Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reason #38 Finding Family is Helpful – Our Health

Hi there! How are y’all doing? I’m great. Summer is here. Our tornado season has been mild this year (knocking on wood as I write). My little vegetable garden is rolling along. This isn’t a family history reporting piece. It’s more of a “fringe benefits of doing genealogy” opinion piece.

I kid you not. I have started this piece 3 times, staring in early April. It began differently each time. I have this incredibly morbid obsession about my own death. As I quickly approach my 50th birthday, I’m freaking out about quality of life into my elder years now too. Keeping this piece light-hearted is gonna be a task!

When I visit the doctor I have to fill out those forms that ask for family medical history. I am grateful for all of the boxes I get to skip over, but I always checked off what I knew: Diabetes, Colon Cancer, High Blood Pressure, High cholesterol, Asthma. My 40th birthday was lots of fun. That’s when it was suggested I start all of the testing that goes with creating a “baseline” for the Golden Years. Hahahaha!

Over the last six months, there has been a nagging voice to look at all the Death Certificates I have for genetic direct-line family members.

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Death certificates can tell you the diseases that your family passed from, as well as how long they endured their condition.

So here are what 6 family members passed from:

  • Lung Cancer
  • Heart Attack (myocardial infarction)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Uremia Nephritis (Renal failure)
  • Colon Cancer
  • Cardiomyopathy (1st cause) exacerbated by Intraluminal Thrombi (2nd cause) exacerbated by Gastric Tumor.

Well, okay then.

About 5 years ago, I talked to my Nina, Phyllis Baltierra. I knew she was unwell, but did not know her specific issues. I asked if she was diabetic. “Oh yeah, honey,” she said. “We all are. You will be too.” What? But I didn’t want to be a diabetic. Needless to say, this conversation was key to my losing weight, exercising, and limiting sugar intake. It started my proactive attempt to take care of myself.

I married into a medical family. For 23 years, I’ve been privy to extensive conversations about dentistry, physiology, biology, medical journals, medical history, and current health issues. My mother-in-law is still so well read she can tell you about new medicines with a mental list of the pros and cons of each.

If I stop and think about it, we can document lots of causes of death on that side of my husband’s family as well. Prostate cancer, heart issues, tuberculosis, asthma, diabetes.

My husband and I actively listen to the friends around us when they discuss health concerns they are currently facing. We are working to face our health future head on. I finished working as a substitute preschool teacher this year because getting up off the floor with a 20 pound child in my arms was getting REALLY hard. I was exhausted when I got home. The job flexibility was great but at the end of the day I had to consider my physical well-being.

My chiropractor recommended yoga. Ted and I do some at home. I found this great little DVD at the local thrift store. (And sad to say, but I was truly happy to find it!)

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Happy almost 50th Birthday to me.

Genealogy can assist in filling out those medical forms the nagging doctors press upon you. Having chatted with distant family members, I discovered that I shared infertility issues with many women in my family. Fibroid tumors were an issue for them. Many of my closer female cousins didn’t have this problem, so I felt validated and connected with these other women who shared the pain I did.

Honestly, I had no idea my paternal grandmother died of a heart attack. What?! Probably because she died when I was 8 and never thought to ask my dad about it much. Our natural propensity to not talk about illness is not thought of when we are younger. Then it’s too late to discuss. And in many cases, it’s considered off limits. Remember old TV shows when a character would whisper the word “cancer” to the other? Now we have 5K walks, and benefit runs, and we are wearing pink for breast cancer awareness. Changing times with health in the forefront.

There are now genetic screenings to see what each person might be have a chance of developing or passing on. I’m not quite ready for that yet. Not when I can look back with paperwork.

I work with several women my age who have been widowed already. I can’t imagine my life without Ted. We are working to care for each other – insist the other get to the doctor to look at the mole, the back pain, the hitch in our git along. As you get older you find love takes many forms.

I realize all of this post is from the current part of my life’s journey. If you share some of my direct line peeps, put their issues on your medical forms. Work with your care giver. Make some different life choices. My paternal grandfather worked in a mine in Montana which probably explains the lung cancer. So my NOT working in a mine could be helpful with keeping that disease at bay.

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Grandpa Baltierra’s Death Certificate. Heart Disease was a secondary factor.

One recommendation I will give is simply endeavor to be happy. It is an amazing tonic and is good for the soul. You never know. It could cure many ailments that may, or may not, be a part of your path.

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I have found a few new things to research in the old family history department. I’ve sent out my “we are related, but you didn’t know it letters” this week too. So be prepared for new blog pieces. Have a great summer! Stay cool.

 

Genealogy 101 – The Basics

I’m taking a quick break from my usual family findings to share a bit of what I know about the hobby/obsession/addiction that is Genealogy. I have been working on my maternal grandfather’s tree since about 1988. My grandfather died in 1984. After he was gone, there was no one to answer the questions I finally had. Time is not on the side of the genealogist. Start now. If you are thinking of building your family tree, here are some tips I hope will help your journey.

Start with You.

You are the beginning of your tree. First, get your birth certificate. You will need that document for grown-up things in your future anyway, but this one document gets you started with your tree too. It is your seed. With it, you will have your birth date, birth town, parents. It will have the address you lived at when you were born (which your grandchildren can use to marvel at when you are old). It may have your parents’ careers too.

Now that you have confirmed who your parents are get their birth certificates too. This will give you who their parents are. It sounds almost too simple, but trust me. At the end of the exercise you will 7 people on your tree! Magic!

The next step is to start looking around the house for any paperwork they might have about the family past: baptismal papers, marriage certificates, employment records, school transcripts. If you are a younger person go visit your parents and search their attic for fun things. Each paper will be a clue to the timelines of your lives.

Interview Family. Now.

So you think you know everything about your familial unit? I got news for you. No one knows it all. There are secrets out there! Hopefully you will be emotionally stable enough to deal with what may come down the pike. BUT – your great-aunt Jenny will have memories that are different from your grandmother’s. They could have a 20-year age gap that will make their life stories very different.

Make appointments with your relatives. Find a time where you can meet with them by themselves. Others in the room might hinder the progress. You may want to bring questions, letting them elaborate as needed. Some may wander off course, try to gently nudge them onto the path of their lives “back in the day.”

When you interview: document, document, document! With technology as fabulous as it is there is no reason NOT to record audio or take video. Most smart phones have these capabilities. What is a helpful tool now will be treasure later. When I interviewed my grandfather in 1981, I used a tape recorder. My husband converted it to mp3 format to preserve it. I think my cousins really enjoyed hearing his voice after 30 years.

Caveat One: Not every person you want to chat with will be open to this. Some people are fun-haters. No. That’s not true. Some people simply want to forget hard times, bad childhoods, poverty, abuse, etc. Be kind to them. Ask for basics and try to find more without their assistance.

Caveat Two: If you want to research your family history, start now. When I say time is not on your side, I mean that your family members can meet with unexpected illness or death at any time. Interviews should start at your eldest family first. Just in case.

Photos.

Smart phones have made this task easier too. If you are in the middle of a spontaneous visit with a family member you may never see again, ask permission to take pictures of their pictures. Most don’t mind. Use the tool at hand, which for most is the cell phone. Like Judge Marilyn Milian says, “It’s not just for taking nasty pictures.”

If you know you will want higher resolution invest in a good digital camera. This may seem an unnecessary cost, but the quality of your reprints might be nice enough to display in your home. (I have project planned where I will be framing many of the photos on this site. The pictures will be housed in my stairwell.)

If you want to make the best copies of photos, consider investing in a scanner. My best friend gifted me with one. It has been an amazing tool. On a visit to see family in Florida, we took it with us, enabling the recording of a treasure trove of documents, while we interviewed family.

Documentation.

I started my tree many moons before Ancestry had so much wonderful information at my fingertips. Most of my early work took forever because I didn’t necessarily have $20 for a birth certificate or death certificate. Or it wasn’t a priority. While family history sites are fabulous tools, nothing beats a copy of the actual page for which you are looking.

To this day, I print copies of digital files I have on my Ancestry tree. I can make notes on it. I can reference it more quickly sometimes. I can doodle possible connections on the page.

And. You may not always have access to files you find. Familysearch.org is now limiting my viewing of certain documents from home. I have to be a LDS church member or go to a Family History Center. I like searching at home. In my jammies. Thanks though.

I ordered a baptism certificate from the Santa Clara Catholic Church in Oxnard. While an online site might have only given me name and date, this document gave me names of the godparents. This was when I discovered Ana Escalante de Romo. It opened up two new branches of family. From one little piece of paper.

You may want to consider investing in a separate storage devices for your files: Photos, interviews, documents, your own notes. Consider quality thumb drives or a nice external hard drive. I have known quite a few people who have all photos on their phone, but when the phone dies, there is no retrieving it. If you have been watching the news the last 6 months, there are earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires. I live on Tornado Alley. In case you need to make a quick evacuation, you can simply get your hardware and get to safety asap.

Don’t Force a Family Theory.

Many times there will be a story that most take for facts in a family. I recently took a creative writing class. My instructor shared her surprise with her grandmother who had several children from a different father. While most people like a good drama, we want our families to be squeaky clean in how their lives were lived. Be open to the fact that what has been taken as truth can be misleading.

I have a pretty good-sized tree on Ancestry. Many times the site will try to give me hints from other subscribers trees. OH MY GOODNESS! There are two fellow hunters who are bending their documentation to fit their perceived ideas of how things should be. I managed to find a Spanish to English website to translate names, places and dates, being open to what the forms told me. And let me just say, they are VERY wrong.

We have much lore in our family. I have irritated many a cousin but not buying into them. The paper trail tells me what I need to know. Corroborating evidence reinforces it.

Be Open to Surprises.

This is probably a great rule in general. You never know what you will find on a Census report. Then there is the math in regards to when a couple got married versus the birth of their first child. Again, if you are going to do genealogy, you will have to grow a thick skin.

I would think it would apply if you have your DNA tested too. Ancestry has a whole article about “Unexpected Ethnicity Results.” You weren’t there hundreds of years ago. But remember all those surprises made you, well, you!

Be Willing to Share.

I have been the beneficiary of so much kindness with this hobby-cult I’m in. I have gotten very good at writing my “you don’t know me but I think we are related” letters. I really scared my cousin’s wife one time. Sorry, Cynthia! But I revised how I write it. “I’m not a stalker, I just want to discuss dead people with you.” haha!

I have been so fortunate that many are willing to share. You can do genealogy for yourself, but consider being open to share with anyone who wants to know about your tree. If you put photos on a website, but ready to find them other places. You may be doing the hard work but be ready for others to take credit. It’s okay.

Whole Tree

One day your tree can get beyond you and your parents.

 

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I hope this gives you a good place to start when it comes to your beginning the genealogy journey. Sites I love to use are: Ancestry, FamilySearch, Newspapers.com, and Genealogybank.com.

A useful tool which might surprise you is plain ol’ Google. Put as much info as you can in the engine and watch it go. My grandfather is Google-able. I entered: Tony Escalante boxer 1920s. His boxing career from 90 years ago is documented on various sites. You never know where you will find out stuff about those you love.

Good luck on your journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I’d be glad to be of assistance.

 

 

 

Bon Voyage and I’ll Be Back

Hello all.

I apologize for my absence on the old blog pages. I have a few ideas I can follow-up with when I get home.

What? Am I going somewhere? Why, yes! I have been invited to France by my wonderful cousin-in-law, Micki. There was no way to pass up such an amazing life experience.

Needless to say, I have been shopping, packing, and holding my chest when my heart flutters with anxious happiness. My family is holding down our little fort while I’m gone. I have to remember that while I love to look for the life experiences of the family that has come before me, I need to go make some great memories for myself.

My DNA testing says I’m not French, but I’m hoping to immerse myself in their culture for a week. Have a great rest of your October! Please send good thoughts for my travel. AND my safe return too! Thanks, Edwina.

The Other Man – Juan de la Ressureción Ramirez

Greetings all! We are getting ready for Fall to come in full force here in Oklahoma. Leaves are starting to fall, which is early in this region. But I am ready for a new season. I am interrupting the normal flow of Escalante history for a “relative”-ly short detour. Hahaha! N.B. – Escalante’s are not related to the families mentioned below; only to two ladies – Mariana Bustamante and her daughter, Maria Ramirez.

In the last blog entry, I discussed my darling Mariana Bustamante. She had been married to Leonardo Escalante, then ran away with another man. Gasp! She must have been extraordinary to be taken away by Juan Ramirez. Their time together produced a lovely daughter. But Mariana’s inability to be married hindered their future together. Or was it ill-fated from the beginning?

Juan de la Ressureción Ramirez Avila was born in Los Angeles, California, Mexico in 1839. His parents were Juan M. Ramirez and Petra Avila.

According to preliminary research from M. Barbachano,  both branches were part of Spanish colonization. Juan Bernardo Ramirez met a lovely young woman in a new hip and happening town, Santa Barbara, California. Maria Rosa Quijada’s family had come from the interior of Mexico with the 1781 Rivera Expedition to settle the area. The couple married at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1794. Their son Juan M. Ramirez moved to Los Angeles.

The Avila family’s story was similar, with Cornelio Avila’s children/grandchildren doing their civic duty for the crown. Francisco Avila, Petra’s father, settled in the pueblo of Los Angeles sometime after 1794. He became the alcalde of Los Angeles when it was a bustling metropolis of over 410 residents. Petra’s cousin, Miguel, was granted lands which included Avila Beach, and he was alcalde of San Luis Obipso. (As a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo alum, this warms my heart).

The Juan M. Ramirez family had over 8 children. They settled into Petra’s family home, the Avila Adobe. If you have been to Olvera Street in Los Angeles, you may have seen it.

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The Avila Adobe in the 1930s.

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Sign posted outside of the museum.

Italians started immigrating to the Los Angeles area in the 1800s. In the old pueblo, they started showing other Los Angelinos how to cultivate vineyards. Juan M. Ramirez had become a vinter – maker of wine. Los Angeles became the early wine capital of California. (see article below).

Juan M.’s son, Francisco, made a name for himself. A self-educated man, Francisco was tri-lingual. He started his own newspaper. He became an attorney in the late 1860s to fight for rights of minorities in the area. This book is on my amazon wish list: https://www.amazon.com/Clamor-Equality-Emergence-Californio-Francisco/dp/0896727637

So why I am I sharing all of this fascinating information with you? Juan had some very big shoes to fill. Social standing. Familial ties. Lands granted by the King of Spain to  forefathers for devoted service. All of this was vastly important to Juan.

Speaking of handsome devils, here he is below.

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Juan de la Resurreción Ramirez.

It took a while for Juan to get his life bearings (in my opinion). As a young-ish man, he did some traveling.  He could have been conducting business for his family. However it happened, he had wandered into Hermosillo, Sonora. He met, and saved, Mariana Bustamante de Escalante from her marriage in 1867. He found himself with a secret life in Hermosillo. He had a romance with her which produced their lovely daughter Maria Luisa Bernadina Ramirez. And she looks like she had been well taken care of, financially speaking.

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Maria Ramirez. Photo courtesy of C. Amezcua’s Ancestry photos.

Mariana might have been a woman to live with, but was not one to bring home to Los Angeles. Did Juan divide his time between Sonora and California? By the time Maria was 9, her father decided to marry another woman. California Girl Rosa Bustamante (not directly related to Mariana, that I have found – whew!) married Juan Ramirez in Los Angeles in 1879. I don’t know if he saw much of Maria after his marriage, but her life progressed forward. And nicely, too.

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Marriage announcement, “Tombstone Daily Epitaph, 1887”

What I cannot tell from this announcement is whether “Maria’s parents” were just her mom; Or her dad and Rosa living in Ochoaville, Arizona; a town that no longer exists. So vague. Grrrr.

Juan decided to embrace his life in Los Angeles. He adopted two children with Rosa. They were Elias H. Goodwin and Adela Ramirez. Elias moved to San Francisco. He worked in the restaurant industry and patented a new design of salt and pepper shakers. Adela Ramirez married Jan Baptiste Lambert, a French-Canadian baker, in 1912. They had a baby the next year, but the baby does not appear to have survived. They divorced. She kept her married name.

Juan settled into life as the landowner of the ever-growing city of Los Angeles. His parents passed away. He became the head of the family. He started to sell his land off to accommodate the need for housing and roadways. In 1916, he testified when the Federal and State governments wanted to claim public roadways on property that owners insisted was private. (I am envisioning Highway 101 – imminent domain) Juan testified he had “used the road through what is now the Malibu ranch during the 1850s… it was a well-beaten road in those early days, and was the principal line of communication between what is now Santa Barbara and Ventura counties…He said that cattle did not make the path because, on account of bears, they were not allowed to roam over the then wild country. Travelers tramped this road. The cattle had to be kept in corrals because otherwise the bears would have killed them.” (Los Angeles Daily Times, Mar 14, 1916)

Back to Los Angeles becoming a melting pot. Italian and Spanish families had much in common, such as their Catholic faith. There was familial integration during this early time of LA history. Juan’s younger sister Isabel married into the Pelanconi family.  She had a few children, but only one son, the handsome Lorezno.

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Lorenzo Pelanconi, son of Isabel Ramirez.

He was a favorite of his Uncle Juan and Aunt Rosa. These families were successful. They were the Who’s Who of Los Angeles society.  But. Like all mere mortals, Juan eventually died.

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Juan Ramirez died 1922, Los Angeles, CA.

After reading this obit, I realized that the author mistook him for his brother Francisco who started the newspaper. His daughter, Maria Ramirez de Barbachano was NOT mentioned here. Rude!!! And frankly, I think it kind of hurt her feelings.

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Maria contests the will.

There was never any follow-up articles as to whether or not Maria was given anything but the insulting $5. I would bet she never accepted it.

Juan and Rosa never had their own biological children. This ended up being a point of interest at the end of Juan’s life. He left the bulk of his real estate to the Ramirez familial heir, Lorenzo Pelanconi, son of his sister Isabel. Nothing was left to his adopted children. Or his one biological child, Maria. When Rosa Ramirez died, their adopted daughter Adela went to live with her sister-in-law (Goodwin’s widow) in San Francisco.

Lorenzo. Got. It. All.

He had the name. He had the background. He had the connections. He was from a church sanctified marriage.

I’ll tell you more about Lorenzo too, because his story was pretty cool.

He fell in love with a young woman of similar background. Martina Yorba married him. Yep. You’ve heard the name before. Her granddaddy was Bernardo Yorba of Yorba Linda, California. I’m dropping names of Rancheros all over the place.

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Lorenzo Pelanconi’s Death Announcement. 1955.

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Martina Yorba Pelanconi celebrating her 100th Birthday.

He was no shrinking violet. His biography stands on it’s own. Their love was wonderful. Yippee!

But enough about all of them.

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Mariana Bustamante was the parent who stayed with Maria. She was the one who knew and loved her grandchildren. But in the end, it was Juan’s name that was always dropped as THE parent to whom Maria was related; the one she revered. Even his grandchildren named him as their touchstone to the Spanish/Californio legacy.

 

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Snippet from Manuel Barbachano, Jr.’s Obituary, Feb, 1954.

Sigh….I’m sure you can sense my bias against Juan. But Good Grief! He missed out on SO much. All in the name of the family honor.

So what about Maria? I love her. I feel her story very deeply. It wasn’t as if she were a beggar on the street. She was amazing. She embraced her half-sister, Ana Escalante de Romo, at the end of their lives. I’m sure she valued her social standing as much as her cousin, Lorenzo. Her legacy was in the eyes of this lovely group of people here.

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Extended Barbachano Family at Maria and Manuel’s (front/center) 50th Wedding Anniversary. Photo courtesy: C. Amezcua’s Ancestry photos.

Maria’s origin story was up to her parents. She had to deal with its repercussions. That did not stop her from marrying a son of the Governor of Yucatán. It didn’t stop her children from being very successful. (Compania Telefonica Fronteriza, founders of the Tijuana Lion’s Club and Chamber of Commerce, the Rosarito Beach Hotel, architects, merchants, etc.; and just really amazing people in the U.S., Mexico, and all around the world.) Whether it was because of Juan, or in spite of Juan, we will never know.

 

 

 

Thank you to M. Barbachano for all of your research (and continued support) on this blog post. Her daughter blogged a video of their family visiting the Avila Adobe for the first time. VERY Cool! https://www.youtube.com/embed//tyguBUiaH9c

 

My sources for this piece were plentiful. If you have time, please peruse the following web pages.

http://waterandpower.org/museum/Early_Plaza_of_LA_(Page_1).html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avila_Adobe

https://www.kcet.org/history-society/iconic-hispanic-angelenos-in-history-francisco-ramirez

https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2012/11/ramirez-street-downtown-la.html

https://www.kcet.org/history-society/exploring-the-remains-of-las-little-italy

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/times-past/article173763606.html

 

My Inner Feelings about My Outward Appearance

I am writing this piece from my heart. It’s been bubbling to the top for a while now. This is my experience.

From the time of my childhood, I have prided myself on being American. I still do. Being American was enough for any of us. Remember “The Great American Melting Pot?” School House Rock did a song about it.

One day, when I was a junior in high school, David Donate asked me “What are you, Edwina?” When I replied American, he said, “I know that. We’re all American. But what are you?” Until that moment, having lived in a wonderfully multi-cultural town, it had never been an issue. It never occurred to me to ask. It was that day a seed was planted. Thus, this blog site.

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Pretty sure this is how most people see my childhood. Haha!

Three of my four grandparents were citizens. My paternal grandparents came from Mexico, but took the citizenship test; prideful of their new country. They birthed children all over the heartland of America: Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, California. My parents were born here. My dad is a Korean Conflict Veteran. He retired from that all-American company, Ford Motors. I have uncles on both sides that served this country, along with second cousins. Even some once or twice removed, proudly serving as I write. We love Elvis, baseball, and apple pie.

My American story is not enough for many though. Simply because I look different.

I have been recently calling myself an Ethnically Ambiguous Bird of Paradise. Ownership is a powerful coping mechanism. I look just different enough not to be Caucasian-American. But if you chatted with me, you would be very confused. Because I talk like one. [Note: the song “Valley Girl” was a part of my formative years and sorority girl talk is like soooo easy to imitate.]

English is my only language. Although my ancestors immigrated through Mexico, I cannot speak Spanish. Why should I? My family has been in the US for over 100 years now. This stereotype confounds everyone. Even those who have Spanish as their first language.

I am not visually American enough for some, and not Hispanic enough, in how I live, for others. This had been a sticking point regarding me for many years.My college roommates were sisters born in Mexico who came with their family in the 1980s. They called me White Washed. Nice.

Then I moved to Oklahoma with my husband. Now that my location had changed, so had the perceptions of those around me. As most Oklahomans weren’t very knowledgeable about Hispanics, I was either going to be classified as White or Native American. When I denied tribal affiliation, I was looked at with scorn. As if I was denying my roots. Yet another group I could not please. Aaarrrggggh!

Over the last twenty years, I have come to realize that human beings simply categorize those around them. They can’t help it. I no longer take it personally. Apparently, I was born to be that special person who throws everyone off by NOT filling the stereotype for which they are looking. I am a California girl, with a Master’s Degree, who has chosen to stay at home with her child, who married outside of her traditional faith and ethnically similar group. Boom!

I have made tamales only a few times – not 3 times a year since I was knee-high to a molcajete. And I learned how to make them by reading about it. Thank you, Rick Bayless. I am learning to read Spanish because I have to translate Spanish documents to find details in my family history. Any Spanish I can speak I learned from Dora and Diego. “Stars! Estrellas!” I took Latin in high school. Didn’t everyone?

My parents are having their DNA evaluated by Ancestry. One of my branches has a partial break down like this:

Europe: 45% (Iberian Peninsula/Italy and Greece); Native American: 18%; West Asia: 29% (Caucasus/Middle East) [with others in there as well].

So. I am Native! Just Native from Mexico; and so very far removed  from tribal life that we have NO idea to what tribe we can connect. I have more Native in me than many of my card-carrying tribal friends here in OK. My great-grandfather emigrated from Turkey to Mexico in the last 1800s. This explains the West Asian facet of the breakdown. Bet none of you saw that coming. Hahahahaha!

I don’t get have the advantage to just consider myself a middle-class American SAHM who drives a super-dorky mini van, drinking coffee from Starbuck’s. Noooooo. (Read with inflection)

Being caught in this vague ethnic limbo forces me to look more deeply at groups outside of my own. From their perspective. I recognize the immigrant who works in the restaurant cleaning the tables. She may not be able to chat with me, but she looks like me. I see men on Facebook being shot in their cars without trial, much less Miranda Rights, differently because I am a visual minority; because others see ME that way. I am looked at by those I attend church with as the person who can easily provide tacos for the college student finals feed. Unbeknownst to them, I would get the recipe from Pinterest, just as they would. Thank you, Rick Bayless pins. I am talked to in Spanish by a non-English speaker who then looks me up and down as if I am broken when I cannot answer.

My new concern. I worry that my having Middle Eastern ancestry could be detrimental to my safety as a third-generation American citizen. And now that Ancestry has my official DNA results, will it ever be used against me? The many DNA evaluation companies are privately owned. Until a court order asks for their lists. Let’s not pretend it isn’t possible. Let’s not pretend that our country hasn’t put racial groups in camps before. For the safety of our country.

This is the crap I get to dwell on occasionally. Ethnically ambiguous birds of paradise have that burden, you know.

I am so made up of various groups that I can’t even get mad at history. I wouldn’t be here if all these people didn’t do their migration, their exploring, their conquering, their loving and inter-racial marriages thing.

This post isn’t to wear everyone down. It’s to ask for one thing. I want you to practice looking at each other differently. Practice looking at a stranger outside of the “race” category. Look at what we all have in common. I’ve seen Muslim women in mini-vans in the Drive-Thru line at Panera on that first day of school. Just like the rest of the other moms. Super glad that summer is over. More than likely, as I happen to know, you will have their story wrong any way. Trust me on this. Like those two Indian men in Olathe, Kansas. You know. The one the shooter thought were from the Middle East. Sigh……

 

https://www.wired.com/2012/11/amy-cuddy-first-impressions/

http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/erasingrace.htm

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Hard Discussion About Your Familial Past

Hello! So sorry to be gone for so long. Been a busy Spring and Summer. Now I can concentrate again on my family history and the blog.

That being said, I am going to go WAY off topic today to discuss something that has been weighing on my heart. Two things have happened this summer that have me in deep contemplation: a church shooting and a denial of family history.

The first event was the tragic shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This occurrence hurt my soul. However, my heart has been inspired by the true Grace the congregation has shown during this difficult time. Mankind’s violence against each other has been a constant throughout history. We cannot change history, but we can know it and use our knowledge to improve the future.

I grew up with the “American Melting Pot” ideology. I feel my personal beliefs in racial equality are grounded. My racial heritage is varied. My husbands’ heritage is too. My son is stereotypical Heinz 57. Our little family discusses equality often, but I forget that I live in a self-made bubble of protectiveness.

One morning in June, I finally got up early enough to watch the news only to see the church tragedy unfurl. I cried. The day moved on and I started to ask myself “How do violent acts like South Carolina happen? What causes a young man to want to hurt a group of people in 2015?” The blame game started whirring in my mind; “Didn’t anyone notice? Did he always have these tendencies?” Soon those thoughts took a turn.

I actively work to be cognizant of my behavior, but what about other people who are careless with the words or attitudes they convey? I can easily see, in my own family and friend circles, those comments and quips that promote racial/socio-economic…what is it? Differentiation? Need to be better than others?

Over the last 30 years of my research, I have heard friends and family say the following things:

    • Our aunt told us we were getting too dark in the sun. Being dark was not a good thing.
    • Well, she might call herself Mexican-American, but I’m not.
    • I’m pretty sure we are more Spanish than Indian.
    • It’s weird, he’s half Portuguese, half-Mexican, but he hates his Mexican side.
    • We don’t want him to marry into that Cherokee family. (Aren’t you part Cherokee?) Well, yes, but that was a long time ago.
    • I’m Hispanic, but I’m not like “those” kind of Hispanic people.
    • No one is going to make me say politically correct things. I’ll say what I want to say. Screw them.
    • She got teased for being a blonde Mexican.
    • You can’t speak Spanish? Seriously?
    • When I asked if we were part Jewish, he just winked at me but would NEVER admit it.
    • We are part of the struggling. We are the oppressed. It’s the wealthy whites who are holding us back.
    • You are not Mexican. You are white-washed.

Most of my family would think that they are on the tolerant side of this issue. But even the most liberal of freedom fighters make quips that, if examined carefully, smell vaguely of judgement when it comes to the wealthy in our country. And it is these passing phrases, comments on social media, discussions over coffee, that have made me wonder if we unknowingly create these issues in our country?

What if the above phrases came up in casual conversations, dropping into the minds of others in the room? A simple seed planted. And what if one of those seeds sprouts? Takes root? Occasionally, humans are known to feed the wrong thing. Add a little Self-Righteous Indignation, some Perceived Wrong-Doing against us by some group, then with either a loud boom, or a quiet click, violence can spark. Maybe pent-up feelings emerge, taking those who don’t know what to do with their angry emotions into dark places their family never thought they would go.

The second story in the news was Ben Affleck not wanting the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” to share that he had slave owners in his family. This isn’t related to the shootings in South Carolina, but stick with me here. Mr. Affleck’s lobby to get his familial results tweaked so as not to show the darker, yet historical, side of his family in America saddens me too.

Besides my maternal family tree, I tend my Mother-in-Law’s tree as well. Her family is fun to research because: Americans were great at documenting, I can read every page as the documents are in English (my shame of not speaking/reading Spanish,) and her tree has been in the U.S. pretty much from the beginning. Her Revolutionary War veteran great-grandfather was a New Jersey slave-owner.  She has a great-grandmother who was a cousin to Abraham Lincoln.

Do I hold the now considered “sordid slave owner” information back from my son? Do I just talk up President Lincoln because he signed the Emancipation Proclamation? This is where I make a decision to talk with my son about those who came before him, their life choices and what my hopes are for his walk in this world. I can help him feed positive seeds.  I think Mr. Affleck could have said something to the effect of: “I’m not necessarily proud of what they did. It was the time they lived in. My family didn’t stay slave owners. They changed. They grew. And their experiences influenced who I am today.” My MIL’s great-grandfather did free his slaves, by the way.

I am from a very patriotic family. My dad fought in the Korean conflict. We love the United States. But make no mistake, I was made fun of in school when kids asked me “What are you?” and I answered “I’m American.” As most American families emigrated from somewhere else, this was never a good enough answer. Humans are notorious for categorizing each other. For putting each other in boxes. After working this hobby for sometime, I can now answer with more definitive clarity where my people came from.

I have found peace with the journey of being an American who values the trials and tribulations of those who came before me. There are very few of us who will be related to kings and queens. A relative might have been rich, poor, black, white, super smart, not too bright, and even of different faiths. When a person investigates their genealogy, they might find an invader of a country married an indigenous person. And even that love could have even been reciprocated between the two. Gasp! Colonization isn’t always “rape and pillage.” Their decisions in regards to family came from their time and culture. We need to learn to accept our familial “good, bad and ugly.” Those who made me who I am today get my respect for being who they were. As our ever-morphing values and culture changes, I am certain one day I will want that same courtesy.