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.

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My ancestors. Mis antepasados.

I love the Spanish word antepasados. It’s one of those Spanish words that rolls off the tongue. It means ancestors.

These days, as I spend a lot of time researching my family, my dreams have been filled with mis antepasados. It’s been sort of strange, troubling, and inspiring all at the same time.

I’m finding that genealogy is a bit of an addicting pastime. There are so many little rabbit trails to go down, that for someone like myself who organization does not come naturally to, it’s easy to get sidetracked and forget what it was I started looking for in the first place. While I intend to do all the boring but necessary things like create lists and research plans, organize files, and create templates, I’m thinking a blog is much more my style in terms of organizing my thoughts and documenting what I’m working on. This will be where I brainstorm, post progress, and record my findings. I think it will be a good way to share with family and whoever else may be interested what I’m working  on. I’m looking forward to it. Should be fun.

For now I’ve chosen to focus on the Fernandez side of my mother’s family. This is a portrait of my great grandmother, Hermila Fernandez Estevane.

Hermila Fernandez original portrait in frame