Archive for the ‘MtDNA’ category

Spirit, Heart and Mind: An Interview with Miguél A. Tórrez

April 15, 2013

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.”

Santo_Niño_in_Espinosa_Colorado_by_DeSautel

~~Santo Niño in Espinosa, Colorado by DeSautel~~

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.

3 generations of Torres

~~Three Generations of Torres Y-DNA~~

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.

Why Wait to Learn About Crypto Connections?

July 18, 2012

Journal of Spanish, Portuguese,
and Italian Crypto-Jews
Cover of Volume I, Spring 2009


One thing I hate about the summer is my lack of time. There are always so many things going on- far more than I can successfully grasp! One conference I am sorry that I will miss is the 22nd Annual Conference of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. The conference will be held next week in Albuquerque, New Mexico from July 22-24, 2012. I would have loved to attend a special session being presented by a group of scholars, historians and genealogists. I know two of them very well. Exploring Hispano Family History, a genealogy workshop, will be presented by historian and genealogist José Antonio Esquibel, Henrietta Martinez Christmas, and a few others. I have been very interested in the scholarly studies being unearthed in this area. The oral history of my maternal line denotes a possible connection to Crypto-Jewish ancestry. When the DNA of my maternal line was analyzed not long ago, the DNA came back Native American. I believe that oral traditions hold firm ground in history, and so there must be a connection somehow linking the great grandmother I was named after to Crypto-Jewish ancestry. Her family came from Portugal through Canada in the 1800s. A great publication to check out is the Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews. The journal contains the comprehensive research of contemporary scholars if you are interested in studies of this nature. My maternal DNA or mtDNA did return with a Native American result, so I have come to an educated conclusion that the Crypto-Jewish connection is not directly maternal. I think that the missing link may actually be my great grandmother’s father. If I wasn’t already attending the NAGARA/CoSA Conference here is Santa Fe, I would have planned to learn more about Crypto Judaic Studies. The Chair of the agency I work for is a Senior Adviser to the Board of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies. He is also a founding member of the society. Dr. Stanley Hordes is a Former New Mexico State Historian who wrote a book titled To the End of the Earth (a must read). I have had many, many conversations with Dr. Hordes, who always insists I call him Stan.  At one point when my grandmother was alive, he wanted to interview her. Unfortunately, she passed away before he ever had the opportunity. I could kick myself a million times because I have missed so many chances to learn more about my family history just waiting for tomorrow. Don’t wait! Learn more today…

Ancestral Puebloan Cry

June 27, 2012

*****Ancestral Puebloan*****
19 x 25 inch colored pencil and ink drawing
created by Felicia Lujan in about 1993.

A couple of weeks ago, my mom called me and told me that she had a couple of things to give me. She had come across an old colored pencil/ink drawing I created almost 20 years ago, and she also had the video footage of my college graduation. Of course I told her I wanted both back. Last weekend I watched the video footage. It was fun to watch in retrospect, but what was most important was a tiny piece of footage unrelated to my graduation. It was footage of my grandmother (now deceased) right at the beginning. I could have gone without the hour long video of me smiling and making funny faces at the camera for less than a minute of footage of my grandma. There were a few people in the shot, and I was apparently standing off to the side. My grandma Corine urged me to get in the frame. I cried when I heard her say my name in her cute little voice. After I watched the video, I stayed looking at my old, oversized artwork. It is rather mind blowing that I penciled this Ancestral Puebloan almost two decades ago way before I cared about my family history. I made the picture for my mother so many years before and had it framed for her. Ironically, I got my picture back from my mother, with a moving image of her mother, and my direct maternal DNA is tied to Native ancestry. Thinking back, I don’t remember why I selected that particular subject matter for the colored pencil/ink drawing? What matters now is the connection between each item and the subject matter, as well as how I feel about it. Everything happens for a reason. It was time for those two pieces of history from my maternal line to return to me.

*****Ancestral Puebloan*****
Framed 19 x 25 inch colored pencil and ink drawing
created by Felicia Lujan in about 1993.


********************
Ancestral Puebloan Cry

Earthen paths of directions lost,
link me to the strand of time.

Guide steps through knowledge gates
so I connect each dot to line.

Untie my hands to feel the past.
Tie what’s inside me to the stars.

Draw water from this flowing
stream and teach me of your wars.

I am bound by fire. Ancestor I
will endure and live another day.

Reveal the path, I’ll hear your cry
and bless your body where it lay.

Forge the sky to feed my heart,
which beats with Native drum.

Whisper to me on the wind–
where is my mother from?

********************

by Felicia Lujan_6.27.2012

The Perplexing Concept of Identity

February 28, 2012



……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This weekend I attended a lecture in Albuquerque sponsored by the New Mexico Genealogical Society. The lecture was on Saturday, February 25, 2012, and was focused on the New Mexico DNA Project. This presentation was delivered by Ángel de Cervantes, who now resides in Albuquerque, but was originally from Las Vegas/Montezuma, New Mexico. Ángel is the New Mexico DNA Project Administrator, and is also part of the Iberian Peninsula DNA Project. Ángel is currently a History Instructor, however, he was once a archivist with the State Archives. Since he was once an archivist, he understands the importance of primary documents relative to research, and encouraged the audience to “take the time to do the research” and not just do “the online thing.” The lecture was Part 1 in a series, and was titled Castas, DNA, and Identity: Who are we? What did our ancestors say about themselves? What does DNA tell us about Identity? Ángel explored “the connection of the Castas system in colonial New Mexico” and discussed how “DNA studies compare to the Spanish Castas system and the ramifications on modern identity.” So following is what I have come away with…
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Identity… What is identity? Some online sources define identity as: the condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the sameness of essential or generic character in different instances, and all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing; and the distinguishing character or personality of an individual. What does that mean? Well… I think identity is very complex. It is rooted in: psychology; oral, familial, and social history; and of course genetic connections. How do you see yourself? Where do you stand in society- socially, economically, and from a religious perspective? How do others see you? It is all complicated. If it was up to me (and it is not), I would say that none of it really matters. Well maybe how we see the man in the mirror is important? The notion of a “correct analysis of identity over time” is critical according to the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The encyclopedia also mentions a “notion of identity across possible worlds.” But what are “worlds?” Is there more than one world we live in? No, but I think it is referring to the multiple worlds that we can socially and psychologically place ourselves in. Of course our familial ties, and oral histories play a major role in the identity we choose to seize.

Ángel de Cervantes delivering a lecture on DNA and identity. He is the New Mexico DNA Project Administrator, and is part of the Iberian Peninsula DNA Project. Ángel is currently a History Instructor in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I have taken a look at the Encyclopedia of Religion and Society put forth by Hartford Institute for Religion Research. According to this encyclopedia, “identity is a characteristic defining one’s sense of self,” and the term was “popularized by Erik Erikson” through the 1950s and 1960s, “as a central psychoanalytic concept.” Some of this definition, incorporates “a sense of uniqueness” or “completeness” with regard to identity. Ángel de Cervantes opened his lecture with a clip of Jessica Alba. Alba was a special guest on George Lopez Tonight in 2009. For his show, Alba and her father both agreed to take a DNA Test. Alba submitted for an mtDNA (maternal) and her father for both Y-DNA (paternal) and mtDNA. I think it was a great clip to open with because Ángel set the scene for his lecture on the historical and contemporary problems each of us have faced, or face with regard to identity. As an advocate of DNA testing he said that one reason he likes Y-DNA testing is because “it is what it is if you like it or not.” Alba’s test results were returned to her by Lopez with percentages of 87% European and 13% Indigenous or Native American. You can see that even she did not fully understand her “identity” in that moment.

Artwork on Cuadro de Castas or a Historical Caste System

So what does “casta” mean in terms of identity? A caste system is comprised of an intermixture of race and social class (ethnic, economic, religious). My tiny New Webster Dictionary defines caste as “an inherited socioreligious rank.” Really? Rank? Funny… Personally, I feel that this was more of the case in the Colonial caste system, and not in the contemporary. In 1995, Stuart B. Schwartz published a paper titled Colonial Identities and the Sociedad de Castas in Colonial Latin American Review (Volume 4, Issue 1). In his paper, Schwartz “framed” castas “in terms of race and class” for “multi-racial and multi-ethnic societies of colonial Latin America.” This may still be the case today, though I am not sure that caste is always maintained by an individual even if it can be seen as inherited and ranked? Maybe a number 1 on the ranking system would see me as a number 10? But since I don’t care what others think of me, it would be irrelevant. The Spanish doctoral program in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a website with pictures of the historical castas or caste system called Cuadro de Castas. The images provide an interesting look at the system.

Some of my notes

Ángel’s study of New Mexico records, as well as the records of the Archivos Enpañoles, allowed him to put together a list of the Spanish Castas he has been able to identify. Some of the castas in Spanish genealogical records include: Chino; Español Criollo; Mestizo; Pardo; Prieto; Negro; Mulato; Tresalvo; Trigueño; and Zambo. Each casta has applicable fractions of race, and may include one, two, or more mixtures. I found it funny when Ángel talked about how his grandmother from Las Vegas called the “dark complected kid in the neighborhood” a “trigueño.” The audience was at odds over that title, and what it means, but that is always the case when dealing with scholars, historians, and genealogists.

So even if I find caste systems irrelevant to my identity today, why should it be important to me as a genealogist and a lover of history? Well of course the main reason is because it is part of history. It is also important because a caste can reveal the status of a person in his or her community at a given point in time. A person in what was a historically higher caste may have: been more educated; could have owned more land; may have traveled more; or may have had royal blood. I think a down side to this is that some of those individuals from a higher caste likely married only those in the same caste, or of a higher caste to stay elite. So much for real connection!? Maybe poor folk married for the right reasons ha?

To sum it all up, I guess I learned that identity really can’t be defined or bottled. I believe identity can be explained to a certain extent, but will always remain a perplexing concept. Since we are humans, we are constantly changing, evolving, growing, learning, and so our identity changes. Identity changes or morphs with time. Personally, I do not wish to be pegged by caste systems. In the end, I know that others will likely classify me with no regard for those complexities which truly define my identity whether I like it or not.

Living in Fragments or Connecting the Dots?

December 7, 2011
Dots and Lines

Dots and Lines

E.M. Forster (1879-1970) was a writer who mastered realism and symbolism as a modernist. The English novelist once said that we should “live in fragments no longer,” and that we should “only connect…” If it was that simple we would live in a perfect world right? Connecting our personal dots (genealogically, physically, spiritually, intimately, mentally) can be harder for some than for others. Maybe for some the line which connects two points is not clear? Are glasses needed? Or maybe the line can’t be, or does not wish to be acknowledged? Are reasons needed? But even worse, there are times when the vital lines which are critical in order for us to nurture meaningful connections are physically severed. The problem is- one can sever a line physically, but it is impossible to completely sever a line mentally. The line will still be there waiting- pulling on the very soul it has been severed from. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher with interests in expressionism, philosophy and psychology. Nietzsche once said “invisible threads are the strongest ties.”

As many of you know, my family DNA is now part of the New Mexico DNA Project. Two days ago, I was notified that two new women joined the project. These two women share my direct maternal line (mtDNA). The day I received notification I promptly emailed both women. One response was typical. The other was atypical, and actually saddened me. Most people I connect with through the project are expert, and neurotic genealogists. They have a relatively concrete idea of their familial origins. Anyhow- it was sad to get the following response from my new found relative. It made me feel like I kind of take my family history for granted. Some of my family lines may still be unclear, but they are there- no one has attempted to sever them. After sending out my email to these two new women, I was sent one atypical response. Some information has been left out because of privacy issues.
_______________
“Hi Felicia, I’m afraid I can’t help you much, but you might be able to help me a lot if you’re willing to share your data with me. I am an adoptee with no information about my birth family – if we share the same mtDNA then we share the same direct maternal line. I am currently in the process of petitioning the courts in *** (where I was adopted – I was an international adoption from an American birth mother to foreign parents – how often does that happen?!) to release to me the name of my birth mother. If they comply I will give you that information as well – however, if they deny my request then your archives may give me a shot at triangulating some candidates for birth family.

Sincerely yours, *** “ ________________

I felt sad after I read her message, as she must desperately feel the need to connect. She was adopted in a literal paradise, yet she is still searching. Why you ask? She searches for the lines, the dots and how they do or do not connect. It is all so hard on the mind! For this woman, she is connecting some dots, but her maternal line is there waiting- pulling on the very soul the line has been severed from. Living in fragments is difficult. We are only completely fulfilled when we can intricately connect to one another. If it is necessary, clean your glasses- then put them on. Acknowledge and nurture the dots and lines. They are called vital lines for a reason- without them, a part of us will die.

***********
*****
Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.
– Harriet Goldhor Lerner
*****
***********


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