Laura Martinez is originally from Mexico. She is a lawyer, researcher, clothing historian, and loves uncovering a good mystery, especially one wrapped up in history.
While researching her family history, Laura has reconnected with her Mexican roots. This has taken her on a fascinating journey involving the history of Mexico, the French Wars of Vendee, the English Industrial Revolution, the history of railroads in Mexico and Argentina, as well as the lives of Mexican immigrant families in the U.S. at the time of the Great Depression.
“Researching my family’s history has made me look history in a different light, by bringing all of these historical facts back to life. Once you start looking at documents and letters, you realize that it is all about people and their lives, and that history goes beyond the recording of names, dates, and interesting facts in a textbook.
“I feel that my job is to keep those voices alive, and I would love to help other people find the to their own family histories.”
Laura lives in Northern Virginia, along with her husband and two very opinionated cats.
Laura Martinez is the author of IDG’s column, “South of the Border.”
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What is one tip you would give a newbie genealogist?
Get in contact with family members as soon as you can. Genealogy is not a one person endeavor and you may get valuable information from them, especially from the older generations. However, even the younger generations may have interesting stories that could give you a different perspective or offer clues to the past. Keep notes and, if possible, tape interviews.
If you could go to any conference / institute which would it be?
Definitely Roots Tech.
What is your most intriguing ancestor story?
That would be the story of my second great-grandmother, Angela Esquiano y Martinez. I call her the International Woman of Mystery. My mother told me that Angela was from Texas, but her death certificate says that she was from the “Ysla de Mahon (or possibly Matron).” The problem is that such place does not exist.
There is the city of Mahon, the capital of the island of Menorca, in the Baleares. I am working with someone in Spain to see if there are any traces of the family there. On the other hand, I have found the index of a passengers list of a ship either coming or going from Spain to Veracruz, Mexico, and it says that she is “Mexican.”
To make matters more interesting, we discovered that she was not married to my second great-grandfather Charles Lewall, who was the father of her baby, but to another man.
Angela died shortly after giving birth to my great-grandmother, Angelita. She and Charles were living together. The baby’s baptismal record is entered in the book titled “Children of Spaniards.” Given that Charles was English, "Spaniard" would probably refer to Angela, which adds to the confusion. Was she Texan? Mexican? Spanish? All of the above?
So the timeline is that Angela arrives in Mexico at 21, probably already married to her husband; got pregnant at 22 with my second great-grandfather’s child, and died at 23 shortly after giving birth to her baby girl. Charles was all of 26 years old when he became a widower, with no family in the country, and a baby girl to raise.
Angela was laid to rest in the graveyard of the Church of Santa Maria de los Angeles. That graveyard got bulldozed about 20 years after her death. Because of that, we don’t even have a grave for her. Or pictures. Or letters. Or even any keepsakes.
Given that my second great-grandfather was a railroad engineer who traveled all over the world, he left the baby in the care the nuns in Mexico City. He did keep in touch with the girl and sent money for her care, but did not get to see her much on account of all the traveling.
We have plenty of information on Charles Lewall, and a detailed biography for Angela’s daughter, Angelita Lewall y Esquiano. But of Angela Esquiano y Martinez, we know next to nothing.
The search for the International Woman of Mystery continues...
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© 2015 Laura Martinez
Laura Martinez is a lawyer and a family historian. She lives to solve the mysteries and research the history behind family folklore, and finds few things more exciting than uncovering new facts. She loves travel, photography and history. Laura is the author of IDG’s monthly column, South of the Border. This article originally appeared on The In-Depth Genealogist and can be found here. [insert original link]