Different Language ~ Getting to Know You ~ 52 Ancestors Week #46

I usually write about my ancestors, as I have gone as far as I can with my husbands Hispanic lines. I have told all of the stories I have gathered, so I consider myself finished with his ancestry. You may ask “Why”? Well, it is because of the language barrier.

My husband was raised by parents who are of Mexican and Native American descent. My father-in-law was born in the United States, however his Grandfather was born in Mexico. My mother-in-law was born in Mexico. Her Grandmother was born in the Arizona Territory, so when it became a State, she became an automatic citizen. Neither of them could speak English. When my in-laws got married and started having children, my mother-in-law learned to speak English. My husbands’ parents never taught any of their 8 children to speak Spanish.

Church in Caborca. Me and my in-laws standing in front.

When I joined the family 34 years ago, I encountered several awkward moments. Two months after my husband and I got married, his parents invited us to go to visit one of his aunts’ house in Caborca, Mexico. I had been to Mexico several times before, but only to border towns in Arizona and California. I was a little nervous about going deeper into the country, mainly because of stories my mother-in-law had told me. For me it was really like stepping into another world! I felt out of place because I couldn’t speak the language, and I couldn’t read the signs.

On our last night we were there, my in-laws and the Aunt and Uncle went out to eat, leaving my husband and I alone with 6 of the 12 adult cousins. We sat on the couches just staring at each other. My husband knew a little Spanish but not enough to comprehend what they were saying. They knew even less English. We all laughed as we tried to figure out what each other were saying. Finally, one of the cousins stood up and rubbed her stomach, put her fingers to her mouth like she was putting food in her mouth, and then she said, “Mooooo”. She then pointed at the door. I thought my husband say going to die laughing as he told me, they wanted to go eat. He said “Comida?” which means food. She smiled, and proudly said, “Follow me” while walking toward the door.

Over the years, we have spent many hours at my husbands’ Grandparents house or at his aunts and uncles houses. We always felt like the odd man out. My husband did try to learn more Spanish, but never enough to understand more than maybe 40% of any conversation.I never tried to learn it because to be honest, I often massacre English, so what would I do to a foreign language? Also, it is such a precise dialect that you could insult someone just by using the wrong greeting (I have done this) or by referring to a person with the wrong noun. However, I can now sit in a room and listen to conversations and understand most of what is being said.

Jose Maria Garcia Torres

Getting back to the above comment about the language barrier and my husbands family history. Since most of his ancestors had lived in Mexico, all of their documents are in Spanish, so it makes it difficult to verify documents. Also, because of the way children are named it makes it nearly impossible to be confident in the research. There are, in just 3 generation over 23 Jose Marias’ in my husbands maternal line. So for now, the difference of the language has won!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Chosen Family ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks ~ Week #34

group-hugThis week’s prompt of “Chosen Family” made me think of the family that we chose by choosing a spouse. Since I have been married more than once I think I understand that term very well. Since I have been married to my husband for almost 34 years, I decided to focus on his family.

My heritage is Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, and German. My husband is Mexican and Native American. Believe me, there is a big difference in our upbringings and family dynamics. I had a brother who was 18 years older than me and a sister who was 4 years older. We were not a close family at all. His family consisted of 9 children, 3 daughters, and 6 sons. Most of them were born 2 years apart! I have 2 nephews from my brother’s first marriage, he has 19 nieces and nephews. This is my chosen family.

It has been fun researching my in-laws family. First of all researching Mexican Genealogy is very difficult. Because of the way they switch their given surname with their married one or their mother’s surname, it can be hard to follow an ancestor’s line. There is also the language barrier. I do not speak Spanish, however, I can understand a lot of what is said and I can read it pretty well. My husband is the same. His mother was born in Mexico, and she learned to speak English after she married his dad. They never taught any of their children the language.

My “new” family history is fascinating. My father-in-law, Arthur “Art” Francisco MartinezMartinez (1930-2017) had some rather strange events happen in his family. The not so odd member of his family was his Dad, Francisco Martinez (1902-1995). He worked on the railroads his entire life, moving so many times that Art attended over 30 schools while growing up. Francisco was an accomplished musician, playing several instruments but his favorite was the violin. Arthur’s Grandfather, Eutimio Francisca VegaMartinez (1874-1947) wanted a wife, so he held up a stagecoach in Texas, killed all the travelers on the coach except a young girl named Francisca Vega (1882-1956). He took her and married her. Francisca’s older sister, Lorenza Vega (1874-1958) was married to Carlos Lozano who was forced to join Pancho Villa and his reign of terror. Lorenza joined her husband as they traveled around Northern Mexico and Texas raiding villages.

My mother-in-law Minnie (1936) family lived in Arizona before it was aRamona State. When it did become a State in 1912, her Grandmother Ramona Salazar (1898-1974) who was born in Tubac, Arizona became a United States citizen. In November that same year, she married Francisco Acuna (1892-1902) and they moved to Mexico returning to Arizona shortly before their first child was born in 1915. At the beginning of WWII their oldest son joined the army. Being a very devote Catholic, Ramona made a vow to God. If her son returned home safe from the war she would cover her beautiful hair with a scarf and wear it until she dies. He came home safe and Ramona kept her promise. Minnie’s Isidro Torresgrandfather, Isidro Torres (1862-1927), was ½ Yaqui and ½ Spaniard. In the 1880s the Mexican Government decided that they wanted to take control of the Yaqui land in the Northern State of Sonora because it was very fertile and any crop could be grown in it. The Yaqui’s rose up in rebellion against the Government and a war ensued. Having been raised with no connection to his Yaqui heritage, Isidro began to do scouting for the Government. It was a dangerous job and during one scouting mission, he was fired upon by a band of Yaqui’s. He was able to escape but was surprised when he removed his hat and found a bullet hole through the crown of it. From that day on Isidro wore that hat proudly.

So, I feel blessed to have “chosen” such a colorful family and their unique stories.

You can read their stories here:

Francisca Vega/Lorenza Vega – https://wp.me/p4gvQU-Ih

Ramona Salazar – https://wp.me/p4gvQU-d8

Isidro Torres – https://wp.me/p4gvQU-8z


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Handed Down ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks #24

Francisca and LorenzaWhen my Father-in-law first told me these two stories about his Grandmother Francisca Vega Martinez (sitting) and her sister Lorenza Vega Lozano (standing) I thought “that’s pretty interesting”. Maybe a little far-fetched but that is how oral histories can be. When told from generation to generation some details can be lost, and others can be added. This is verbatim (I recorded it).

Eutimio Martinez (1874-1947) lived in Southern Texas in the early texas map1890s. When he was a young man, he decided it was time for him to find a wife, so he went into town to find one. None of the girls there were what he was looking for, so he got on his horse and headed south towards Mexico. After a couple of days of riding, he found a wagon heading north with several people in it. He took special notice of a beautiful young girl named Francisca Vega (1876-1956) who was traveling alone. He hitched a ride with the wagon heading back north. After talking with the girl for a while he decided that she was the one. No one knows how or why this happened but Eutimio ended up killing all of the people in the wagon and kidnapping Francisca. He then took her back to town and married her.

I started thinking if the kidnapping of Francisca and the murders of those on the wagon were true, why would she stay with him all those years and have children with him? Why didn’t her parents come and rescue her and why would in later years her sister come and live with them? My Father-in-law also told me that Francisca’s sister Lorenza (1874-1958) rode with Pancho Villa. Could either of these stories be true? These are valid questions.  As I was transcribing the tapes from my interviews with my Father-in-law, I decided to do a little research.  First, I Googled their names…nothing.  Then I typed in kidnappings in the 1880s in Texas…nothing, then in Mexico, again nothing. After a few more inquiries I decided to take a different approach.

Pancho VillaI decided to start with Lorenza and see what I could find. I looked up Pancho Villa and The Mexican Revolution. I discovered that Pancho Villa did indeed have women who rode with him between 1910 and 1920. Some of them fought alongside the men and were called Soldaderas, others were “persuaded” to come along, and others followed their husbands who went to fight.  One of the practices of Pancho Villa was to ride into a town and ask the citizens to “donate” to the cause of the Revolution. He would then gather up all able-bodied men and “encouraged” them to join his army. He then would “invite” some of the young women to come along to help cook and care for the soldiers when they were injured. Most of the wives and children of the men who followed Pancho went along because they really didn’t have much choice. I believe this is the case with Lorenza.

 While looking into the Mexican Revolution I found that back in the 1800’s up until 1930 married women and single women living in Mexico had different rights under the law.  Single women had the same rights as a man. They could come and go as they pleased, work, attend church, and even own property. Married women were the property of their husbands. They could do nothing without the permission of their husband. This could explain why no one came to get Francisca after she and Eutimio got married. Regardless of how she became his wife, she was now his property and they accepted it.

I have still not found any evidence that the stories above are true, but they would be considered Oral Traditions and therefore I added them to my husbands’ Family Trees. They add “color” and excitement to the family history.    



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Monday’s for Me ~ Grandpa Smiths Excellent Adventure

Grandpa SMithIn 1962 my mothers’ dad came from Missouri to Tucson AZ for a 2-week visit. John Pleasant Smith was born in 1882 and he had never been to Arizona before so my parents planned a fun-filled vacation for him. I was 7 years old and I was so excited because I had never met my Grandpa. Well OK, I did but I was a baby and I didn’t remember it. Some of the planned activities were to take him for a cookout in the Saguaro National Forest, make a trip up to the top of the 9000 ft Mount Lemon, watch the gunfights at Old Tucson Studios, see the wildlife at the Sonoran Desert Museum, and last but not least an exciting day in Nogales, Mexico.

saguaro national park

The day finally came and I got to finally meet my Grandpa. He wasn’t as tall as my dad but he still looked like a giant to me. He had piercing blue eyes and a smile that made him look like he was up to something. He brought my sister and me each a doll and a bag full of “Missouri Candy”. I loved the way he talked. He had an accent that rivaled Hee Haw! (you can google it LOL). Over the next week, we had so much fun. Each night we hit the bed exhausted but so happy.

nogales mx postcardIt was finally time to make the trip to Mexico. I had been there a couple of times because my dad bought medicine for his stomach there. We would make a quick trip down and back with very little sightseeing. This time we took our time. It was an hour’s drive south from Tucson and Grandpa wanted to stop at all the Missions and other points of interest so it took us much longer. When we got to the border we parked on the US side and walked through the checkpoint into Mexico. My dad told my Grandpa to not, under any circumstance, take his wallet out of his pocket while we were on the street. He forgot about my Grandpas’ big heart! It wasn’t long before a couple of poorly dressed kids approached us asking fordad and grandpa change. My Grandpas heart broke and he took out his wallet and pulled out two dollar bills and gave each kid one. This was a lot of money in those days. Immediately we were surrounded by kids all wanting money. A shop keeper came out and tried to chase the kids away but there were too many so he grabbed my Grandpa and pushed him in his shop. We followed. The shop keeper lectured Grandpa about not doing this and after the kids left we finished our shopping. Dad and Grandpa picked up some souvenirs and we headed home.

In the 1960s, in order to cross the border in either direction, all you had to do was declare where you were born. Easy and efficient. My Grandpa went first, then me, my sister, and my dad, Then it was my mother’s turn. She decided to try to be funny and when asked where she was born she responded: “I wasn’t born I was made in Japan!”. We all laughed but the border agents did not. They refused to let her leave Mexico. They made her go sit in a room with a female agent. My dad talked to the men but they told us it would be at least 2 hours before they could verify that my mother was born in Missouri. We were all hungry so Grandpa suggested we go get something to eat. We went to our favorite restaurant, ate a leisurely lunch then headed back to the border. By the time we got there, they were ready to release my mother. I can’t express how upset and angry she was. She cussed and ranted non-stop for about the first 20 minutes we were on the road. All of a sudden my Grandpa burst out laughing. I got a little nervous because there was one thing I knew, you never laugh at my mother. He told her the look on her face when they wouldn’t let her through was priceless and he hoped she learned a lesson. It was all her fault for being a smart a** and she was setting a bad example for us. She didn’t say another word all the way home.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



Hometown Tuesday ~ Rio Grande,  Zacatecas, Mexico ~ Manuela Moreno Campos

hometown tuesdayI get so caught up in researching my family’s history that I sometimes forget about my husband’s. To be honest he isn’t as interested in it as I am but he does enjoy learning about his family when I am able to find something new. It is difficult tracing Hispanic Ancestry for me for two reasons: #1 Neither I nor my husband speak the language. I have to use a translating app when I do find something and most of the time the translation does not make sense. #2 the way most Hispanic names are arranged. For instance, most people have their mother’s maiden name as their middle name. Even if they are given another middle name. An example is Jose Sanchez Torres, but his given middle name is Roberto. Also, there are instances when someone is given a Grandmothers’s maiden name instead. It’s no wonder I get confused.

Rio Grande ZAC MEX

I decided I would just start researching the places his family was born and I would begin with his paternal Grandmother Manuela Moreno Campos. She was born in the town of Rio Grande, Zacatecas, Mexico on February 3, 1909, to Santiago Campos and Evalin Moreno.  The town is situated in the central part of Mexico. Before the mid-1800s this region was occupied by the Spanish. When they arrived in Mexico in the 1700’s they found an abundance of silver which they began to mine. In 1812 the Mexican people won Independence from Spain.

By the time Manuela was born the town of Rio Grande was bustling with activity. There were 12 mines that were spread out around the outskirts of town and people came from all over to work. They were a medium-sized family, especially for the times. Manuela had 4 brothers and one sister.

Beginning in 1910 the Northern and Central part of Mexico was in the midst of a war between Pancho Villa and the Mexican government. In 1914 the battles came to Rio Grande. I really don’t know how this affected the Campos family but in 1919 we find the family arriving in Bexar County Texas where Santiago’s brother lived. Manuela was 10 years old at the time and for whatever reason, she was left in the care of her Uncle and his wife and her family returned to Mexico.

Manuela Campos picIn 1923, at the age of 14, she first saw Francisco Martinez. He fell in love with her immediately. He didn’t care that he was 7 years older than her. I heard the following story from my father-in-law. “Francisco had never spoken a word to Manuela but he knew he loved her.  After months of watching her from afar, he decided to ask her Uncle if he could marry her. He climbed up in a large tree by their home and waiting for the Uncle to leave so he could speak to him. Francisco spent 3 days in the tree. Finally, her Uncle emerged and Francisco jumped out of the tree and asked for Manuela’s hand. Within a week they were married”.

Manuela Campos HS

One year later they had their first child.  They went on to have 7 children, 3 who died in infancy.  Francisco worked for the railroad and by 1930 they were relocated to Southern Arizona. Over the next 37 years, the family had lived in 21 towns in Arizona. Manuela passed way in May 1967 in Eloy, Arizona. She never returned to her home town, instead, she made every place she and Francisco had lived her new hometown.



cropped-blog-pic1.jpgI am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.