Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Doce Abuelos en dos dias

Or, to translate that "12 Grandparents in Two Days"

My great-grandparents, Ma. Dolores Orozco
and her husband Jose Jimenez de Jimenez, c. 1928
(my 12 new ancestors are in Jose's tree)
Am I thrilled about the digitized parish records from Mexico now available online at FamilySearch.org? You betcha! And the title for this blog post sums up why. But if you want the whole story, you'll need to read on.

First, some background on how I got started researching my (and now also my husband's) family history. When I was a kid, my mom would let us look at our baby books and in them she had filled in the family tree pages. I was a bit fascinated by the idea of grandparents that went back further than the ones that I was acquainted with and the idea that there were so many more beyond the few generations recorded in these memory books.

When I got into high school, I decided to try to find out more about these mysterious ancestors. I was about 16 years old when I interviewed my four living grandparents (one was a step-grandfather). I dutifully recorded all that they told me (in an original 1977 Star Wars notepad, no less). But after gathering these leads I had no clue how to really proceed. I remember drawing out some family trees, taping notebook paper together and using different color crayons to identify how the various aunts, uncles and cousins were connected

Frankly, I was immediately overwhelmed. The info went into a file that I never did anything with, but held on to for twenty years.

Fast forward to 1997. My in-laws came to visit with us and help us get ready for the impending birth of our second child. This wasn't our first extended visit with them, but in the course of spending so much time together, painting and building furniture and such, I found myself doing what I'd done quite often on our previous visits: I asked them a lot of questions about the origins of the Fahrbach family.

See, despite my limited knowledge of my own predecessors, my hubby's knowledge of his own current, living family was practically non-existent. And as for his ancestors, well he could barely name all his grandparents and didn't recall ever meeting any of them.

Before the in-laws left us that hot, muggy August, they gifted me with my first copy of Family Tree Maker, and it wasn't long before I was really hooked on research.

The timing of when I got the program couldn't have been better because it coincided with our family's early access to the internet (on dial-up with AOL - yikes!) I was off and running. My in-laws also pointed a (previously unheard of) cousin my way who was a wealth of knowledge about my father-in-law's family history. She was the keeper of her family's history having inherited her father's research, files and rare books and letters.

We corresponded for some time and she shared lots of details and precious family photos. I was able to share with her some of the newer information that was becoming available online. In no time, I was also able to expand the research to include hubby's maternal line and then I finally came back to my own lines.

Despite a preconceived notion that my lines were unsearchable, I was able to build a very strong, well sourced tree on my father's lines. I was pleasantly surprised at this because I was under the misconception that due to the location (new mexico territory) and the socio-economic status of these ancestors (farmers, not wealthy), that there would be no records. Wrong! Not only are they there in census enumerations taken in that NM territory which had yet to become a state, they are also found in court and land records. They are found in newspapers. And best of all, they are found in many, many church records.

So I had made progress on both hubby's paternal and maternal lines. I had made progress on my paternal lines. But until last week, I'd made almost zero progress on my mom's lines. Her parents were both born in Mexico and not in a small town but in Guadalajara the capital of Jalisco. (As I often say, like trying to find a needle in a haystack.) Over and over again throughout the years my dilemma has been "where do I start and what do I do?" The dilemma is coupled with another problem: I'm not fluent in Spanish. So, for what seems like forever I have never been able to get past these hurdles.

I'd decided recently to JUST DO IT. So, I've done with all the books and experts tell you to do - start with what you know. I've got the details from those early 1977 interviews and gathered a few more details interviewing my mom's mom shortly before she died. I've put it all into my software. I've made timelines. I've done sideways research. I've printed maps of Mexico and learned a little more about its history. I've made lists of questions to focus my research efforts. I've been cleaning up my software files and my physical files. I've visited the local Family History Library to see what microfilms are on permanent loan. And that's where things started to fall into place.

I overheard a couple of patrons discussing research in Mexico and they casually mentioned the digitized images. How did I not know about this? I decided to go back and revisit some of the baptismal index records I'd added as sources and lo and behold there are now digital images to view.

1888 Baptismal record for Jose Jimenes de Jimenes,
son of Anastacio Jimenes and Maria Ysabel Jimenes

Little did I know how rich these records are in detail. Unlike the baptismal records I'd reviewed for New Mexico, these Jalisco records not only include parents names but they also include names for both paternal and maternal grandparents. What a boon to my research! In addition the baptism records often gives the birth date (sometimes including time of birth) and birthplace. I won't say how late I stayed up the night I made this discovery. Or how hard it was to get to sleep after poring over the images and finding so many ancestors. I was just too excited to sleep! The next day I got back online and started pulling baptismal records for children of all the new grandparents to hopefully help me with more sideways research.

I still have a few brick walls to break down on my mom's lines but it looks like I now have some great tools for doing that.

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