Finding a Lost Ancestor: Teresa Prieto

I have been away searching through records seeking to discover what happened with my 3rd great grandmother, Teresa Prieto.  There were two conflicting records that stated the opposite. Which one was correct?

So I first looked at my 3rd great grandfather, her husband, Juan de la Cruz, to determine if his church entry was correct.  Per his death record, he was a widow to Teresa Prieto.  So I went through church books for Nuestra Señora de la Caridad y San Miguel in Trujillo Bajo, Puerto Rico.  I thoroughly inspected each image, reading through, ensuring I didn’t miss her.  I started with the year that Juan de la Cruz died in 1878 and working my way back to 1865.  I did this as I  am confident that their son was truly born in 1871. This is because people during this era didn’t consider their age to be something important to track.  Surviving and farming land to feed the family was important. Women went by the river to wash clothing or spent the day cleaning and cooking. The last thing they were concerned with was their age.  So I decided that going back an additional 5 to 6 years beyond their son’s supposed age was advisable.

However, as I went through these records, I was quickly becoming disappointed as I did not find her in these books. I decided to research Carolina’s Civil Records in hopes of finding her after 1902. I was skeptic I would find her as this was pushing close or even beyond her being 100 years of age if I’m to believe the ages of their children.  After spending a few evenings going through these records, I came up empty.

My last resort was going to Carolina’s other church, San Fernando.  I noticed that their was an index for the years  1878 – 1881, I decided to give a a quick look.  I am so happy I did as this index actually starts in 1859 and not 1878 as it is listed.  Sure enough I found her in the index under Book 1 of Deaths, which covers 1859 – 1871.  The index listed her on Folio 363, folio means page.  I had finally hit the jackpot and I would finally get to know who her parents were and hopefully more information on Teresa.

So as I came out of the index, I quickly navigated to the Death Book 1 and arrived to her page. I was finally going to know who her parents were.  As I arrived to the page, I found her at the bottom.  And here is where I began to read the record.  It reads as follows,

In the parochial church of San Fernando in Carolina on the 9th day of July in 1876, I, the priest, officiate over the cadaver of Teresa Prieto, naturally and neighbor of Trujillo Bajo, of 75 years of age, married to Jose Silverio Cruz, daughter of parents that they names are ignored.

That was it!  I could not believe it! No one offered the church her parent’s names! After all the time spent researching her, I came up empty. I am so disappointed but do not give up easily.

Teresa Prieto Libro 1 (1859 - 1878) Def Folio 363 Image 373
Teresa Prieto Death Record in San Fernando Book 1 of Deaths

There were obvious errors in the record, like her husband’s name.  His name is Juan Silverio and not Jose Silverio.  Another is a major big doubt on her age.  If I am to believe her age, this means her 14 year old son died when she was 71.  In addition, I’m to believe that she gave birth to him at the age of 57.  I hugely doubt this extremely.  So if her son was 14 years of age at the time of his death, I’d shave another 18 to 20 years off her age at the time of her death.

Unfortunately, marriages records for San Fernando do not start until 1859.  When I went back to the book for Nuestra Señora de la Caridad y San Miguel, I was once again disappointed since the collection starts with Book 3 of Marriages and it starts in 1859.  I now have to wonder if the book exists in Puerto Rico.  I am hoping that that is the case but I dead end here. My last option is searching for baptismal records of her children in hopes that the priest captured grandparents information.  My next step is to go through baptismal records.


Juan de la Cruz Arroyo

It always pays to review records over and over again. There are sometimes hints in the records that we may have missed on numerous occasions. This was actually the case when I looked at the records years ago and even in reviewing them recently as I was documenting children records. In my prior post about Francisca Silveria de la Cruz Prieto, I never noticed that one of her sister’s death records provided a hint that I had missed multiple times. This is a warning to all that even though you may think you know the record, it pays to take more than one or twice.

In Francisca’s sister’s record, Juana, it stated that her parents had passed away in Trujillo Bajo. The record also stated that the father was deceased and the mother widowed.  I knew that this had to occurred prior to 1885 as they could not be located in the Civil Registration records.  In addition, another hint I missed was that the record stated that they were not from Gurabo but from Turabo in the same province. In other words, they were originally from Carolina and not from Gurabo.  This potentially makes sense since most of the family, minus Francisca, all lived in Carolina.  It could be that Francisca moved to Quebrada Negrito to be with her husband’s family, the Delgado family.

So after going through over 900 digitized images, I first came across Juan Silverio de la Cruz Arroyo’s death record and it was loaded with information. First, he died on October 9th, 1878. In the record it states that he was the widow of Teresa Prieto and he was the legitimate child of Juan de la Cruz and Juana Arroyo.  It also states that he was 70 years of age.  This means that he was born around 1808.  This makes sense since his daughter Juana, who died in 1902, is listed at being 65 years of age and that makes her being born in 1837.  So he was about 29 years old when his daughter was born.  Here is where one of my surprises come in.

Juan Silverio de la Cruz Arroyo Defuncion Libro 6 Folio 40v Image 231
Juan Silverio de la Cruz Arroyo Death Record

In Juana’s death record, it states that he was deceased but that her mother was widowed. In other words, her mother was still alive in 1902.  Yet, when I read his death record, it states that she is deceased prior to him. Did the priest get it wrong or did the register of the record get it wrong?  The next surprise is that I always thought they were from Gurabo. However, another inspection of Juana’s death record reveals that she was from Turabo and so were her parents.  So being that Turabo and Gurabo are only off by one letter, I suspect that someone got it wrong when they claim that the parents were from Gurabo.

In addition, I think I may have found his grandparents in the Caguas books but will remain silent on it until I can confirm. If it turns out to be the same line, I think I’m going to be shocked when I do my Delgado line which is also of African roots.  The last thing that caught me off guard is that I always knew they had 4 daughters.  However, I was not expecting to find a son in the death books. Sure enough, Juan and Teresa had a son named Marcelino who died on May 23, 1871.  The record states that Marcelino was an adult, single, and about 14 years of age.

Adult and 14 years old is something I constantly saw in the record. In today’s world you have to ask yourself how can you consider a 14 years old boy an adult? Boys at that age do plenty of dumb stuff.  I can’t image a boy of 14 years of age during the 1800’s being a man. If we evolve with each generation and we see 14 years old boys getting into trouble, I can only image back then what the heck they’d get themselves into.

Marcelino de la Cruz Prieto Defuncion Libro 5 Folio 219 Image 99
Marcelino de la Cruz Prieto Defuncion

So I went as far back as 1850 looking through death records and could not find Teresa Prieto as deceased. This means that she may not have died during this era. So my next guess is to search for her after 1885 as that is the only place to look for her. She may have or may not have died after 1902 if I am to believe her daughter’s death record.  I will have to find her before I continue down the de la Cruz line.

Francisca Silveria de la Cruz Prieto

One of the most amazing things you can possibly do when researching your ancestry is taking a DNA test.  If at all possible, testing parents and elders can be quite beneficial in helping to solve family mysteries or when hitting brick walls in your research.  This is exactly how I am able to confirm who Francisca Silveria de la Cruz Prieto’s parents were and completing another generation of my African descendant ancestors. In this situation, it didn’t even require a chromosome browser but simply some investigative work.

In my prior post I spoke about her son, Angel, who is one of my great grandfathers. While Angel passed way before I came along from throat cancer in 1956, his actual age is still a mystery until I can locate a birth or baptismal record for him. However, in my prior post about Angel, I concluded that his last name was Delgado Cruz and where the Silverio surname came from.

Upon finding his death record, I confirmed that his mother was none other than Francisca Silveria de la Cruz Prieto.  I’ve provided the image of the death record below and it identifies his parents correctly. What sealed the deal was finding records of Francisca’s sisters and seeing her sister’s descendants matching me via DNA and confirming via their tree that I was indeed on the right path. It is only through this particular line that I match to these individuals as 4th cousins; no endogamy with this particular connection.

What would make matching to these cousins more amazing is if they uploaded their DNA to GEDMatch to analyze our chromosomes to help break down the barrier of knowing what region in African region our ancestors originated from. I have reached out to one descendant and hope that they will upload their kits to GEDMatch.

Angel Delgado Cruz Libro 10 Def Image 704

What is most alarming to me about Angel’s death was that he died from cancer of the esophagus. The thought that this line has someone die from cancer each generation is concerning. The only thing that can come to mind is that he was a smoker.  Uploading my DNA to a couple of year back identified that I have a higher risk of attaining certain cancers.  One of my paternal aunts also that descends from this line died from cancer. So using promethease can be beneficial beyond ancestry.

However, back to the ancestry piece as this is more about uncovering my African roots. Thanks to documents and DNA, I am able to confirm that my second great grandmother, Francisca, was most definitely of African descent as many documents document this and have verbal confirmation from my father that this line was African black and may have been mixed with Native American.  For whatever reason, Francisca is listed with many different race descriptions. I guess it is either the person that is reporting it or the person that was documenting it.

When it came to Francisca’s death, I was surprised to find out that even her son Ramon, my great-granduncle didn’t know her last name or her parents. He listed her as being the daughter of a non-existent person, Teresa Silverio, which should have read as Teresa Prieto. He should have also known that his grandparents were married as he eliminated Juan de la Cruz from existence.

The last piece was that he was reporting her to be 96 years years old. This is something I doubt since no one seemed to track ages during this era.  What is amazing is that I have come across records where people tell the priest that they are younger than the baptism record by years. I laugh because the priest will actually document the person’s information as fact into the margin of the baptismal record.  Imagine being baptized in 1882 and then telling the priest that you were not born until 1894 so the record is wrong.  Hilarious and quite a chuckle and happened often.

Francisca Silverio Cruz Prieto Defuncion

In Francisca’s death record, her son identifies his mother’s race as mestizo; another term added to her description.  He also didn’t know his mother’s grandparents names as it is documented as ignored. Francisca was reported as dying from senility on December 26, 1922. So circling back, I went ahead and started researching Francisca’s siblings. I have noticed in other records as the children reporting their parents as mestizo but on Census records and other documents as Black.

Francisca has 3 other sisters that I have located, Juana, who died on June 19, 1902 in Carolina. Juana would have 7 children, that I found, with Sabad Cruz.  Dominga, who died on May 8, 1922 in Carolina.  Dominga had two children and was married to Felipe Quinonez. And Tomasa, died on April 27, 1918 in Carolina. Tomasa had 4 children and was married to Eustaguio Niero (sic).

Many of the records located identify their parents as being from Gurabo, which is south of Trujillo Alto, where Francisca lived.  I would not be surprised if that were the case since Quebrada Negrito is a border town to the Gurabo municipality and where many went to register birth, marriage, and death of family.

I’ve supplied the images of her siblings deaths below. Note that they are either listed as mestizo or even the notorious Silverio last name appeared. One thing is for certain, for the first time in records, it is indicated that Juan de la Cruz and Teresa Prieto were not married on Dominga’s death record but that she was recognized. Potentially they could have married after her birth since her other siblings were not reporting that their parents were unwed.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However, one hint provided is that Juan Silverio de la Cruz and Teresa Prieto died in Trujillo Bajo, which is a town in Carolina and both must have died prior to 1885 since records of their death cannot be found in the civil records that started in 1885 in any of the 3 municipalities; Carolina, Trujillo Alto, or Gurabo.  Unfortunately, the church death records for Trujillo Alto were never digitized but there are church records for Trujillo Bajo.  The church for this town is Nuestra Señora de la Caridad y San Miguel and I have been able to locate other family members in these books.

This family line ends with Juan Silverio de la Cruz and Teresa Prieto and hoping to locate their death records to discover who their parents were and if they were truly from Gurabo as indicated in many of the records.  This is my next step in researching the parents’ line.

Angel Delgado Silverio

My digging through my African ancestors starts with the most recent person and working my way backward.  This would be Angel Delgado Silverio, my dad’s maternal grandfather, his mom’s dad.  My dad had told me that he remembered his grandfather well since he grew up around his maternal grandparents.  This is the man that my dad stated he believed he was born into slavery.  My dad, Luis, was born in the town of Quebrada Negrito, which is found in the municipality of Trujillo Alto.  Here is where his grandfather, Angel, also claims to be from.  This is also where my grandmother, Maria de Jesus, and all of her siblings were born.

When my dad was alive, I was able to find records of his grandfather with his assistance.  I had advised my dad that I was not able to locate any records that indicated that his grandfather was born into slavery as he initially thought. It seems that Angel was actually born after slavery was abolished on the island of Puerto Rico.  At the time of his marriage to his wife, my great-grandmother, Maria Dolores Diaz, he claimed to be 24 years old.  I believe that that was incorrect and he was much older. I located their wedding record and their marriage was documented on the 26th of November in 1919.  In the record, it states that Angel is the son of Candido Delgado and Francisca Silverio.  My grandmother, Maria de Jesus, was the oldest of nine children.  Below is the record of their marriage that appears in book 5 in Trujillo Alto’s Civil Marriage Registry.

Angel Delgado Silverio & Dolores Diaz Marriage Book 5.PNG

Here is where the mystery starts and where I believe I solved the mystery.  While his parent’s first names are accurate, the fun begins with the last names for Francisca “Silverio”. In addition, Angel’s birth date gets to hop all over the calendar across many years.  I have found that if you cannot find an individual, then the best thing is to look at family members to see if they can be located.  My only solution was to locate birth records for his siblings.

This becomes research intensive if sibling names are unknown. Since I had nothing but parents names, I proceeded to search for the parents through potential children by extracting names from the indexes of civil books.  I extracted every Delgado I could find and then proceeded to read each record entry.  By doing this, I was able to locate many family members and add them to the tree such as Angel’s children, nieces, nephews, and siblings. In total I found that Angel was one of eleven children.

I then turned my research towards the 1910 US Census for Puerto Rico, which is the earliest available while under the US government.  There are prior census records for Puerto Rico, which are in Spanish, under Spain’s rule and I will discuss this as I step further back into the timeline.

I expected to find Angel’s family living in Quebrada Negrito, but they were not listed in the 1910 Census.  I was able to locate one of his sisters, Paula, but she was married with children and in her 30’s. This was an indicator that Angel may not have been 24 years of age when he married but actually much older.

I opened up my search to include other towns in Trujillo Alto and was able to locate his mother in Quebrada Grande, living with two sons and a grandson.  However, Angel was not one of the children living at home.  With finding his brother, Saturnino in Trujillo Alto’s Civil Registry for birth records, I was able to confirm that Francisca was indeed his mother. Saturnino is listed as her son as you can see from the below image.

Francisca Silverio y Cruz 1910 US Census

In this image, notice how she lists her last name as Silverio y Cruz.  There are also records that will list Rivera for her.  Just understanding this family and generation has been difficult and a long process in my research.  In a record, their daughter, Florentina, dies at the age of 6 days. Francisca is listed as Francisca Silveria de la Cruz, where Silveria is documented with ending with an “a” and as a middle name.  A copy of the document which came out of Book 3 of Trujillo Alto’s Civil Registry is shown below.  So in reality, if Silverio is the last name, then it means the child’s name should be listed as Florentina Delgado Silverio, but that is not the case. Most importantly, the “de la” was dropped in the last name of the child.

Florentina Delgado Cruz Libro 3 Def Image 522.png

I then turned to Saturnino’s birth record, recorded in Book 1, Folio (page) 69v, and born on June 4, 1885.  Saturnino’s father, Candido, is documenting his birth and here is where the twist comes in.  Candido provides the mother as Francisca Silveria Rivera but it was not a mistake according to the document. The reason is that Francisca’s father is listed as Juan Silverio Cruz and her mother is Teresa Prieto.  This would make Francisca’s name as Francisca Cruz Prieto.  Yes! Another set of last names but the correct ones.

Francisca’s father, Juan Silverio Cruz, and mother, Teresa Prieto, had other children, which I will go into detail but in another post as the confusion continues around these last names and their children.  According to this document, all were from Trujillo Alto and all were still alive in 1885 when Saturnino was born. From what I could find, they were all always living in Quebrada Negrito and the descendants of this line still live there today.

One thing that was noteworthy is that in documents outside of the 1910 Census, Francisca is listed as “negra” and not “mulatto”.  Color is assigned by the one documenting the record so it is always a good thing to look beyond just the census records and see how other records have recorded.

What I can deduce is that Silverio was not Francisca’s last name. However, she took on the last name in honor of her father. Her name from what I have found was Francisca Silveria, but as a middle name and not the last name. She potentially took on this name to honor her father or simply decided to remove last names.

Angel’s and Saturnino’s father, Candido also states that his parents’ names is Anastacio Delgado and Marcela Agosto. Both, Anastacio and Marcela are listed as being from Trujillo Alto but that also changes in other records.

When it came to Candido, I found his baptismal record in the book reserved for free and enslaved Black people and Pardos; which can be of mixed African ancestry or Native American. He was listed as Francisco Candido and his parents are listed as Juan Eustaguio Delgado and Marcela Agosto.  Juan Eustaguio and Marcela were listed as Pardo Libre or free brown people.  Candido’s baptism occurred on November 25, 1832, and it was documented that he was born on September 3, 1832, in Trujillo Alto.  Below is the image of his baptismal record.

Francisco Candido Delgado Agosto Libro 3B Pardos Folio 29 Image 43.jpg

I am able to conclude after reviewing all these documents I have held for years but unable to deeply research them until now. And that I have accurately documented the right individuals. While the family took on the last name Silverio, it is apparent that they did so for a reason to which I do not know. I have Angel’s WWI and WWII registration records but have not found a real birth record for him to date as he must have been born prior to 1885 or his parents never baptized or registered his birth. I can say that Angel nor his parents were enslaved at the time of his birth.  However, I need to dig further to determine if they were able to purchase their freedom, as permitted under Spain’s laws or if their enslaved ancestors goes back further. My next research step is reviewing what I have on Francisca and her sisters along with their mother.



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.