Author Archives: murpher2

A Present to Ring in the New Year

Happy 2017, everyone! I hope this finds you doing well. We are in the middle of an ice storm here, but we have eggs, bread, and heat, so all is more than fabulous.

With the wonderful success of Tia Cuca’s video blog post, I have decided to share this snippet of gold earlier than I anticipated. I had wanted to share this after I was done blogging about my grandfather’s life; when it was all done. *insert hysterical laughter* As I am not sure when that is going to be, I might as well share it now.

In the 7th grade, I did an interview with my grandfather for an assignment. My paper included much of what I have here: his youth, boxing career, family. He died about 3 years later. My sweet husband helped me convert this audio tape to mp3 format. I had shared it with my aunts and uncles, but I realized that my cousins might like to hear a familiar voice.

When you listen to it, please remember, I was very young and goofy. I would ask completely different questions today. I wouldn’t giggle nervously. This recording is unedited. We really don’t start talking until about 1:55 in. He was soft spoken so listen carefully. You can hear him move the bench seat in his dining room. Can you see it there, off the kitchen, on 5th Street in Port Hueneme?

His voice is ever the same as I remember. His life spanned almost 77 years. His travels were extensive. His cumulative life experiences unknowable. He is the center of this blog site.

This blog entry is dedicated to my first cousins. Here’s to all the holidays in Grandpa’s den. Click on audio below. ⇓

One more thing about Tia Cuca…

Greetings all! Look at me. Another post. In the same month!

I have been doing family history for a very long time. I started about 1986, two years after my grandfather passed away and I could no longer ask him questions. Before a visit to Calexico, California, to visit my aunt, we purchased a video recorder. She was going to go with us to visit Tia Cuca in Mexicali. The recorder would allow us to ask her questions and record them for posterity.

As many of you know, I cannot speak Spanish. It is a very painful truth, but there it is. My parents only spoke Spanish to each other when my birthday and Christmas were coming. I had anticipated that during this visit to Mexicali, my escorts might share some of Tia Cuca’s knowledge with me. We never did have a post-interview meeting on it. So, not knowing all of what she had to say was my fault.

Flash-forward to about 4 years ago. I found the video tape. Guess what? Tia Cuca shares quite a bit of the information with us that it took me 20 years to dig up. Sigh. What we did manage to do is capture a bit of her on video. You will see her kitchen. I learned to love mole there. This footage is very raw, even having the camera lie sideways on the table. There is nothing fancy to it. Even the questions are shoddy at best. I know what to ask now. But alas, that time has passed.

I realized many of you might want to see this.  The primary reason for this blog is to share all I find (or have) with you. Every day I slap my forehead thinking “They might want to know about this!” So here she is. We loved her kindness and hospitality. You love her for reasons of your own. Please enjoy.

We are Family.

Greetings! I have been working WAY too much recently. My computer has been acting weird too, so my ability to search for family has been disrupted. However, I found that a kind person shared my blog entry regarding the Palacios family on her Facebook page. Many have been visiting and I’m so glad! Connecting with family to share stories is the reason I do this.

As the Palacios’ are my traffic right now, I thought I might share some information with them that they may or may not know. I am surprised how many family circles are in the radius that is Calexico and Mexicali, but they DON’T know it. My mom’s first cousin was Dr. Leonardo Sepulveda, pediatrician. He worked in Mexicali. She never met him. ACK!

I am a notorious Facebook stalker. I see who knows who. Some may know this next batch of information, but many may not.

My connection to the Palacios family is two-fold. My Great-Uncle Ruben Escalante married Maria Del Refugio Palacios. Her sister married my Great-Great-uncle Jose Maria Valenzuela. I have often wondered how Jose Maria’s two sets of children viewed each other.

Jose Maria’s first wife was Maria Luisa Lopez. They had three children that I can find so far. I really love to draw charts. I’m sure one day I’ll get fancy and do it on the computer, but that is no fun for my brain.


Jose Maria’s first marriage and resulting off-spring.

Adela was important to Margarita Valenzuela (Gil Samaniego) because she was a 15 year-old who was at Margarita’s 2nd wedding as padrino. How cute she must have been at her aunt’s side. I could not find leads on the other children of this first marriage.

Maria Luisa died between 1910 – 1913. In 1914, Jose Maria marries his second wife, Armida Palacios.


Wedding Registration for Armida Palacios and Jose Maria Valenzuela, 1914.

Now Armida is a married young woman with a few step-children, one her own age. She gets pregnant quite quickly. While they have a baby girl, Francisca, she only lives 5 months.


Grandfather Francisco Palacios was the one to report the death of the baby to the officials.

This must have been devastating to the new mother. She did move forward and proceeded to have 9 children. [If she had more, please let me know].


This wonderful picture shows Armida with her first three living children. The 10-year old, I can’t find on record.

This post has many images. I thought everyone would like to see photos from waaaay back in the day.


Many years of using his Travel Manifest. Oscar Valenzuela-Palacios.


Armida Valenzuela de Cota.

Armida’s husband was Lauro Cota. He was a local singer in the Mexicali area. His Manifest says he “sings on the radio.” I found an article in this e-magazine. Page 5 discusses Cota quickly, as well as another man who married into the Palacios clan, Armando Toledo.


Juan’s manifest. Noting he was going to Heber to see his brother-in-law Arturo Hernandez.

Let’s see. What else. I found Maria Guadalupe Otilia Valenzuela Palacios too. She shortened it and went by Otilia. She was very pretty.


How does one take such a great picture? Honestly.

She married a Gilberto Castro Millan. A later manifest says she had two children; a boy named Fernando and a girl whose name I couldn’t find.


Mario. One of the last of the children. He looks like L. Escalante.

In my records I have a Cesar Valenzuela listed, but have no idea why. I could find nothing on him.


The Valenzuela-Palacios tree.

So there is what I could find on this family. All of these people are first cousins to my grandfather – Alberto “Tony” Escalante. Also to his brother Ruben. But because Ruben married Armida Palacios’ sister, they are also Rubens’ nieces and nephews. Excellent!!!

I hope that all of the siblings got along. From both marriages. I hope that they all had birthdays, baptisms and weddings together. The age difference might have been an issue. Some of my mom’s best memories were visiting with the Palacios family. She had no idea she was related to them. Twice.

If there is anyone out there who can supply me with corrections, additions, photos, please share whatever you can. I want to report as accurately as possible. Have a wonderful November!

Guadalupe Valenzuela de Garcia

I recently made contact with Margarita Valenzuela’s grandchildren. They have been so wonderfully gracious in sharing information with me. While my blog is generally about the Escalante family, I realize that Rufina grafted the Valenzuela branch onto our tree. Rufina is kind of my favorite and I’m finding so much more about these relations of ours.  So the Valenzuela branch earned its own category today.

The basic run down is this:

Guadalupe Valenzuela married Francisca Moreno in Sonora, Mexico. They were supposed to be from Tecoripa. They farmed in Santa Ana. After he died, Francisca moved to Hermosillo with Margarita.

They had four children which I have been able to find. Those were:

  • Rufina Valenzuela b. 1868 (married Leonardo Escalante)
  • Jose Maria Valenzuela b. 1872 (1st wife – Maria Luisa Lopez; 2nd wife – Armida Palacios)
  • Guadalupe Valenzuela b. 1878 (married Manuel Garcia)
  • Margarita Valenzuela b. 1881 (1st husband – Tomas Gil Samaniego; 2nd husband – Jose Lopez; 3rd husband – Luis Barragan)

This write-up is about Guadalupe. The first time I “came across” this aunt was on Rufina’s death certificate. Guadalupe is the official “informant.”  She was also listed on Tia Panchita’s delayed birth certificate. She was out there as a mythological being, but no one tangible. On one lovely visit to Tio Ruben’s son, he generously opened up his photo album. He is the baby in this picture, with Guadalupe in the center. My heart melted as I saw Rufina’s sister.

Son, Tia Cuca, Tia Guadalupe and Tio Ruben, around 1937, Calexico, CA.

Son, Tia Cuca, Tia Guadalupe and Tio Ruben, around 1936, Calexico, CA.

And then, I had to keep on digging until I found out more. This branch of the Valenzuela de Garcia branch has been very difficult to reach. I have met those who know them, but I haven’t been able to make contact with a direct descendant. Here is what I have been able to piece together. Starting with Guadalupe’s husband…..

Manuel Garcia was born August 17, 1872, in Ures, Sonora, to Manuel Garcia and Trinidad Zamudio. This is Manuel at his elder brother’s wedding. The photo was shared by A. España. She is a relative of the groom.

Back From Left to Right: Trinidad Zamudio de Garcia, Manuel Garcia, Dolores Moreno de Martinez. Groom: Alejandro Garcia Sr. Bride: Maria I. Rosa Martinez.

Back From Left to Right: Trinidad Zamudio de Garcia, Manuel Garcia, Dolores Moreno de Martinez. Groom: Alejandro Garcia Sr., Bride: Maria I. Rosa Martinez.

[If the names sound familiar it is because Alejandro Garcia, Sr. is father to my Tia Panchita’s husband, Alejandro Garcia, Jr. Whew!]

Guadalupe was born in Sonora on September 23, 1878. She and Manuel probably married around 1897. They proceeded to have many children. I’m going to gratuitously list them. You never know who will be doing a Google search. AND, many of my cousins could very well know their offspring, never realizing familial ties.

Carlos Octavio – Born in Ures, Sonora, August, 1898. Married Isabel Guillen.

Victor Manuel – Born in Naco, Sonora, July 1900. Had children, can’t find name of wife.

Trinidad – Born in Nacozari, Sonora, May 1902. Married Luis Noriega Peralta.

Francisca Belen – Born in Naco Sonora, March 1907 (although her gravestone says 1908). Died single.

Hermenegildo Rene – Born in Cananea, Sonora, June 1911. Died young in 1943.

Rene's graduation picture found at the Pioneer's Park Museum.

Rene’s graduation picture found at the Pioneer’s Park Museum.

Enrique Felix – Born in Naco, Arizona, June 1913. If you read his birth certificate below, you will see he was the 11th child born, the 6th living. This would explain the large gap in children between Trini and Francisca, Francisca and Rene. I theorize that he died early as he is never listed in any of the US Census’ later.


Manuel – Born in Calexico, CA,  June, 1915, . Married Enriqueta Davalos.

Guadalupe – Born in Calexico, CA, December, 1917. She died young at the age of 20. She is buried with her father in the historical section of Mt. View Cemetery, Calexico.

Eloisa Martha – Born in Calexico, CA, January, 1920. She married a man named Perez. I cannot find an obituary even though she only recently died in 2003.

I have tried to track various leads, but no one has returned emails. I completely understand. Not every one reaches out to my “we are cousins!” announcements.  The one thing I cannot comprehend, is how, when Tia Guadalupe lived at 910 E. 3rd Street in Calexico, for what appears to be forever, my mom never knew about her.

Tio Ruben obviously visited her. My grandfather returned to Calexico in about 1945. During the time they lived there, my mom (and aunt) have no recollection of every meeting her. As I keep thinking it odd that family lost touch while living in an approximate 25 mile radius, this Garcia family lived on a street that intersects with Giles Avenue; a street my grandfather and his family lived on. Was it bad blood? Were feelings hurt? Was everyone just too busy to chat any more and then slowly drifted apart?

Rufina came to Calexico to be near her Valenzuela family. And yet, there is no connection in present day relations.

One more photo. Tia Cuca, Tio Manuel Garcia, Baby Escalante.

One more photo. Tia Cuca, Tio Manuel Garcia, Baby Escalante.

Tio Manuel died not long after this picture was taken on February 3, 1936. Tia Guadalupe lived at the same house until her death on February 13, 1960.

I have yet to find any more siblings for Rufina, but at this point I’m not going to say it’s impossible. They could even live right next door to me.  A cousin of mine, a son of my Uncle Jim, lives in Stillwater. I’m going to a wedding where the bride’s surname is Valenzuela. Don’t think I’m not going to corner her grandmother by the punch bowl. “Hi. Sooooo, where are your people from?…..”


He Once was Lost, but Now, He’s Found….

One thing I have discovered about myself during my family history hunting journey is that I am persistent. Give me some time. I will keep on looking. If you might be related to me, I will hunt you down and I will find you. *insert evil laugh here*

There are still a few people for whom I am looking. My latest “last chance” try was for Tio Jose. If you remember, we last left the eldest of the Escalante children divorced. He had been seen turned out of his siblings’ homes in Calexico in the early 1950s.

Tia Panchita had said my grandfather Albert had sand in his shoes which was why he always kept moving. But he always kept in touch with his family. Tio Jose must have had sand dunes in his shoes. He wandered around all the time. He must not have been good about staying in touch with those who loved him, as they turned on him.

Jose Maria Escalante

Jose Maria Escalante

I had interviewed his daughter-in-law on the phone. She had mentioned that Ester said Jose was blind when he died. Fascinating. What that told me was Ester KNEW when he died. She just never chose to talk about it. That generation should have worked for the CIA. They could keep crazy good secrets!

Not to be deterred, I kept on searching. Ancestry had a hint come up that suggested a Jose Escalante died in 1960. The birth date matched, but they said he had been born in Maine. Um, no. I’m on a budget here, so sending away for Death Certificates can get pricey if it’s not the one you want.

About a year later, I decided to risk it. I saw that California had cashed my check two weeks ago and I waited anxiously for the post office to deliver the certificate. It came today! (I know, I’m a goof. ) AND it’s him!

Jose Escalante's Death Certificate.

Jose Escalante’s Death Certificate.

Bless Tio Jose’s heart! Examining the document gives me all sorts of clues as to the end of his life. He had been a janitor in his later years. He died alone. He had been in the General Hospital of Riverside County. He died of Lobar Pneumonia. He lived at this little house before his death:,-117.363913,3a,75y,207.25h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m4!1sD5aBjIvJrvjM52tbsXFONw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xb6892fb7bdd0d345!6m1!1e1

He stated that he was still married – to Ester Arias Escalante. He died on Christmas Day, 1960. Could that be sadder? He was interred at the Palo Verde Cemetery in Blythe, CA, on January 3, 1961, per the very nice lady who answered the phone.

The reason I called the cemetery is that I searched on and They had pictures and listings for all those buried at Palo Verde, but no listing for Jose.

I gave their office a quick ring. The secretary graciously checked their records. Yes, he’s buried there. His grave is located in Section “M,” 99-8. (Just in case you get there first.) Because his headstone hasn’t been photographed yet, I wonder if he even has one.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Palo Verde Cemetery, Blythe, CA.

Today I get to move Tio Jose to the “Found” column of my ledger. Now he gets to be on that list of those I get to visit at his resting place to appreciate him for being my great-uncle. I might even be his first visitor. He has a wonderful family that I’ve had the privilege to get to know. And for that alone, I am truly grateful.


Fernando Escalante – Part I

It must be difficult to the be the baby sometimes. Either they are doted over and spoiled rotten, or they are forgotten. I have not forgotten about the baby of the Escalante children. I’ve been so wrapped up in telling my grandfather Albert’s story, that I postponed  Fernando. But, I can’t do that! Therefore, he has been bumped to the top of the queue. As his life was pretty full, I thought I would give him several chapters.

Fernando Escalante - May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante – May 31, 1914.

Fernando Escalante was the last living child born to Leonardo and Rufina. They were living in Los Angeles in 1914. I would love to know what drew them to L.A. The who? what? why? Before they got to Orange County, they had Fernando. This birth certificate is SO very informative. Leonardo didn’t have a business here as he’d had in Ventura County. Rufina is “housewife-ing.” My heart skipped a bit when I read “Number of children born to this mother, including present birth: 12” and “Number of children of this mother now living: 9.” My poor darling Rufina lost 3 babies. BUT! They did get one more chance. Fernando was born and his daddy was 48! Surprise!

The family moved to Santa Ana and started their lives. Fernando didn’t get to know his daddy for very long though. Leonardo died June, 1915, when Fernando was only one. The whole family shifted their center to Calexico. There are several family members who visited the area. This was the first picture I could find for Fernando.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

Rufina and her littles: Lupe, Albert, and Vernon, 1919.

I love the sweet border agents. They tried so hard to translate names. So Fernando was called Vernon. Once Rufina died in 1923, Fernando became a 9 year-old orphan. Fortunately, the family rallied to care for him.  I would imagine he lived for a while with several of his “already adult” siblings.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

Graduation photo, Calexico High School, 1934.

I found this handsome devil’s photograph at the Pioneer Park Museum in Imperial, CA. While my grandfather Albert stopped his education at 16 years old, Fernando made it to graduation in 1934. The next time I find him is in 1937 at the Hotel De Anza.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Hotel De Anza. Swanky.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Imperial Valley Directory.

Fernando was working as a Bellman. This isn’t a phone book. It was an area directory and it gave all sorts of good information. I confirmed that here (by cross-reference) in 1937 Fernando is living with Tia Panchita and Tio Alejandro.

It was in 1936 and 1937 that Fernando’s life started changing. He met his first wife, Elodia Cruz. Elodia’s story is shared with us by her daughter.

Elodia was born to Luz Rembao and Jose Cruz in Mexicali, Baja CA on June 25, 1919. In 1920, they lived for a short time in Hurley, Grant County, New Mexico. Elodia’s uncle and maternal grandmother, Senona lived next door. Soon, there were three Cruz children when Alberto was born right after this census was taken.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Cruz Family, Hurley, New Mexico, 1920.

Tragedy struck the family early. Their father died Elodia was 3, and their mother died two years later. The Cruz siblings went to live with their maternal grandmother, Senona, back in Mexicali. 5 years later, Senona passed. They went to live with a maternal aunt. They were raised among 16 children.

Elodia met and fell for a handsome Fernando Escalante. They married on June 15, 1937, when he was 23 and she was 18.

Elodia and Fernando’s Wedding Day. Photo courtesy of G. Miller.

This lovely photograph is their wedding portrait. Left to Right: Leonila (? as she looks just like Elodia), unknown, Tia Panchita Escalante de Garcia, Elodia, Fernando, Tio Alejandro Garcia, unknown, unknown.

They had two children, a boy and a girl. I’m kind of quirky about not naming those family members who are alive. I’m happy to report that both are.

Her manifest with her baby boy. She's beaming!

Elodia’s manifest with her and Fernando’s first baby boy. She’s beaming!

This marriage did not last long however. Fernando and Elodia divorced in 1942. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1946. She recovered, moving to San Diego to live with Leonila. In 1955, she found new happiness. She met and married Wallace Gray of Macon, Georgia. Elodia’s son had been living with Fernando and his second wife (next chapter) and their daughter had been living with Tia Panchita. Both went to live with Elodia and Wallace in 1956. That same year, Elodia had another son. Their family was complete. The Gray’s were married for over 50 years.

She was a sales woman at Hartfield’s Department Store for 25 years. I wish I had been able to meet her. Her daughter wrote: “My mother was a selfless, wonderfully forgiving, and unpretentious woman. She didn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She was a very fun-loving woman. She loved to dance and go to parties. She was a devout Catholic, attending Mass faithfully and saying her rosary everyday.”

Elodia Cruz Gray died of breast cancer on July 28, 2006.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Elodia Cruz, 25 years old.

Tio Fernando’s story went on after his divorce from Elodia. There was the military, a new wife, bar keeping, hard work and more children. You’ll just have to wait for next time.

My thanks to Elodia’s daughter for sharing the stories and pictures. All my love.

Looking for Leads. Or: How to Procrastinate Like a Boss.

When I sit down for a few minutes to do some quick research between life events, there is really never any method to my madness.  A person or article will pop into my mind so I will start looking to see if Ancestry has any new hints on the person. I search newspaper articles to see if they were ever famous. Or infamous.

Every once in a while I go over old documents to try to see if I can analyze the information with new eyes.

According to, Leonardo and Mariana had three other children that I think MIGHT be related to the two I can confirm. Getting out a large sheet of paper, I wrote down the names of the children. In my non-Spanish-reading semi-expertness, I gleaned basic information: dates, name of child, names of parents and godparents.

I ventured to do quick look-ups on the godparents to see if anyone could lead me to more clues about my family.


Possible other Escalante siblings, with their Padrinos (Godparents) listed.

At the top of the list is a son with Salasar padrinos. This is good because Mariana’s mother was a Salasar. So maybe these were her cousins. The second son, Florentino, had a Bustamante godmother. Good sign too as Mariana was a Bustamante, but could find nothing definitive on these two. [Am I the ONLY person doing family history? Come on people! Post your trees! Okay. I’m done.] Maria Sisilia’s padrinos were interesting. I had seen their names before. My spider senses were on alert for two reasons: I have an uncle Fernando and Maria Ramirez de Barbachano’s middle name was Luisa.

When I looked for more information on Fernando Montijo and Luisa Bustamante, there were LOTS of kids to examine.


Montijo Children. Screen One.

At this point, I start to play the “let’s be optimistic” game. There were Escalantes named as godparents. A few Bustamantes.  There was even a Leonardo Escalante, but his wife’s name was different. Which made me sad.

This family is the second one I have found that recycled baby names. For example: they named a child “Maria Adelaida.” But you will find the same name for a different baby born a year later. My guess is with life expectancy not as high as it is now, there were several babies who passed along the way. And the name was chosen again.


Holy Smokes, they had many a baby!

The one off-spring that fascinated me the most, was Fernando Montijo, Junior. His padrinos weren’t exciting necessarily. However. I discovered he was a traveler. He married Elvira Hugues in 1883. Fernando became a store owner in Berkeley, California. He traveled often to Sonora with his family. He crossed back into the United States in December, 1906, with his entire familial entourage.


Going home to Bay Area, December 1906.

I look at the list of names and the timeline. Try to stick with me here as my mind goes click, click, click.

  • AS Fernando Junior’s mom was Luisa Bustamante; and IF her sister/cousin was our Mariana Bustamante then,
  • MAYBE Mariana named Maria Luisa Bernadina Ramirez after her relative, then
  • MAYBE Maria L.B. Ramirez named her daughter Elvira after this Elvira, and
  • MAYBE on their way back to Berkeley in 1906, they stopped to visit Leonardo and Anita in Ventura County, because
  • the next child, a boy, born to Leonardo in August of 1907 was named Alberto, and
  • the next boy born to him in 1914 was named Fernando.

Dropping the mic right there. Boom!

My family, up until the last two generations, loved naming new babies after family. You could easily track who might be in your line by those named before. SO easy! SO helpful! Now, not so much. But it used to be a sign of admiration, love, and respect.

I have done this not-necessarily-conclusive research which I will put back away for a while. Maybe when I am brushing my teeth, I will think about the Montijos again. I will wander to the computer between scout meetings, working, or mowing the lawn. It’s at the random times you find out if these elusive people are really family or not. It’s the beginning of the research.

So as not to leave y’all hanging, this was how Fernando Junior’s story ended.


Fernando Montijo’s Death Announcement, 1937.

In 6 months from now, I might wander over to another site to do a “quick look-up” on Fernando’s sister, Rosaura Serrano. Widow of Rafael Serrano, former Mexican consul to St. Louis. Whose daugther-in-law had a torrid affair that made the Midwestern papers. But that’s for another day…….


Bits and Nibbles – Various Stories and Previews


I have been fighting a sinus infection the last few weeks. Being here in Oklahoma in May is trying on my poor head. Cottonwood seeds float around like little flying saucers of allergen doom. I love it here, but May does have its downside. That, and the traditional spring storms with their meso-cyclones (tornadoes) is always fun and exciting!

But you are here for other reasons. First of all, I have delayed in sharing this a bit too long. I have been in contact with my Gil Samaniego cousins in Mexicali. If you remember they are Margarita Valenzuela’s descendants. They have been so kind in their friendship to me. One cousin sent me this wonderful photograph.

Mexicali, 1935. Photo Courtesty of T. Gil Samaniego.

Mexicali, 1935. Photo courtesy of T. Gil Samaniego.

This is Jose Florencio “Lencho” Valenzuela and his lovely bride Concepción “Concha” Abril. He was from Margarita’s third marriage. He did not take his father’s last name. They were married in 1935. They lived in Mexicali. Lencho is my grandfather’s first cousin. What a lovely treasure. They had quite a few children, most who live in Mexicali.

Let’s see…what else? Last year I was bored and doodling and testing my memory. I managed to put a family tree together that seemed to get most of the families on it.

Genealogy nerd doodles.

Genealogy nerd doodles.

I think this could be helpful for those that might wander onto this site looking for a more collected framework. These are names I can definitively say have documentation to back up the theory of my branches. There are many other “side” friends and family theories that I have. But until I can prove it, they are all just theories.

I am outlining two new blogs in regards to my grandfather Albert. One will be about his third wife, Sara Higuera. I want to give her familial background a fuller picture for her grandchildren who may or may not know much about their past. The second will be more of Albert’s business and career dealings. I am kind of partial to him, so I want to give him the fullest picture I can. Haha!

I am in touch with another family historian who is working on the HIguera tree. Just when I think I have a good basic idea of Sara’s story, I’m told that Sara was married before my grandfather. WHAT?? So I go looking around and find this:

Fengel - Higuera wedding license announcement. Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan 3, 1934.

Fengel – Higuera wedding license announcement. Santa Cruz Sentinel, Jan 3, 1934.

Neat! But there is a bit more to the Fengel story, so that will probably add-on a few more weeks of correspondence. It’s a never-ending spiral of information!

I’m off to continue researching. If you find you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Send me a message. I really enjoy reuniting family with family that isn’t even mine. 🙂


Tangent Stories – A Tribute to the Outlaws

Greetings all!

I apologize for wandering away from my blog. Mid-January brought the illness, heart-failure and eventual death of my Father-in-Law, Dr. Daniel D. Kersten. He was ill for 40 days before his death. It took 40 days from there to have his memorial service. We have been more than a little occupied.

There is so much introspection when a person dies. While I write these blog entries for the Escalante family, I have to remember that there are the “Outlaws” as well. There is always a branch grafted onto the tree that adds more to the color and gene pool, with every marriage, every torrid love affair. Add the Romos, the Barbachanos, the Valenzuelas, and we have a lovely orchard of fruits and nuts. Haha! I had forgotten that my son has a whole second tree I will need to tell tales about.

However, Dan’s family history isn’t all that estranged from our story. His story almost ran tangent to it in some places. He was a second-generation German-American born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. German was even his first language, as his parents held on to old German traditions. He was mortified by the children making fun of him on the first day of school for not speaking English. I believe this reason is why he was such a lover of English, with its grammar rules and regulations, later in life.

His father was a physician. Dr. Erwin Kersten started practicing medicine in Calipatria, Imperial County, CA. According to the US Census of 1930, he, his wife Wera, and baby son, Dan, were all in this tiny agricultural town. They weren’t in Minneapolis anymore. I’m not sure if Erwin knew what to do with the vast varieties of people who were populating the county. If you, dear reader, get a chance to go to the Pioneers’ Park Museum in Imperial, CA, you will see tributes to the more than 15 ethnic groups that made up the population. And the little Kersten family had to be what? 30 miles north of my family in Calexico where my family was setting up businesses, families and lives?

After Erwin worked to build his medical skills, the Kersten family moved to another county my family once called home. They moved to Orange County. Except they moved to the more Germanic town of Anaheim, California. I say this kindly: ALL peoples will move to what they know. No matter what race they might be. It isn’t a new thing. It gives comfort.

Flash forward 40 years, my husband and I met in San Luis Obispo, at Cal Poly. My parents lived in North San Luis County and his parents were in North Santa Barbara County, and we met in the middle. Location, location, location. Ted’s family was apparently always near mine, just a bit out of reach. It took a lost test on the Business Building lawn for him to finally come to my office asking for directions. Fate had to step in.

I respected Dan. Between he and my sweet mother-in-law, I have a wonderful husband. Dan had many academic accomplishments, including becoming an orthodontist. But that wasn’t what I found fascinating about him. He had met a Civil War veteran and survived the Depression; although he had a tendency to keep many things, as you “never know when you can use something.” But it was his growth as a person who grew up with ideologies from the late-1800s (his parents) who moved into the 21st century with eyes open and a willingness to grow.

I’m sure I’ll get back to Escalante story-telling soon. I’m working on drafts as I write this too. Thanks for your patience of my absence and letting me be a little retrospective in this writing. I was where I needed to be the last few months. It is, after all, THIS life we are living now that will be the tales of tomorrow.

Maria Elena Sepulveda – One More Time

Ahhh, the Escalante stories do continue. Just when I think I’ve dug and redug all I can, I find that there are more doors to be open. We each have so many chapters.

I went onto Ancestry a few months ago and found a new entry under the U.S. Social Security Death Index. It was for one Maria Elena Sepulveda – parents listed as Hipolito Sepulveda and Maria Escalante. Our cousin, born in 1917, died in Los Angeles, CA, in 2004. WHAT??


So, being the old-fashioned girl that I am, I filled out an application and sent it to CA Vital Records for an “old school” Death Certificate. Oooh, the waiting is the hardest part!

Before it arrived, I did some research on Maria Elena via updated Ancestry records. After having been born in Gloryetta, Orange County, California, her mother, father and their new spouses all ended up in Mexico City. On November 19, 1943, Maria Elena married one Pablo Velazquez. I cannot tell if they divorced or he passed away. They do not appear to have had any children together either.


Finally, her DC arrived. I had been able to learn quite a bit from this one piece of paper. Maria Elena had a 6th grade-level education. She had been a beautician. She had Alzheimer’s for a long time (down farther on page). I put her last residence into a search engine to find she was in the Brier Oak care facility until her death in 2004.

The best part of this evidence was the name of her informant. *hands clapping!* With that name I was able to discover how Maria Elena’s reappearance in the states unfolded.

Maria Elena was on several flight itineraries during the late 1950s in Texas. And a man, one Donald Ekman, traveled to see her too. They married on March 25, 1960.


Maria’s itinerary after her marriage to Donald Ekman.

A few years later they had two daughters. She was an older mom! She had her girls in 1962 and 1963 – when she was 45 and 46, respectively. Maria Elena and Donald were married until their divorce in 1972.  The informants name on her DC was her eldest daughter. I would normally share names, but I work hard to keep living people’s names anonymous. Her Death Certificate says she was widowed. Had she married a third time?

I have sent letters to the addresses I can find for her two daughters. They aren’t all that much older than I am. I hope that they decide to make contact. You know I have a TON of questions. Do they know about their aunts and uncles (Tia Maria’s other children)? They might find they have hundreds of extra family members they never knew about! I am also a friend of Hipolito Sepulveda’s family in the Wilmington area. These women have double the family.

Maria Elena was buried at sea via the Neptune Society. I will not be able to go to her grave to pay last respects. But, at least now, we now the end of her story.