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RESEARCHING YOUR PUERTO RICAN FAMILY HISTORY

By Frank Lago

(c) CopyRight - Prohibido copiar, reproducir



More articles by Frank Lago:
Mi búsqueda de las familias Lago y Echeandía en el país vasco
Frank Lago y el encuentro genealógico con sus antepasados

El Registro de la Propiedad en Puerto Rico


y family history research started when I discovered a book while taking my son to the Boy Scout's store called Genealogy. I never expected that anyone could research their family tree. When the mini-series ROOTS was viewed on TV it caused all of us to wake up to the fact that every family has a history. All American families immigrated to this country except for the Native Americans that were already here and they too have a family history. I say that we should not forget those ancestors that have suffered for us to be here and have a better life. Our island of Puerto Rico is a microcosm of the United States.

We are a race of mainly white Spaniards, brown Taíno Indians that were already there and Black slaves that were kidnapped and brought from Africa. Most of us are of mixed blood but in different percentages.

Frank Lago and son
Frank Lago and son


INTERVIEWING YOUR RELATIVES

Our first step is to interview our oldest relatives and record all of the information and then verify it. I started without knowing the names of my grandparents. I knew them only as Abuelo and Abuela. I am not fluent in Spanish, my language skills is more like Spanglish, so when I called on the phone to Puerto Rico to talk with my relatives I was reluctant but my perseverance paid off. First I interviewed my father and uncle. My Uncle Ralph said that his mother's last name was Santiago Delgado where later I found out her last name was Santiago Santiago.

There is nothing easy in genealogy research, you will be rewarded if you do your homework and investigation. Jump over all obstacles especially people that can cause you to lose your way.
Uncle Ralph Lago and Frank Lago
Uncle Ralph Lago and Frank
They will say that your Spanish is not good enough or that your relatives will not welcome your questions etc. I have found the contrary. People love to talk about themselves and their ancestors and welcome anyone interested in their story and if you are family the enthusiasm is even stronger.


CHURCH OF LATTER DAY SAINTS / LDS

The book Genealogy talked about the LDS church also known as the Mormon Church. They have built Family History Libraries (Centers) in their Churches in which anyone could rent microfilms of all subjects that have to do with researching family history and which was recorded all over the world. This is their web site to get a better understanding. They have records of most of the Roman Catholic Chruches in Puerto Rico which would be the books of Baptism, Matrimony and Death and the Registro Demográfico which is where the vital records are recorded since 1885; they have birth, marriage and death records. Included are microfilms of the Index of the same.

Héctor Jorge Lago y Lago
Artesano de Villalba,
Héctor Jorge Lago y Lago

Order microfilm and books that are specific about the cities that your ancestors lived in. The families and people that lived there are represented in these books and microfilms. The LDS church has lots of information about the pueblos, municipalities and cities of Puerto Rico. I was interested in Arecibo and Utuado and I came upon the microfilms of the private library of Father Fernando Picó S.J.: Extractos de protocolos notariales, siglos XVIII-XIX / Vecinos de Utuado, apellidos Ibáñez a Martínez, María FHL INTL Film number 1563105. There was a treasure trove of the Lago family history. Was I lucky? After receiving basic city information from interviews; I would like to think that it was skill on my part because I researched a town that I was unfamiliar with but discovered that my ancestors lived there for generations. Think outside of the box. You are the researcher. Send requests to the town historians and city hall.


VITAL RECORDS / REGISTRO DEMOGRÁFICO

The Registro Demográfico is where the vital records are kept from 1885. They are birth, marriage and death records. We have to request a genealogical permission so that we can request records for this sole purpose. After receiving the permission we then request the records in which we have to include a photo copy of our drivers license, a self stamped envelope and the cost made with a Postal Money Order:

Registro Demográfico
P.O. Box 11854 / Fernández Juncos Station
San Juan, PR 00910
Acta de defunción
This is an example of a Vital Record available through the Registro Demográfico of Puerto Rico, microfilmed by the LDS Church and available online. This death record is of my great grandfather Francisco Gerónimo Lago..


PARISH RECORDS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

As of now January 2014 most parish books in Puerto Rico are off limits to browsing from researchers like ourselves. Therefore if the LDS church does not have the records that you are looking for you will have to request them directly from the Parish offering a donation along with the certification, literal copy or photocopy cost. It should be $5 for the certification and $25 or $30 for the donation to the church per request. Further information.


GENEALOGY SOCIETIES AND OTHER MEMBER SERVICES

I have connected with cousins that I didn't know existed and were already researching my family tree. I interviewed my cousin Iván in Ponce since there was an oral history that there was a poet of notable origin in our family. Iván said his last name was Echeandía y Echegaray. So when I joined the SPG (Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Genealogía) I found an article written about the same last names. And in communicating with the author he was the one that correctly gave the name of the poet, Jesús María Lago, my great grandfather's brother. Is this important? Yes and no. If your looking for blue blood, forget about it because those relatives that suffered for you are the most important finds. In this case biographies were written about this person. When it got to his Spanish grandfather the author during his interviews could not determine the town of origin only the province, Asturias in Spain. So how did I jump the ocean?.

Genealogista Ramón Rivera Bermúdez
Ramón Rivera Bermúdez, genealogist

Only due to old fashion detective work that my cousin José Echegaray (a member of the SPG) had done during his vacations while researching the parish books of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of San Felipe de Arecibo. He came upon the church marriage record of Francisco Lago that stated that he was born in the town of Ribadesella, Asturias, Spain. So don't despair try new ideas and network with other researchers.

I recommend joining the following genealogy societies: HSGNY / Hispanic Society of Genealogy of New York and the SPG / Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Genealogía.

The following is an excellent member site that is very helpful: Searching for our Roots.
We are at the web site of Puerto Rico En Breve.


Photo: Ana Violeta Cianchini, Frank Lago and Ramón Rivera Bermúdez outside of their house in Aibonito
.
Ana Violeta, Frank Lago and Ramón Rivera
But let me tell you that I have found various branches of my family tree here through the existence of these documents that have never been known to any of my family members.

The following: http://en.geneanet.org/ is great for searching other peoples family trees which sometimes are very extensive. I have paid for the yearly use of searching for individuals and surnames but here also you can choice a country like Puerto Rico and then type in a place like Ponce and everyone that has family trees in Ponce (at Geneanet) will show up which of today is 985 family trees.

I will include Ancestry.com. This member web site is searchable by name or surname and they include census records and passports. It is available also in libraries and online library web sites.

Make it a priority to become a member of these groups because the benefits are well worth it. You are requesting information from persons that have done their due diligence. They need to be compensated to continue to offer their services.

José María and brother Carlos Lago
My grandfather José María and brother Carlos Lago y Lago in Venezuela. circa 1940.

I have found treasures of information from the Yahoo genealogy groups and have posted questions and have been answered by very dedicated volunteers. I recommend the following: Sociedad de Genealogía Puertorriqueña.

I myself have joined the following groups from Spain:

- Asturias,
- Madrid and
- Galicia.

calle Lago en Utuado
Calle Jesús María Lago, sector Cayuco, barrio Caguana, Utuado, P.R.


It was within one of these groups that I was introduced to the web site in which I was able to find a strategic connection that otherwise paralyzed my research.
I, as a New Yorker wanted to research my relatives in the Daily News and New York Post but was only able to find the New York Times Archives online.


Photo: My father Frank G. Lago.
My father Frank Lago


PROPERTY RECORDS / REGISTRO DE LA PROPIEDAD

The Probate Records at the Department of Justice / Property Registry is a treasure trove of family history. Once you find in the Census records that some one is a farm owner "dueño de finca" which means that he is a property owner then you can research for this property in the index which is listed by surname for that town.

For the most part anything that is less than 100 years old is considered off limits for general research purposes. These books can be reviewed by yourself or some researcher that you contract. My article sheds light on this subject:
Property and Probate Records (El Registro de la Propiedad en Puerto Rico). The offices are scattered across the island and towns are combined together in one office in most cases.
Panteón de la familia Santiago en Coamo
Panteón of the family Santiago in Coamo



THE UNITED STATES CENSUS

The United States Census: of 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 include Puerto Rico. This is where we find our parents and grandparents etc. The following web site clarifies the subject:


INTERLIBRARY LOANS

Each local library has different interlibrary loan request forms. Not all libraries offer this benefit. Ask a librarian if the clerk is not aware of this type of loan. An interlibrary loan book will arrive in about a month due to its departure from across the nation. The cost may be $5 and they might not let you remove the book from the library. You may copy what you need or 10% of its contents legally. Also you need to include in the form that you are willing to pay up to $20 for this particular book though its rare that they charge after the initial cost of the loan. In researching books the following web site is one of the best. And next is specific to Puerto Rico:

RESEARCHING A SPECIFIC PERSON OR PERSONS / BOOKS

- Archivo Histórico Nacional, Sección de Ultramar, bajo la dirección de María Teresa de la Peña Marazuela, Madrid 1972
- Inventario de la serie Gobierno de Puerto Rico
- Inventario de la serie Fomento de Puerto Rico
- Inventario de la serie Gracia y Justicia de Puerto Rico
- Inventario de la serie Hacienda de Puerto Rico
- Inventario de la serie Oficios de Guerra de Puerto Rico


MUNICIPALITIES RESEARCH / BOOKS

- Palo Seco: Notas para su historia
- Santa Isabel: Notas para su historia
- Villalba: Notas para su historia

- Arecibo: Notas para su historia
- Coamo: Notas para su historia, etc.
- Sabana Grande: Notas para su historia

For further information into this book collection.
Colección Historia de los pueblos de Puerto Rico


IMMIGRATION / BOOKS

Author: Estela Cifre de Loubriel
- Catálogo de extranjeros residentes en Puerto Rico en el siglo XIX - 1962
- La Formacion del pueblo puertorriqueño: La contribución de los Catalanes, Balearicos y Valencianos.
- La formación del pueblo puertorriqueño: La contribución de los gallegos, asturianos y santanderinos.
- La formación del pueblo puertorriqueño: La contribución de los Vascongados, Navarros
y Aragoneses
.
- La formación del pueblo puertorriqueño: La contribución de los isleño-canarios.
- La inmigración a Puerto Rico durante el Siglo XIX


Author: Sonesson, Birgit
- Catalanes en las Antillas: un estudio de casos.
- Catalan migration to Puerto Rico in the nineteenth century: the links to Sitges and Vilanova y Geltru.
- Vascos en la diáspora: la emigración de La Guaira a Puerto Rico, 1799-1830.

Author Rosario Rivera, Raquel
- Los emigrantes llegados a Puerto Rico procedentes de Venezuela entre 1810-1848.


PAY FEE RESEARCHERS

I have contracted the following researchers to help in finding my ancestors in Spain. They request to be paid a reasonable rate for their expertise. They are professionals and I can verify their competency. The success I had in using their talents is priceless:

Madrid, Spain: Genealogist, researcher: Fernando González Campo del Román.

Madrid, Spain: Archivist and researcher: Matthew Hovious: Researched for "Who do you think you are" Martin Sheen.

Asturias, Spain: Archivist and researcher: José del Riego.

Galicia, Spain: Archivist, author and researcher: Xosé Isidro Fernández Villalba: (cmdlourenza@hotmail.com).

Thank you for reading my article. I hope it has been an inspiration and for further questions I can be reached at:
fnl@ix.netcom.com.




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