December 8, 2014

Betancourt - A Connection from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands to Puerto Rico

As I mentioned in my prior post, Round Robin Genealogy, the Betancourt line connection is riddled with mistakes on Ancestry and many group forums. If you follow the source of the tree that Ancestry gives you a leaf on, you'll notice that it will lead to a continuous loop from one tree to another until it dead ends on someone who had nothing to do with the ancestor. It was after seeing this family line and a few others that were riddled with mistakes that I realized that data being provided had zero accurate information. None of the trees on Ancestry when I first started off had any accurate information back in 2008 and I believe that that is the case till today. I've actually removed my tree from Ancestry because I got fed up with Ancestry constantly giving me false leads on my ancestors. I had a better resource; church books.

So I want to start with the man who started this line and from what I can tell, it is where the name Juan was introduced. It saddens me that I haven't been able to go further than him as I would like to know his personal story even through records what lead him on that journey to Puerto Rico from Gran Canaria, Canary Islands are not available. He wasn't the only Betancourt to cross but I wondered if there were any other siblings.  It wouldn't surprise me if he came alone as I've discovered that Miguel Bayala Gero never went back home to his country and remained in Puerto Rico.

I estimated that Juan was born sometime around 1745; way before the American Revolution; time of many pirates to which I've discovered ancestors in that line of work.  However the pirate discussion I'll leave for another day, another post.

Since many of the records are destroyed I have to live with estimates for now until the day comes that I can sit in an archive digging through records finding information pertaining to this line and many others. While most people are jumping to the conclusion that he died in Trujllo Alto, Puerto Rico; I'm going to say he didn't unless someone can show documentation. I have my theory that are based on some facts beginning with where his children were born and where they claim to be from when they were getting married.

In addition, his children were not born in Trujillo Alto; it didn't even exist back then.  I found that two of his sons were born in Bayamon and his two daughters were probably born in Loiza. I'm able to connect his daughters by marriage and death records of where he was possibly living before his death.  As for his sons, I found them being baptized in Bayamon and one dying there as well. He was married to Antonia Falcon  to which I'm still in the process of confirming her baptism record that I've located.  In my research I've found only four children for this couple; they were as follows:

Of these four children, the first child to pass away was Juan Betancourt Falcon at just 10 months of age on Nov 5, 1774; how sad for Antonia and Diego.  I located his son's death record in the Defunciones (Death) book of the church in Bayamon; Parroquia Santa Cruz, Book 5, Folio 9. I can't imagine what it must have been like to have children die of something as simple as a fever in that era; no such thing as aspirin or any other fever reducer. Over the years I saw records showing children dying from dehydration due to fevers.

It was also through birth and marriage records that I discovered that Diego Betancourt actually went by the name of Juan Espanto Betancourt. I found this name associated to his children's birth/death records. When his daughter Barbara married on September 18, 1788 in Rio Piedras to her first husband, Manuel Gonzalez de Soto, the marriage record indicated that she was naturally from Loiza (meaning born and living there) and that her father Diego was deceased.

From this record I was able to establish that Diego was from Gran Canaria after asking members from the Sociedad Puertorriqueña de Genealogia what did the general reference mean.  It was explained that it meant that the person was from the main island of Gran Canaria as we know it today but back then was referenced as 'la Isla Canaria'. If you were from another island, it would mention the island name in the record.  So I want to thank many of the members of the Society for assisting me in some of the facts about the people and the island.

My heart broke for Barbara since women were very vulnerable in this era; having to rely on their husbands or family of the husband to be able to survive. From her marriage to Manuel, she had two sons, Manuel and Juan; Juan I gather being named after her father. In 1793, tragedy struck this woman twice with the death of her husband on July 22, 1793, followed by the death of her son, Juan at the age of 8 months on September 15, 1793. A year later she then lost her older son Manuel at 4 years of age on November 9, 1794. These were the only two children belonging to this couple. Although the records do not provide an insight as to how they all died, influenza and malaria was prevalent during this era.

After loosing her husband and children, I found her again on December 10, 1794 getting married in Caguas; just one month after losing her son Manuel.  She didn't have time to mourn before she had to say "I do" in order to survive. You can find her marriage record in Book 2 of Marriages, Folio 125, #277 for Parroquia Dulce Nombre de Jesus. I'm hoping that she found happiness once again as I see she had a daughter with Roberto Lopez who was born on January 21, 1796; Maria Agueda Lopez Betancourt. She was baptized at the church in Rio Piedras; Senora del Pilar, Book 3, Folio 307 vuelto (back).

I didn't continue her line and my research ended here for her but I remember the feeling of grief I felt for this woman; my 5th great grand aunt. I'm hoping that when I get back to her that I find that she finally was able to have a family to call her own.  I now have two remaining siblings that I want to discuss; Rafael and Maria del Carmen Betancourt Falcon. Until then...