Monday, September 26, 2011

In search of our Ylocano ancestors

Source:  Family History Center, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,13 Temple Drive, Greenmeadows Subd., QC

For the past three weeks we've been poring through baptismal, marriage and burial records of the San Sebastian church of our hometown in Zambales, and these are in six reels of microfilms at the Family History Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on 13 Temple Drive, Greenmeadows Subdivision, Quezon City.   

We've looked at the real antique documents, all written in Spanish, two or three years ago, but some of the books had deteriorated due to age and the effect of acidic ink on paper, and we were not able to retrieve all the information we would need for our paternal and maternal genealogies starting from 1849 when the church was established in our town.  Hence, we've been enjoying the very friendly assistance of the Family History Center staff esp. Sister J and Veronica in our ancestral search.  They told us that some researchers had done their genealogies for several generations dating as far back as the 1700s.  This is possible since the LDS had all available church records and civil registrations across the country photographed in the 1970s.

We've checked if we can trace back to Paoay, Ilocos Norte, where our ancestors are said to have come from in the late1830s, when Gov-Gen Narciso Claveria approved their migration to the central part of Zambales. But that would entail scouring 12 reels of Paoay church records covering the period 1780-1891!

We thought may be we can go as far as what the Center has done for Jose Rizal (see photo).  There's a big framed copy of this right beside the microfilm readers that has the hero and his siblings at the bottom and more ancestors in their maternal side. They've also done President Noynoy Aquino's ancestry (it's not on display), and it surprised us to know that he also has a Chinese ancestor in his paternal side.

Our search has also yielded interesting insights into the cultural and social structure of those times.

The baptismal records prior to 1865 only indicated the parents of the child, but from then on, the documents had both the paternal and maternal grandparents. The child either had a padrino if he's a boy, or a madrina if he's a girl, ninong or ninang, as we're more familiar with.  One has to deduce the birth date from the phrase that says the child was baptized on the given date "so many days after birth."

In the case of weddings, the bride and groom had only a pair of testigos (witnesses), a man and a woman, and this was true up to the last entry of our reference document (1880-1950).

The baptismal documents confirm that there was no such thing as "reproductive health" during the Spanish regime.  We've been looking at probably teen-age marriages, and couples bearing children while their eldest ones were giving birth as well, meaning some grandchildren older or as old as their uncles or aunts.

It's sad but health care was not also adequate. There was high mortality rate among the children due to fever or dysentery.  Among the adults (and there were young widows or widowers), deaths were attributed to fever, tuberculosis, pasmo (which we read as heart attack), head and stomach ache, and vejez (old age). 

We're engaged in writing the history of our town.  In the founding document of 1846, there were just seven barangays.  From the church records, we noted that these have grown to 32 by 1895.  What's interesting was the seeming exclusivity of becoming a cabeza de barangay among the principalia families.  If the cabeza died, the eldest succeeded him in accordance with the Law of Good Governance.  With the population and economic growth, barangays were split, and we noted that other brothers also became cabezas.  By the 1890s, grandsons along with their father or uncles had become cabezas as well of different barangays.  The so-called political dynasties of the present time are nothing new then?

It may take years before anyone can do their family trees using digitized genealogical data from LDS, and for those interested to check what has been stored so far, they can do an initial search survey by going to Family Search web page.  The site can tell what reference documents in microfilm are available for a particular time and place in the country (or the world), and what Family History Center is nearest to the searcher. 

Centers are open not only to LDS members but also to the public Tuesdays (8am to 4pm) to Saturdays (8am to 2pm).  These past weeks we've helped other searchers read their reference documents from Cavite, Bulacan, Masbate and Bohol.

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