there on a weekday and I was surprised they were busy. But sometimes needing to remember is important at that moment.  Right then and there.

We drove up to the main building. I made a huge assumption. After reading all I had about the Barbachanos, I figured they would be right up in the “big place.”

Main Chapel. Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, CA

Main Chapel. Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, CA

I could say that perfect timing put us there on a weekday when the office was open. But I’d by lying. My mom and I were overwhelmed by the number of people laid to rest here. The building space is VERY well utilized. I caved and went to a nice maintenance man for assistance.

He took me to the office and kindly waited for the map. Then he took us just around a few corners.

Main Chapel, after having walked in the front doors.

Main Chapel, after having walked in the front doors.

When we walked in the front door, we entered this main chapel area. Do you see the lovely statue of the Virgin Mary on the right? That is the entrance to the small Immaculata Chapel.

Immaculata Chapel

Immaculata Chapel

We never would have found their vaults but for the map. However, I should have known that they were going to be right up front. Once we went into the chapel, we saw there were two sides. The Barbachanos were on the right side. The bottom two burial vaults were theirs.

Manuel P. Barbachano

Manuel P. Barbachano

The top vault belongs to Manuel and Maria’s son, Manuel P. Barbachano. Feb 1891 – Feb 1954.

Manuel and Maria Barbachano

Manuel and Maria Barbachano

Below their son, were Manuel A. Barbachano, Sept 1858 – Feb 1948, and his wife, Maria Ramirez de Barbachano, Aug 1870 – Nov 1957.

It was a wonderful experience to say hello and goodbye to persons that I had never met but have thought of many times. After a few quiet moments thinking about Maria’s relationship with my great-grandfather, their mom, their home experiences growing up, etc., my mom noticed something very interesting.



Both had recently had visitors. There were two red carnations each flower vase. It was simple. It was touching.

I think I was the first to “rediscover” where my great-grandfather Leonardo was buried over 20 years ago. At that time I thought, “well, if no one comes to see you in 80 years, cremation is the way to go.” But then I went to this gravesite. Even after 60 years, there is someone who still gets comfort from visiting their loved ones. Sharing their love for those they miss. Paying their respects.