Reflections On My First Year of Genealogical Study

by Antoinette Duran Silva

    I must thank my cousin, Adele (Dolly) Jurado Hernandez, for inviting me to a meeting of the GSHA-SC last February, 1993. The thought of a lunch at El Torito Restraurant was too much to resist, especially since it was her treat! The genealogy bug bit me immediately. I was impressed with the pedigree charts and resources of this group. I knew the names of one set of Great Great Grandparents (Victor Duran and Victoria Gabaldon, who had migrated from La Joya, New Mexico to the Las Cruces area in about the 1870s - I had learned this while in college as part of my family history report for Chicano Studies). After a few hours with this group, I wondered if it was possible that I, too, could trace my ancestry back hundreds of years?

    I was able to make a few trips to the Family History Center to search for relatives. I discovered that my Duran Great Great Grandparents had a daughter named Ramona Duran who was baptized in La Joya, New Mexico. I wondered why I had never heard this name. I also learned that my Grandfather Jose Jesus Jurado was baptized in Socorro, Texas. Socorro? I had never heard of this town. I had always heard he was from El Paso! I found my Great Grandmother was named Tiburcia Jurado. Since my Grandfather Jurado was an ophan, this was new information, also. While searching for my paternal Grandmother, Apolonia Mestas, I found a marriage record for her parents Antonio Mestas and Ma Franca Ronquillo. I had to learn what these abbreviations meant! According to the microfishe, they were married on February 21, 1873, in a town called General Trias in Chihuahua, Mexico. I had absolutely no idea where this was. So, I quickly learned the importance of maps! I attended the annual conference of S.H.H.A.R. (Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research), an invaluable experience for a beginner like me. I also continued attending GSHA-SC meetings to delve into their resources.

    My mother-in-law's Lerma Family from Silver City, New Mexico, was planning a reunion for July 1993 in Mimbres, NM. This would be the perfect opportunity to visit known ancestral towns. I immediately went to my local Auto Club to pick up maps and tour books for New Mexico and Texas. I contacted relatives for information and did as much research as possible before the scheduled trip. We would be on the road for two weeks in July. We were renting a motor home for comfort and convenience. I had to plan for my research and for my family's enjoyment. We would do and see as much as possible during the vacation.

    We headed to Arizona on July 16th. We spent the first night at a campground called Canyon Lake Marina, 16 miles NE of Apache Junction on SR 88. It was a very nice place to stop - lots of grass, picnic tables, a lake to swim in, clear skies, and boats. It was very hot and my two younger children, Nicole and Eric, were in the water almost immediately. As evening drew near, bats began flying all around us. At first, my mother-in-law and I thought they were birds, however, my husband soon corrected us. They were an added attraction to our adventure.

    The first stop on my roots investigation was in the Clifton-Morenci mining area of Arizona. This is where my grandparents, Jose Jesus Jurado and Jesusita or Jessie Licon met. Old Morenci no longer exists, having been overtaken by the mine, but there is a historic section in Clifton called Chase Creek. Here we walked the street of the old business district. One of the buildings was known as Gabaldon Drygoods. This would not be the last time that I would wonder if these Gabaldons were related. A stop at the Greenlee County Historical Museum revealed many old photos which gave me a sense of what it was like in old Morenci during the time my grandparents and great grandparents, Manual Licon and Leandra Ramirez lived there with their many children. Sacred Heart Catholic Church is also on this street. While I did not know it at the time, I later learned that both my grandparents and great grandparents are listed as godparents in these church records and perhaps my grandparents' first children were baptized here. From Clifton we drove up the hill to Morenci where a newer town had been built since my ancestors' departure.

    We headed SE to Lordsburg, NM and north to Silver City. I would have preferred the scenic route, but I was not driving and my family was anxious to get to the family reunion site. What a sight it was! - beautiful green meadows, clear blue skies with white puffy clouds, nights with the most brilliant Milky Way I have ever seen. We kept saying we could stand living in Mimbres! There were cattle ranches, horse ranches, and houses where people have seemed to settle down to a carefree way of life. We were close to the Gila National Forest and drove to the Gila Cliff dwellings on the 18th. It was a struggle for the RV climbing up the mountain and going down the steep roads, but it was well worth the effort. I wondered how the Indians had gotten to the area. Most likely it was along the Gila River. Such a lovely place to live, I wondered why they had left and I also wondered if any of my ancestors were among them. Lots of Lermas showed up for the reunion including a woman and her daughter whose relationship has not yet been determined. However, among my research material were birth records of her grandparents' early children born in the 1870s in Silver City. It's a small world, one of her daughters lives in Moreno Valley, CA near my mother.

    On Monday, we headed south into the hot desert. We stopped at the City of Rocks, where my son Eric was in seventh heaven climbing the huge boulders and attempting to catch lizards. Next, we headed south of Deming to Rock Hound State Park, where we spent the night. It was very hot when we arrived, but as thunder clouds came in over us, the temperature cooled down and Tony and Eric went on their rock hunting expedition over the hills. On the way back they saw three deer on the side of the road. The wind started to blow heavily as darkness fell and that night we were able to see the bright stars and the lights of Deming in the distance below us.

    On Tuesday, we took Hwy. 26 towards Hatch, a 63 mile drive from Deming. I wondered why there had been seemingly so little growth in Deming, Hatch, and Rodey. It's like going back in time. Both my father, Antonio Mestas Duran, and my father-in-law, Jimmy (Santiago) Silva grew up in Hatch and Rodey. It is a small world since I met my husband, Tony, in Los Angeles County, CA. As we drove into Hatch, the first site I remember seeing was the Hatch Library. I just had to go in - and this is where I stayed until 5:00 closing time! The librarians were most helpful in presenting me with historical information about the area including newspaper and book articles. I researched in their historical museum and found a notary book with land transactions by my great grandfather and his second wife Margarita Lujan. I found one item showing that in 1923 they sold 637.32 acres for $600.00. They subsequently purchased 17 acres for $300.00. Among the items on display were plat books and court records.

    While I researched, Nicole slept next to me with her head on the library table and Tony, Andrea, and Eric explored in the motorhome. They picked us up shortly after 5:00. We drove to Rodey where Tony showed me the house where his father grew up. Rodey is also the town where my grandfather, Margarito Duran, was born in 1887 or 1888. At that time, it was called El Colorado. We also explored the cemetery. This was my first view of a New Mexico cemetery. Many of the old crosses and grave markings are no longer readable. Many of the cement slabs have no printed information about those buried there. I found no information about known relatives. But, I had been forewarned by my aunt Isabel Duran Polanco, who said she cried the last time she was there because she could not locate her mother. This cemetery is in a very natural state with native desert plants and gullies from rain waters running throughout.

    As we continued on our journey, we drove south just past Las Cruces, where we spent the night at an RV camp overlooking the farming communities of the Mesilla Valley - another beautiful sight with the Organ Mountains in the background behind Las Cruces and the distant lightning storms to entertain us. A windstorm caused us to pack up early, but it did not keep us from enjoying the view! The next morning was another bright and sunny day and an opportunity for the kids to go swimming and for me to do the laundry.

    Our next stop was in the town of Mesilla, well preserved to give a sense of its history. I have since discovered baptismal and marriage records from the 1850s of my Duran-Benavides ancestors (the family of Victor Duran), among those of San Albino Church. I spent most of my time exploring the Mesilla Book Center, where I purchased several books about early New Mexico, Texas, and even Chihuahua, which I knew I would have to learn more about. We enjoyed lunch at La Posta, a Mexican Restaurant which once served as the Butterfield station. The children ordered New Mexico style stacked enchiladas, but stated that they liked mine better! On our way out of town, we even stopped to take a picture of a Silva Sanitation trash can. It was so refreshing to see familiar surnames on this trip.

    We headed south past El Paso, Texas to the the town of Socorro. My goal was to do the Mission Trail seeing Ysleta, Socorro, and San Lorenzo Missions. However, it was past 5:00 PM and all were closed by then, so we only stopped at Socorro Mission or Nuestra Senora de la Limpia Concepción de Socorro del Sur, where Grandpa Jurado was baptized, July 9, 1876. I explored the adjoining cemetery where the Jurado surname was visible although not stemming back to the time period relating to names I then knew to be those of my grandfather's family. I assumed that the older graves were no longer marked since some wooden crosses had fallen over and lost their inscriptions. I read surnames which I had seen among those in the 1693 census records for the settlements in the area stemming from the period after the 1680 Indian rebellion in New Mexico. It was evident that some of their descendents were buried here. My exploration was done solo as the heat was too much for the rest of my family who relaxed in the comforts of the RV. While I entertained myself in the graveyard, their entertainment consisted of video games, TV, and reading.

    After visiting the Socorro Mission, we were lucky to find an RV park near the freeway which was not on any of my guide books. Again, the kids had a place to go swimming and there was even a tennis court to interest my 16 year old daughter, Andrea. The rain finally caught us that night, but the next day was another warm and beautiful one. Also, this RV park was next to the El Paso Museum of History. I found some more books of interest here, including the 1841 census for the nearby towns. I told the docent of my interest and he directed me to the El Paso Library's genealogical section. He even suggested the rest of my family go shopping while I do my research. It worked out splendidly! I found relevant information and knew that I needed more time. One day was just not enough! But, alas, before I knew it the family was back and ready to hit the road.

    The next few days were devoted to the family vacation. We saw White Sands National Monument, the Alamogordo International Space Hall of Fame, a show at the Omnimax theatre, and we visited the Carlsbad Caverns. Tony and I had visited the Caverns early in our marriage, but this was a first for the kids and they were significantly impressed!

    We headed north on Hwy 285 and east on Hwy 60, destination La Joya. Out of curiosity we took a small detour to the town of Duran which appeared on my map. We stopped at the visitor's center in the town of Mountainair to inquire about a place to spend the night. I am so glad that we did! We learned about the Salinas National Monument which consists of three preserved pueblos first encountered by Juan de Oñate in 1598. We were directed to spend the night at a campground in nearby Manzano State Park and we visited two of the missions, Abo and Quarai, the next morning.

    While at the visitor center, I, of course, related my interest in genealogy and in the town of La Joya. I was directed to a book titled Rio Abajo Prehistory and History of a Rio Grande Province by Michael P. Marshall and Henry J. Walt, published by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, Santa Fe, 1984. Among the information was a statement regarding the La Joya de Sevilleta Land Grant, "In 1818 Don Miguel Aragón, alcalde mayor of Valencia, stated, "before me José Antonio Quintana and Carlos Gavaldón have requisite presentation for themselves, the first resident of the community of Sevilleta and the second of the ranchitos of the same community..." The document in question involved the transfer of land "on both sides of the river" from Sr. Quintana to Sr. Gavaldón for the sum of "one team of oxen and two cows with calves". The following year, Carlos Gavaldón requested grant title for the 68 residents of "Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Sevilleta," and in June 1819 the grant was confirmed" (page 274).

    Again, I wondered if this Gavaldón was related. Perhaps I was getting closer to my roots. I bought the book without hesitation. Subsequent research has revealed him to be one of my Fourth Great Grandfathers, the Grandfather of Victoria Gavaldón, and I have amassed many documents of his descendents.

    We visited the quiet town of La Joya that day. We parked near the church of Our Lady of Sorrows where my Great Grandfather, Luciano Duran, was baptized on December 17, 1862. No one was present and the doors were locked, but I explored anyway. We drove around the small town and talked briefly to the female fire fighter. I now know more about the area, including the ranchitos which once existed in the area and perhaps I will return for further exploration.

    As we drove north toward Alburqueque, we detoured to Ysleta Mission. I knew very little about it at the time, but now know that several of my ancestors were married there, including Carlos Gavaldón and Teresa Ysabel Serna (24 FEB 1782), Tomás Aragón and Maria Gregoria Chaves (6 SEPT 1789), Bartholome Aragón and Maria Francisca Baca (30 JULY 1754), and Andres Chaves and Maria Polonia Rael (10 FEB 1754). I find this all so fascinating!

    While in Alburqueque I had to visit the section called Los Duranes. So far, I have found no connection, but I had to photograph the intersection of Gabaldon and Duranes. It seemed that I had come full circle in my quest. This past year has provided a wealth of knowledge for me and since I was born in 1952 and my records now go back to 1754, I am satisfied that I have made good progress in a year's time. Of course, I have only just begun!

copyright: Antoinette Duran Silva, 1994
Also published in Nuestras Raices Journal, Vol. 6 No. 4 Winter 1994,
Genealogical Society of Hispanic America

[Genealogy Homepage] [Personal Genealogy] [Spanish Colonial History]