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 MontaƱez, in Puerto Rico. In the 1910 he was listed as Juan MontaƱez 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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