Aristotle once said “if you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” I believe that the great Greek philosopher intentionally excluded “its end” when he said this. History has no end, therefore, there are constant developments. This quote could not ring more truthful for a lover of family history. There is something about knowing where we came from that makes us feel complete. When it comes to the art of research, there is a genealogist who grew up in Ranchitos that is making major contributions to our history. This man has a passion for traditional and scientific research, which makes him a well-rounded historian.
I have known Miguél Tórrez for many years. The first time I met him he was feverishly working on his genealogy with his small boys by his side. He has been interested in history since he was just a boy, but in his early 20s he was seemingly smitten by the history of those who came before him. This was just a few years after Miguél graduated from Española Valley High School. Growing up in Ranchitos, New Mexico, Miguél was near the historic Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo). At that time he couldn’t imagine that several years later his maternal line would be genetically connected to this type of ancestry. He says “current data tells us that approximately 80-85% of all New Mexicans with colonial roots have Native American roots on their maternal lineage (mtDNA).”
The final week I collected photographs from Miguél for his feature piece he was preparing for Holy Week. His spiritual devotion bears the deep roots of tradition. As a genealogist, learning about traditions and even practicing tradition will foster a clear understanding of what shaped our people. Miguél believes that “knowing oneself through culture and language fosters a sense of pride” and this belief is evident when you hear him lecture. I asked him why he felt that our traditions were important and he said “no matter what culture a person belongs to everyone’s culture is important because it gives people an identity.”
By now I’m sure that Miguél has a family tree which extends further than I can imagine. He has done so much work and he is always willing to help others in need, which is admirable. Many people who don’t understand the breadth of family history are unaware of the vast collection of surnames they can be connected to. Miguél says that “just two generations back we can see our extended relations.” Between his grandparents and great grandparents he can claim the Torres, Romero, Madrid, Roybal, Rodriguez, Martinez, Medina and Trujillo surnames. He is proud to have discovered that some of his relatives were involved in very important historical events such as the Apache Campaigns and the Rio Arriba rebellion of 1837.
Miguél has tracked military service on his paternal (Torres) line back to Cristoabl de Torres who was born in 1641. He seems to appreciate the fact that a grandfather named Juan “loved to tell stories about his grandparents and all of his relatives.” This grandfather was born in 1915 and had extended family from Chimayó to Cordova, New Mexico. “As a child I was given a visual of life in the 1920s with his stories of travels he and his father would take on horseback and wagon to communities such as Mora where they would travel to sell their produce,” he said. Though his grandfather practiced oral history, Miguél has now harnessed the power of documentary evidence and genetic studies.
Miguél is currently in charge of about 100 paternal lineage (Y-DNA) kits. He collaborates regularly Angel Cervantes, the New Mexico DNA Project Coordinator/Group Administrator. This DNA project includes “the colonial expeditions of New Mexico by the Spanish in 1598 and 1693, by the Mexicans in 1821, and by the Americans in 1848.” This weekend Miguél will make a presentation titled “The Espinosa DNA Quest.” On Saturday (April 20, 2013) he will deliver a lecture at the Albuquerque Main Library (501 Copper SW~ Albuquerque, New Mexico) on the discovery of the Y-DNA genetic code of the Nicolás de Espinosa lineage (which includes 18th century branches of that clan). The presentation will run from 10:30~12:00 and is sure to be captivating.
When I asked Miguél what he wanted people to remember about him 200 years from now he said “I hope that the work I am doing will produce results that are worthy of scholarly articles and will serve as a worthy reference thus having historical relevance. As a young man I hope that I will have many successful years in doing so and that many generations will remember my name as having been a valid contributor to the preservation of New Mexican history and culture.” I guess as lovers of history we couldn’t ask for more than that right? Here is to one amazing man making a positive contribution to our communities and to the future through history.