Back in the dark misty times...

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

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finding information at Library of Congress

Today was exciting after I slogged through the rain that swamped Washington DC and I got through security at the Library of Congress, the orientation, the tour of the Main Reader Room ( oh my goodness, what a room!) and the several reading and data base rooms after that. I found the librarians so nice and eager to help! We have a fabulous repository and it is all free!

My brain was cramped but I will be home tomorrow and will post several updates. Stay tuned!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ordering Documents from SPAIN ~

I have received several requests from other genealogists and family historians asking where and how I obtained birth and/or baptismal certificates for my Spanish ancestors. So, I am listing the best contact I have found so far.

In Spain, civil records exist from 1871 to the present. Before 1871 the records were only in church records. The job of searching for church records is very complex since baptisms were arranged by Parishes and Dioceses. For that reason, requesting documents before 1871 typically cost about $70 EACH and those after 1871 cost about $40 EACH.

The Diocese of Zamora helped me obtain baptismal documents for Victorino Luciano Silvan Hernandez and his brother, Geronimo Silvan Hernandez for a little less cost and also gave me the names of their four older siblings. Since the time I received the information, I requested documents for each of those siblings. Unfortunately, he has not responded to my several email requests.

Therefore, since I have previously employed researchers from Procuradora de los
Tribunales through the above website, I requested the documents for MATIAS, AGAPITA, FELIPE AND DOMINGO PEDRO SILVAN HERNANDEZ. Pepa said it will take about 4 weeks to get me the documents because she has to travel to the diocese and look through the baptismal books. Hope this helps others who are looking under all those unturned stones for ancestors....

AND I'M OFF FOR MORE RESEARCH ON OTHER FAMILY LINES! I am riding the Amtrak train to Washington, DC at last! The Library of Congress, National Archives, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and oh...we are sneaking in a jazz concert with Wynton Marsalis at the Kennedy Center. So, I won't be updating my blog again until next weekend. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Old family photographs and more questions ~

Files cover my desk. When my cell phone rang, I couldn't find it but it kept on ringing... Pushing everything aside, I started laughing and then couldn't talk when I opened the phone. This family history quest makes me laugh and sometimes cry so one never knows what they'll find when they contact me.
I laugh when I receive an email from a cousin I didn't know I had before 2009. I cry when I think of all the unanswered questions I have since then. But slow but surely, I am finding answers and with them, lovely, poignant, sweet and wonderful photographs that open a window into the past. The children I see in many of the photos? I know this generation will write the next chapter of our American Silvan story. So, I don't want to pause. I don't want to worry. I know to truly comprehend tomorrow, we must first comprehend yesterday.
So, I am off and running. Gathering all the information from each family "informant" for each of their ancestors and funneling it into specific biographies. Yesterday, I found a photo of my great Uncle Gus (Agustin Silvan) holding two huge fish or was the little lady with the white hair in front of him holding the fish? I didn't recognize the little old lady but smiled at uncle Gus. He LOVED to fish. After contacting Linda H. I sat amazed. The little old lady was my own grandmother, Abuelita Manuela Silvan Ruiz! Ah, what a special photograph. Loved it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THE BABY in the photograph ~

During the past three years as I have sifted through the Silvan history, unearthing documents, stories and photographs, one particular question lurked behind a family photograph that I just couldn't get my head around. This photograph shows the Juan Silvan family in Hawaii about 1913 or early 1914. My grandmother (abuela) is on the left as a young girl about 12 years old, Manuela Silvan Trascasas. Next to her is her mother, Eustoquia Rita Marzo Trascasas Silvan and her husband, Juan Francisco Silvan Hernandez. The little boys are Agustin (the oldest) and the little boy in the front looked frightened out of his wits is Jose Silvan. The question has always been the baby in great grandma Rita Silvan's arms.
Grandma Manuela Silvan Trascasas Ruiz was adamant that this child was named "Maria" but it was not her sister, Maria/Mary. She always said this child was her aunt’s child also named Maria ~ her mother wanted to hold this child because she'd birthed a stillborn baby girl prior to this photo and refused to have a family photograph with empty arms.
Several aunts said grandma must have remembered wrong so I knew I had to investigate all angles of the story with dates, times and places. The answer was finally shaken loose last night and I wanted to share my findings!
As one can see, Rita looks pregnant in this photo.
Grandmas sister, Maria (Mary) Silvan was born in March 7, 1914.
Since Manuela looks about 12 or 13 in this photo it was probably taken late 1913 or early 1914. This baby appears about two years old.
With careful research, I incorrectly concluded the child might be Maria Souza, daughter of Manuel and Christina Souza, friends of the Silvan family. However, I found records to show Maria Souza was born March 1, 1916.
Last night, I danced around all the dates, people and COUSINS and it has been staring me in the face for months and months! This baby must be Maria Gregoria Gonzales, born May 18, 1912. She would have been nearly two years old and great grandma Rita Silvan was pregnant with her own Maria --- my great aunt Mary Silvan Cuellar. Ah ha.... love it when the facts flow together and I can move on!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Over the past few days, I have managed to get my documents, photographs, emails and notes gathered and organized; created a Table of Contents, Preface, Acknowledgements, and crafted the beginning of my book for the Silvan family, titled SILVAN LEAVES.
So many relatives have helped me! I can't begin to thank everyone as I get to know their family and connect them with my own. As of today, I have completed and inserted the biographies for The Immigrant Silvan Siblings who emigrated to Hawaii from Spain and on to America. This includes, ofcourse - Victorino Luciano Silvan Hernandez (10 pages), Juan Francisco Silvan Hernandez (16 pages*) and Cristencia Silvan Hernandez Gonzales (18 pages). Each dossier includes photos and documents relating to their lives and memories from some of their descendants who have eagerly shared them with me.
*I am still building Juan Silvan's, my own great grandfather's biography/dossier and expect the pages to grow beyond 20 easily.
A peek inside will include:
Chapter 1 - The Spanish SILVAN ancestors -- The foundation family at a glance / Fuentesauco and surrounding villages from whence they came.
Chapter 2 - The Spanish Silvans Who Remained in Spain
Chapter 3 - The Immigrant Silvans Who Emigrated to Hawaii and on to America (as described above).
Chapter 4 - The Immigrant-Silvan Descendants
Chapter 5 - The Silvan Family in America (with an index for specific family member pages
I've reached out to four (4) cousins who have agreed to help me reach further to others whom I am having difficulty receiving responses from. Thank you so much, Vicki, Alicia, Cheryl and Julie. By the end of this week, I should have Chapter 3 finished feel accomplished enough to stretch myself into Chapter 4.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gravestone photos for our ancestors

There is a web site where one can often find photos of gravestones for ancestors, I volunteer to take photo requests for any gravestones in my area as well as create our ancestor's sites on that web site. For example, if you wanted to look for a copy of the gravestone with biography and possibly a photo of the ancestor, you may find it on that site.
The past week, I have been creating many of our ancestors for you to have access to at your fingertips. For example, go to and type in the name box, EUSTOQUIA and last name SILVAN. Then add "1953" in death date box, then use the drop down menu to click on United States, then California, then Solano County. This brings you to the site for Grandma Rita Silvan. For those of you who just want a short cut, instead of typing in her name, date of death and place, go to the Memorial# box and type in 84168739. Up pops Grandma Rita Silvan's information.
For other Memorial # for other ancestors, I will compile all the numbers and post them soon.
Good luck!

Friday, February 3, 2012

SAILING to a new world THEN and NOW ~

It is with tongue in cheek that I write today's blog. I received an elegant cruise advertisement sponsored by the William & Mary Alumni Association in yesterday's mail and I was struck dumb by the vast difference between the SS ORTERIC sailing in 1911 and the SS REGATTA in 2012. Just for fun, here is what may have been written then versus now. (smile)
The moment you step aboard, you will feel warmly welcomed by an ambiance of effortless elegance, casual days at sea, and impeccable attention to detail. The ship's decor will delight, lavished with rich, dark woods, plush fabrics, intriguing artwork, and an abundance of fresh flowers. The streamlined size of the REGATTA allows for an intimate, convivial atmosphere and highly personalized service. On this ship, you will experience the pinnacle of luxury cruising. With the perfect ratio of staff to guests, you will find all your needs and whims catered to. The exceptional service aboard this ship will almost magically anticipate your needs, elevating your entire cruising experience. On the REGATTA, it will be a voyage like no other.
The moment you step aboard, you may feel stifled, cramped and fearful due to this undoubtedly being your virgin sailing experience but never fear. You will be welcomed by an ambiance of Portuguese and Spanish immigrants who may sometimes pull your hair or bite you; while others may flirt outrageously. You will enjoy forty-eight mind-tingling days at sea where you will feel the ship rock and swish through storms and high waves at sea and at times, just a lack of particular attention to detail. The ship's decor will stun you; our employees will be sure to pour hot tar over the planks of dull wood to cover any vomit, poop and other nasties so you can walk on the deck more easily after it is also strewn with sawdust. The cloying smell only lasts a few days. The amazing and diverse fabrics of many immigrants will hang artfully from bunk beds with straight wooden edges and everyone will wish flowers filled the area to ease the smell of so many bodies pushed into their dank quarters. The streamlined size of the ORTERIC allows for a disorganized, but sometimes convivial atmosphere and highly personalized immigrant-volunteer service. On this ship, you will experience the pinnacle of immigrant cruising. With the unbalanced ratio of staff to "guests" we appreciate the working volunteers as it will make the passing of time go more swiftly. We offer special prayers for any and all unfortunate passengers requiring burial at sea. Each day, I am sure everyone will be inspired by the musical ability of the passengers and we look forward to anticipating your needs. Although it could never give you all the comforts of home, your personal spot in steerage will be your private oasis. On the ORTERIC, it will be a voyage like no other.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Today was a plus day ~ There is a website at that includes genealogical information and photos of gravestones across the land. Last year, I found it and was delighted to see where one of my Civil War ancestors was buried in Wisconsin, named Lucius Chubb. So excited, that I volunteered to photograph gravestones for others in my shoes, where they may be buried near where I live.
So, it was with great happiness that I received an email yesterday for the man whose biography I am working on now --- Melvin Andrew Medeiros.
Melvin was the grandson of Victorino Silvan and his wife, Ramona. Their daughter, Felisa (Alice) Silvan Medeiros had two sons, Melvin (1925) and Jerome (1926). In 1943, Melvin enlisted and by 1945 he was deeply entrenched in World War II where he lost his life when he was only twenty years old. His family, of course, was devastated. Without much information for this young man, I put on my "investigator's" hat and went to work.
Instead of just a small paragraph and a photos of Melvin as a child and another in his uniform standing next to his grandmother Ramona (thank you, Lynda!) I was able to prepare three pages for him!
I have biographies for Felisa and her husband Seraphim (Joe) Medeiros' family nearly finished and have begun work on her sister, Theodora (Dora) Silvan and her husband (John Souza) and their children. Then, moving to my own great grandfather, John Silvan and grandma Rita and all of us who came after.
It is so wonderful when so many share information and photographs. The man who helped me with Melvin Medeiros specializes in World War II Killed-In-Action veterans and he certainly made me smile by adding the ghost of Melvin to the pages of what will eventually be the genealogy history for the Silvans called SILVAN LEAVES.