June 7, 2016

Gurabo, Puerto Rico - Where to search?

I kind of touched on Gurabo in responding to questions that I have received privately.  I didn't really provide details but there is more than just Census records from the 1900's. Gurabo is a municipality that is on the eastern side of the island. The town or barrios that exist in the municipality are, Rincon, Gurabo the town, Hato Nuevo, Celada, Jaguar, Jaguas, Mamey, Masas, Navarro, and Quebrada Infierno.  So let's begin with what is available online and then what you can find offline.

If you have a membership to Ancestry then you should be aware that US Census for Puerto Rico municipalities exist and Gurabo is one of the municipalities in Puerto Rico.  Currently you can locate 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 US Census on Ancestry's website.  However there is the 1935 special Census done by the US for Puerto Rico. 

There is a population census and an agriculture census that provides details on whether the land was owned or rented, the size of the land in hectors and what was grown on the land.  I used this census to determine that one of my great grandmothers was alive in 1935 but she was deceased in 1940.  I have narrowed down the year of her death to 1938 based on cousins I have spoken to but have yet to locate her death record.  Looking at this census assists in providing missing information on ancestors.  It can also help you narrow down when to find a child's birth record or even a marriage record to an ancestor.

There is a 1872 Slave Registration Census.  This census does provide slave names, their owners, their parents, approximate age, and whether they were born on the island, another island, or Africa.  This census has helped many with tracing their roots.  I have found plenty using this census. Some family researchers may be surprised that their ancestors migrated from Haiti. 

You may come across many French last names; that is a hint on the origins of your ancestor.  A perfect example is the last name Nelson. This last name has been discussed in genealogy circles, it turns out that the line settled in Mayaguez but came from Haiti. Another example is Barbot (with the "t" being silent) and Guay (sounds like Way).  Both are French last names but these names migrated from Haiti.  You'll have to read up on Caribbean history to understand why.

The US Census of 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 are also available on FamilySearch and they have their own index of the records.  FamilySearch provides Civil Registration records that start in 1885.  These records are for birth, marriage and death records.  The earlier records read as narratives or stories.  These narratives provide details such as parents, grandparents, sex of child, whether legitimate or naturally (out of wedlock) born, the parents and grandparents origins and whether they are alive or deceased.  It has a treasure trove of information that will help you research your ancestors. If the child was born out of wedlock, it will not contain paternal grandparents but don't give up as you'll discover their names via records provided by the grandchild down the road or the child listing the father's information on records.

So does it end with 1872? No!  There is much more available and you can actually go back into the 1700's.  Gurabo was founded in 1815 by Luis del Carmen Echevarria.  Gurabo was originally part of Caguas.  For Caguas there is the 1800 Census and church records going back to 1730.  Just Google up information on the municipality and you'll learn more.

Now as for church records, they are available, just not online. In order to access them, visit FamilySearch and search the catalog.  You'll discover many church records available. You can order the film and have it delivered to the local Family History Library in your area.

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