March 20, 2018

Spanish Last Names

For this next post I want to change things up a bit. For those of us that were raised in Hispanic household, things may or may not come naturally when understanding the surnames and how it works. I’m going to use visual examples for this post. In the Hispanic community, and it is true no matter where in the Americas, people carry two last names. It is customary that the first last name is your paternal and the second last name is maternal.

Note that prior to 1700's, there were no set rules on surnames aka last names. This means that your child could carry a last name that wasn't the parent's last name. Yes, this happened plenty of times. So for example, you can have someone like Francisca Castro Caraballo.

As you can see, Francisca is the daughter of Manuel Caraballo Candoso and Juana de Castro Madudero.

Keep in mind that any child h her parents had should carry "Caraballo de Castro" by the rule I gave, however her last name was reserved.  Keep in mind that the rule of "Paternal Last Name and Maternal Last Name" doesn't apply all the time and it is for numerous reasons.

Francisca also had a brother name Pedro Candoso de Casto, same parents and that was how he was known. Again, he's taking on his father's maternal last name. So confusion sets in as to why people did this. Of course all of these individuals existed in the mid to late 1600's in Puerto Rico.

One reason is that potentially a marriage contract was written prior to the marriage where there were stipulations on giving children a specific last name they should carry. This can be why Pedro carried Candoso as there may have been no males to continue that last name.

Another reason could be that a last names may be considered more prominent or affluent.

To add to this, you also have to keep in mind that there were many uneducated people or those that descend from enslavement that may just pick a last name. I actually spoke about this in the series of posts on my de la Cruz line. Feel free to read up on Angel Delgado Silverio whose last name is actually Angel Delgado de la Cruz. Of course over time, the "de la" was dropped and that line descends from Africa.

To add some more confusion, for a period in time, last names included a "Y".  The "Y" in Spanish translation is "and". So basically it's paternal y maternal

So looking at the 1910 US Census for Puerto Rico, you'll notice many different patterns in last names and many do get lost in figuring it out. Once you learn these rules, you will eventually get the hang of it and realize that everything is not perfect and you are not losing your mind.

So when looking at my dad, Luis Bayala Delgado, you'll notice that his last name is Bayala Delgado. Note that his name follows the rule.  Honestly I can tell when looking at a family tree if the person is well versed in Last Name rules. People automatically assume that Luis Bayala y Delgado and Luis Bayala Delgado or even phonetically spelled, Luis Ballala Delgado are three different people. You can even see his last name spelled as Vallala and that is a far cry from Bayala but they are one in the same individual.

Next, lets just say for this example that my dad was born out of wedlock. Documents will read that he was "hijo natural" which means he's born out of wedlock or considered an illegitimate child. Keep that in mind when you are reading records. If you look at the Census under marital status columns, you'll notice "CC".  "CC" stands for contractual consent.  In other words they were not legally married. When searching for children in the records, you should be looking for the child under the mother's maiden name. So in my example, it would be Luis Delgado and not Luis Bayala Delgado. One of the main reasons this happened a lot was the travel involved in getting to a church, civil registry, and the cost involved.

In some countries like in Dominican Republic, you may notice the record states "hijo reconocido". This can be in the birth, baptism, and even marriage record.  So on my maternal line which is Dominican, my great grandfather was known as Felipe Estrella. I found this out by finding his marriage record in 1912 in La Vega and right in the record it stated that his mother was Daniela Estrella but that his father recognized him so he is now known as Felipe Cartagena Estrella; Cartagena being his father's last name. This told me to look for a Felipe Estrella in the birth records because that is how he would be listed; sure enough that was the case.

Most importantly, I have my paternal great grandfather, Juan Bayala Montañez, in Puerto Rico. In the 1910 he was listed as Juan Montañez and "alojado" to the head of household who happened to be his own father Pedro. Obviously, there was some issues going on in the household as Juan's sister was using the Bayala last name and "alojado" means distantly related. I noticed that he didn't start using Bayala until after his father, Pedro, died.  It took sleuthing and working with my father to unravel the craziness but we were able to figure it out.

Basically what I am saying that although there are rules, it does not mean that it applies across the board. Keep an open mind in searching and hopefully the rules on Spanish names post will help clarify the confusion.

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March 18, 2018

Searching for that Enslaved Ancestor

Many, and for some unknown reason, believe that slavery in Puerto Rico existed only on the eastern part of the island. The reality is that slavery existed throughout the entire island. There was no imaginary line separating the two sides. Thinking this way will lead people down the wrong path in finding their ancestors.

There are many who were enslaved in Cabo Rojo, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, San German, and Toa Alta, just like in Rio Piedras, Trujillo Alto, Gurabo, and Caguas.These are not the only municipalities but just a few that I am pointing out here. We also have maroons or cimarrones in Utuado that joined the Tainos in the mountainous region.

One thing that I have found in researching my African roots, there is a consistent pattern of our enslaved and freed ancestors. Once freed, most remained in the region of where they were enslaved; you'll understand as you continue to read.

Since some were able to purchase their own freedom, they also stuck around if their family remained enslaved. I have seen countless records of where a man or woman will marry someone who is enslaved but they are free. It lets us see another aspect of what our African ancestors and their descendants faced but are not captured in records for that reason. A simple baptism can tell a whole story. In addition, when many are searching, you're looking everywhere but the obvious place.

Potentially, where your family lived is likely is where they were enslaved. To understand this, place yourself in their shoes.  You have nothing of your own, you were fed and clothed by your slaveowner and your family is still enslaved. With the island being but so big, where were they going to go without funds? Why would they leave and risk being enslaved on another island? Usually if a woman who is emancipated married an emancipated man, she is likely to be from another town or region as she married into the man's family but not the other way around.

So thanks to my dad, he already had advised me that our enslaved ancestors were from the Quebrada Negrito region. This piece of information he gave me led to me being able to locate ancestors. Looking at a map always helps to determine where to look for records. My 2nd great grandmother, Francisca de la Cruz, moved in with her husband upon marrying him.  Francisca was actually from Carolina. You can read about her on my website.

People in Loiza, PR

You also have to keep in mind Spain's Moret Law, passed into law on March 22, 1873.  This law supposedly abolished slavery on the island of Puerto Rico. It simply granted people over the age of 60 years, those that belonged to the state, and children born to slaves after September 17, 1868, their freedom. However, individuals had to purchase their freedom. This is not just another ugly twist but also a way of ensuring people remain enslaved. This is why I keep telling everyone, slavery DID NOT end on March 22nd, 1873 in Puerto Rico; please stop repeating this false information. Slavery actually continued for years. In actuality, the Moret Law was changed in 1886. In 1886, the law was amended and gave full freedom to all without exceptions.  Keep in mind that this law also applied to the island of Cuba.

PARES entry on Moret Law

In addition, the Moret Law required that former slaves work for another three years for the slaveowners, people that were interested in their services, or for the "state" in order to pay back some compensation. The Spanish government created the Protector's Office to oversee the transitional process. The Protector's Office had to pay the difference owed to the former slaveowner once the contract ended. Many of the freed slaves continued to work as free people, receiving wages for their labor. If the former slave decided not to work, the Protectors Office would pay the former slaveowner 23% of the former slave's estimated value, as a form of compensation. The likelihood of individuals not wanting to work was low due to very limited resources and poverty on the island.

So while going through baptismal church records searching for enslaved ancestors, there has always been a consistency; godparents assigned to a baptism were of European descent or someone who is well established in the community. However, I found this not to be the case while doing research on my de la Cruz family from Carolina, then Trujillo Bajo, in Rio Piedras.

While many people have skipped over the Rio Piedras books, they did so because they didn't see the book listed as containing slave entries. However, don't dismiss the books labeled as "de todas clases" as it includes exactly what it says, of all classes. This means that you will find enslaved people in these records.

A surprise of finding something else in the entry of a baptism was surprising as I looked at the images for baptisms covering from 1831 to 1837 in Rio Piedras.  Double surprised when I saw two entries on the same page. Take a look at the image below and you can click on it to expand it.

Rio Piedras Church record 1831 - 1837

The pattern of European descent assigned as godparents went out the door with these entries as previously stated. I found two records where one godparent was a slave and the other a free black person. In addition the child being baptized was born into slavery as the mother was a slave too.

The record at the top left reads:
that the child, Maria, is the daughter of Maria del Carmen, enslaved and owned by Dona Dominga de la Cruz. Her godparents are Carlos, slave belonging to Lupratha Cruz (sic) and Petrona Gonzales, free black woman.
 The record at the bottom left reads:
that the child, Juan Bartolo, son of Maria Valentina, enslaved and owned of Catalina Fispatrick(sic). His godparents are Antonio Dominguez, free black man and Maria Diomina, slave of Catalina Fispatrick.

Another surprise and it seems as if it were done in a hurry was that of an African man, of about 30 years of age, being baptized and found on the right side of the above image. The surprise is that the godparent was the slaveowner himself and no godmother. It comes off as if he were in a hurry to get the process over and done with. One thing is for sure, never skip books because what many may assume as not listing out slaves, it doesn't mean that the book doesn't contain them.

If the image is hard to read, you can easily access it by clicking here and it should open in a new window.

So the ask from many is "How did I get so far in my research of enslaved ancestors?". My answer is that it isn't easy and it requires a lot of reading to understand how things were throughout the Caribbean. Remember, Puerto Rico is not on it's own planet and unique to what occurred throughout the Caribbean.

Your takeaway is that you should not be searching all over the island but to stay close to where your last ancestor lived and unless a record states that they were from another region, you shouldn't be automatically looking elsewhere. I haven't found that to be the case in my research. It is every important that history is understood for the time period you are seeking your ancestor, when towns were established, and what were they prior to establishment. If you do not do the background research, you'll never find your ancestors. 

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March 3, 2018

Slavery in the Caribbean

It took me a long time to write this as it was hard to read some of the stuff. While I provide many references at the bottom, please take breaks from reading them, which is what I did.  Please feel free to comment below as I would love to hear feedback from all.

Researching slavery in the Caribbean can face some challenges for many, especially for the smaller islands or even places like Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname. Although these countries are considered to be part of the Caribbean,they do not border the Caribbean Sea and lack of resources is prevalent to genealogists. I am far from an expert in knowing the history in the Caribbean so this post is based on what I have read.

We also face limitations of online resources due to the behavior many of us are seeing in many of the Facebook groups that discuss ancestry and DNA.  The mere mention of African DNA can get you banned from some groups. Discussing African DNA can also lead to a discussion shutdown. I have personally posted many times in the ISOGG's Facebook group without issue when it came to European or anything not referencing African posts.

Things changed when I decided to post about an African enslaved infant in church records being baptized and given away. I was not only booted from the group without a reason given to me, but also blocked and no responses from the admins. It is bad enough that we face the challenge of researching African ancestors and now it includes everyone being shutdown from discussing our African ancestors and slavery as if we asked for our ancestors to be enslaved. It is their shame and not ours. It has led to groups being developed to allow continued discussion. I recommend the following Facebook groups:

To add to research complexities, places like Suriname, the smallest country in South America, is hard to locate records online and requires a visit to their archives. Most importantly, Suriname records are all in Dutch while French Guiana are written in French, making it a bigger challenge for English speakers. It becomes even more difficult as we trace our lines back to someone who partook in marronage and the acts of violence our African ancestors faced.

Enslaved African Man, Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean

While the history is ugly, it is important that we all understand what they faced in order to be able to trace back where to find them and giving them a voice. Part of the reason for writing this is because it is important to understand real history to help us understand what ancestors faced and potentially where to find records about them or where they lived.  Not knowing details is like finding a needle in a haystack when searching for them.

The barbarous cruelty inflicted on a Negro at Suriname, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection

One term that many do not recognize is the word marronage. Marronage was the act of people escaping slavery. Many of our enslaved ancestors ran away into mountains or forests, then hid from their captures, while others had to flee the island to another.  Most escaped permanently, while some took breaks from enslavement. The act of temporary escape was known as "petite marronage" which means they returned as there was potentially no other way of getting off the island or means of maintaining freedom due to lack of resources.

The word marronage potentially derives from the word cimarron, which is what enslaved Tainos and Africans were called on the island of Hispaniola; today Haiti and Dominican Republic. Those on English speaking islands that escaped slavery were called maroons.

On some islands, like Jamaica, maroons built successful communities like Cockpit Country.  Many escaped into the jungles of Guyana (British), Brazil, and Suriname which many of these settlements still exist today.  In addition, places like the mountain regions of Dominica and today's Haiti and Dominican Republic were places where Cimmarons or Maroons would live.

The atrocities and even the consistency of not treating Africans and their descendants as humans and more like cattle or property was apparent throughout the Caribbean.  Documentation of this act exists in many archives as the below image depicts a woman being branded in Rio Pongo. The deafening screams of these ancestors as the hot iron burned their flesh still echo throughout time. The idea that someone can look on or perform this act, just shows the evil and savagery that existed in these Europeans.

Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo
 Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection

Another form of control was placement of a mask over the head as a way of controlling those that were enslaved which kept the person from swallowing their saliva. The atrocities that our African ancestors faced were so dehumanizing that in is hard to phantom or understanding. It is easy today when some make statements that they would have fought back, having the idea that our ancestors didn't, when that is exactly what our ancestors did.They found hard and at times killing their oppressors.

An African's head with mouth-piece and necklace, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection
My research on slavery in the Caribbean led me to find information for many different islands. Some books I purchased while others I located at the local library. Summary for each of the islands I researched tells the story of how common cruelty was no matter the European country involved.

It seems that it is instilled in their DNA to treat not just Africans in this manner but even their own. European history seems to be loaded with atrocities towards other humans. With over 440 years of African slavery that the Portuguese started in 1441, the ugliness is documented in many archives throughout the globe.

 Le Golfe de Mexique et les isles voisine, University of Florida
Those of us with African roots have resorted to taking DNA testing, hoping to identify who our ancestors were, and pinpointing origin. However, due to the complexity of how slavery was carried out, the reality is that we all descend from a multitude of African ethnic groups.  Many are shocked to discover how mixed their African roots are just by the DNA results. As technology continues to advance, hiding the truth in American history books is becoming more difficult.

What is noteworthy is that resistance to slavery was equally done by men and women.  Hard labor was equally distributed to both sexes by their oppressors. There was no distinction of treating women as being fragile. Keep this in mind when searching in the records.


Tainos were known to escape into the mountain areas of the island to escape. Once Africans were brought over as slaves to replace them for labor, many Africans and their descendants were known to escape into the mountains and join the Tainos. One such area was the Viñales Valley, which sits to the west of the island. An extensive study has been done on the cimarrones or maroons in Cuba.  A book published in 1988 called Los Palenques del Oriente de Cuba, is a book that provides detailed research on the maroons throughout eastern Cuba. Another good article is Runaway Slave Settlements in Cuba: Resistance and Repression by Gabino de la Rosa Corzo.

An Indian cacique of the island of Cuba addressing Columbus concerning a future state, National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection


Many Africans and their descendants escaped and became maroons as they hid in the mountains of Dominica. The mountains were an ideal place to hide as it was difficult to follow many that escaped into jungle regions.

Maroons on the island of Dominica were organized and were trying to follow the footsteps of the successful Jamaican maroons who managed to gain their freedom.  In addition, the Kalinagos, which are the indigenous people of the island, had also fought for their freedom from Europeans.

The maroons were well organized on the island which included social order, agricultural abilities, and military organization and skills. The maroons were able to maintain an economical stability for their communities.  Slave holders saw this success as unsettling and that could lead to unrest on plantations. Plantation owners would sell their plantation as they would lose all of their enslaved Africans as they became maroons.

The First Maroon War lasted from 1785 to 1790 and during this war, the maroons were outnumbered by the British. The British were so vicious with their treatment towards maroons that they gibbeted maroon chiefs.  One such chief was known as Balla. Many were cut to pieces while alive and eventually beheaded.  This is keeping in mind the revolution occurring in France and the uprising and eventual independence of Haiti.

Maroons would eventually be pushed into the mountains and eventually lead to starvation as two  hurricanes hit the island and eliminated the maroons' food supply.  The British killed 577 maroons and killed 3 of their leaders.  Trials against the maroons occurred throughout 1813 and 1814 which are documented in archives.  A good reference is the book, "Your Time is Done Now" by Polly Pattullo. 

French Antilles

It is important that when researching in finding women or men that were enslaved, you may not think of it, but many were incarcerated due to minor infractions. Just a suspicion or accusation would potentially lead to imprisonment. Many women were  subjected to being raped and wound up pregnant in prison.  Such as the case of Justine from Guadeloupe (see Moitt) while imprisoned.

Supposed laws were put in place to keep slave owners from raping women, however, based on DNA and how much of European ancestry exists, the golden rule of "laws were made to be broken" seems to ring extremely true.  As previously pointed out, those enslave did not quietly sit back.

In 1712, the governor of Martinique was worried that slaves would revolt and poisonings was a constant issue.  Poisoning was a form of medicine used for healing or killing.  By 1724, ordinances were put into place in the French colonies that made it a crime punishable by death if caught making, distributing, or administering poisons. Stricter laws were put in place by 1743 that stated that Europeans were not to teach slaves how to perform any medical procedures or mixing of medicine. Breaking this law carried a death penalty sentence. These laws help push many into revolts and marronage.

Francois Mackandal, who was a maroon leader in Saint-Domingue, was one that created poisons and distributed poisons to many on to poison their oppressors on plantations.

Based on records, the act of marronage had more males participating versus females. However, it doesn't mean that women were more willing to withstand the abuses. Women were less likely to participate as women were chained to their children in the field and were less likely to leave their children behind or have less mobility.

Many enslaved women who didn't have children, whether chained or not, were known to escape as there were many ads on these escaped women. Researching in the island's Gazette will likely lead to finding records on ancestors. There are countless records documenting women that had chains around even their necks and would still escape.


While women who were enslaved were subjected to sexual abuses, they were never viewed as the victims but those who were the cause of sinful activities. Such is the case of Lory de la Bernardiere's mother, who documented her son, "He is given to amusement and a life of debauchery. He has fostered a harem of black women who control him and run the plantation" (Moitt).

We also have slave drivers who sexually exploited women. In 1792, Jean Baptiste, a slave driver of 59 years of age, working on the Foache sugar plantation, sexually assaulted enslaved women, even if these women were in relationships with enslaved men; including those that were married. It was noted that Jean Baptiste had fathered more than 60 children on this plantation. Note that Jean Baptiste was also enslaved but eventually earned his freedom.

In addition, killing of slaves, at most, got the slaveowner fined. In 1699, a slave was shot and the slaveowner was fined 100 livres while another was fined 600 livres for spurring an 11 year old girl to death. If slaves were caught after marronage, torture would be dished out even though torture was supposedly outlawed.  Female slaveowners were just as cruel at dishing out punishment like in the case of an 11 year old girl in 1736 enslaved by Audache of Leogane. The girl had been tortured for 5 days, including being burned with fire until another slave reported it to authorities. There is no documentation of the penalty against the slaveowner.

Cimarrons, as known on the island, were known to escape into the mountain range that today it the border for Haiti and Dominican Republic.  Many of those enslaved that were from Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo, were known to hide in the mountain range or the thick forests that existed throughout the island.  The slaveowners were also known to advertise when their slaves escaped in the weekly paper, Les Affiches Américaines. The ads contained descriptions which included whip lashes, scars, burn marks, and broken limbs . (Duke Press University)

Le Marron Inconnu, which is a statue in honor of cimarrones, sits in the capital of Haiti, Port-Au-Prince.  I've posted the image before on the website when posting on Haiti. Statues like this, honoring those that were before, exists throughout the Caribbean. The cimarrones were the key players into the liberation of the people of Saint-Domingue and Santo Domingo.

Le Marron Inconnu, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Turks & Caicos Islands

There were no records of maroons on the islands. However, an illegal port existed on Grand Turk where slaves could be sold.  This leads to the potential of impacting those researching their ancestors that are from these islands with no records maintaining where those enslaved came from.

In a legal transaction, description of slaves that were sold between a husband and his wife stated that Africans were defined as being originally from African or first-generation. Creole was those that were born into slavery and Mulatto were those who had parents where one was black and the other was white.

In addition, free blacks or mulattos were not permitted to live on the islands unless they could prove they were born free. From 1822 to 1834, Britain required that slaveowners register every single slave by name and age that they owned. This registration also included those that ran away, sold, transferred, dead, or manumitted.

Slaveowners on the island were only permitted to own a small amount of slaves to keep down revolts from happening. From 1822 to 1825, there were 128 slaves that had escaped from Turks and Caicos. Many may have escaped to the Haiti, the first Black Republic and where freedom could be found. Looking in Jean-Rabel, Poix-de-Paix, and Cap-Haitien, Haiti along with Monte Cristi in Dominican Republic, are good places to start.


Hopefully these snippets from some of these islands/countries will hopefully lead to connecting the dots to our genetic African American cousins that descend from those that were enslaved in the southern States. When it comes to Jamaica, there are a lot of books that provides details into the slavery and marronage on the island.

Most importantly, there are many more islands and countries that were not covered in this post, many books, and many records beyond those listed in the reference section. Attempting to cover the maroons in Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, and countless other places would have truly turn this post into something that never ends as there are countless stories not told yet. I hope this post is helpful to many in their research.


Atkins, B., Gale, M., Gall, A., Paige, R., & Sause, K. (n.d.). Maroon Uprisings in Surinam. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from Maroon Uprisings in Surinam:

Bellin, J. N. (1758) Carte de l'isle de Saint Domingue, pour servir à l'Histoire générale des voyages. [Paris] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Duke Wordpress University. (n.d.). Slavery and Marronnage in Saint Domingue. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from Haitian Marronnage: Voyages and Resistance:

Knibb, W. (2016). Facts and Documents Connected with the Late Insurrection in Jamaica. Charleston: Createspace Independent Pub.

Martinez-Fernandez, L. (1998). Fighting Slavery in the Caribbean: The Life and Times of a British Family in Nineteenth Century Havana. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe.

Mills, C. PhD (2008). A History of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Oxford: Macmillian Publishers Limited.

Moitt, B. (2001). Women and Slavery in the French Antilles, 1635 - 1848. Bloomington and Indianapolis : Indiana University Press.

Monteith, K. E., & Richards, G. (2002). Jamaica in Slavery and Freedom. Kingston: The University of the West Indies Press.

Mortier, P. (1700) “Le Golfe de Mexique et les isles voisine ; Archipelague du Mexique, ou sont les isles de Cuba, Espagnola, Jamaica, & dressée sur les relations les plus nouvelles” Retrieved from University of Florida

Pattullo, P. (2015). Your Time is Done Now. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Pestana, C. G. (2017). The English Conquest of Jamaica. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Sherlock, P., & Bennett, H. (1998). The Story of the Jamaican People. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.

Wikipedia (n.d.) Francois Mackandal. Retrieved from Wikipedia

Williams, J. (2014). A Narrative of Events: Since the First of August, 1834. Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc.

“An African's head with mouth-piece and necklace,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed February 1, 2018,

“An Indian cacique of the island of Cuba addressing Columbus concerning a future state,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 9, 2018,

“Branding a negress at the Rio Pongo,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed January 16, 2018,

“The barbarous cruelty inflicted on a Negro at Suriname,” National Library of Jamaica Digital Collection , accessed February 18, 2018,

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