Starting My African Roots Research

One of the key tools that has help me in seeking to know more about my Puerto Rican African ancestors is the church records. While it is harder for those that descend from African USA mainland ancestors, many of us who come from Caribbean islands where Catholicism was in control has helped many of us.  The idea that religion can actually help many of us when it did not help our African ancestors is a hard pill to swallow.

When I initially started combing through the church books, I found myself getting angry. Angry at the fact that people were stripped of their identity, their names, their families, and everything they knew. I cannot image someone taking away my identity and forcing something else upon me.  I can only imagine but never fully comprehend what that can potentially feel like.

While seeking my African ancestors in Puerto Rico, I skipped over information on Florida as I felt it didn’t pertain to me. In hindsight, this was not a good idea. My thought process was that I had zero connection with Spanish Florida based on what I knew. However, after watching the documentary done on PBS called “Secrets of Florida: Why Slaves Escaped to Florida for Asylum”, I believe that I made a huge mistake. Below is a link to the video.

Prior to watching this show, I took a DNA test back in 2013 with 23andme in hopes of discovering more information which was not helpful as it only provided your first 1,000 matches. At the time, many people of African descent had not tested or were not close enough related to appear in the list of 1,000 matches.

When I took my 23andme test, I was not expecting to find African DNA scattered throughout my chromosomes and did not expect to see it so prevalent in my X DNA.  What was more shocking was to discover my mtDNA to be of African origin since it was constantly mentioned that my Dominican maternal Cabreja line was from Valencia, Spain.  Yet this mtDNA said quite a different story. At the time I didn’t know what to make of the results.

So I then took a test with AncestryDNA which led to more confusion. The reason was that Ancestry didn’t have a limit on number of matches.  Currently, I have over 21,000 cousin matches and I discovered that I have many African American cousins who trace their ancestry to the south where slavery was prevalent.

These cousins appearing as genetic cousins completely caught me off guard since I am a first generation American born on USA mainland soil. Note that I said USA mainland since Puerto Rico has been part of the USA since 1899 and Puerto Ricans were made American citizens in 1917 to support USA wars.

However, I am concentrating on my paternal African lines first.  This is due to the availability of documents and I have names I can use to trace back.

So there are two lines I want to concentrate on. The first line is my Delgado Silverio line. My dad spoke about his maternal grandfather, Angel Delgado Silverio. He advised me he suspected that his grandfather was enslaved. While I didn’t find that to be the case, I found it quite interesting that Angel’s parents were constantly changing their names.  This behavior was known to occur with those who where enslaved.

I started collecting names but steadily found myself confused. Angel was born after slavery or at the very end of slavery but it does not mean his parents were not enslaved. I find it quite strange that I cannot find them in records which is an indicator of slavery. Another thing is the constant change of first names of parents or even the towns. There are names mentioned in the civil records of grandchildren and even their own death records but it seems that the last names mysteriously change.

Angel Delgado Silverio

One such name is Silverio. This is the only family that took on the last name and also took on the names of de la Cruz, Rivera, Prieto, and Arroyo.  I am determined to figure out where the Delgado and Agosto names came from. I have yet to locate these individuals. This is where my journey begins and I plan to share my research here. Hopefully it will help others in their search for their African ancestors.

9 thoughts on “Starting My African Roots Research

  1. I am looking forward to learning what you discover about your African ancestors. I am still working on the most recent ancestors on my tree, but I will be getting to your point of research eventually. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  2. In looking at your above-referenced names, I couldn’t help but associate and relay a recently discovered tidbit about my maternal 3rd Great-Grandfather. Until about a month ago all I knew was ‘Manuel de la Cruz Diaz”. Upon reviewing a death entry for one of his children he is listed as ‘Manuel de la Cruz Diaz Arroyo’. The area of investigation is Ciales and Coamo. Look forward to your discoveries and, as always, wish you good luck on your research journey.

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  3. Thanks for reading. This line has been a mystery and I was confused by the constant name changes. I have more changes that occurred, including on Angel’s death record. It is quite amazing to see name changes. On this death record the Silverio name was taken off and back to being Delgado Cruz. I just think they couldn’t make up their minds.


  4. Dalia, the Arroyo last name all of a sudden appeared in many records for Trujillo Alto. I find it quite interesting that people were coming from all over the island at some point. You can’t even take the town as their origin seriously. I’m now completing my research on Angel’s mother and even her death record says something totally different. I suspect that people document people from being from a certain place simply because the person lived there but not necessarily born there or they may not have known.


  5. You’re so great with words. I have enjoyed all your past blog posts. This one sucked me in just as easy. I’m sure you may have tried already but have you checked the only PR slave census for them? I found my enslaved ancestors on there by last name of Pavellon, now spelled Pabellon. Why they were recorded with a surname, I don’t know. But it’s been so helpful & I am so grateful.


  6. Anaisa, I adore the heck outta you….You are amazing and so inspirational. Thank you for getting me back into doing my research.


  7. Yes they are definitely not found on the census. I’m noticing a pattern that many of those of African descent did not bother to register their children. I am wondering if potentially there was a fee that had to be paid to register and that might be why many of us cannot find African ancestors.


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