I never met my grandparents on my father’s side. Both died before I was born but my grandma, Ignacia Muñoz, have always had a special place in my heart. I had heard from my father and uncles that she died right after giving birth to her last child. But for many years I did not know how to go about getting specific details on the circumstances of her death.
At the beginning of my research, it was very difficult, until I found out about the Family History Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (The Mormons). They have most of the records from 1885 on in microfilm and they can be researched at their own facilities in different cities.
What I have found so far about my family is a tale of tragedy and survival during the miserable years of the 18th and 19th centuries in Puerto Rico.
My grandma Ignacia was born in 1867 She had her first child at age 16 in 1893. She then went on to have seven more children, the last one being born in January 10, 1906. On that same date she passed away, leaving my grandfather Manuel Aponte with eight children ranging in ages from a 13 year old boy to a newborn baby girl . One can only imagine the extent of this tragedy and the hardships that were in store for my grandfather and his kids. The 1910 census shows that my grandfather was living with his half sister Paula Aponte Miranda and brother in law Hipolito Caldero in which his daughter Engracia, at age 12, was listed as a servant. The other kids are listed as living with different relatives.My father, for example,is listed as living, together with brother Francisco and aunt Juana Aponte Miranda, with Juan Santiago Negron and wife Maria Santiago Miranda. This couple's daughter, Cecilia Santiago Santiago, would eventually assume the responsibility for my father's education during his teenager years. However, by 1920, according to the census, my grandfather had been able to gather his family and they are listed as living all together under the same roof. Amazingly, all of them survived a period in which infants and children mortality rates were very high and became productive, exemplary citizens.
Finding out about the history of my family was the main reason for my interest in genealogy. However, as I moved along I realized how important it is to record this history for future generations, especially for the benefit of the descendants of Puerto Ricans that migrated to the United States, especially in the 1940’s when many Boricuas headed north in search of economic opportunities and a better quality of life.
One of the first to do so was my brother Benjamin who migrated to Indiana in 1948 and started working in a steel mill. In fact, he worked for the same company for 39 years until he retired in 1987.
He was eventually followed by our father Cayetano and brothers Jorge, Francisco, Antonio and Felix. The last three returned to Puerto Rico where they raised their families. Our father Cayetano returned to Puerto Rico after retiring from his job in Indiana and passed away on June 28, 1987, just two months away from his 90th birthday. Antonio, after retiring from his job in Puerto Rico, returned to Indiana in 1998. He passed away on April 26, 2001 exactly two months after our brother Benjamin who died on February 26, 2001.
The children of my brothers Benjamin and Jorge were all born and raised in Indiana but always expressed an interest in finding out about their roots in Puerto Rico. Benjamin Jr., especially took it upon himself to log as much data as possible about his relatives in Puerto Rico and inspired me to start my research on our ancestors.