Monday, February 22, 2016

Marriage Dispensa

Lets break the marriage procedure down for the earlier days in Puerto Rico. 

First thing to understand is that before the United States overtook Puerto Rico, Spain was in power. Spain came hand-in-hand with the Roman Catholic Church. Everyone permanently living on the island (including slaves) were required to be baptized members of the Catholic Church. This requirement, although seeming like an unfortunate event for some, actually comes as a huge help to genealogists. Especially because the parish baptism records will name your slave ancestors by name. Such a blessing to have access to those records.

Getting back to marriages...before a marriage was performed, the standard procedure for most Hispanic countries with Catholic records is this. Both parties involved was to file a marriage petition (expediente matrimonial, informaciĆ³n matrimonial, aplicaciĆ³n matrimonial) with the parish priest. This petition would contain proof of good standing in the Catholic Church (usually just the baptismal certificates of the bride and groom), written permission from the parents if the bride or groom was under sixteen (though this age varied), and the priest’s permission for the marriage to take place. 

In addition to this, the marriage parties would also have to obtain any special dispensations or "dispensa" required from a church bishop, for the marriage to take place if the two parties were relatives. It was kind of like a waiver granted to you in order to allow you to legally marry a blood-linked relative.  Now I looked into this to see how closely related the Catholic Church allowed you to marry a relative & this is what I found. 

Parents with children-NEVER 

Grandparents with grandchildren


Uncle / Aunts / nephew/ nieces


Cousins, great-uncle / with nephew grandson or grand daughter

As you can see there were different degrees of relationships. Ultimately from my understanding, no waivers were granted or allowed above level four. 

The reason I wanted to write about this is that I now know of at least 2 pairs of cousins that have married in my family tree. One legally using a dispensa. Which I have yet to find because they are not digital. The other pair of ancestors of mine, only married by common law or by a "consensual agreement" as Puerto Rican census records calls them. 

The first time I realized I found a pair of married cousins on my tree, it made me uncomfortable. Especially since they are directly linked to me, being my 2nd great grandparents. I didn't get it. Now after reading more, I understand the reality that Puerto Rico really is just a small island. I've discovered that most people in those days, less they were really wealthy only left their towns for 3 main reasons. To visit the church to be baptized or baptize your children, to get married & to be buried when you passed on. Aside from this, unless it was work related, everyone seemed to stay put. Which meant you dated & married those around you, & in some cases sometimes those people were your relatives. I heard back in  those days it was actually quit common. 

Another possibility for inter-family marrying is "Para mantener la raza pura" or to maintain a pure race. By pure, they meant white. I had heard of this phrase growing up but it didn't really mean much to me. But now I see how it would of played a part of marrying your relative. Keeping the Puerto Rican race as European or "pure" as they could, meant making sacrifices for a more white future generation. Why? Because that's what was more favorable in those times. It's crazy to think that families practiced inter-family marrying so that no other outsiders could taint their bloodline, but combined with the notion that they never really left the towns they were from, then this starts to make greater sense.

 However, it's also important to know that they had to pay additional for a marriage dispensa. Which maybe why those other married cousins of mine only remained together as a consensual agreement or common law rather than legally married. 

I haven't seen a real dispena document yet but I read that it can be really valuable & gives information regarding each relatives line down back to the common ancestor that connects the two parties together. Sometimes even including a copy of their baptism certificates. It's so fascinating to me. I can't wait to travel to one of these parishes records in Puerto Rico & see one & touch one for myself.

Monday, February 15, 2016

More on Angelina

I've written a post on my great aunt Angelina Rodriguez Davila, a while ago. You can find it HERE.  Back when I wrote that post I didn't know as much about Angelina as I do now. Angelina is special to me. Through Angelina, I was able to connect with distant cousins of mine that I discovered in Brooklyn.  Through her descendants I was able to learn more about my father's paternal side that I didn't think would be possible. I'm so grateful for her. So grateful she left so much behind for me to uncover. Most ancestors aren't as easy. 

A few months ago I was searching on's "U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925". On here, a familiar name popped up. I clicked on it & although everything about the passport application pointed towards my great aunt Angelina, there was one portion of it that seemed odd. 
It shows that Angelina was making plans to travel to Venezuela to join her husband. I had no idea they ever left the country or how they were connected to Venezuela. I assumed it had to be work related, but I couldn't find a passport application for Angelina's husband Jacobo Gomez. I also found it odd that when I met Angelina's family a while back in NYC that they never mentioned Venezuela. So I contacted them with what I found, sent them over the photo of what at the time would of been Angelina at about 20 years old. They confirmed that this was indeed Angelina's passport application, but like me, had no idea of any trip to Venezuela. They also highly doubted, if she was going to leave Puerto Rico, that it would be to join her husband. This is why...

Early on in their relationship Jacobo became abusive. Jacobo was so violent that Angelina believed that if she ever attempted to leave him, Jacobo would find her & kill her. Possibly even hurting their girls as well. I was told after their first child together in 1914, Jacobo apparently takes their sleeping baby girl, places her inside of a dresser draw & leaves without telling Angelina where he's put the baby. He was known for riding away early in the morning, on his horse & not coming home for days at a time. Angelina didn't know where he went or when he'd return. These were times where most everyone on the island was financially struggling . So Jacobo's absence put Angelina in a rough spot. She often times didn't have enough to eat & lived off the fruit trees on their property. It's while all this is taking place that Angelina discovers she is pregnant again. This time with twin girls. She makes a brave choice to leave Jacobo after the twins are born. Sadly, only one of the twin girls survives & is named Juana, after Angelina's close friend. 

Fearing for the safety of her girls & her life, she makes secret plans to move to New York City. In order to do this, Angelina makes probably one of the biggest sacrifices in her life. Knowing that making a move this big required money that she didn't have, she works, leaves her girls with her friend named Juana Fuentes. Angelina saves up enough to make the move to the city on her own. Her friend Juana agrees to watch her girls temporarily while Angelina goes to NYC to find a job, a place to live & save up enough to bring back both her girls to NY. I'm not certain how long the girls were living with her friend Juana when Angelina returns to pick up her oldest daughter Nicolasa. Apparently, Nicolasa was having a hard time being away from Angelina, which is why Nicolasa is chosen to go first. Several years pass & then when Angelina's second daughter Juana is 12, Angelina comes back to get her. Why Angelina waited this long, we aren't sure. We do know she meets someone new in NY that treats her good. I was told she experienced a new kind of freedom when she got to the city. Not sure if this is what caused the delay, but nearly 12 years goes by before she makes preparations to pick up her next daughter. At this point Juana calls the other Juana mom & doesn't remember her sister. Juana is completely attached to what would now be known as her adopted family & Angelina secretly makes plans to get Juana off the island.

Now, here is where things become weird. Her secret plan is so secret that she doesn't even tell her friend Juana about it. She tells her friend that she's taking little Juana school shopping & from here boards the ship to Ellis Island. Seeing how there was no closure, Juana mourns over this for the rest of her life. Missing her former family & adoptive mother, whom she never has contact with again. She moves to a big city, with a new language & culture. It must of all been so overwhelming for a young girl. As hard as I am positive this was for little Juana, I can't help but feel that it was because Angelina knew something that we don't. Maybe she assumed telling her friend would somehow get back to her ex-husband & he would find them. Or maybe she knew little Juana was so attached that she would not want to leave. Maybe it was a combination of both of these guesses, but either way Angelina came back. As painful as it was for her daughters, I know that those were not easy choices. Angelina was so brave. As painful as this story is, behind it I see a woman that was daring & full of courage. 

We are still in the dark about Venezuela. It could of been another secret plan of hers to get away from her ex, that fell through.

Angelina's passport photo taken 1917