Discovery of a Navajo ancestor!

There are many wonderful souls in the genealogical community. There is one I consider a friend now who has been such an amazing help, Daria Landress. She offered to do a film lookup for me while she happened to be at her local FHC (Family History Center–a place to do research) and I remembered I wanted to look up a couple in my Ortega line. I told her their names and the date of their marriage, and that’s how it all started. They didn’t have the film I needed, but she owns some books of record transcriptions and was able to piece together a ton of information.

My great grandmother, Adelina Ortega was very dear to my dad and his brothers. They have many fond memories of her. It turns out she was part Navajo! She is descended from Mathias Montano, who was a genizaro criado. I have a lot to learn about the history of genizaro criados but basically they were Native American servants or slaves who could have entered Spanish society a number of ways. Captured and traded or sold by enemy tribes, or abandoned as children and raised by their owner, or expelled from their native communities, maybe captured by the Spanish– these are just some of the scenarios that could be encompassed in the term genizaro. From being involved in the New Mexico Genealogical Society’s facebook group I have learned just a tiny bit about this part of New Mexico’s history. I first became intrigued by this idea when I found a Castillo ancestor with three Indian “adopted” children and a female servant listed with him on a US Census. This was when I first began to realize just how complicated the story of my paternal family could be over the scope of history. I have not found any more info on that particular story, but fast forward to this weekend and what has been uncovered with my friend’s help on this Ortega line, and I am determined to learn more about the complexities of Spanish and native relationships.

I am just straight up floored that I am lucky enough to have this information. So many people who are researching their family history know they have Native American ancestors either through DNA or they assume or suspect it just knowing basic history or perhaps the way a great grandparent looked, or hazy family stories. But to find the actual proof, to find that first mestizo or indio on paper is big. Even more so to have proof of the actual tribe– I’m just beyond ecstatic right now!!!!

I wish I could know Mathias’ story. Was his name always Mathias or did his mother give him another name? Could she have forseen that her son’s descendants would become part of Spanish society and eventually be the head of their own households? Or did she despair that her people would always be subservient? Who raised him? Did he have ties to the tribe at all or was he cut off? How did his owner treat him? So much to ponder.


2 thoughts on “Discovery of a Navajo ancestor!

  1. I found a small grave yard and there was 3 graves 1wasRosa ura orteca 1883-1890 (2) Santos Ortega 1844-1907 (3) Anna Maria Ortega 1/4/1851-5/2/1933. Arizona (concho)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Pastor Bryan. Thank you for sharing this information with me. There is certainly a chance they could be distant relatives. I know that Concho is an area where many people from New Mexico migrated to. Was the grave yard in a public area or on private land, just out of curiosity? I’ll look up those names and dates and see what I can dig up.


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