Back in the dark misty times...

Back in the dark misty times...
Genealogy, joyfully discovered ~

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Impatience in Genealogy

They say patience is an acquired habit and I've also heard that if you do something seven times in a row it creates a habit. Well, I am trying to be patient while I wait for the Diocese in Zamora to eke out the baptismal and/or birth documents for my NEW Great Aunt Agapita and our NEW Great Uncles, Felipe, Domingo Pedro and Matias and I have checked my email for seven days. Does that count, I wonder? (smiling here and still anxiously waiting for Jose Carlos de Lera Maillo's response.)

As I sit in my 'patient status' I have gathered and organized all the notes I have stashed over the past two years into some semblance of order. To that end, I have begun the interesting and enjoyable task of creating dossiers, or what I am calling BIOGRAPHRIES. I have begun with the original siblings as we know them (Victorino, Juan Francisco, Cristencia, Geronimo and Agustin). I will add the other four siblings WHEN I receive their information. From there, I am building the biographies for each of their children and meeting so many of this generation as I go along and exultant with the sharing of information they have given to me for this fantastic project.

So far, I have Victorino and Ramona Silvan's family fleshed out (so to speak). There are a few holes I am waiting for their descendants to fill. I know they are not as obsessed with this as I am so that is where patience comes in again. I am thrilled with everyone's anxious wish for my book titled Silvan Leaves to be published and thank everyone who has been part of this endeavor.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Impressionist's paintings and what they tell ~

The Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia recently held an exhibition called "Seeing Colors: Secrets of the Impressionists." Since 1991, when my friend Nancy introduced me to the impressionist's art in Paris, I have continued to see enchantment in the beauty their oil paintings offer. When I walked into the museum two days ago, I wasn't disappointed. As I studied walls filled with the
oils by Monet, Pissaro, Cassatt and Sargent, both Americans and my favorite of all, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Enchanted by them and lingering beside several, it suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at life as it was in their time. Many were painted before the turn of the 1900 and others just afterward.

My brain recycled back to my current dilemma ~ wondering what life may have looked like in the early 1900s when our ancestors fled Spain for Hawaii and beyond to California. If the French impressionists painted life as it was then, maybe the Spanish painters had done the same thing. Could there have been a specific painter in that time period painting pastoral settings and the people in Spain just as Camille Pissarro did for the peasants in the villages and farms of France?

Today, I will begin my detective work through Spain's art and just maybe... I will be able to write the way it was in Manuela's Petals as if I was stepping back in time, their time. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The SILVAN cup runneth over ~

My chest is thumping madly this morning. Five days ago I sent an email to the man at the diocese in Zamora who previously researched and found the baptismal documents for Victorino and Geronimo Silvan Hernandez at the Santa Maria del Castillo Church in Fuentesauco for me. Those papers led me to learn there was another brother, much older than Geronimo named Filipe Silvan Hernandez.

On a lark, I asked my 'researcher' to look further, hoping to find our illusive Filipe in our Silvan family documents. Paydirt is not the word I would use this morning. Gold. Silver. Emotional shock.

After discovering there were at least eleven years between Filipe and Victorino (1868) because he was listed as a natural, married brother at Geronimo's birth in 1877) questions leaped into my mind (again). Would there be such a large gap between children? Were Celestino and Agustina older than I'd first imagined? Why couldn't he find Celestino Silvan Alejo in the time period I gave to him for research?

Today, we now know that between the years 1852 and 1866, Celestino and Agustina had at least three other children! AGAPITA, MAT√ćAS AND DOMINGO PEDRO. So, now more questions ~ Was Filipe born before 1852? Were there still other children? When was Celestino born? And could the diocese research into the villages of Villamor and Villescusa, where Agustina's family came from? I shot off another email today asking him to research the years 1835 to 1852 for more Silvan Hernandez siblings. Find their father, Celestino and asked if his range of research could include the other two villages? Dipping into my savings would be well worth the LOOK, the challenge and the possible documents that may come. As I said before, stay tuned.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Silvan brother ~

Sitting in stun mode, I clarified and confirmed the translation several times and found another Silvan. The Spanish document I received from the diocese in Zamora, Spain for Geronimo Silvan Hernandez lists his parents, paternal grandparents and maternal grandparents. I was delighted because I learned Grandpa Celestino's name was more than Celestino Silvan. It was Celestino Silvan Martin. And Grandma Agustina Hernandez now had her mother's name as well: Alejo.
In my excitement to learn the next generation, I nearly skipped the godparent's name at the bottom until I had a chance to study it two days ago.

It very clearly states that Geronimo's godfather was his natural brother, a married man named Felipe Silvan Hernandez. I nearly fainted when I read it. I did not want to jump to erroneous conclusions so I sent the info to Steven, my Spanish speaking brother, and he agreed with me. FELIPE Silvan Hernandez was listed as the biological brother to Geronimo and he was married. So, that was a shocker! That means he must have been at least 18+ years older than Geronimo, who was born in 1877. Victorino was born in 1868, who I thought was the oldest but now we have another brother to find!!! So Felipe was about 11 years older than who I thought was the oldest. Can I assume there might be more siblings in between???

Today, I hired the diocese in Zamora research this for me. Maybe the reason he could not find Celestino Silvan before is because I 'assumed' he was born about 1845 or soand if Felipe was born about 1858 - 1860, then Celestino Silvan, their father, may have been born as early as 1838.. STAY TUNED.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Silvan biographies begin ~

Since I cannot finish Manuela's Petals until I return from my 2012 trip to Spain, I have begun my trek through all my notes, photos and documents from family members and my personal research to begin a project that I expected to start after the publication of Manuela's Petals.

Two books will be on my drawing board; Silvan Leaves, the biographies of the five siblings born in Spain between 1868 and 1887, Victorino, Juan Francisco, Geronimo, Crestencia and Agustin. I plan subchapters for their children and their families.

And then on to the Ruiz family -- this one will be such fun also --- because I will be meeting many of the Ruiz descendants in the Malaga area this year!! Muy bueno!

I created my first biography on CELESTINO MARTIN SILVAN, the son of Victorino. Just a few holes to fill in and I can move on to his sisters... It is quite fun to create literal dossiers to share with our family. Any help would be appreciated.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The push to leave Cuba in 1930 & 1931 ~

A trip to the Swem Library at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia rewarded me with four books filled with incredible information that go toward answering question #2 regarding my great, great uncles, Geronimo and Agustin Silvan.


Typically, historical text books put me to sleep. However, after seeing a documentary from 1930s in Cuba, I saw my great, great uncles in my mind's eye through the pages of the books spread across my desk. I learned about the Spanish-American War, why it took place, what life was like in Cuba before and after and how it affected Cubans and Spanish immigrants that came later.

As clashes increased between the Gerardo Machado government and political opponents, union organizers fought for the rights of the people. I can now see my Uncle Geronimo and his wife, Joaquina, getting very nervous. When, in May of 1930, the Union Nacionalista organized a political rally...and even before the speakers addressed the crowd of thousands, the army opened fire and dispersed the panic-stricken crowd by force. The attack resulted in 8 deaths and hundreds wounded. My uncle and aunt fled within days, sailing out of Santiago de Cuba for Zamora via New York.

Agustin chose to remain behind. However, after reading the history of the year between June of 1930 and the beginning of 1931, I can bet assuredly he wished he'd sailed away with them. Sugar production dropped 60%. The length of the zafra was reduced to a 62-day harvest --- only 2 months' work for tens of thousands of sugar workers. Salaries reduced, workers laid off, businesses and factories closed. Unemployment soared. In sugar zones, wages fell as low as 20 cents a day for a 12-hour work day. On one large estate, workers received 10 cents a day --- five in cash and five in credit at the company store. As wages fell, the value of the peso decreased. The peso was worth 28 centavos less in 1928 than it was in 1913. Revolution lay ahead and when the ship arrived in June, Agustin was on it --- headed for Zamora.

I have lost them (for now). But I feel filled up with Cuban history as I imagine their life there where the men wore white hats, light colored shirts and pants and fedoras. The women wore shorter dresses, white floppy hats and gloves. Rumba was the native dance and royal palm trees were called the feather dusters of the gods. Many streets were made of cobblestone and giant earthenware jars caught rain water. And Cubans were proud of their Bacardi Rum facility...and Cuban cigars. Oranges. Sugar. Coffee. And they wanted independence.

Now --- I'm off in search of these brothers AFTER they arrived back in Spain. Did they stay or move on again???

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tooting my own horn....

I was 20 minutes early for my hair appointment and Starbucks was nearby, so I ordered a latte, settled in an overstuffed chair and pulled the Virginia Gazette open. Taking a deep breath to enjoy the peace and quiet, I proceeded to read it at my leisure, which is a rarity.

When I pulled out the "Limelight" section, my latte nearly curdled... There on the front page under GOT BOOKS? my new children's book cover jumped out at me among four other local authors in the Williamsburg area.

Goosebumps enveloped me, a silly grin on my face. As my new favorite author said, "a writer never forgets the sweet poison of vanity in his/her blood and the belief that, if I succeed in not letting anyone discover my lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide me with the most profound feeling of excitement: my name printed on a piece of paper" ....And a photo of the book's cover to boot? That moment, with my latte suspended mid-air was that moment.

I couldn't stop grinning as I read the blurb about Ricky, his dog, the balloons and where someone could get my book through and I grinned again. And I was alone! Not letting that dissuade me, I wanted to share my sublime enchantment of the moment, so I snapped a photo of the newspaper and text and sent the photo to those nearest to me... tooting my own horn.

Writing appears to be in my DNA and thrills through my veins. I can hardly wait to publish the story of the Silvan's journey from their village home in Fuentesauco, Spain to Hawaii and beyond. So much excitement waits!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The SILVAN brothers in Cuba during 1930-1931

Agustin Silvan and Geronimo Silvan both traveled from Spain to Cuba during the late 1920s. I have documented this information through ship manifests.

** Agustin, single, age 43, sailed on the SS Cristobal Colon from Havana, Cuba June 20, 1930 via New York and returned to Zamora, Spain. His birth city was listed as Zamora. He had white hair and black eyes. His last residence was Havana, Cuba.

** Geronimo, married, age 54, sailed with his wife (Joaquina Bragado Vicente, age 55) on the SS Manuel Calvo from Santiago de Cuba one year later, also in June, 1931 via New York and returned to Zamora, Spain. They both had black hair and brown eyes. Their birth cities were both listed as Zamora. Their last residence was Santiago de Cuba.

I asked myself when they went to Cuba? Did they go together? Did they work in the sugar cane fields like their brothers, Juan Francisco and Victorino? Or did they work in another industry like their brother in law, Eusebio Gonzales who worked with horses? Why didn't they return to Spain together? What drove them to Cuba in the first place and what made them leave?

Today I found some answers and as usual, more questions popped up.

A brief history lesson: By December of 1896, Spanish troops left Cuba and the government was handed over to the U.S. on January 1, 1899. The U.S. government did not annex Cuba because of the restrictions imposed in the Teller Amendment, which required the U.S. to leave control of the island to the people. The Treaty of Paris later recognized Cuba's independence on December 10, 1898. The Spanish-American War etc... I read about Gerardo Machado's rule from 1925-1933). During his rule, he built a highway the length of Cuba from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba, 705.6 miles, touching the coast in 3 places; Havana, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

Did these brothers travel to Cuba for work on the highway or the sugar fields? During my research today I found a professor's name, a sugar company's name and a book that may give me more answers. I found a Cuban Historical Timeline and knew WHY they left when they did....
1928 - October - The Wall Street Crash drops the price of sugar and panic ensues.
1929 - A reduction in salaries cause agricultural pay to drop or become delayed. A general strike among railroad workers .... soldiers step in. Eight are killed.
1930 - Students lead violent demonstrations. Schools, the newspaper and Yacht Club are closed.
1931 - The university directors are arrested and indicted on conspiracy, jailed three months. An Emergency Tax Law to bring in revenue adds fuel to the fire. By July, everyone knew revolution was near.
For anyone interested in 'seeing' Cuba in 1930, go to and look at film 217. Notice all the white clothing!