The great things about mysteries is that there is always a beginning and an end. Some endings are just never in sight and I started to believe that that would be the case in knowing what ever happened in my Marún family. The mystery started not due to family disagreements or even family drama, but simply due to what they faced, Maronite Catholics escaping Lebanon due to the persecutions faced by the Ottoman Empire. Yes, their struggles started due to their religion and running in fear for their lives and those of their family members. This is how our Marún family migration started.
Maronite Catholics are known to have resided in mountainous ranges of Lebanon called Mont-Liban. Lebanon is located in the northern portion of Africa and has been labeled under the The Middle East as if on a separate continent. As a kid, I always thought of the region as fairytale land as I could never find the continent called The Middle East. When we look at Africa today, you’ll realize that there are many ethnic groups that exist on the continent and many that have been wiped out.
The last name Marún is associated to the religion and there are actually 4 different saints but the one that impacts the Marún last name is Saint Maron. According to stories passed down, people with the last name Marún are his descendants or his followers. I took an interest in the last name once I read about the last name and about the Maronite Catholic faith back in the early 1990s. To read more about him, simply click on his name above and it will lead to a church’s website that will explain who he was. Most Maronite Catholics were known to be nomadic people and also as merchants trading wares. Some were able to develop wealth and many lost their wealth due to the religious upheaval that occurred. Our direct family were part of the first wave to migrate around 1885 and there was a second one that occurred in the 1920’s.
In my research, I have discovered that many after coming to the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central, and South America, changed their last names. Some actually never discussed who they were in fear of the Ottoman Empire sending someone to assassinate their families. Some changed their names completely to fit in the new culture, while some were required by law to change their names. I suspect that the need to assimilate is what occurred in our own family; first names and at times last names being changed. The concept is not a new idea if you think about how many entering the USA via Ellis Island were doing the same thing. There is also a huge Lebanese influence in Dominican Republic’s foods such as Quipe (Kibbeh) and Tipile (Tabbouleh) salad as both dishes come from Lebanon, both delicious, and they were easy to assimilate. Also, keep in mind that adapting to Spanish from Arabic is much easier as there are many similarities in the languages since Spain was invaded by the Moors.
I’ve said this before in many prior posts on my other website and I even dedicated a post to it. Please keep in mind that we all partake in the game of Round Robin in many aspect of our lives and more so when retelling of family stories. I can assure you that what I’m about to reveal is nothing unique and parts of it contradict the story passed down. I’ll tell the story as we understood it and then lead to the truth.
Three brothers traveled to the Americas from The Middle East, one brother, my great grandfather Emilio Miguel Marún, got off the ship in Dominican Republic. The other two brothers continued on their travels with one going to Veracruz, Mexico and the other going somewhere in South America. The brothers would never come back to Dominican Republic and the Marún family that lives near the capital of Santo Domingo all descend from Emilio’s children with Fidelia Lorenzo. They are Maria Carmen (1910), Miguel Emilio (1911), Salvador (1913), Elupina (1915), and Consuelo Maria (1918). For his eldest son, Miguel, Emilio took on the naming of all his grandchildren from my grandmother, Nieves.
The oldest was my mother, and Emilio would name her Tahaly, later changed in the USA to Tahalis, which is the Arabic word for snow. He gave her this name as a translation to my grandmother’s name, Nieves, which is the Spanish word for snow. In addition, he would name my uncles after his brothers, Miguel, Hector Manuel, and Jorge. Or so we were told; more on this.
My grandmother, mother, and uncles had nothing but good things to say about Emilio to me when we spoke about him. It was obvious that he was a good person. Many would also mention the name Tannús and potentially this would be Emilio’s Arabic name. You see Emilio is a Castilianize name.
Armed with this story, I hit the internet and came across BBS sites that no longer exist where many other descendants of Maronite Catholics would post searching for family. I came across many Marún but felt that there was no way of connecting to them. I mean there were Marún’s that were part of the migrations of the 1920’s; well after our family leaving. However, there were two individuals that would claims similar but different stories.
One potential cousin, Marcelino Marún, advised that there were 3 brothers and that they went to South America but that one brother settled in the State of Tabasco in Mexico. He didn’t know who exactly were his family but had heard stories and wasn’t sure what to make of them. However, he would advise that his great grandfather drowned at sea. I would find out many years later that he descends from Manuel Marún. I believe Manuel’s name was Tobía and he Castilianize his name and that of his father’s; I’ll reveal why as I provide details.
The other potential cousin, Gustavo Marún, would tell the story that Maroun Bechara came to Colombia with his son Nassin and two brothers one called Tannús and other Tobía in the year 1885. Maroun Bechara had another son that died on the voyage due to an epidemic that tends to hit ships as they crossed the ocean. He would also Castilianize his name to Manuel Marún and his son would Castilianize his name to Narciso Marún. When I saw the pictures he shared, I couldn’t help but stare at them due to the resemblance to many in my family. In addition, the church record spoke of him and his son getting married to two sisters in 1897 in Colombia. So similar story but with added information.
Over the Years
As years went by, I spoke to many and realized the task was one of impossibility as there was no proof of relationship with stories that didn’t exactly match to the one we knew. During a discussion with my grandfather, he asked if I would help search for family. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was an impossible task and I was already doing so. Instead, I just told him I would search. It was then he told me the story of how when he lived in Dominican Republic in the 1930’s and 1940’s, he would correspond via letters with a cousin with his namesake, Miguel, that lived in Jaltipan, Mexico. He advised that this cousin was close in age and built. He also advised that this cousin had constantly invited them to visit and he owned a shoe store. It was also then that he advised he had brothers and sisters that lived in Dominican Republic. I HAD ZERO IDEA!
So armed with this information, I started researching online and uncovering everything I could on the family in Dominican Republic. Being that I am good at sleuthing, I immediately started discovering all types of records.
Then one day, I discovered Dominican Republic’s online database on foreigners who lived or visited the country. After entering his name, I discovered documentation that stated that he had arrived via ship from Colombia in 1898 with photos of him that we never knew existed. There were quite a few documents and it also indicated that he was from Syria but after doing some investigative work, I found that Lebanon at one time was under Syria.
This discovery contradicted what we knew about him and knowing about the game of Round Robin, I wondered what else was contradicting. And there was plenty more. I had no idea when Emilio passed away but I did know it was after my mother and uncles had left for the USA in the 1940s. Unfortunately, after looking through death records starting when my uncles left, I discovered Emilio died on the 21st of October in 1949.
Another Clue Appears
Prior to my grandfather being placed in a nursing home, he provided one of my uncles with an envelope with an address to a shoe store in Jaltipan, Mexico. My grandfather said it belong to the cousin he communicated with when he was younger. He thought he had thrown everything out and advised me he didn’t have anything to give me as far as clues. This is understandable since he was in his late 90’s. Since I was in constant communication with the potential Mexican cousin, Marcelino, I asked him if the address meant anything to him without telling him the reason why. He advised me that the address was to his uncle that he had been telling me about that was ill and that he would know more on the family. He advised he had planned to visit him over a weekend as they lived in different States in Mexico. Upon arriving at his uncle’s home, Marcelino discovered that his uncle was too ill to speak and he had passed the following weeks.
This sadden me as this uncle held the key to knowing who Emilio Marún’s parents were and who were the missing family members and where to find them. It also meant that another generation of family was gone and our connection permanently gone. However, it also confirmed that Marcelino and his siblings were indeed cousins. He also held the key to discovery and stated that there were cousins in Colombia and he vaguely recalls meeting them with his parents as a child when they visited the country. He was referencing Gustavo and his family as cousins. Again, I had to take this as hearsay since Marcelino grew up mostly not knowing his Marún family which is why he was searching. I believed he was basing it on what we had come across over the Lebanese BBS boards from years ago.
DNA Changes the Playing Field
I thought that I would never be able to confirm this line as DNA was a new tool in genealogy, costly for many, and also not available in other countries until one “cousin” who lived in the States decided to take it. This “cousin” was on my friends list on my Facebook account as I befriended many around the globe in my search. This “cousin” was was skeptical of us being related and I fully understood her skepticism since the last name Marún is very common.
Yet, this “cousin” tested with 23andme without mentioning it to me and surprised me on my Facebook wall with asking me if I was one in the same Anna Bayala on 23andme because we matched. She also matched one of my sisters, which makes sense since you lose 50% of your cousin after 3rd cousin due to how our DNA recombines with each generation.
Once we were able to identify and confirm that we were indeed cousins and the amount we shared aligned correctly, I realized that I had finally found one of Emilio’s brothers. Unfortunately, my grandfather didn’t get to live long enough to hear that we found one brother’s family as he died at 103 1/2 years of age in 2015. So this cousin has now confirmed the family line and I have found one of Emilio Marún’s brothers.
While my cousin thought and was raised to believe his name was Jose, another cousin that descends from him indicated that his name was Manuel. Armed with this information, I decided to add them to the family tree on Ancestry and tried Manuel first since this was one of the names given to one of my uncles. I also entered in his wife’s name. Within 5 minutes of adding them to the tree, Ancestry records popped up on both of them and it was their wedding record. It turns out that his name was indeed Manuel. The most amazing thing is that my cousin shared a photo of Emilio’s brother. After further discussions, it turns out Manuel was the same man that I had heard many years prior on the Lebanese BBS site that drowned in the Caribbean waters. Manuel was also a merchant and died from a ship sinking while on business.
In addition, after pulling wedding records on Familysearch’s website, I now knew their parents’ name; Jorge Marún and Artura Jose. And the name Jose that this cousin recalled was actually the 2nd great grandmother’s maiden name or what was translated from Arabic as the parents names had been Castilianize.
Marún in Colombia: Where do they fit?
Well the second story I mentioned given by Gustavo actually ties the family together. How is that possible? Once again DNA plays into the picture. I was going through my DNA matches on Ancestry trying to figure out an unknown paternal Carmona great grandfather. In searching for the surname and trees of my DNA matches, a kit with a tree came up but it didn’t fit the other Carmona trees. This is because this Carmona was from Colombia and had zero connection with the other Carmona kits. However, the kits it did match were actually all Middle Eastern or Lebanese Maronite last names that I knew were there but ignored them as I didn’t know how people were related.
In digging into their tree, I noticed the name “Antonio Marum” entered. I immediately starting taking a closer look at the tree and wrote to the person managing the kit. I asked if it was a typo on the last name. Taking these names off the tree, I started researching them on Familysearch and quickly discovered the last name was indeed a typo, it was actually Marún! I also went beyond what they had on their tree. I realized that this line descends from Maroun Bechara’s son Antonio Marún. The crazy thing is that due to DNA recombination, I am the only one of the Dominican Marún family that has tested with Ancestry that is actually matching this kit. However, when I look at the “Shared Matches” kits, they are all kits that match my uncle, cousin, nephew, and myself. I currently have two additional Dominican Marún kits that are still being processed in the lab and hoping that they both have the right combination of DNA. I also have Marún cousins in Dominican Republic who will also be testing to help in the research and they will more than confirm the line.
So who is Maroun Bechara? He is our great grandfather’s missing brother that settled in Colombia. As I starting piecing together the names, I quickly realized that this kit was a descendant of Gustavo’s great grandfather, Maroun Bechara or Manuel Marún. Yes this was another Manuel. It turns out that both brothers took on the same name of Manuel. And those photos from year ago that resembled many in my direct Marún family now made so much sense! Their images are as follows:
Tannús, Tobía, and Jorge: How do these names fit?
The name Tannús was a name that my grandfather had always mentioned. It was also mentioned by cousins in Dominican Republic and at first we thought it was his mother’s maiden name. However, these names actually were their real original names which is why everyone knew these names but couldn’t place them. The name Emilio, Miguel, Jorge, and Manuel, are not names you’d hear in Lebanon. These are actually Spanish names.
In addition, the name Jorge is actually my great grandfather’s father’s name and not that of his brother. If you think about it, in total there were three brother, Miguel was the name Emilio selected for his middle name. Based on DNA evidence, both brothers took on Manuel. However, one referred to his father as Jorge, while another referred to him by his Arabic Lebanese name, Isak Marún. However, I would not be surprised if there are actually more brothers as Jorge Marún was alive in Lebanon until at least 1914 as his son Manuel in Mexico listed him as living and widowed in records. Many of the cousins in Mexico took on the name of Miguel and Jorge and the Manuel in Colombia actually named his daughter Emilia and son Miguel.
So this is where I say that the mystery is solved on what happened to our family. Which Marún’s are family as I am visiting our Dominican Marún family to document our family tree. I have also invited our cousin Gustavo who lives in Colombia to help with in building out the family tree for all of our Colombian cousins. And most importantly, I’ve asked our cousin, Carlos Duran, who lives in Dominican Republic and is Maria Carmen’s grandson, to translate this into Spanish for our cousins who can’t read English.
The following photos are children of the Dominican Marún family. We are missing Elupina Marún and her family. If anyone wants their pictures added. Please reach out to me via the Contact link at the top of the website.